Norfolk artisan gives traditional weaving a modern twist
Working with wool is part of Eleanor Dale’s DNA.
Her great aunt was a weaver and, following in her footsteps, she recently started her own small business creating colorful, handmade housewares.
And she lives in Norfolk, which has a long history of weaving, so it’s fitting that she is part of the new generation of makers who give a modern twist to traditional craftsmanship.
“I was a great knitter, so I really enjoy working with wool,” she says.
While living in London, she participated in a few weaving tasting sessions with The London Loom.
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“I feel closer to my great aunt doing it,” Eleanor says.
“She passed away about five years ago and it’s a shame I didn’t really find out how much I loved it until she left.
“I have a few plays that she did and it’s really nice to understand a little more what she was doing, doing it myself.”
In February 2020, Eleanor left her job in London with the intention of riding the Camino in Spain.
When her plans were curtailed due to the pandemic, she moved with her parents to west Norfolk.
She bought a small loom and channeled her creative energies into traditional crafts and experimenting with colors and patterns.
And at the start of this year, Eleanor decided to take the plunge and start her own business.
In her Etsy shop, The Naked Weaver, she sells pillows, pouches, and framed textile art pieces in rainbow colors.
“With weaving, I like that it’s faster than knitting and I just appreciate the nature of the woven fabric,” she says.
“I find it really exciting to see how you can just change colors and work with a fairly simple structure to create a pretty interesting piece of fabric. ”
Eleanor works on a 32 inch rigid heald loom.
“That means it doesn’t have pedals,” Eleanor explains.
“So with a lot of large looms, you use your feet to control the up and down movement of the warp. [the lengthwise yarn], but with the rigid rail, you just do it with your hands, ”she explains.
“The great thing about the loom is that it’s really portable. Right now I’m weaving in my parents’ dining room because I moved, so it doesn’t take a lot of space, which is really great.
“And in theory I could throw it in the car and drive somewhere and weave anywhere if I wanted to,” she says.
“We’re building a little studio shed in the garden so it will be nice to have some creative space,” she continues.
“The loom itself is quite small and simple, but everything that goes with it takes up a lot of space, the cones of wool and the bits and pieces you need to do the weaving, so it’s nice to make it happen. the point where I have a little space to be creative.
Eleanor really enjoys experimenting with different color combinations.
“I’m really drawn to the pinks, yellows and oranges, the vibrant colors of the sun and the fall colors,” she says.
“These are the ones that always attract me when I choose the colors myself.
“You pair colors and think it’s gonna be really fantastic, but actually sometimes they just don’t work together, or they create a tone that you didn’t think they would, so it’s really interesting to play around with it. color to see what works and what doesn’t.
Besides being creative, weaving is a mindfulness activity that you are really absorbed in.
“You have to be engaged enough with this, so it engages your brain a bit, but it’s not that hard, and it’s still quite relaxing,” Eleanor explains.
“You get into a real rhythm and once you get into the rhythm, the time flies pretty quickly and you can just sit back and keep going.
“And it’s also quite physical, so it’s nice to get into that rhythm in your body as well as your mind,” she says.
Since foreclosure restrictions began to ease, Eleanor has taken her designs to markets including Holt Sunday Market and enjoyed meeting clients and other designers.
“It was really wonderful, it was nice to be outside and meet other small businesses and tell them about their experience and how they got started. And to talk to customers and people in real life.
“I was pretty nervous about switching from making things for friends and family to selling things and exposing myself.
“So it’s really nice to talk to other small manufacturers and tell them that they felt the same way and that they love what I’m doing.
“The sense of community validation has been very helpful. And it’s just nice talking to other people after so long inside – it’s just nice to see other faces.”
In addition to going into the markets, Eleanor is also expanding its line beyond housewares in the coming months.
“Right now I’m working on smaller sized rectangular lumbar cushions, and hope to start making scarves for fall / winter, although the weather has been so bad I might make them. a little earlier, “she laughs.
“And I’ll be at a few Christmas markets, so I’m thinking of designing some Christmas specials like stockings, little Christmas decorations and things like that.
“It’s a little weird to think of Christmas in August, but also exciting.”
Eleanor is at the Holt Sunday Market on the first Sunday of the month and follow her on Instagram @thenakedweaver