I am a designer maker of rugs and cushions: rya, rag and woollen rugs and cushions for the home.
I first wanted to learn to weave when I was 10 after seeing a row of looms in a college in Finland. I took up weaving 6 years ago after retiring from the NHS as a pharmacist.
Lately, at Edith Road Workshops, I’ve been making large woollen floor rugs in ‘Norwegian Krokbragd’ (NK), which works best when limiting colours to three or four whereas rag and rya rugs have no limits. I weave Finnish rag rugs in my studio in Witney and in the summer in Finland at a weaving cooperative with 30 floor looms of different sizes where anybody can hire time on a loom, ready to use.
In the 1960s rya floor and wall rugs were very popular in Finland but then went out of fashion though they are now experiencing a revival. Rya floor rugs made with thick hair wool result in luxurious shaggy rugs, soft under foot. The long fibres of hair wool give body. Wall rugs use finer wool but still rougher in texture than knitting wool. The wall rug made by my grandmother as a wedding present to my parents in 1940 is still in perfect condition. Over the centuries, the more decorative rugs that kept you warm in bed and in a sledge have ended up on people’s walls. Many Finnish artists designed rugs, e.g. Gallen-Kallela (‘Liekki’-rug; [liekki=flame]).
Inspiration often comes from what the rug is meant for: the room, a work of art, architecture or nature. Last year I made a woollen rug in NK inspired by a painting and later a rug dictated by the room colour scheme and the fact that the owner has a white cat. My current project is for my 12-year-old grandson, who wanted ‘colours of the universe’ and picked two shades of purple, black, blue and pink.
There are things to consider when making large items. When you are embarking on a project for a rug of 1.5 metres x 2 metres the large loom needed requires space. It can take weeks to get planning and materials together although the weaving itself may only take weeks or a month or two. Also, good wool does not come cheap so one cannot afford to make expensive mistakes. Experimentation and testing can go a long way to preventing serious mistakes.
It gives me great satisfaction to make beautiful items for everyday use. I have loved handling textiles since I was very young and have always found myself gravitating towards fabrics and yarns. Knitting and sewing have been my hobbies as long as I can remember. There’s yet a lot more to explore in textiles and particularly in using more recycled materials.