The Norfolk crafter who gives traditional weaving a modern twist
- Credit: Eleanor Dale
Working with wool is woven into Eleanor Dale’s DNA.
Her great aunt was a weaver, and following in her footsteps, she recently set up her own small business creating colourful handmade homewares.
And she lives in Norfolk, which has a long history of weaving, so it's fitting that she's one of the new generation of makers who is giving traditional crafts a modern twist.
“I was a big knitter, so I really like working with wool,” she says.
While living in London she went on a few weaving taster sessions with The London Loom.
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“I feel closer to my great aunt by doing it,” says Eleanor.
“She passed away about five years ago and it’s a shame that I hadn’t really discovered quite how much I enjoy it until she’d gone.
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“I’ve got a couple of pieces that she made and it feels really nice to understand a bit more about what she was doing, by doing it myself.”
In February 2020, Eleanor left her job in London with the intention of walking the Camino in Spain.
When her plans were curtailed due to the pandemic, she moved in with her parents in west Norfolk.
She bought a small weaving loom and channelled her creative energies into the traditional craft and experimenting with colour and pattern.
And at the start of this year, Eleanor decided to make the leap and start her own business.
Through her Etsy shop, The Naked Weaver, she sells bold and bright rainbow-coloured cushions, pouches and framed pieces of textile art.
“With weaving, I like that it’s quicker than knitting and I just enjoy the nature of the woven textile,” she says.
“I find it really exciting, how you can just change colours and work with a quite simple structure to make quite an interesting piece of textile.”
Eleanor works on a 32-inch rigid heddle loom.
“That means that it doesn’t have any pedals,” says Eleanor.
"So with lots of the big floor looms you use your feet to control the up and down movement of the warp [the lengthwise yarn], but with the rigid heddle one you just do that with your hands,” she explains.
“What’s great about the loom is that it’s really portable. At the moment I’m weaving in my parents’ dining room because I moved home, so it doesn’t require very much space, which is really great.
"And in theory I could chuck it in the car and drive somewhere and weave anywhere if I wanted to,” she says.
“We’re in the process of building a little studio shed in the garden so it will be nice to have a creative space," she continues.
"The loom itself is quite small and simple, but all the stuff that goes with it takes up quite a lot of room, the cones of wool and the bits and bobs that you need to do the weaving, so it’s nice to be getting to the point where I’ve got a bit of space to be creative in.”
Eleanor really enjoys the process of experimenting with different colour combinations.
“I’m really drawn to pinks, yellows and oranges, bright sunshiny and autumnal colours,” she says.
“They’re the ones that I’m always drawn to when I choose colours for myself.
“You put some colours together and think that’s going to look really fantastic, but actually sometimes they don’t work together, or they create a tone that you didn’t think that they would, so it’s really interesting to play with colour to see what works and what doesn’t.”
As well as being creative, weaving is a mindful activity that you really get absorbed in.
"You have to be engaged enough with it, so it’s engaging your brain a little bit, but it’s not so difficult, and it still feels quite relaxing,” says Eleanor.
“You get into a real rhythm and once you’ve got into the rhythm time goes quite quickly and you can just sit and carry on.
“And it’s quite physical as well, so it feels nice getting into that rhythm in your body as well as in your mind,” she says.
Since lockdown restrictions started to ease, Eleanor has been taking her creations to markets, including Holt Sunday Market and has been enjoying meeting customers and fellow creatives.
“It’s been really wonderful, it’s been nice to be outside and to meet other small businesses and talk to them about their experience and how they got started. And to talk to customers and people in real life.
“I was quite nervous about making the change from making things for friends and family to selling things and putting myself out there.
"So it’s been really nice to talk to other small makers and for them to say that they’ve felt the same thing, and that they like what I’m doing.
"The sense of validation from the community has been really helpful. And it’s just been nice to talk to other people after so long inside - it’s just nice to see other faces.”
As well as going to markets, Eleanor is also expanding her range beyond homewares in the next few months.
“At the moment I’m working on some smaller lumbar sized rectangular shaped cushions, and I’m hoping to start making some scarves for autumn/ winter, although the weather has been so bad that maybe I’ll get them done a bit sooner,” she laughs.
“And I’ll be at a few Christmas markets, so I’m thinking about designing some products specifically for Christmas like Christmas stockings, little Christmas decorations and bits and bobs like that.
“It’s a bit weird to be thinking about Christmas in August, but also exciting.”
Eleanor is at Holt Sunday Market on the first Sunday of the month and follow her on Instagram @thenakedweaver