Worstead group proudly carrying on weaving tradition

PUBLISHED: 12:37 01 June 2015 | UPDATED: 12:37 01 June 2015

Worstead Weavers weekend open weekend with demonstrations of how to weave wool and have a go at spinning. Tim Martins on a upright weaving frame.


Worstead Weavers weekend open weekend with demonstrations of how to weave wool and have a go at spinning. Tim Martins on a upright weaving frame. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2015

It is one of the oldest surviving crafts in the world which brought wealth to parts of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Worstead’s weaving history

■Worstead gives its name to a type of cloth, worsted, woven in the village in the middle ages. ■From the Norman Conquest onwards Flemish weavers migrated to England, but it was not until the reign of Edward II that their cloth came to be known as worsted.

■Weaving flourished in Worstead for more than 500 years, until the last weaver, John Cubitt, died in 1882 aged 91.

■Traditionally men did the weaving and women did the spinning.

■The hand-loom weavers were forced out of business by the power-driven machines of the West Riding of Yorkshire where both water and coal were readily available.

■Some of the weavers’ houses in and around the village survive and are large and spacious.

Worstead’s weaving legacy remains today as trousers can still be made of worsted wool.

■North Walsham was also a weaving capital in the 13th and 14th centuries after Flemish weavers settled in the area. A walsham cloth was also created.

■St Nicholas’ Church in the town was built in the 14th century out of money from the walsham cloth. It is the largest so-called wool church in Norfolk.

■Norwich, Bury St Edmunds and Lavenham, in Suffolk, also flourished in the medieval era because of the wool trade.

■The Weavers’ Way, a 60-mile route between Great Yarmouth and Cromer piers, reflects Norfolk’s important place in textile history.

And north Norfolk-based group Worstead Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, which has been teaching and sharing the historic textile skills for more than 40 years, put on a special weekend at its Dilham base.

As well as showing off different techniques and selling items made by its core 35 members, the event allowed visitors to have a go on looms and spinning wheels as well as try different weaving methods.

The group, which has members ranging from 16-year-olds to people in their 70s, started at Worstead church which was built from the village’s successful weaving industry.

It later moved to its current base, the Weavers’ Workshop, next to Dilham Village Hall.

Ellie Jones, 34, vice-chairman of the group, said: “There is a lot more interest in general crafts and handmade things because of television programmes like the Great British Sewing Bee. People are more interested in making their own things rather than buying manufactured goods.”

“We want to keep the craft going and teach people different methods. We want to make sure the old techniques don’t die out - that is our main focus. We have got a bit of a local legacy. Weaving is very important to our history.”

She said if people stopped sharing and carrying on weaving and spinning, the art would be lost forever.

Weaving can be traced back to Neolithic times – approximately 12,000 years ago - and there are many techniques which range from simple to complicated.

Exhibition items at the open weekend included scarfs, straps, bags, rugs, table runners and bookmarks, which could take anything from one hour to several months to complete.

Anyone of any age and ability can join the Worstead Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers which runs sessions from 7-9pm every Tuesday and 2-4pm every other Saturday.

Yearly membership is £22 and anyone wishing to join can turn up on one of the open nights.

For more information visit call 07900 102521 or like or follow worsteadwsd on Facebook or Twitter.

Have you organised a craft group event? Email

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