Established in 2015 by Franki Brewer and Juliet Bailey , the Bristol Weaving Mill was launched to meet the demand for their textile designs to be manufactured on a larger scale. Today, from their Bristol micro-mill, the pair – along with their skilled team – create classic textile designs using salvaged machinery. Here, co-founder Juliet reveals what actually goes on within the mill’s redbrick walls…
When did you first discover weaving?
I only remembered recently that I had gone to an after-school weaving club while I was at primary school – I found a weave that I had made back in the Eighties! The club was run by an elderly lady who had some simple frame looms, and we had great fun weaving pieces of fabric that we then made into purses.
As a teenager, I inherited a small weaving loom that my grandad had made for my grandma. Later, while I was at university, my grandmother bought me a large dobby handloom. I knew that I was creative, and especially wanted to explore this kind of path, but I wasn’t sure which medium. I went on to study a BA in textiles and, when I found weaving, it just seemed to click.
What do you do at the Bristol Weaving Mill?
We aim to create fabric and woven products that showcase sustainable designs and British manufacturing at its best. The idea was to open a facility in the UK where a no-boundaries approach could be taken to fabric sampling and production weaving. Marrying traditional methods with innovative design, we work on a wide variety of projects, from local alpaca products to fabric designs for the catwalk. Being a micro-mill, we have the ability to work closely with clients to develop fabric and items that suit their needs.
Talk us through the process
When working on a new design, the team at BWM will have a meeting with the client to discuss their project. We will then work on sourcing appropriate yarns and raw materials to create a collection of handloom samples and supporting CAD [Computer-Aided Design] patterns. While doing this, we think ahead to the manufacturing stage and perform any tests. During the design process, we use specialist software to create our motifs. This software can be uploaded to the handlooms and allows us to make quick decisions on the loom. We experiment with patterns, yarns and structures until we have created a range of samples we deem suitable to present to the client. Once the final samples have been costed, the approved designs will be woven on a larger scale, either on our industrial handlooms or our in-house industrial machines. Each loom has its own personality and, as a weaver, you have to get to know the nuances of the machinery in order to weave smoothly and at the optimum speed.
Describe your workshop
We are tucked away behind Bristol Temple Meads railway station, in a 1950s office building. In the summer, we like to open the roller shutters when we’re weaving on Dorian (our fondly nicknamed industrial loom – he’s forever young after we restored and saved him from scrap). It’s lovely to be weaving with Bristol life slowly filtering past.
Any proud moments so far?
I would say a combination of working on the local ‘closed loop’ and sustainable project, The Bristol Cloth, reaching our five-year anniversary with the mill, and being stocked in shops such as The New Craftsmen, Heal’s and Neptune.
Do you have any future plans or aspirations?
Over the next five years we would like to work towards expanding and starting our own brand under The Bristol Weaving Mill name, and launch our own collection of accessories, such as blankets, cushions and throws.