‘I like every part of designing and making textiles but, for me, the best bit is when I start to weave – I love being on the loom! If a pattern isn’t too complex you can work at speed – it’s a very rhythmical, focused and calming process.’
I’m fascinated by the different qualities of my materials – the rich colours and softness of merino wool, the stiffness of silk, the ways fibres buckle and felt when you combine them. I like to use eco cottons because they are recycled from the textile industry’s cotton waste, but also because of their history and handling – spun, woven, washed, cut, sewn, worn, washed, worn, washed. And there’s always the lucky dip of the grab bag of yarns I’ve collected over the years or been given by other designers – necessity being the mother of invention.
The women in my family have always sewed, knitted and crocheted so working with fabric is something I’ve responded to. I’m always looking out for evidence of the maker’s hand in the idiosyncrasy of a hand-turned hem or buttonhole.
I never know where I’ll find my next idea. It can be in a historical textiles collection or an exhibition. But just as often I find them in the little boxes of stuff I’ve collected over years or in a backstreet shop in an unfamiliar city selling tablecloths and linens.
‘For me, weaving is about creating something from nothing: colours that catch the eye or imagination in a book, in a kimono at the V&A, or the inky silhouette against a dusky pink sky.’
Carolyn Abbott studied Textile Design at Chelsea College of Art and Design. She has sold her handmade cushions and scarves in stockists in London, Leeds, Salisbury and Shetland, as well as the William Morris Gallery. She has regularly exhibited at shows including the East London Design Show, Hidden Art, Country Living and others. She has also provided fabric samples for designers including the Luella label, Lezley George, Elena Garcia Eco Couture, Ptolemy Mann and Academy Costume (theatrical costumiers).
She is a visiting artist educator at the William Morris Gallery, and has taught adults and children for Waltham Forest Adult Learning Centre.
Carolyn is the founder of E17 Designers, a group of 100+ artists, makers and designers. She has organised and ran designer-maker markets throughout the London Borough of Waltham Forest and in conjunction with The Barbican and Create London at the Walthamstow Garden Party. Carolyn has been a trustee at the Blackhorse Workshop since its inception. Carolyn regularly updates her skills by taking part in business workshops with the Barbican, Echo, Craft Central, Crafts Council, and natural dye workshops with Lucille Junkere, Rosalind Fowler and Katherine May, passementerie with Jessica Light. Carolyn also has a certificate in Domestic Interior Design from Central St Martins.
You can find her either sitting at her loom in Walthamstow, or at a small table in Bethnal Green, at Ince Umbrellas (est.1805) hand finishing umbrellas.
(Photography Nicola Tree)