Ashford Artist of the Month – May 23

Weaving and textile designer, Eleanor Dale is our May Ashford Artist of the month. Based in London, Eleanor spends her spare time, when she is not working as an Arts Librarian, designing and weaving cloth for all kinds of gorgeous homewares, fashion accessories and pieces of art.

I hope you enjoy reading her story.


Eleanor at the Local Makers Market

Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
I’m Eleanor, a weaver and textile designer from Norfolk, UK. I spent the last three years weaving and working from my family home in Norfolk, but I’ve recently moved back to London and back to full time work. I am the one woman team behind The Naked Weaver, where I design and weave cloth for cushions, fashion accessories, and wall art. I’ve also recently developed an interest in creating colourful hand painted frames for some of my textile pieces. When I’m not weaving or crafting, I work as an Arts Librarian in Bloomsbury.

What was your background?
My working background is in libraries, and I studied Classical Civilisations at university, but I have always been interested in textiles, and in making things for myself and my home. I hand stitched a patchwork quilt while at university, and one of my all time favourite things to do was to make decorative bits for my room. I also come from a family of creative women – both my grandmothers could knit, and my great aunt was a spinner and weaver, and I hope to be able to use her looms at some point, once I find somewhere with enough space! 

How did you get started on your fibre artist journey?
I started on my journey to working with wool in about 2016, when I saw a friend knitting socks at the pub. I knew then that I wanted to be able to do that too, and I taught myself to knit using trial and error, youtube videos, and sheer determination. Once I’d got the knitting bug I quickly became interested in other woolly crafts, and signed up for a weaving workshop with Francesca Kletz at The London Loom, which was such a brilliant, colourful, and playful experience I knew I wanted to do more. 
At the start of 2020 I quit my London job with the intention of walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. When the first UK lockdown hit I knew I wouldn’t be able to walk as I had planned, so instead I bought my first loom, a 32” Ashford rigid heddle, and spent the next few months working out how to use it, and designing my first collection.

How did your journey evolve over time?
I don’t come from an art or design background, so I think my journey is evolving all the time as I learn more about my craft and develop my skills. When I started weaving I was really just playing around with the wools I had already, and making things for myself or friends and family.  As time has gone on I have tried to focus on creating more coherent designs for a wider collection, on building a distinctive style for my brand, and on creating pieces that will work in a variety of different settings. I’ve also branched out into hand painting second hand frames to compliment the wool windings I have designed, which is something I’ve been really enjoying as an exercise in colour theory and experimentation.

What do you do with your creations/art/finished pieces?
I sell most of the pieces that I weave, but I also give things to friends and family from time to time, and I try to make sure that I keep the occasional piece for myself too! A big goal of mine is to make more clothing pieces for myself from my own handwoven cloth. So far I’ve managed a little waistcoat from leftover woven fabric, but I have visions of beautiful tailored coats and fun jackets. I think it can be difficult when you’re trying to build a business from your hobby to give yourself time to make things for yourself, to pause, try new things, learn a new skills, etc, but I often find that in the process of making for myself, new ideas are sparked which filter into my business practice.

Where do you sell it?
I mainly sell my work through the shop on my website – – but I also sporadically attend UK craft fairs and sell in person there. That’s become a little more challenging since returning to London without a car, but it’s always really fun selling at fairs and markets because I get to talk to the public and other makers, and I find those conversations really valuable for building connections and sharing my love of colour and textiles. My work is also listed on The Chuffed Store, a UK based online shop selling pieces by a range of different craftspeople from all across the country. It’s absolutely thrilling to have my work featured alongside some many talented creatives, and I really value the community that the founder, Millie, has built up.

How do you manage a balanced life as an artist? 
I’ve found that understanding how and when I work best has helped me find balance as a maker. I know that I often feel most creative in the afternoons and early evenings, and can work with greater drive and focus at those times. I find it harder to concentrate on longer tasks in the mornings, and so I try to work to my strengths and tick off small, quick admin tasks in the morning, and save more focused creative sessions for after lunch! I try to give myself a set number of hours in the day to work, which can be tricky as I often get a surge of creative energy at different times, but for me, treating my creative practice as a job, with a rough number of daily hours, and a lunch break, helps keep me balanced. I also think that it’s really important to keep some time for personal creative time, and I try to keep most Sundays as my fun making day, where I try new crafts, do some dressmaking, collage, or something else that’s just for me.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I find inspiration all around me, from images and patterns in books, to colours found in nature, or a really great outfit someone is wearing in the street. My first Colour Chart collection was inspired by colour cards found in DIY shops. A few months ago I visited the Kaffe Fassett exhibition in London and came away feeling incredibly inspired by the idea of design and craft across multiple disciplines. I love making, and it felt so wonderful to be in a room surrounded by pieces designed by Kaffe across the mediums of surface and pattern design, patchwork, needlepoint, and knitting.  

Do you have advice for people just starting out on their fibre journey?
I think my top piece of advice would be to not be afraid of trying something and to just have a go! So often in the past I have been too lacking in confidence to try something, only to find once I finally have a go that I can do it, and it isn’t as hard as I thought.  And to embrace your mistakes, which are really just moments which help you learn, or spark a new idea, or a solution to a problem. It’s really frustrating when things don’t work the way you thought they would, but there’s usually something positive or at least useful that you can take from the experience. I’d also suggest reaching out to other makers, or joining a local club or guild. There are so many wonderful, kind, and generous people out there to talk to and learn from, and a real community of makers who can support your journey. 

Where will your fibre journey take you in the future?
I recently completed a four day weaving course with Alan Oliver, learning to use and design on multi-shaft looms. This has been something I’ve wanted to learn for a long time, and it was a very inspiring four days. Once I have the space, I hope to start using my great aunt’s table loom to design more complex pieces. I also think that there is a lot more that I could do on my rigid heddle loom, and I’d like to take some time to experiment and play around with colour, texture, and form and see what can be achieved. I’d like to continue to build my brand, and carve out some focused time for making. Most of all, I want to keep learning and finding the joy in making.