Sunday 8 February 2009

Tabby and twill

This blanket is one of a small collection we have woven by Keith Stow, a weaver living in Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, who I understand finally retired about 3 years ago. I wish I'd bought more of his beautiful blankets! I also love wearing a couple of hooded jackets sewn up from a similar fabric to the blankets. All 100 per cent wool. The label he wove under was "Stows of Sowerby". I have an old "Craft Trail" booklet for the south Pennines with a page about the business. Keith Stow had worked as a spinning overlooker until he was made redundant in 1980. He and his wife were living in a farmhouse with a large barn, suitable for setting up his weaving business. It is my understanding from a conversation I had with the intermediary I bought the blankets from - at a Derbyshire crafts centre - that he started hand weaving, but the popularity of the blankets was such that it justified getting a large Italian mechanical loom, and in fact the craft booklet says he had three working looms. It was discovering these blankets - I think probably 8 years ago - that caused me first to look at a woven cloth and wonder about how it was designed and made. The Craft Trail booklet tells me that they are based on a blanket that Keith's wife, April, inherited from a Swiss grandfather. They are a bit different to anything I had ever seem before. They are woven in 4/4 diagonal twill and fulled. The weft colours are in bands, the blanket above has five different weft colours but an extraordinary number and range of colours in the warp. I think it probably that he used production line ends from local mills.