Made in Britain: fabrics woven on traditional looms

Find out how salvaged Victorian and vintage looms and century old techniques are used to weave beautiful, bespoke fabrics

weaving fabric on a vintage loom
(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

Britain has a long history of industry and while modern technology has largely dissolved many smaller companies, there has been a recent resurgence in the use of hands-on manufacturing techniques. In our Made in Britain series, we celebrate the best of British craftsmanship and skills.

Daniel Harris of the London Cloth Co is a completely self-taught weaver. He had never even seen a shuttle loom before he bought his first eight years ago – a rusting, Victorian relic that he rescued from a derelict barn in Wales. 

Slowly acquiring more and more looms, he had to learn by trial and error how his collection of 'unwieldy beasts' work – each an amalgam of at least two machines that he had to carefully disassemble, assemble, replace components and then crank back into life.

From his micro mills based in London and Worcestershire he now produces a range of bespoke upholstery and furnishing fabrics – from rope-dyed plain, herringbone and twill indigo cottons, to multi-hued woollen heritage tweeds, tartans and blankets. 

Here Daniel explains the traditional skill of loom weaving.

While Daniel is keen to stress that his oeuvre is not a craft – 'these machines were at the forefront of the industrial revolution; in their day they were seen as killing craft,'  – there is no denying there is the same crafting ethos in how this one-man mill operator has a hand in every single stage of the weaving process.

vintage loom

This vintage Hutchinson Hollingworth Dobcross loom dates from 1904

(Image credit: Kasia Fizker)

working on a vintage loom

It can take two days to set up the loom for weaving, requiring hundreds of kilos of yarn to be wound on to a warping mill and then transferred to the loom. 'But once weaving it can be really quick,' says Daniel of his machines that can weave between five to 20 metres of fabric an hour

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

Daniel making a pattern chain

Daniel making a pattern chain to feed into the loom 

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

vintage card punch

He uses a vintage Bobbio pattern card punch, one of the many items he has picked up from abandoned mills around the British Isles

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

cushions in loom woven fabrics

Cushions made up in the London Cloth Co herringbone, tweed and plain indigo fabrics

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

upholstery fabrics

Examples of Daniel's bespoke upholstery fabrics

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

shuttles for a loom

To weave the fabrics, wooden shuttles containing bobbins of yarn for the weft threads, are fired back and forth, passing over and under the vertical warp threads that have been individually hand tied on to the loom, more than a hundred times a minute

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

blankets and cushions created from fabrics on vintage looms

Blankets made from British and Irish Donegal wool for Sutton and Tawney 

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

Daniel Harris of London Cloth Co

Part weaver, part engineer, part textile designer, Daniel is a self-taught, one-man mill operator

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

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Rachel joined the Period Living team six years ago after freelancing on a range of titles covering everything from homes and gardens, history and arts to wildlife. As the magazines Content Editor, she still gets to enjoy all of these things handily packaged together (one way or another) in the pages of Period Living. She loves her Victorian home, but is wrestling with making its cracks, quirks and draughty bits work for a family home.