Liz Christy, designer hand-weaver is inspired by Art, from paintings to poetry. She infuses her handwoven scarves with the hues of the changing seasons. Her colour palette echoes her surroundings; the fresh hues of springtime daffodils and bluebells, the vibrant highlights of the Irish summer landscape followed by rich shades of autumn and water-filled winter scenes
Precious Time & Alchemy
In describing her weaving, Liz says ‘the threads pass through our hands many times during the process from start to finish. Time is what goes into every rhythmically handwoven piece. In her down-to-earth way, Liz’s passion for what she does began over thirty years ago, and she has been building relationships with her customers and suppliers since. This authenticity is woven into each scarf. Her designs feature mainly natural materials – beautiful Donegal yarns, specially spun bouclé wool and kid mohair, and locally bred Alpaca. During the hand-dyeing process, these yarns take on part of her colour loving soul in magical alchemy, resulting in memorable and vibrant colours.
Undoubtedly hand-weaving is a slow process when compared with electrically enhanced and power looms. The ‘flying shuttle’ on Liz’s looms, was a big contributor to the development of the industrial revolution. However, this is where the similarity to the weaving mill ends. Liz’s techniques are mindful, and she runs her business based on quality; quality of the textiles she produces and quality of the life for the people weaving the scarves on the looms. The hand-weavers paint with thread and the looms are their canvas. Liz Christy’s Swallow Studios is an artisan production workshop.
Slow Fashion – Tomorrow’s Heirlooms
Very early on Liz knew that she could not engage in a race to the bottom on price. And she knows her customer is one who appreciates the time and skill involved in creating her accessories. Her scarves have an impact on how you feel when you wear them, and they have the added advantage of keeping you warm when needed. Each piece is an individual work of art, made with care to be loved and enjoyed.
It is vital that she can stand over her work and truly guarantee that her designs are genuinely hand-woven in Ireland. And where better than the county where she was born and loves dearly, nestled among the drumlin hills. Essentially Liz’s scarves are slow fashion, high quality and distinctive gifts to be worn and enjoyed. With care and gentle hand-washing, Liz Christy handwoven scarves will become tomorrow’s heirlooms.
For Liz Christy and the brand that she has built up; it is essential that she can say truly, that her scarves are hand-woven in Ireland. She has trained her weavers. It is a small business with a small core team of people who make the magic happen. Hand-weaving is an age-old craft and her looms are powered by hand and foot. All her textiles have a woven selvage.
Our scarves are the result of a series of many processes, all carried out by our hands”, says Liz when asked ‘how long does it take to make a scarf; Each process impacts the finished fabric. Consistency is important but because we are not machines, the variations of the human hand are part of the beauty and trueness of our work.
We prepare the warp – the verticle threads- by counting them on the rotating warping mill. This is the first part where inspiration comes into play, be it Monet’s paintings, Kavanagh’s poetry, or the sun setting over the bog. Usually, we make a warp long enough to weave seven scarves, one after another.
The heddles on the loom are then meticulously threaded with the warp using a tiny hook. If we are using the same weave structure as it is already on the loom, we will tie the new warp onto the ends of the old one, thread by thread. So that will be 200, 300, or perhaps 600 tiny little knots to work through.
Our next step is to ‘dress’ the loom which involves methodically combing the warp, tensioning it, and ‘beaming’ these fine threads – this means they are tied to and rolled onto a rotating beam at the back of the loom.
The front end of the warp is then tied under tension to the front beam.
Tension is checked and altered until even across the warp which is then ready for weaving.
As a designer hand-weaver, you know exactly where each thread will go technically. When my hand-dyed yarns are added into the mix, serendipity happens on the loom and gives us great joy as we weave and see how the yarns and colours shimmer as they are woven together.
The hand-dyeing of the weft wool is a process that Liz undertakes on the opposite side of the workshop floor where she has her dye area set up.
The boucle wool has been custom spun for Liz in a 200-year-old spinning mill in Yorkshire.
It comes as 500g hanks which are prepared with extra ties to make handling easier and safer when hot.
Liz has always kept dye recipe books, so while colorways may be repeated, there are never two identical hanks. It is simply not possible and this uniqueness is an added feature of our scarves.
After a short spin, the hanks are hung up in the drying room.
When completely dry they are ready to be ‘un-hanked’ into ‘cakes of wool’. The hank to stretched using a rotating wooden ‘Swift’ and it is then manually twisted into a convenient size.
The next step is filling the bobbins for the flying shuttle with our multi-colored wool. We have manual rotating ‘bobbin winders’ for this job, and we dexterously guide the wool gradually onto the bobbin with one hand while turning the wheel with the other.
The bobbin basket is filled ready for weaving. The number of bobbins depends on how much wool is put on and the length of the scarf, and how closely it is woven – it is not an exact science.
The weaver is now ready to settle into a rhythm on their loom and enjoy weaving the scarves.
How long does it take to make a scarf?…… how long is a piece of string?
When the weaving is complete the scarves are pulled off the front beam of the loom which stores the fabric as it is woven.
The gap left between each scarf as they are woven is what becomes the fringes as they are counted and knotted.
All the scarves are then hand-washed and double rinsed to bring out the luxurious softness of the fibers. They a given a short spin dry to remove the excess water, and hung in the drying room.
The fringes are then combed and trimmed. The label is sewn onto the scarf and it is ready to be boxed for the customer.
It is satisfying when visitors to the studios see and appreciate just how much work is involved in bringing these textiles to life. Each piece is an individual work of art, made with passion to be loved and enjoyed.
WHERE ARE WE
Liz Christy, Hand-Woven in Ireland.
Co. Monaghan, A75 Y318
Phone number: +353 (0)429746614
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org