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The Aviary Studio for British Textile Week


The Aviary Studio is a small hand weaving studio and design consultancy providing considered fabric ideas and development to the fashion and interior markets.

Rejecting the constant demand for newness and instead supporting slow-design and sustainable practice, The Aviary Studio strives to offer alternative ideas to the fast fashion mentality.

The Aviary Studio

Here, Sarah Ward, founder of The Aviary Studio, takes a measured view on the impact of lockdown, and the opportunity it has given her to re-focus her business strategy and move her business forward:

Sarah The Aviary Studio

Although initially quite a frightening prospect, lockdown has given The Aviary Studio the gift of time, and an opportunity to evolve and diversify.

We are very grateful to the support provided by UKFT through the TAP scheme for our participation in the trade shows Heimtextil and Premiere Vision at the start of the year: if it hadn’t been for the success of our participation in these shows, we might not have made it through these recent months. 

Until now it has been necessary to find a balance between slow, considered design, and the constant demand for newness in a fast-paced world. 

With the time pressures of multiple seasons and fleeting selling opportunities, it’s always a big challenge to produce the right work and get it seen at the right time by the right person!

We’ve always wanted to add other elements to our business, particularly more artisanal ones, but as the first 4 years of our business was all about establishing ourselves, making ourselves visible and offering the best collections we could, there was little time left to diversify.

We have of course continued to develop woven designs for our swatch collection, but we have also been busy putting together research and material for talks and workshops, and preparing to offer a collection of sustainable fabrics that can be ordered by the metre, one of which will be hand-woven selvedge denim. We’ve also been dabbling in the art world, putting fashion and function aside for a moment to appreciate the structures that humans make with our hands. 

A little more about each new endeavour:

TALKS: We will now be offering a range of talks on a variety of topics across the woven textile spectrum, including Denim, Indigo, Textiles & the Environment, Ikat, Natural Dyes vs. Synthetic Dyes, and the History of weaving in the UK. All talks will be available either in person or via Zoom.

The Aviary Studio

So far we are ready with 3 talks around the subject of Denim, its history as a cloth, and its many uses over the past few centuries; Indigo, the plants that yield it, its origins and its links with social injustices; and finally, the relationship that Denim & Indigo have with the environment.

We are now preparing talks on Ikat, Natural Dyeing, the History of Weaving in the UK, plus the Textile industry’s impact on our planet, and what we can do about it. You can find out more about our talks here https://www.the-aviary-studio.com/talks

Workshops: We have come into possession of 5 old table looms, which we will be using to give weaving workshops.

The Aviary Studio

We’ll be doing this locally but we will also make these workshops available to corporate brands who would like to indulge in a day of fun whilst also getting to grips with the structure of woven fabric and new ways of thinking during their own design processes. We’ll be teaching our students the ancient craft of hand weaving, using natural, found, recycled and sustainable fibres. Four of the looms are old WeaveMaster looms, most likely made and used by war veterans for work and therapy — weaving is often recommended as a form of meditation to improve well-being.

To find out more about the workshops, visit  https://www.the-aviary-studio.com/workshops

Sustainability: With the environment in mind, we have taken the decision to use only plant-based and sustainable yarns & dyes – and if we do use silk, wool or synthetics, they will be mill deadstock or saved from landfill. 

Through research, our eyes have been opened to the sheer quantity of new yarn and virgin cotton that is produced to support the fast fashion industry – an industry in which much of what’s made and sold is quickly discarded. The impact on our planet is too great, the waste and throw away culture comes at too high a cost. 

So instead of participating in this we intend to use mill waste for our collections – or fibres that have a positive impact on the soil that they grow in. And there is such an abundance of incredible yarn to choose from – so much variety!

Sustainable & Plant Based Meterage:  Aside from offering a collection of woven designs as small swatches, we will also soon be offering a ‘by-the-metre’ collection of sustainable fabrics, designed and woven in house. Clients can either choose from the collection or develop a custom design with us.

Hand-woven Selvedge Denim: This is perhaps the most exciting of our new offerings – we are currently in the experimentation stages, practicing our natural indigo dyeing on all of our deadstock cotton qualities – but we plan to offer hand-dyed, hand-woven selvedge denim by the meter. Traditionally, selvedge denim was woven on looms of around 80cm width, which happens to be exactly the loom width we have! 

So much of today’s denim is mass produced on industrial projectile looms and dyed with synthetic indigo and toxic chemicals in the dye process. The industrialisation of denim allows manufacturers to achieve a consistency of colour and a flat uniform cloth – something which is impossible to guarantee with natural indigo dyed cotton woven on a handloom – but I believe it is the imperfections and inconsistencies in the yarn, the dye, and the hand-weaving that make the cloth beautiful, with traces and scars leaving a connection to the artisan that made it.

Woven Woody Windings: I trained as a designer, but at heart I would prefer to pursue a more artisanal pathway. During lockdown I had no access to my loom or my studio, so I started to look for other ways of weaving, off-loom. I use yarn windings a lot in my work, particularly when I am preparing ikat wefts, so this was almost a natural progression from that, paired with a desperate need to weave…something and somehow.

These works feel like a celebration of the craftsmanship of weaving, putting functionality and fashion aside for a moment to appreciate the structures that humans make with our hands – just like how animals create structures, nests, living spaces – without industrial machines.

Each piece is painstakingly wrapped and woven around a wooden base with a needle and thread, using only deadstock and plant-based fibres.

I now have access to both my loom and my studio, but I can’t seem to stop making these – the process is very therapeutic!

Loom Hire:  Now that we have acquired all these extra looms for our workshops, we might as well hire them out. Looms are hard to come by and can be quite expensive if you’re just starting out and want to experiment after having had a go at a beginner’s workshop. 

Digitised Swatch Collection:  Since lockdown began it has been impossible to meet our clients face to face, so we have digitised our entire collection of woven designs and have started showing them via video call. It is a strange concept for many of us, especially when there are so many things that you just want to touch and feel, but we must evolve, and adapt in these unprecedented times.


UKFT’s British Textile Week is a digital showcase of the craftsmanship, imagination and innovation of the UK textile industry.