Absolutely talks to Francesca Kletz and Brooke Dennison, the two founding ladies of The London Loom about their new book and unique weaving workshops
Words Miriam Carey
Meet The London Loom
It’s a Tuesday evening in a little studio in Hackney. The walls are covered in brightly coloured rolls of yarn and decorative tapestries. There is a table surrounded by men and women in careful concentration – they are in the middle of an ‘embroider your member’ workshop. A woman is weaving weft in and out of warp, seeking reference from a photograph she has taken earlier for inspiration. Meanwhile, a man is tying up knots of a tapestry he has weaved ‘freestyle’.
This scene is a regular genital embroidery evening workshop at The London Loom in Hackney. ‘Everyone has a shot of tequila at the start to get them warmed up and chatting to the person next to them’ explains Francesca Kletz, one of the founders of the business, ‘People pop to the bathrooms with a pocket mirror and some people bring photographs on their phone’. But this is not a crude workshop; it’s about making friends and accepting those lovely, necessary parts of you that sit between your legs’.
The London Loom run all kinds of weaving workshops – there is a weave your own scarf workshop, a tapestry weaving workshop and an inspirational women badge making workshop for March, women’s history month. What is unique to The London Loom is their approach to weaving. They take a freestyle ‘non-precious’ approach and also what seems to be a more fun, creative and dare I say feminist approach. At least what is clear is there are no other places in London like it.
Francesca and her business partner Brooke Dennis could clearly recognise a good idea when they saw it as the business got started very quickly. It was on a trip to Japan Francesca discovered the amazing craft of Japanese freestyle weaving and realised there was nowhere in London you could use this technique. Francesca got on the phone to Brooke immediately and back in the UK the business began. First, they opened a pop-up shop on Hackney Road and after they outgrew this they moved to a larger, more permanent studio in Hackney Downs. Soon came the incredibly entertaining and informative book Weave This, put together in less than a year by Brooke and Francesca.
Explaining how they achieved everything Francesca explains “we just knew we had something to offer the London craft scene we couldn’t find elsewhere”. They did not come from a business background – everything they know about running a business they learnt on the job, but “it feels good to be a pair of strong-minded, sassy business women, who also love to knit”.
As for the knitting side of the business, the ladies ‘know, love and respect crafts’. They can’t remember an age when they were not knitting or weaving. Brooke tells me “I have always had the urge to pick up wool and to be making something” and that she gets annoyed when she goes somewhere she can’t knit. In fact, they even admitted to arranging long journeys so they can knit.
In an attempt to explain the craft’s addictive edge, Francesca tells me “weaving has a rhythmic quality to it as you go over and under the warp thread. Also, it doesn’t have the risk factor of other textile and needle crafts, you don’t really find yourself dropping stitches or unpicking your work to correct it which is more relaxing”.
Francesca allows me to try some weaving myself and there is definitely a meditative element to the technique – it takes just the right amount of physicality and focus to keep you in the moment and to distract you from thinking about other things. Also, the freestyle weaving technique Francesca and Brooke teach is about ‘painting with yarn rather than constructing’ and this freedom and creativity can be incredibly satisfying.
What’s more, there is some scientific evidence to back up its therapeutic claims. Firstly, knitting has the capacity to calm anxiety and depression in the moment, but also, to associate the tactile object, the scarf or tapestry, with a calmer state of mind. I also think there is something to say for spending time on hobby that gets you away from a phone, computer and tv screen which is great.
In general there has been a rise in the number of people showing interest in craft hobbies, which has been reflected in the rise in craft books being published this year. Weave This by Francesca and Brooke is an exceptional addition to this offering, filled with bright pictures and sharp humour it makes for an immensely entertaining read. Further, a complete beginner can pick up a copy and learn to make an abundance of things, from a huge calico tapestry, to a bowl, to a statement necklace or earrings.
Don’t delay in giving the book a read – or even better book yourself on to their next evening embroidery workshop.
THE LONDON LOOM
Studio 8, Hackney Downs Studios, E8 thelondonloom.com
Weave This is out now, published by Hardie Grant