Book Club > Author Interviews > Rachel Denbow: Weaving Is Believing

Rachel Denbow: Weaving Is Believing

Added March 5
Rachel Denbow: Weaving Is Believing

Weaving saw a significant revival in 2016, and we’re convinced you have Rachel Denbow to thank for it. You may recognise her designs – especially if, like us, you’re obsessed with scrolling through images of woven art on Pinterest. Keen to find out more about her artistic process, we caught up with this author, crafter and DIYer to uncover just how she manages to create such loomin’ marvellous pieces. Over the page, learn how to make your very own wall hanging, inspired by Rachel’s colourful and textured projects.

Hanging out

Rachel had already embarked upon an artful career before she got into weaving, but was keen to explore new avenues. “After years of selling mid-century goods and textiles, sewing quilts and teaching home décor DIYs, I found myself in a creative rut,” she explains. “I was six months pregnant, and it was the middle of winter, so the hormones could have had something to do with it too! I decided to build a loom from a mid-century wooden drawer I’d found in an alley. It wasn’t a great start, but it reignited my curiosity, and that’s all it took for me to begin a second and a third project.” From there, weaving became a relaxing and inspiring antidote to her bout of winter blues. “It’s one of those mediums, like knitting I imagine, that is composed of repetition,” she reflects.

“Over, under, around, back, increase, decrease – it can help free your thoughts from constant stimulation.” But as Rachel knows only too well, crafting isn’t always a calming pastime. “I was working on a project deadline but couldn’t find the same shade of warm, white gauzy cotton I had started it with. I drove to three fabric stores but as it was two days before Halloween, they were all out of what I needed. I resorted to dyeing my bright white cotton with some of my husband’s spiced tea, and just hoped the client wouldn’t mind that their wall hanging had subtle notes of citrus and jasmine!”

Crafting stories

Throughout history, weaving has been used to tell stories and depict cultural events and these narratives can also be seen in Rachel’s work. “For me, each woven piece tells a story about where we are in our personal lives,” she says. “The colours we pair may show lightheartedness, or tell of a challenging few months where we processed our struggles with our hands. You can easily see a person’s creative growth when you look back on previous work. In a way, weaving is essentially an artistic timeline.” Every story has a beginning, so how does Rachel approach a new piece? “There are multiple ways of using a warped loom, but other than gathering colours that feel good together and having a vague sense of design direction, I don’t tend to plan before I get started,” says Rachel. “I use what I have to hand and then adjust the composition as things develop. It lets me relax into the pattern of opening and closing the shed and running my needle through, instead of counting weft rows and pre-measuring my yarn to make sure I have enough.” It certainly sounds as if Rachel has found the perfect balance between organisation and creativity. “While weaving is great for those who enjoy structure and exact measurements, it’s also perfect for those of us who, like me, prefer to figure it out as we go.”

Tapestry talk

Luckily for us, Rachel is keen to pass on her know-how and expertise. “There were very few online resources for frame loom weaving when I started. Those that were available weren’t as intuitive as they could have been. I decided to start sharing the things I was figuring out myself. The response was noticeable, so I continued to challenge myself to learn new techniques and to document them as I went. I wanted to offer relevant and user-friendly tutorials that made weaving more accessible.” As well as feeling compelled to publicise her designs, it’s clear that, for Rachel, her projects are more than just work – they’re works of art, and we couldn’t agree more. “My favourite pieces include a woven leather wooden bench, which looks far more expensive than it is, plus an area rug made out of thrifted white sheets and black cotton yardage. It took me a couple of weeks to finish, but it’s still in my studio three years later.”

Maker profile

Rachel Denbow

Who is she?

Crafter, weaver, DIYer and author

Top three crafty tips:

• Grab an old weaving book from the 1970s and make something using a fresh colourway. • See if there are any local weaving guides in your area, you’ll learn a lot from their collective expertise. • When you’re looking for inspiration, pick a design challenge and work through it; is an excellent community resource with monthly prompts.

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