Historic Textiles, Today’s Designers

Rebecca Ough, textile designer at Leeds mill AW Hainsworth, spoke about the process of creating a ‘New Heritage’ cloth at a special Future Fashion Factory event last night (5 December).

The joint workshop, organised in partnership with Leeds University Library Special Collections, focused on the development of the New Heritage jacquard design and how historic textile archives can inspire contemporary designers.

As part of a project supported by Future Fashion Factory in our first funding call, Rebecca read jacquard loom punch cards held at Leeds Industrial Museum – believed to date from the early 20th century – and fed the data into modern design software to create digital patterns.

She then worked closely with designers in-house at Hainsworth Creative Hub, using the patterns as inspiration for a contemporary jacquard cloth design. The mill then produced a small quantity of the cloth as a means of trialling a new service, offering short runs of bespoke cloth for fashion designers.

Guests at the event had the opportunity to compare different samples of the New Heritage cloth, as well as to admire garments created in the fabric by the University of Leeds’ School of Design. The striking outfits were based on designs produced during a student project with the Yorkshire Fashion Archive, which is also housed on campus.

Rebecca Ough holding jacquard loom punch cards at Future Fashion Factory event
Rebecca Ough brought examples of jacquard loom punch cards

Curators from Leeds University Libraries Special Collections introduced the guests to their impressive archive of fashion and textile-related resources. Associate curator Jill Winder spoke about accessing the International Textile Collection, which is available on campus by appointment and which has some of its holdings available to view online.

William Gott pattern book from Leeds University Library Special Collections
Gott’s pattern book, courtesy of Leeds University Library Special Collections

Special Collections is home to an archive relating to the Gott family, woollen merchants and industrialists who were synonymous with Armley Mill – now Leeds Industrial Museum, from where the punch cards were taken that inspired the New Heritage cloth.

William Gott’s pattern book was on display at the event, full of colourful samples of yarn and cloth and containing records of different dyeing recipes. The book has now been digitised and is available on the Special Collections website.

Guests were also able to look at a rare example of a 1920s pattern book from S. Tempest & Co., based in Bradford. Showing wear from years of daily industrial use, it contains hand-written notes on images of patterns for a variety of everyday garments including blouses and skirts.

A variety of textile fragments and samples from different periods and regions around the world were available from the International Textile Collection, showing the rich and diverse sources of inspiration available to fashion and textile designers in the city.

We would like to thank the whole team at Leeds University Library for their support during this event.