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Meet the Mother - Daughter Duo Behind ELKA Textiles

We visit Ellie and Claudia at the ELKA studio, where weaving and natural dyeing are a gateway to wellbeing.

Ellie, a weaver, and her mum, Claudia, a natural dyer, run ELKA Textiles from their base in Hampshire. As well as selling their handwoven and naturally dyed pieces, they run in-person workshops and online courses to share their skills. 

How did ELKA begin?

Ellie: Growing up in the Middle and Far East I was entranced by the vibrant souks. My dad is a great collector of antique and vintage textiles and ceramics, so I was surrounded by colour and pattern from a young age. 

I did a Foundation in Art and Design at Winchester School of Art, then graduated with a BA and MA from Central St Martins College of Art and Design in 2006. I have been weaving ever since. 

Mum started working with the business in 2018, naturally dyeing linen yarn for my weaving. I absolutely love working with Mum. Our skill sets and chosen crafts are very complimentary, and we spend a lot of time laughing. 

My husband Tom built me a beautiful studio in the garden last summer, so the commute is now a few seconds walk through the garden.  One day we’ll be filming tutorials for our online courses or YouTube channel, and the next I’ll be weaving.  

Hand weaving is the definition of a labour of love

Weaving is the definition of a labour of love. Setting up my big loom to weave cloth for accessories can take several days before weaving can begin. With the more repetitive stages that require less concentration, I can binge listen to audio books which I really look forward to, but once I’m weaving, I have to focus. If it’s warm enough I like opening all the windows and doors so I can hear all the sounds from the garden. 

Ellie wears the Percella Cove Vest and Hope Cottage Blouse. Claudia wears the Tern Tide Cardigan. 

Why did you decide to start running workshops?

Claudia: Natural dyeing is a skill I love to promote. I feed off the enthusiasm of those that come to my workshops, keen to add an ethical dimension to their projects; knitters, sewers, raffia makers, paper dyers, artists or simply the curious. 

Ellie: As for so many, the pandemic changed everything. We had just moved to a bigger studio, doubling our rent, to enable us to host in-house workshops. Having to cancel all our workshops was financially devastating, but lockdown presented the opportunity for us to produce our first self-paced online course.  

People enrol for all sorts of reasons, but over the years it has become apparent that many attendees are looking for a solution to mental health issues. 

Claudia: Natural dyeing is an antidote to the pace and pressure of everyday life.  The best results are achieved by stepping back and allowing time for each stage of the process to develop and by appreciating the individual quality and beauty of the outcome rather than chasing expectations. I feel very lucky that Ellie got me started!  

Ellie: I spent the best part of this year collaborating with an art therapist to write my first book. ‘Weaving as Art Therapy for Beginners’ is a self-care workbook to help ease anxiety, stress, and depression. It has a series of therapeutic weaving activities, which I hope will highlight the well documented healing benefits of creating with your hands. 

Ellie wears Hope Cottage Blouse and Kenethel Jumpsuit, Claudia wears Tern Tide Cardigan, Easel Top and Day Dream Skirt.

Do you need to be creative to start weaving?

Ellie: I strongly believe that weaving is for everyone, regardless of how creative you deem yourself to be. If you feel like you fall into the ‘not creative’ category and that has stopped you from trying out something new, I’d challenge you to approach it from a more technical point of view.  

Embrace the learning curve of a new skill.  Make something functional. Drop any unrealistic expectations you’ve put on yourself, don’t overthink it, and just enjoy the process of working with your hands. See how it makes you feel.

Drop any unrealistic expectations you've put on yourself, don't overthink it, and just enjoy the process of workingwith your hands. See how it makes you feel.

You don’t have to spend lots of money on equipment and materials to try out weaving. You can have fun making looms from old picture frames or pieces of cardboard and make your own yarn from recycled t-shirts and jumpers. 

Clothes as before, with Ellie wearing the Crackington Trousers.

I am a bit of a magpie and though I no longer buy any new synthetic yarns, I’m a big advocate of buying second hand and I do love a good scour of our local car boot sales and charity shops for anything sparkly and bright that I can weave with.   

You will learn so much from your mistakes, so try to embrace them as a learning experience. Weaving is a slow process, so start small, experiment with lots of different techniques, and you can scale up with your growing confidence.

If you’re inspired to try your hand, follow ELKA studio Instagram or Facebook. Or, you can head to their website to find online courses, in-person workshops and order Ellie’s new book, Weaving as Art Therapy for Beginners.

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