Erna Janine of Freeweaver Saori Studio reflects on her experiences of the Festival of Natural Fibres 2019. Janine facilitated the event and led a Bengala Dye workshop.

Festival of Natural Fibres 2019

On a quiet Saturday last November, I was excited to once again help facilitate the Festival of Natural Fibres. Having run my weaving studio from Craft Central for a few years, it is always a feast to organise collaborative events with other fibre folk. indeed, my main focus is teaching people how to hand weave simple cloth, the fibre story is of course much longer and endlessly layered.

Bengala Dye Workshop

During the 2018 edition of the Festival I set up a hand weaving studio at the front of the building., offering visitors a chance to try to weave on a Saori loom, understanding the simple structure of cloth that envelops us most of our lives. This time around, we focused on natural mud dyes from Japan with a well attended workshop on Bengala Dyes.

Eager participants leaned to use clod water earth pigment dyes on khadi material. The colours are light fast and do not require a mordant or heat source, making them the most eco-friendly option in natural dyes.

The Freeweaver Market Stall

Freeweaver studio also put up a small market stall with forest silk from Odisha in East India where I did a textile residency a while back. These are all materials we can use for dyeing and weaving. Each purchase supports a rural community being able to maintain the village lifestyle and preserve age old traditions and textile knowledge through small scale, non-polluting “cottage industries”, such as collecting wild cocoons and hand rolling the silk yarns. No poisons and no electricity needed!

Connect, Share and Learn

The festival was an opportunity to connect with others interested in ethical textiles. To share information and stories. And to learn new techniques. The festival provided space for strengthening our bonds as a growing collective. And for exploring ways to find a more natural and humane way forward. It certainly was a wonderful day on the Isle of Dogs.

About the Author

Erna Janine has been involved with natural textiles for over 20 years. She studied hand spinning with animal and plant fibres, botanical dyes and Viking age textile construction: warp weighted looms, tablet weaving, nalbinding etc. at the Icelandic College for traditional handcrafts in Reyjavik. For the last four years she has been visiting Japan regularly to study Saori freeweaving, a handweaving technique developed by Misao Jo. Unlike traditional textile techniques, which rely on repeating patterns, Saori Weaving is freestyle, personal to the weaver and so expressive that each cloth is unique, a work of art.

For the last three years, Erna has travelled to India for textile residencies and conferences. She has block printed in Bagru and travelled around Orissa. In the past couple of years she has attended khadi conferences in Ahmadabad and Jaipur. Early this year spent time with and learnt from loin loom weavers in Nagaland, Assam and Meghalaya.


Featured Image: Rose Bradbury

Mud Dyes Gallery: Erna Janine

Bengala Dye Workshop Gallery: Rose Bradbury

Freeweaver Market Stall Gallery: Rose Bradbury

Info and Resources:

The Festival was organised by Khadi LondonFreeweaver Saori StudioONE, and, Boho Homes London with support from Craft Central who sponsored the venue.

This blog is fourth in the series of blogs on the Festival. The others are:

Festival of Natural Fibres 2019. The Festival of Natural Fibres 2019 was organised at Craft Central. The event brought together fashion and textiles designers and sustainability experts. People who source natural fibres for themselves and their businesses also joined the event. The venue in London’s Isle of Dogs is a welcoming and inspiring space. The event was full of panel discussions, craft workshops, exhibits and stalls for ethical businesses. 

Reflection on Organising the Festival. Students of University College London reflect on their experience of organising the Festival.

Spinning a Yarn: Clicks that Tell a Tale, Spinning yarn at the Festival of Natural Fibres. As told through the click’s of Rose Bradbury’s camera. And a story centered around Asha’s spinning workshop.