On the 7th of December, our team brings a curated collection of 55 merchants and makers to Mary Ward House in central London. Our exhibitors sell a range of rare vintage fabrics, covetable haberdashery and skilfully handmade textile treasures. The fair offers the perfect opportunity to meet makers, catch up with old friends, and pick up that special something in preparation for the festive season.
Who are you and what do you do? I am Ellie Langley. I am a hatter and British wool specialist feltmaker.
Why do you do what you do? I do what I do because I can grow my own materials. I take in sheep who would otherwise go for slaughter. They live out their entire lives with me and, in return, they provide me with friendship and a fleece each year.
How do you work? I work in a workshop on my smallholding, usually 'assisted' by one or more of my cats. My smallholding is off-grid, high in the North Pennines, meaning we have no mains electricity, therefore everything I do is entirely powered by wind, sun and wood. I live here to provide a safe and suitable home for my animals.
What’s your background? The background to my textile work is truly accidental. It stems directly from buying a house in 1991 and the day after moving in a neighbour knocking in the door and suggesting that we borrowed her goats to eat our garden. That led to a real connection with the land, sustainability and the origins of things. We made yoghurt and cheese from our goat's milk, grew vegetables and herbs, kept bees and produced honey, candles and polishes, and then came my rescued sheep and the work I do now.
How has your practice change over time? My practice has changed considerably. I have always specialised in undyed natural colours and worked for many years as a feltmaker. I still make felt, but my main focus is on my hats, which I developed after undertaking a millinery course. They are complex, hand-stitched pieces incorporating tweeds, felt and organic linings.
What memorable responses have you had to your designs? "The best thing I ever bought."
What do you like about your craft? I like the connectedness. I can look out of the window of my workshop and see my materials growing. I have a real bond with some of my sheep and love spending time with them.
Professionally, what wouldn’t you do without? My sheep!
What is it about your craft that captured your attention? The ability to grow materials and use them to produce useful and beautiful items, with minimal impact in the planet.
What are your biggest influences? Certain farmers and organic gardeners have been my biggest influences. For me everything is about my materials and sustainability.
What is your favourite part of the process? Feeding my sheep and spending time with them is my favourite part. I always get excited at clipping time, sorting through my fleece bounty.
For more information about Ellie Langley, please visit her website.
Tickets to the Fair are available here. Use code WINTERFAIR19 to buy two tickets for the price of one.