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.
In the lead up to our annual Winter Fair Selvedge talks to some of the artisans that will be joining us. Here we talk to knitwear designer-maker Ria Burns of Ria Burns Knitwear. Ria produces botanically dyed knitwear and accessories using local wool and homegrown or foraged plants.
Why did you choose a career in textiles?
After studying fashion for my BA and becoming aware of how unethical the mainstream fashion industry is, I wanted to make a small difference by making my own work as sustainable as possible. I also want to champion British Wool and showcase its natural hues and qualities. I think it’s a massively underrated fibre, so worked to create my own British wool yarn that is incredibly soft, while also being hard wearing. This has resulted in a product that is local, fully traceable, created with minimal impact to the environment, long-lasting and can biodegrade at the end of its useful lifespan.
How do you work?
My work is process-heavy – starting with a seed planted in my garden which grows over Spring and Summer to provide me with an abundance of dye plants and colour potential. I spend the warmer months gathering and planning new work. Since I’ve started growing my own dyes, working with colour has become more seasonal, it’s dictated by what dye plants are currently available in my garden or what is available to forage.
After I’ve chosen the colours to work this, I then have the wonderful blank canvas of my bespoke local wool yarn (sourced from an eco-farm in Somerset) to dye. After dyeing, the yarn is wound onto a cone and knitted by me on my 80s hand powered knitting machine to produce my knitwear, before being hand washed and finished.
For tickets to see Ria and more than 50 other makers, visit the Winter Fair.