wallace sewell, distinctive woven textiles

Wallace Sewell Distinctive Woven Textiles

Homegirl London pays homage to Wallace Sewell. This design company is known for their woven textiles in wonderful colour combinations. Their interior products include three dimensional and two-sided waffle blankets, patchwork cotton chenille blankets, pinstriped lambswool throws and Shetland throws. These can be coordinated with their outstanding cushion collection. Patterns are striking and bold with asymmetric blocks and varying width stripes. You can also treat yourself to one of their iconic and distinctive designer scarves which are classic accessory must-haves. All products are designed and made in the UK using quality materials and traditional techniques. I caught up with Harriet and Emma to find out more about Wallace Sewell.

wallace sewell, virginia honeycomb throw

Virginia Lambswool Honeycomb Throw

Meet the Wallace Sewell Owners

This business is owned by two friends; Harriet Wallace-Jones and Emma Sewell. They tell me how they met – “It was in 1985 whilst studying Textiles at Central School of Art (now Central St. Martins) in London. After that we both went on to the Royal College of Art and completed a two-year MA in Woven Textiles, graduating in 1990. At Central we weren’t mates at the time, but became good friends whilst at the RCA.” As students, their fascination with woven textiles was very different. Emma created fabrics loosely aimed at the fashion market with sculpted surfaces. Harriet made a collection of interior fabrics which explored patterns and composition.

wallace sewell, emma and harriet

Emma and Harriet

During the two-year MA at the Royal College of Art, they were placed in companies for an extended internship between first and second year. Harriet tells me – “I worked in New York during the summer of 1989. It was sweltering and I’d have to traipse in from Queens to Manhattan every morning, into the heart of the Garment district. It was still classic sweat shop west side New York. I learnt to thread and weave a sample hand warp in a day, creating half a dozen swatches to be sold for the apparel textile market! Consequently, I became technically a bit of a whizz!”

wallace sewell, lambswool pinstripe cushions

Lambswool Pinstripe Cushions

Meanwhile, Emma spent the summer in the beautiful, rural Scottish border town of Langholm, working for Neil Johnston. She elaborates – “Neil designed up market men’s tweed suiting, jacketing fabrics and fancy ‘Chanel’ style fabrics for womenswear. My day was spent processing rolls of fabric, cutting them into swatches and trimming the edges into 3mm fringes. I then helped get the fabrics ready for buyers to view and designed a small range which was included in the main collection.”

wallace sewell, bryce shetland wool cushions

Bryce Shetland Wool Cushions

Their business started almost by chance, they explain – “We graduated in 1990 in the middle of a tough recession which affected the textile Industry. We decided to share a small studio on Holloway Road for moral support and worked on a few projects together.  We were inspired by designers who created beautiful textiles that they sold as scarves and art pieces so we knew a business was possible. The business got off the ground in October 1992 when we decided to apply to the Crafts Council. Thankfully we were successful so that helped with studio fees and buying equipment. We could then apply to show our products at the Chelsea Crafts Fair, a unique and much loved showcase for craft makers. This was our launch pad and the response was overwhelming. International buyers such as Barneys, New York and the Guggenheim both placed orders for scarves. Barneys are still buying today and we now supply over 200 stockists in 23 countries.

wallace sewell, shetland wool twill throws

Shetland Wool Twill Throws

The business is run from two locations. Emma is based at the London shop come office and design studio in London Clerkenwell. Harriet moved back to her home town of Dorset where she has a studio. She tells me – “I travel to London at least once a week and this arrangement actually helps to make us more organised because we set ourselves goals and schedules. Emma adds – “It’s important to us that we keep our products manufactured exclusively in the UK. We’ve worked closely with the weaving mill over the past 16 years and the finishers, who wash and set the cloth, for over 20 years. Based in Lancashire and Yorkshire respectively, both have a rich history passed down through generations.”

View the Wallace Sewell Collection

The brand is known for their use of clever colour combinations. Also, their structure and yarn which is worked into surprising geometric formats. Emma and Harriet elaborate – “Our work is inspired by paintings. We create individual contemporary fabrics with strikingly bold, asymmetric blocks and stripes of varying scales. We are strongly influenced by the Bauhaus for its aesthetic and design ideology.”

wallace sewell, putney lambswool basket weave

Putney Lambswool Basket Weave

Their woven textile products include blankets, throws and cushions made from either merino lambswool or Shetland wool. Signature pieces include three-dimensional, double-sided waffle blankets and boldly pinstriped lambswool throws. A more recent addition to the brand is the Shetland throw selection. This range offers subtle pieces in heathery and earthy palettes, woven in a rugged, yet soft, Shetland wool.

wallace sewell, yosemite shetland wool throw

Yosemite Shetland Wool Throw

Lambswool Honeycomb Throws: “This is one of our trademark styles of throw which we have offered for over 15 years. The honeycomb or waffle weave creates a reversible throw. It has a bouncy feel with different colours and designs on each face. Woven in merino lambswool these are contemporary, timeless pieces.”

wallace sewell, lambswool honeycomb throws

Lambswool Honeycomb Throws

Pinstripe Patterning: “We use this pattern in both scarves and throws. It is a more recent addition to our range of woven patterning. It makes a reference to the classic motif of suiting fabrics, creating endless variations through the placement of the stripes on different coloured backgrounds.”

wallace sewell, lambswool pinstripe collection

Lambswool Pinstripe Collection

Silk Block Scarves: “Woven with satin block patterning, these are one of our first styles of scarf dating back to 1992. The key feature of the design is an exploration of composition and colour, often loosely inspired by proportions and palettes from art and paintings.”

wallace sewell, scarf

Silk Block Scarf

Emma and Harriet talk about their inspirations – “From our foundation courses and through to our BA degree course, it was instilled into us the study and consequently fascination with colour theory. The Bauhaus movement and its artists are a continuing influence, alongside the Colourists, Russian Constructivists and the Weiner Werkstatte. All these elements combine with an investigation and exploration of contemporary design, exhibitions, architecture and immediately observed visual stimulus. We both constantly take photographs and more recently have had the opportunity to return to sketching from nature and the urban environment.”

Buy Wallace Sewell Products

To find out more about the collection and to buy visit Wallace Sewell Website. To give you an idea of price points scarves start at £45 and go up to £150. The throws start at £150 and go up to £460 depending on size. They can ship overseas. They can offer a bespoke service but this has minimum order quantities, it is usually something they do for trade customers, like bespoke scarf designs for the Tate gallery or bespoke throws for hotels etc. If you have an idea for a collaboration, please contact them via the website. You can also visit the shop which is located at 24 Lloyd Baker Street, London WC1X 9AZ.

Author: Homegirl London. Photographs: WS. Thanks: Emma, Harriet and Sagina.