Traditional art of weaving flourishes at Farsley’s Sunny Bank Mills

Sunny Bank Mills' William Gaunt is a champion of traditional weaving skills.

A new series of weaving classes for beginners has been launched at Sunny Bank Mills, one of the last remaining family-owned mills in Yorkshire.

The first class starts on Friday, September 16 and will be held in the Weaving Shed at the mill, off Farsley Town Street. The six-week course, which finishes on Friday, October 21 will be taken by educator and weaver Agnis Smallwood from Leeds.

Sunny Bank Mills is delivering weaving classes on 100-year-old dobby looms in an old mill complex which been in the Gaunt family for almost two centuries.

Current co-owner William Gaunt, a passionate weaver, is delighted that such a talented practitioner of weaving like Agnis is promoting a traditional craft which is such an integral part of  the heritage of Sunny Bank Mills.

William, who studied textiles at Leeds University in the 1980s, said: “We are so lucky to have someone as knowledgeable and passionate about the art of weaving as Agnis. She has been running weaving classes here for the past two years and they have proved very popular, with people coming from across Yorkshire and beyond.

“We are really excited and can’t wait to get our autumn classes started. Weaving is our heritage. We have always wanted to share that history in a practical way and are delighted that we are now doing this with creative courses that are based on textile processes.”

Agnis Smallwood is running the course.

Agnis Smallwood said the six-week week course takes place every Friday from 10am to 1pm from September 16, is for those who would like to begin exploring learning to weave. It is aimed at those who are complete beginners or at those who may have some experience weaving on a peg loom or rigid heddle loom but are keen to develop their skills. 

“The six looms will be set up and ready to work on with a neutral grey warp giving more time to concentrate on weaving,” Agnis told WLD. “For the first four weeks you will rotate around the looms, exploring different weave structures whilst learning about your loom. The final weeks will be dedicated to weaving your own final project, this could be a table runner, a wall hanging or a cushion cover for example.

“Weavers will receive one-one to help and support each week on top of the group teaching and demonstrations. At the end, weavers can take away their own range of samples, together with a completed final project of their choice.”

sunny bank mills farsley
Venue: Sunny Bank Mills, off Farsley Town Street

Agnis, who studied at the Cumbria Institute of the Arts and Goldsmiths College in London, added: “It is an incredible privilege to be teaching weaving in the setting of a traditional Yorkshire textile mill. And it is an honour to be working alongside William Gaunt, who is so passionate about weaving and the wonderful heritage of Sunny Bank Mills.”

To underline the current revival of interest in weaving, one of the looms which William Gaunt has restored for Sunny Bank Mills takes pride of place at the acclaimed Leeds Museum’s Living with Machines exhibition.

He explained: “Bringing weaving back to Sunny Bank Mills, and organising these classes, has been a tremendous labour of love. The skills of weaving will not now be lost in this famous wool village of Farsley and I am proud that the next generation of weavers will absorb this ancient craft.”

Under the ownership and management of William Gaunt and his cousin John, the award-winning Sunny Bank Mills complex has been transformed into a modern 21st century employment, retail and artistic community, creating more than 380 jobs and providing a stimulating base for over 90 companies. 

For more details about the specific courses, visit the the Sunny Bank Mills website.

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