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Woven in Louisville: Artisanal Dish Towels, Pillows, and Linen Tape

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Woven in Louisville: Artisanal Dish Towels, Pillows, and Linen Tape

January 23, 2018

At last fall’s Field & Supply design show in upstate New York, Stephanie Seal Brown’s dish towels stopped us in our tracks. Handwoven in her Louisville, Kentucky, studio, the cotton-linen designs have the softness and strength of heirloom blankets. And a sophistication that far exceeds their job description.

Stephanie also makes equally appealing linen tapes and pillows, and all come in refined linear patterns that she says take inspiration from, among other things, “Agnes Martin and Ellsworth Kelly paintings, candy wrappers, and icy winter nights with navy skies.” We caught up with Stephanie in her workspace in a repurposed textile factory in the city center, where, she tells us, it takes 12 to 14 hours just to warp her loom—to prep it. She makes about 30 towels and 15 to 20 pillows a month, which explains her steep pricing, and also the durability of her work: Towels that she’s been using regularly for nearly 2o years are still going strong.

Photography by Richard Gary, courtesy of Stephanie Seal Brown Hand Wovens.

stephanie at work on fabric for a custom project. 9
Above: Stephanie at work on fabric for a custom project.

Her studio is in a converted worsted woolen mill in Louisville’s revived Germantown, within walking distance of the little Cape Cod–style house where Stephanie lives with her two teenaged sons and her photographer husband, who commutes between Louisville and Brooklyn.

Hand Towels

striped towels from stephanie&#8\2\17;s classic collection. 10
Above: Striped towels from Stephanie’s Classic Collection.

Stephanie has been weaving since she was a teen and founded her business in 2015 after years of R&D (and a hiatus spent homeschooling her sons as part of a Waldorf-based community). Initially self-taught, she trained with Swedish master weaver Becky Ashenden at the Vävstuga Weaving School in western Massachusetts, and has been applying the Swedish technique ever since: “There’s an exactness to the Swedish methods that’s attuned to the finicky nature of linen yarns and fine weaves.”

the hand towels are made of 60 percent egyptian cotton and 40 percent european  11
Above: The hand towels are made of 60 percent Egyptian cotton and 40 percent European linen and are a generously sized 17 by 24 inches. Summer Yellow Plain Weave is $120.
a towel to go with your art collection. stephanie&#8\2\17;s motto is &# 12
Above: A towel to go with your art collection. Stephanie’s motto is “bringing modern design to a craft steeped in tradition.” Half Blue Plain Weave, $120, is from her Half Collection.
The hand towels are typically used in the kitchen—”for drying wine glasses, tomatoes, and hands,” she says, “and yes, for mopping up spills and even scrubbing the stove.” They also work well in the bathroom and Stephanie says she can make them to order in custom sizes.

half yellow plain weave, \$\1\20, is a combination of natural and bright fiber 13
Above: Half Yellow Plain Weave, $120, is a combination of natural and bright fibers.
Stephanie uses yarns that are dyed in Sweden “to exacting technical and environmental standards” and are fade resistant. Her hanging loops are made of handwoven linen.

a limited edition color combination for winter, half midnight expanded herring 14
Above: A limited-edition color combination for winter, Half Midnight Expanded Herringbone, $160, is part of a sub-collection of towels of 70 percent European linen and 30 percent Egyptian cotton woven in an expanded herringbone twill.

Linen Tape

all of stephanie&#8\2\17;s designs are &#8\2\20;built one shuttle throw 15
Above: All of Stephanie’s designs are “built one shuttle throw at a time,” including her linen tape trims, which are used as decorative borders on Roman shades, curtains, sofa skirts, pillows, and more. This white, black, and silvery blue pattern is Ile Saint-Louis.
Tapes and custom fabrics are the mainstay of Stephanie’s business; she works directly with architects and designers and sells these to the trade only; pricing on request.

weaving linen tape, stephanie says, is &#8\2\20;very much a dance: every pu 16
Above: Weaving linen tape, Stephanie says, is “very much a dance: Every pull is visible in the selvedges, every beat is seen in the pattern.” This one is Fresh Yellow Handwoven Linen Tape Trim.
 the tapes come in three widths: one inch, \1.78 inches, and 4.58 inches. dor 17
Above: The tapes come in three widths: one inch, 1.78 inches, and 4.58 inches. Dorothy is “a nod to the exuberant and forward-thinking Dorothy Draper.”
modern neutral ii: field lines has fine gold stripes running through it and was 18
Above: Modern Neutral II: Field Lines has fine gold stripes running through it and was designed to complement “architectural interiors defined by space, restraint, and natural elements.”

Pillows

stephanie&#8\2\17;s pillows are made of \100 percent european linen yarns a 19
Above: Stephanie’s pillows are made of 100 percent European linen yarns and come with feather-and-down inserts—and yes, she looms the linen herself. This stack is shown in her studio.

the agnes handwoven linen pillow, \$3\20, is stephanie&#8\2\17;s ode to agn 20
Above: The Agnes Handwoven Linen Pillow, $320, is Stephanie’s ode to Agnes Martin.
the dorothy handwoven linen pillow; \$3\20. 21
Above: The Dorothy Handwoven Linen Pillow; $320.
occasionally stephanie uses her linen tape to make geometric pillows: red, bla 22
Above: Occasionally Stephanie uses her linen tape to make geometric pillows: Red, Black, Gold, White Pillow (left) and Old Tuxedo Pillow (right); $450 each. She says she loves seeing the inventive ways others put her designs to work.
For more textile inspiration, take a look at:

Product summary  Item 7 147Item 8 148

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