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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
For more textile inspiration, take a look at: