A few weeks ago I signed up to an intriguing sounding workshop at the Heal’s Tottenham Court Road store – “Cotton Winding”. Definitely not something I’d heard of before.

It was to mark the launch of a new range of rugs by Eleanor Pritchard for Case Furniture. I’ve met Eleanor a couple of times at design shows; she’s absolutely delightful and I’m a big fan of her work (I’ve written about it here and here).

We have one of her gorgeous blankets on the back of our sofa, and it makes me intensely happy every time I see it. So I couldn’t pass up the chance to find out about some of the design processes behind Eleanor’s new work.

To start the evening off, Eleanor introduced us to the simple principle of cotton winding. Yes, indeed, it’s just what it sounds like … winding thread around strips of cardboard.

She also said it would be more accurate to call it yarn winding as you can use any type of thread – in our case we worked with a very fine wool yarn.  Eleanor then went on to explain that it’s a technique used in textile design that enables you to sample colour palettes, yarns and patterns incredibly quickly and easily.  At the end you have a mini textile swatch that can be used to help visualise a final textile design.

After that, we were straight into it as there were no complicated techniques to learn.  Several gorgeous shades of yarn were on hand, in Eleanor’s trademark mid-century colour palette, but she advised to use just a small number at a time for maximum effect.

Here are my first attempts at yarn winding above. It was pretty fiddly, as the thread was very fine, but as I’m a “small details” kind of person that suited me down to the ground. It was surprisingly absorbing and addictive – we were all winding away in near silence as we concentrated on our designs.

The technique is particularly suited to stripes, but by winding the yarn in both directions, you can create a more woven effect – and some of the other participants were brilliant at this. Above is a photo of everybody’s work taken at the end of the evening. We were all so engrossed in our new-found creative activity that the security guard practically had to throw us out of the building.

The Purlin collection of rugs that Eleanor designed for Case Furniture is a new venture for her – her work up until now has been woven textiles used for blankets, cushions and upholstery. During the evening, Eleanor mentioned how she’d really had to scale up her designs to make them suitable for floor coverings.

There are three designs, each in two sizes, and each design is available in either a tufted or flatweave version.

Here’s a little bit about the Purlin collection from the Case website:

Designed in London and handwoven in India the Purlin Rugs range features the Eleanor Pritchard trademark graphic patterns inspired by London’s architectural lines and draws its name from a structure found on construction sites across the city.

“I have always loved playing with colour and pattern. My work often has a mid-century quality and I feel a strong affinity for the aesthetics and design philosophy of this era. Alongside this runs a deep interest in vernacular British textiles and I see much of my work as a re-interpretation of these traditions and techniques for a contemporary audience.”

Known most for her fabric and upholstery designers, Purlin is the first time that Eleanor Pritchard has designed a rug collection. With a colour palette based on warm and dark greys, sea greens and petrol blues, Purlin beautifully reflects the urban landscape in a clean and contemporary way. Purlin is a horizontal beam along the length of a roof, resting on principals and supporting the common rafters or boards.

Eleanor’s Purlin rugs are available exclusively at Heal’s for the time being, and I was able to snap them on display in the window on the way out.  They really are stunning, and I thought that they work equally well in both the flatweave and tufted versions.

You can find more details about them and buy online at heals.com.

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