Brighton-based weaver and dyer Poppy Fuller Abbott has a desk piled high with cones of yarn and stacks of fabric. “It can get a little bit chaotic when I'm in the midst of something, but when I'm deeply focused on my work, I don't seem to notice,” she says. “I see it as a beautiful mess; I'm always taking pictures of yarn tangles I’ve swept onto the floor!”
It’s a happy coincidence that Poppy is so comfortable with the flotsam of her craft, as her home and studio are very much conjoined. Her one-bedroom apartment (which she shares with her boyfriend Sam, a chef at award-winning vegan pub The Roundhill) doubles up as HQ for POP studio – the textile label she set up shortly after graduating from Central Saint Martins with a degree in Textile Design.
From here she runs her sustainable textile label, dyeing and weaving her own creations. Each intricate basket, wall hanging and placemat is created from responsibly sourced fibres or repurposed materials.
For her TOAST New Makers designs, Poppy has created three intricately woven pieces. The placemats are made from a complex combination of yarn, resist-dyed to give a subtle variation in colour, making each unique. Each takes three hours to weave before the fringed edges are hand knotted. The two wall hangings – different riffs on traditional ikat fabrics – are hand-dyed with cutch and natural indigo.
Weaving is done on Poppy’s trusty 8 shaft Harris vintage loom, which dominates the living room and can take several days to set up (every thread from the warp needing to be threaded through an individual heddle, and then the reed). Her kitchen also acts as her dyeing space where ten gallon stainless steel pots and other jars sit neatly on racks of shelves.Poppy is in the midst of looking for studio space in Brighton, so she’s able to host workshops and share her craft with others, but in such a creative city space is notoriously tricky to find.
The provenance and impact of Poppy’s raw materials has always been at the core of her work. “I am careful about where I source yarn, using British wool, or buying deadstock or second-hand yarn,” she explains. “I also use a lot of paper yarn made from manila hemp which is produced sustainably: The plants grow in Ecuador and the Philippines and can have a lower environmental impact than other more mainstream plant fibres like cotton.”
She works from an exclusive palette of plant-based dyes, which she creates using foraged ingredients – many of which she harvests from her mother’s allotment in nearby Lewes, a little jungle of Japanese Indigo, Woad, Weld, Madder, Marigolds, and Yarrow. But she always has an eye out for anything forgeable that might make a memorable shade. “I’ll pick up fallen Eucalyptus leaves (they give an olive khaki shade but can also turn into wonderful reds and oranges). Also I love to spy Oak Galls on trees – they dye into a really dark brown colour.”
Her studio is dotted with containers of fabrics mid-way through their transformation (which can take anything from 30 seconds to overnight) and yarns drying. “Cutch is a great base colour which gives a wide range of shades from cream to deeper terracotta browns, while Weld, a British plant, produces a vibrant yellow or more muted tone.” Indigo is a favourite, yet can be difficult to use at times. “It’s a very complex dye. If you’re a bit rushed or careless, you’ll introduce too much oxygen and you won’t get the deeper shades of blue, no matter how much indigo is in there.”
Poppy struck on her path early, having spent long weekends at her grandparents’ Welsh farmhouse. Her grandfather was a carpenter, her grandmother a potter and painter. One of Poppy’s most treasured pieces is a wooden chair made by her grandfather and painted, by her grandmother, with tiny animals. “It’s covered with lizards, frogs, all manner of creatures.”
Her light-bulb moment came during her A Level in Textile Studies. “I began to be frustrated with the limitations of buying pre-made textiles to use and I simultaneously discovered an artist called Mimi Jung. She was hand weaving textured art pieces. I suddenly acknowledged that you could begin several steps earlier and design and create the textile from scratch.”
Poppy then bought a rigid heddle loom on Ebay (which she still uses occasionally today) and taught herself to plain weave. “I was obsessed, and I knew instantly I needed to go to a university that taught hand weaving.”
Her practice now perfectly chimes in with her respect for the past and a need to create with care. “I’m very aware that there is already so much excess and waste in the world, so I want to make sure my contributions are not harmful to the environment. I’m very intentional with what I’m making, and I hope that it is intentionally consumed as well. Handmade objects are so time consuming to produce, the aim has to be that they are treasured and kept for generations.”
Interview by Vishaka Robinson.
Photographs by Suzie Howell.
Shop our 2023 New Makers collection.