How to Successfully Commission Handwoven Textiles

handwoven samples from the 'West Coast' collection layered on a desk


Commissioning handwoven textiles is a unique and personalised way to acquire beautiful and high-quality fabrics for various purposes. Whether you are looking for a custom throw, a set of unique cushions, or a special lampshade, commissioning handwoven textiles allows you to have a one-of-a-kind item that meets your specific needs and preferences.

Why Commission Handwoven Textiles?

Commissioning handwoven textiles offers a range of benefits, including:

  • Customisation: You can choose the colours, patterns, and materials used in the textile to perfectly match your vision.
  • Originality: Select your preferred yarn blend of materials, craft technique, size of product or finish and you will have a one-of-a-kind piece to enjoy.
  • Quality: Handwoven textiles are crafted with care and attention to detail, resulting in a superior product that is made to last.
  • Supporting Artisans: By commissioning handwoven textiles, you are supporting skilled artisans and preserving traditional weaving techniques.

Whilst each of these benefits are important for the client, a successful commission relies upon the relationship built between the hand-weaver and the client.

Hands blending wool roving on a blending board
Hand blending wool fibres on a blending board


How best to create a lasting relationship with your designer?

Communication is the backbone of any successful commission. Your designer should be guiding your through each step of the commission process. From your first discussion right through to the delivery of the final piece, your designer should keep you abreast at each the stage of the process, including any changes or challenges that might impact or delay your commission.

Equally, it is the client's responsibility to be as forthright as possible. Making timely decisions agreed within the brief and providing feedback so that the designer can ensure the vision is shared and understood is of great importance.

Cassandra Smith sitting at a desk and writing design notes for a commission with a loom beside her and a wall of yarn in the background

Cassandra designing and sampling textiles for a commission

What are the steps for a successful commission?

Designers each have their own process, but here is ours so that you might gain an insight into how a hand-weaver will approach a commission:

  • Commission Brief: Speak with the client to ascertain their needs, including specifics wherever possible. This includes the Project Outline, Proposed Timeline, Payment Terms and Client Agreement, to be signed by both parties.
  • Yarn & Fibre Sample Box: Based on our conversations and the commission brief, a client is sent a commission box containing warp and weft yarn options, potential fibre colours or blends and any commercial backing fabric samples if applicable.
  • Handwoven Samples: Once a choice is made on colours of yarn and fibre qualities, a set number of samples are handwoven and delivered for the client's approval
  • Production: Samples are taken into production and handwoven to the agreed specification. If the client is requiring finished products, each of these is transformed from handwoven cloth to a completed piece.
  • Delivery of Commission: They are delivered to the address agreed upon by the client upon completion.

Our design process is exclusive to our weaving style and product range, but this will provide insights into working with hand-weavers.

Hands clasping a grey gift box that displays yarns and fibres and yarn windings for a commission

A yarn and fibre commission box that contain yarn colours and qualities for a client commission

What are the cost implications of commissioning handwoven textiles?

Yet another facet of collaborating with hand-weavers is the time-consuming process of setting up a loom and its impact on commission costs. Depending on the creative, their process, and the type of work they are producing, this can vary widely.

In our commission process, setting up the loom with a warp requires a significant time investment. We do not have a 'standard' warp set up on our looms as we believe that the beauty of our designs lies in the interplay of both the warp and weft yarns. Both are visible in our designs and therefore the colour choices are important, requiring the loom to be set up a with a specific warp for each project and enabling complete customisation by the client.

We share samples with the client to see how a different warp can effect the project outcome so they understand the significance of the loom set up and the overall cost of the project. Understanding that is it more cost-effective to commission (for example) two cushions rather than one is an important part of the education process for our clients.

On the other hand, a rug weaver might set up a much longer warp of one quality that can be kept on the loom ready for each commission, thereby decreasing the cost for individual clients should they wish.

Hands holding yarn and winding on a warp using a warping mill

Winding on a warp on a warping mill - the first stage of setting up a loom

 How do different weaving styles and looms impact the cost of a commission?

There are numerous innovative ways of weaving. A weaver may specialise in a specific style or material, and the loom they use can impact how quickly (or slowly) they can work. This variation can significantly impact the cost.

Some of this can be explained:

  • Finer vs. thicker yarns
  • Singular vs. multiple weft yarns
  • Hand-manipulation vs. shuttle weaving
  • Complex vs. simpler patterns
  • Frame loom vs. table or floor loom
  • Mechanical vs. computer controlled looms
  • Hand-woven vs. mill woven

Our designs feature processes like blending yarns, so achieving a high quality requires greater precision and focus. We work with chunkier materials that require hand-manipulation and often create more complex patterns. Each of these methods suggests a slower pace, emphasising the hand-crafted essence of this art.

Handwoven throw featuring hand-spun yarn with a skein of hand-spun yarn resting on the folded throw

Hand-spun yarn is manipulated by hand when woven on the loom.

 But how can you distinguish between different weaving styles? Speak to the weaver and aim to understand their unique methods and processes. Educate yourself on the differences and ask questions so that you can appreciate how their style might differ from another.

Ultimately it is effective communication that is crucial to grasping the process, style, and customisation options available and to assess the impact these might have on the total cost of the commission.

How long does it take?

This is one of the most common questions asked by someone looking to commission a product from a hand-weaver. There are many steps that a weaver will carry out to undertake a commission. Here is how our studio undertakes the many hours involved, from initial conversation to finished product:

  • Discovery & Research: Discussions with the client, using colour theory to design a unique yarn & fibre sample box that works with their vision
  • Design & Development: Setting up a sample warp and weaving samples in different colour combinations according to the commission brief.
  • Production: Weaving the final cloth and transforming it into a product with hand-finishing, sewing or assembly in the studio.
Cassandra Smith using her handwoven fabric to assemble a lampshade on a desk with yarn on the wall in the background

Cassandra using her handwoven fabric and assembling a lampshade in her studio.

 With years of practice it does become easier to plan and cost a commission. But working with clients means that there isn't a cookie cutter framework that works in every situation. The best a creative can do is estimate their time based on previous experiences and ensure they document all the hours worked to undertake the commission.

As for how long it might take from initial consultation to delivery of the finished pieces, that will depend on the weaver. Many designers only produce work on one loom, therefore they must schedule their commissions carefully as they juggle multiple projects at different stages. They will also likely have other commitments such as events or exhibitions, teaching or general business admin that will prolong the lead time. Timeframes range between 2 weeks up to 6 months or more depending on the capacity of the weaver. But most offer time scales of between 4 - 12 weeks.

What is considered a successful commission?

Building a relationship through communication and understanding is the foundation for a successful commission. Outlining the stages in the process, from providing a detailed client brief and explaining the research phase, right through to the specific processes and chosen materials, will ensure that all parties have a common understanding of what to expect. Add in personality and timeliness and you have a recipe for success!

A desk filled with handwoven samples, yarn and a commission box with yarn windings in blues and greens Handwoven samples laid on a desk with with tags explaining each samples Completed 'Caterpillar' design cushion in greens and blues

  Recent commission for a client wishing to have cushions woven in a similar style to an existing design, but with her chosen colours and textures.

If you would like to gain more insight into our studio, design philosophy and commission process, you can enjoy our new Maker's Video

Equally, you can contact us to find out more about how you can commission your next own handwoven textile or product.


Cassandra Smith sitting at a desk measuring a handwoven lampshade with a large balls of wool roving suspended on the wall in the background

Leave a comment

Name .
Message .

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published