Ethel Mairet textile archive

Scope and Content

The archive consists of textile samples compiled by Ethel Mairet

  • Wool samples
  • Yarn samples
  • Weaving samples
  • Dye samples

The majority of samples are mounted on card or paper, some carrying annotations. Full descriptions and dimensions of each sample are listed in the archive's catalogue.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ethel Mairet was born Ethel Mary Partridge in Barnstaple, Devon in 1872 . At that time several prominent figures associated with the arts and crafts movement were located in and around the town: W.R.Lethaby, the Brannam Pottery and the Fishley Pottery at Fremington and Jack Bailey who was associated with C.R. Ashbee's Guild of Handicraft. She studied at the Municipal Science and Art School, Barnstaple. She then went onto the Royal Academy of Music during the 1890's , where she gained a teaching diploma in pianoforte, and took a post as a governess in London, and then Germany.

She returned to England in 1902 , met and married the Anglo-Ceylonese geologist Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy and, after meeting C.R.Ashbee, moved to the community based in Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds. Ethel and Ananda, who was employed on a geological survey, moved to Ceylon in 1903  and it was there that her interest in textiles developed. She studied and collected indigenous arts and crafts and began writing articles.

On their return to England in 1907  they moved to the Norman Chapel in Broad Campden which was restored and extended by C.R. Ashbee and his Guild of Handicraft. It was here that Mairet began to experiment with weaving, studying the use of vegetable dyes.

Following her separation from Ananda, she had moved to Staunton Sands, Devon by 1912 . The following year she married Philip Mairet and they moved to The Thatched House in Shottery, near Stratford-upon-Avon, where she set up a weaving workshop. Two years later, they moved to Ditchling in East Sussex where Eric Gill, Douglas Pepler, Edward Johnston and others were part of an emerging artistic community. Mairet built her home and workshop at Gospels in Ditchling from 1918-1920  and where she was to stay for the remainder of her life. Although she was never a member of the Guild of St George and St Dominic she was thoroughly integrated into the artistic life of the village. She had many eminent visitors including Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, who obtained hand woven material from the workshop to make up into a suit.

Mairet took on apprentices from the early 1920's , a period which was characterised by simple plain weaving using natural fibres and vegetable dyes. Throughout the 1930's  the apprenticeship system developed and the workshop production grew. Some 130 apprentices, assistants and workgirls worked at Gospels prior to her death in 1952 , notably Marianne Straub and Peter Collingwood. Mairet was largely responsible for establishing Ditching as an international centre for the revival of hand woven textiles and vegetable dyes and throughout her long career she produced furnishing fabrics, dress lengths, scarves and garments using high quality wool, silk and cotton yarns.

She published six books, including Vegetable Dyes, 1916 , and Hand-weaving today: tradition and changes, 1939 , and many articles. Her 'textile portfolios' or teaching packs were loaned to schools and teacher training colleges from 1939-1952 . A touring retrospective exhibition of her work was organised by the Crafts Study Centre in conjunction with the Crafts Council in 1983 .


The archive material is arranged in the original order in which it was deposited at the CSC.

Conditions Governing Access

The archival material may be viewed by appointment only.


This entry was compiled by Becky Lyle, Submissions Officer for the project and by Jean Vacher, Collections Manager at the Crafts Study Centre. The biography was written by Frances Lord.

Other Finding Aids

A catalogue is available onsite.

Conditions Governing Use

The photocopying of archival material is not allowed. Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled


None expected

Related Material

The Crafts Study Centre holds other material relating to the Ethel Mairet textile archive in the

  • Ethel Mairet archive
  • Ethel Mairet sample books
  • Peter Collingwood archive
  • Marianne Straub archive
  • Esme Davis archive
  • Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher archive
  • Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher textile archive
  • Bernard Leach archive
  • Eric and Macdonald Gill archive
  • Red Rose Guild archive

Also see access points


Selected bibliography

Coatts, Margot, A weaver's Life, Ethel Mairet, 1872-1952 Crafts Council, 1983