Papers of and about Theo Moorman

Scope and Content

The collection consists of: preparatory sketches and notes for weaving designs, including for various commissions; slides and photographs of finished work; articles about Theo Moorman; and tributes and obituaries following her death in 1990. A collection of weaving samples was donated at the same time, and these are in the CSC's object collections.

Administrative / Biographical History

Theo Moorman was born Theodora Moorman in Leeds in 1907. After her father's death in 1919 she moved with her mother to Oxley Hall, a residence for women at the University of Leeds. Moorman trained at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London between 1925-1928, where she joined Walter Taylor's hand-weaving class.

She travelled extensively during this time; and after her training got a job weaving rugs in the Craft Studio at Heal and Sons Ltd run by Jeanetta Cochrane. In 1930 she took a room in Pimlico and while working freelance, continuing to weave cushion covers for Heals. She also wove rugs, curtains, wraps and stoles and private commissions.

In 1932 after a period in hospital, recovering from typhoid contracted while in Cairo, she moved with her mother to a small house in Hampstead Garden Suburb where she used the ground floor for her weaving workshop. She joined the Red Rose Guild and began to show at their exhibitions. She worked at Warner and Sons Ltd, Braintree between 1934-1939 producing hand-woven patterns for eventual power loom weaving, using both natural and synthetic yarns.

During the World War II she worked for the Ministry of Aircraft Production developing fabrics for camera shutters. From 1943 until 1953 she worked as Assistant Regional Director for the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts (later the Arts Council), moving with her mother to Leeds. A legacy enabled her to set up a weaving studio again and she spent a year experimenting producing richly textured fabrics and brocaded patterns.

In 1957 she left Leeds for Painswick, Gloucestershire and continued to experiment with a variety of natural and synthetic materials, developing the so called 'space tapestries' in 1963. She became a member of the Guild of Gloucestershire Craftsmen in 1966 and in 1968 began what was to become a regular round of teaching and lecturing in the USA and Canada (as well as within the UK) until 1982. She was made the Vice-President of the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers in 1969 and in 1970 the Chairman of the Guild of Gloucestershire Craftsmen. In 1975 she started experimenting with the production of small woven objects and in 1977 was awarded the MBE for services to weaving. In 1982 she spoke at the National Woolcrafts Festival in New Zealand and combined this with a travel tour. She completed numerous ecclesiastical commissions.

In 1985 the Theo Moorman Charitable Trust was formed and in 1987 an eightieth birthday exhibition organised at the Oxford Gallery where all works were sold.


The collection was listed in 1990 in the order it was deposited at the CSC. The collection was re-numbered by Greta Bertram in February 2022, with minor tweaks to the arrangement:

  • TMM/1 Preparatory sketches and notes for weaving designs
  • TMM/2 Additional preparatory sketches and weaving designs
  • TMM/3 Slides of finished work
  • TMM/4 Photographs and postcards
  • TMM/5 Articles about Theo Moorman
  • TMM/6 Tributes and obituaries

Access Information

Archive 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, c.2004. The biography was written by Frances Lord. The entry was revised by Greta Bertram, Curator, February 2022.

Other Finding Aids

A copy of the handlist is available on request.

Conditions Governing Use

Written permission must be sought before any archival material is published.

Appraisal Information

None timetabled.


None expected.


Selected bibliography

Theo Moorman 1907-1990: Her Life and Work as an Artist Weaver , The University Gallery, Leeds, 1992