Wool Fabrics Made in Yorkshire! A Visit to Fabworks

fabworks mill shop

Yorkshire, in particular Huddersfield, was once the woollen cloth manufacturing capital of the world.  The landscape and architecture of northern mill towns in this area are forever marked by the legacy of producing wool cloth; from the colonnaded grandeur of the Piece Hall in Halifax and the model mill workers’ village of Saltaire, right though to the picturesque weavers’ cottages clustered along the hillsides. It’s a heritage to be proud of and one local fabric company is now helping to keep that heritage alive.

Heart of Huddersfield

I’m sure by now most of you will have heard of Yorkshire fabric gem – Fabworks Mill Shop, based just up the M1 from me in Dewsbury. But have you seen their latest range of fabrics: “Heart of Huddersfield”?

Heart of Huddersfield is a beautiful range of 100% wool fabrics made in Yorkshire, just a few miles from the Fabworks Mill Shop in Dewsbury.

George manages Fabworks Online and the business’s online presence and he invited me up last week to have a look at the fabrics for myself.

heart of huddersfield

heart of huddersfield

There are 5 colour themed collections in the Heart of Huddersfield range and even just the names of these collections conjures up images of the majestic Yorkshire landscape and lifestyle for me: Weaver’s Garden / Country Walks / Summer Wine / Rain on the River / Valley Mist. Honestly, I can imagine myself enveloped in beautiful wool striding across the moors in search of Heathcliff……ok, well maybe that’s my over-active imagination getting a bit carried away, but you know what I mean don’t you?! They are the most perfect names.

It’s not just romantic story-telling though, the beauty of having similar colours woven through several different fabrics makes it much easier for you to mix and match fabrics together and know that they’re going to look perfect.

The Fabrics

Each Heart of Huddersfield collection contains these core fabrics:

Yorkshire Meltons – a beautiful robust classic wool Melton fabric. Melton is a heavy weight felted fabric with a brushed surface making it really easy to work with – no fraying!! It’s the perfect choice for making your winter coats and jackets. These Meltons have been piece dyed rather than yarn dyed, meaning the cloth was originally woven in white then dyed to these rich, vibrant colours.

Marled Meltons – honestly I’d never heard of a marled Melton before, but once you understand how it’s made you realise it’s genius. It starts life in the same way as the Yorkshire Melton, but uses a marled grey yarn in the weave as well as the white/natural yarn. This means that when the fabric is piece dyed (like the Yorkshire Melton) the different coloured yarns dye to subtly different shades resulting in this beautiful marled effect. Just stunning. Those greys are my favourites, obviously…..!

heart of huddersfield by fabworksRedcurrant Pressé Marled Melton

Herringbone – woven with contrasting colours on the warp and weft with a distinctive multicoloured weft yarn in a classic herringbone weave pattern. These herringbone wools are lighter in weight than the meltons and would work well in everyday clothing as well as outerwear. Those multi-coloured yarns give these fabrics a real depth of colour and lustre when they move.

Rhubarb & Ginger Gin colourway and George’s gorgeous jacket made in the Breath of Fresh Air colourway.

There are also some special extras sprinkled across some of the collections:

Birdseye – this is a really complex weave made of five different yarns which create a beautiful depth of colour and almost trompe l’oeil effect on the surface. Close-up you can appreciate the depth of colour, from a distance the surface of this fabric almost shimmers. I’d say it’s a similar weight to the Herringbones.

A close-up of the Heron Flight colourway and Dawn’s fabulous riding style jacket in Honeycomb Harvest.

Plaid Twill – another classic wool fabric in a plaid design with a pop of bright running across the top. It’s another beautifully dense fabric (not felted) but with a mesmerising depth of colour. If you choose one of these, do yourself a favour and make sure you match your plaid across seams for a real couture quality garment! If you can’t face that, cut on the bias or include bias cut panels and details for a modern twist on this traditional fabric.

Harris Herringbone – the same weight and handle as the regular Herringbone fabrics, but with an incredible density of colours. Close-up you’ll be amazed at the flecks and highlights of the varied colours, but take a step back to appreciate how they blend together to give these fabrics a lustre and sheen across the surface. I’ll just shut up and let the pictures do the talking on this one….

Harris Herringbone in the dreamily named Sycamore Stroll colourway.

The descriptions of these fabrics on the Fabworks website are really detailed and include the GSM (basically the fabric’s weight – grams per square metre) meaning you can compare the different fabrics in the range. It’s a really useful reference that you don’t find on many fabric websites. You might not be familiar with GSM descriptions, but I bet you’ll have seen weights on denim like 10 oz or 12 oz denim? It’s the same thing but in imperial measurements, ie. the fabric weight in ounces per square yard. Here’s a very rough guide to fabric weights:

  • lightweight 30-150gsm: voile, chambray, poplin, double gauze, single jersey
  • mediumweight 150-350gsm: the Heart of Huddersfield Herringbone is 260gsm, some lighter french terry fabrics, canvas, interlock, ponte roma
  • heavyweight 350gsm+: the Heart of Huddersfield Yorkshire Melton is the heaviest in the range at 541gsm, denim.

(For real fabric nerds, you can convert gsm to oz by simply dividing the gsm weight by 33.906 eg. the Yorkshire melton at 541gsm converts to just under 16oz.)

If that’s not enough you can order samples of all the fabrics in the range (it’s always nice to have a feel!)

All of the Heart of Huddersfield wools are available by the half metre at an amazing price of £12.50. In my opinion that’s incredible value for such special high quality fabrics made in Yorkshire.

Not Just Tailoring

Don’t be put off by thinking that these fabrics are only for making technically challenging tailored garments, yes they’re perfect for that, but you can also make more simple, less tailored outerwear (think the Sapporo Coat by Papercut Patterns) as well as simple shift dresses, skirts and trousers.  Just add a lining for comfort. You can even make bags, home furnishings such as cushion covers and throws, patchwork, or why not make your 4-legged companion to a smart new wool coat for winter walkies!

The Story

heart of huddersfield by fabworksFrom left to right: Leo, Dawn and George

The story of Fabworks reads like the story of the wool industry, being a close knit (pardon the pun), family run business. Brothers George and Leo head the company along with their father Gil who has been in the local textile industry all his working life.  Dawn and many other staff have been with the company for years, often generations of the same family and they all seem to live, eat, sleep and dream fabric!!

If you have ever visited the shop you will no doubt have experienced the infectious enthusiasm and knowledgeable help offered to you from all the staff. No question is too small or too daft.

heart of huddersfield by fabworks

These deep rooted local connections with the textile industry is what makes it possible for Fabworks to source such an incredible range of fabrics and it’s what has helped bring to life the Heart of Huddersfield collection.

All the fabrics are locally produced around Huddersfield; from raw fleece to finished fabric within a 5 mile radius, before travelling just 8 miles to Dewsbury and the Fabworks Mill Shop. You really can’t support anything much more local than that!

Read much more about the making of Heart of Huddersfield over on the Fabworks blog.

heart of huddersfield by fabworksMe, Dawn and George all wearing handmade shirts in Fabworks shirting fabrics. No it wasn’t planned, it just happened to be what we were all wearing that day!

Of course I wasn’t able to leave without taking some Heart of Huddersfield home with me, I was very restrained and chose this nicely limited palette with a pop of colour (interestingly George and Dawn know my taste and had already earmarked those two marled greys as being “very Wendy”!!) Here’s what I got:

heart of huddersfield by fabworks

Top down:

Three guesses what I’m planning to make….!! Clue: I have 2 garments in mind, both from my new book Sewing Basics for Every Body and I think they’re going to look amazing – a modern twist on some traditional fabrics. Follow me on Instagram to see them take shape….

For information and full transparency:  I wasn’t paid to write this post or to promote Fabworks and I won’t earn anything from any sales that are made via this post.  I simply think that George and the team at Fabworks are doing great things, they’re lovely people and this project is close to my heart as I hope you already know that I’m a big advocate of supporting local independent business and of sustainable manufacturing.  I was given the fabrics shown, but I would have bought them anyway and I was free to chose which ones I wanted to use. I can guarantee the garments I intend to make will be getting worn by me, I can’t wait to get started on them!

6 responses to “Wool Fabrics Made in Yorkshire! A Visit to Fabworks

  1. I was lucky enough to find Fabworks back in the early 2000’s. I was able to buy siliconized rip stop nylon to make the tents we are still using for cycle camping. I like to go down about once a year but sadly they don’t do they outdoor stuff any longer


  2. Dawn Rothery-Smith

    Wonderful blog Wendy ! You are a true Yorkshire woman and it shows in your enthusiastic writing. X


  3. Wow, I’m so grateful you posted this Wendy because I’ve been very interested in the Heart Of Huddersfield range when perusing their website. Thanks so much for the info. It’s so great to know Yorkshire wools are well and truly alive and kicking. Love your choices X


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