An Interview with Linton Designer Orla Bailie-Blackett

We love giving our web users and customers a sneak peak into the fascinating process of developing our unique couture tweeds. Textile designer, Orla Bailie-Blackett, kindly took a bit of time out of her busy schedule preparing our latest collection to answer a few questions regarding what its like to be an integral part in the development of our amazing fantasy tweeds.

1.Please tell us a bit about your design background and career path. What drew you to the world of textile design and designing?

I was always someone who loved art and spent a lot of time painting and drawing when I was younger. At school my Art teacher suggested Cumbria College of Arts as a possibility for my degree. I decided to take a chance and try contemporary applied arts instead of fine art and found I loved working with textiles. I specialised in Printed textile design and went on to do a Masters of art in Surface Design. When I got the chance to do a 2 weeks placement here at Linton tweeds I was excited and I have never left after 11 years.

2. Can you tell us a bit about your position as a textile designer Linton Tweeds? What do your responsibilities include?  What are your favourite parts of your job?

As a designer here I get to work with Irene who is the head designer to create the collections. We are also responsible for passing the yarn dyings, fabrics being woven in the looms and being in contact with the customers. We often have to do specific designs and developments for customers, working closely with them and often having to travel to their places of work to meet with them. We meet up with the Yarn agents to select new yarns. We also travel to trade shows to showcase our designs including Premiere Vision in Paris twice a year. There are also less glamorous elements to my job including filing and sample cutting.

Yarn Selections for Spring 2022
A small selection of the yarns that our textile designers use

3.What would you consider to be your most proud achievement or greatest success so far in your design career? Are there any designers you are particularly proud to have worked with?

We have such a high turnaround of designs and so many different customers to work with that it is hard to think of a specific moment of success but it is always nice when we see our fabrics made into finished garments.

4.Explain the design process at Linton Tweeds?

We begin by deciding on 3 different design concepts / themes. For each season we research new inspiration to help keep the collections fresh and exciting. Once we have done this, we make our yarn choices so that they reflect our themes. We often look to the archives for inspiration as there is a huge collection spanning decades (back to the 1950’s) that we can look through. We then design our pattern tickets – it is all hand written and very traditional. We then wait for the patterns to be woven before making our selections, processing them and getting them into headers ready to be seen by customers, designers and agents.

The Linton Spring/Summer Collection 2020 is made from hundreds of fabrics, of which only a small selection make it onto our website for sale

5.Where does your inspiration come from?

We generally look at a lot of images and colour combinations, often starting with pintrest. We also have a think about what is going on around us. For example this time we have focused on solitude which runs along with how a lot of us are feeling during this lockdown! We often take inspiration from Art exhibitions/films and other cultural events.

Thousands of pre-cut samples for sending to design houses and fashion designers.

6.What do you feel makes Linton Tweeds different from other fabric mills?

We have an amazing range of yarns that most fabric mills would never even contemplate weaving with. This gives us a very unique and luxurious look with our fabrics. We also work very closely with customers, creating exclusive fabric designs to their specifications. The customers do not just get to select from the collections, we work with them to achieve what they want. Lintons is a small Mill and everyone is friendly which creates a nice family feel.

Each season, our collection is made up of several hundred all new fabrics, each in several colour combinations. These hangers are shown to designers around the globe for their latest collections.

7.What type of fabrics can our web users look forward to in the coming months?

Lots of colour, texture and innovative new yarns!

8.What advice would you give to those looking to go into woven textile design?

Work experience is always a good way to get into textile design. This will show you what is really involved in the job and help you to decide whether it is for you or not. It is not all creative and there are many other areas you have to be good at including communication with customers, maths and technical understanding.

Writing out a ticket for an exciting new fabric.