A STRIKING exhibition in the gigantic roof space of Salts Mill highlights how textiles are used to create innovative products from heart valves and new knee cartilage to high tech bicycles.

Using film, photograph, artefacts and dance, Weaving the Future showcases textiles past, present and future. Wool and cotton fuelled the world’s first industrial revolution - now a vast array of fibres are driving a new revolution.

The exhibition - opening on Friday as the flagship arts event of Saltaire Festival - shows how the innovative spirit that once powered the textile industry is alive and well in the skills of people working with wool, cotton and other fibres, adapting traditional methods and machinery to make distinctive goods for global markets.

Photographs by Tim Smith are printed on woven textiles, and a film he has produced with Chris Squire is projected onto layered fabrics.


The film sees Balbir Singh Dance and Bradford-based Dance United Yorkshire’s Gradient Company performing movements inspired by mill workers and machinery, interwoven with footage of textile processes and a soundtrack of industrial recordings mixed with music made in response to rhythms of textile machinery.

The exhibition features businesses including Abraham Moon & Sons in Guiseley, founded in 1837, one of the UK’s few remaining vertical mills, which takes in raw products such as wool and produces finished goods; Harrison Gardner and Company in Bradford, dyers for carpets, handknitting and hosiery, established in 1901; Wyedean Weaving in Haworth, producing decorative braids used for military uniforms worldwide, and worn by the Royal family; Haworth Scouting Company and Laxtons Limited in Bradford.

“Weaving the Future shows how textiles provide a knowledge base for cutting-edge research. Traditional technologies are used in new, surprising ways to develop pioneering materials for diverse industries, from aerospace to biomedical textiles,” said Mr Smith.

“It also explores how textiles were the catalyst for digital technologies. Patterns of holes punched in pattern cards were invented for looms to weave infinite patterns from coloured threads. The creation of this binary system led to early computers - the first step on a journey from woven cloth to the digital programming that drives our modern world."

Supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and by Salts Mill, Saltaire Festival, Kala Sangam and the Campaign for Wool, the exhibition is at Salts Mill’s Roof Space - once the longest room in the world - September 13-22, 11am-4pm, then at weekends until October 20.