THE role of Lakeland women in producing high quality textiles in the years up to the First World War is celebrated in an exhibition which opens on Saturday.

Coniston’s Ruskin Museum is hosting the exhibition as part of the Celebrating Women of Cumbria 2018 Festival.

This year marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act which granted the vote for the first time to women aged over 30 and owning property and helped pave the way for greater equality.

The display tells the remarkable story of Annie Garnett, a Lakeland businesswoman, who lived from 1864 to 1942.

She was inspired by John Ruskin’s Arts & Crafts initiative to design and produce sumptuous, sophisticated and technically brilliant fabrics in silk, linen and wool.

They were dyed to key in with the colours of the Lakeland landscape, or the petals of her favourite flowers.

The exhibition is on loan by arrangement with Dr Rachel Roberts from the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry at Kendal.

It complements the Ruskin Museum’s permanent and extensive collection of Langdale linen and the Ruskin lace industry items, developed by Elizabeth Pepper and the women involved in running Ruskin's Arts and Crafts initiative in Great Langdale, and later, Tilberthwaite.

Annie Garnett visited St Martin’s Cottage, Elterwater, the home of the Langdale linen ondustry, in the late 1880s.

Here she was inspired by the revival of hand spinning, weaving, embroidery and lacemaking.

She wrote: “I was literally set down in the old world never to be again free from it and I found myself longing to be surrounded by ancient industry, were it spinning, or weaving, or carving, or any other art that went to make up the home-life of long ago.

“All its beauty I would draw from it.”

Elizabeth Pepper taught her to spin flax and work the reticella lace- known in Lakeland as Ruskin lace.

In 1891 Annie Garnett founded The Spinnery, Bowness, which was dedicated to producing beautiful textiles using traditional methods.

The craft worker created the inspired designs and provided the management crucial to its success.

She wrote: “Gradually a great industry has gathered around me; the old-world life has grown into my life; we spin, we weave, we embroider, we design and colour our designs.”

Her textiles and designs gained both national and international recognition with clients ranging from Lakeland people to Queen Alexandra, and London department store Liberty’s.

Her inspiration came from the nature around her, the Lakeland landscape and her Lakeland Garden at Fairfield.

The Spinnery, the Langdale linen industry and other Arts and Crafts small textile businesses employed more than 2,000 women a year, in fulfilling, creative work, for some 30 years, until the First World War.

These businesses validated Ruskin’s ideas about the value of paid work for women, and paved the way for their vital work during the First World War.

You can see the exhibition until Sunday, June 3, at the Ruskin Museum, Yewdale Road, Coniston. You can check opening days and times on the website at or phone 015394 41164

You can discover more about this craft pioneer in the book Spinning the Colours of Lakeland: Annie Garnett’s Spinnery, Textiles and Garden by Rachel Roberts and David Ingram.