Before saying yes to Suzanne Lovell last fall, Sam Kasten had turned down many offers from other designers seeking to create home goods collections from his hand-loomed textiles. Kasten, founder of the Sam Kasten Handweaver company in Massachusetts, appreciated that Lovell, principal of her eponymous Chicago architectural interior design firm, recognized the aesthetic difference between one-of-a-kind and machine-made. As for Lovell, she admired Kasten’s custom cashmere, linen, mohair, and silk creations for their “simple weaves, beautiful content, and perfect proportion and scale of pattern. I [had] looked for them for years,” she says, “and they simply weren’t out there.” Feeling that their sensibilities were a match, the two launched the Twill Textiles fabrics company in Chicago last year.
The Twill line comprises 30 years’ worth of designs by Kasten, who during his career has collaborated on custom fabrics with designers and architects including Billy Baldwin, Thierry Despont, David Easton, and I.M. Pei. Lovell selected the rug and cloth weaves for their textures, colors, and patterns; the hues are earthy, with names such as Lagoon, Mushroom, and Straw, and the design schemes range from diamond to basket weave to herringbone. Fabrics composed of pesticide-residue-free wool, organically grown ramie, and nontoxic dyes also are part of Twill. “We went eco-friendly with one group,” says Lovell, “because the mill showed us how they could put some of our designs through their process if we used ramie instead of linen yarns.” The treatment, she says, enhances the handwoven appearance of the finished cloth. Pricing starts at approximately $72 per yard.
Kasten still utilizes his 15-loom, 19th-century brick studio in the Berkshires to make custom fabrics by hand (priced from $325 to $2,500 per yard), but the workshop is not set up for large-scale production. Consequently, he and Lovell work with small, independent mills in Canada, Italy, and Switzerland to produce machined pieces for the Twill collection. “We really went out in search of mills that would be sympathetic to our desire to design textiles,” says Kasten, adding that he insists that the machine-produced fabrics appear as similar as possible to his handmade originals. “The right yarns are 90 percent of it,” he says. “We were lucky to find mills that were willing to change their equipment and buy yarns from our sources to give us the look we wanted.” The result, adds Lovell, “is a complete collection of different colors and textures that work together to make up a room.”