The Mill Experience
Explore behind the scenes of the genuine working mill, where all the cloths are hand woven, and all the garments are artisan made. View each step of the process involved in creating our throws, garments and accessories.
Setting up the Creel
The first step in the making process is to load the creel for the warping mill. The cones of yarn are set up in a specific way to complete the intended pattern in the warp. The threads are then fed through the raddle, the raddle is used to introduce a lease, which controls the pattern. A lease is a run of two horizontal threads or cord which holds the warp threads in the correct order for the pattern.
We now move on to the warping mill, the pattern that was created on the creel is now wound on to the warping mill in sections. A section might have between 80 to 140 ends of yarn depending on the pattern.
Most of our warps would have between 600 and 1100 ends, therefore if we were making a warp with 1100 ends, we might set up a section of 110 ends and repeat it 10 times across the warping mill to give us our 1100 ends.
Our warping mill dates from the late 1800’s and still serves us very well!
Beaming off is where we transfer the finished warp on a beam that goes into the hand loom. the beaming off is where we take the sections and tie them to a beam, and wind them on to the beam simultaneously, so that we get an even tension on all the ends of thread across the warp.
Our warps are usually 63 metre long, we find our hand weaving is at it’s most productive of between 63 and 126 metres. It also makes it easier for the hand weavers to handle the smaller rolls of completed cloth.
Tying in/Drawing in
We try to keep harnesses set up with all the different patterns that we make.
When a new beam arrives in the weaving room, the correct harness is put in the loom and the weavers have only to tie in the new ends to the existing ones in the harness. If we don’t already have the pattern set up in a harness, we have to draw it in, end by end.
The difference is, tying in takes about an hour and a half, while drawing in takes about 5 hours, as each has to be individually drawn through each wire eye. It is certainly advantageous to have a harness already in place.
This is where we wind the weft yarn, into what is called a ‘pirn’, these look like a crayon of colour! The pirns are designed to fit into the shuttles. With the necessary amount of pirns wound we are finally ready to being weaving.
These old looms are an amalgamation of parts of varying ages, some parts over 100/150 years old, necessary repairs see newer bits added on to keep them in working order. Most of it is over 100 years old, so not quite Triggers broom!
The loom types are drop box fly shuttle looms, meaning that the weaver is tramping with his feet to open the shafts which creates the shed space for the shuttle to pass through carrying the weft yarn.
The weaver throws the shuttle by pulling on the picker cord with his right hand, while holding the sley with his left hand. The picker is a piece of hard nylon, originally pigskin, travelling on a runner at the front of the shuttle box.
The sley consists of the reed and the race board, with the shuttle boxes at each end. When the shuttle has passed through the open shed, the sley is is pulled in with the left hand, beating the last weft end into place in the cloth.
We currently have three hand weavers, John, Tony and Kevin. John and Tony are the master weavers, having learned the craft in their youth, when the craft was widespread. They have passed the skills on to Kevin in recent years.
Ethna is our cloth inspector/ mender. She checks the cloth for any flaws, skips or knots. Any flaws are expertly mended in before it goes to the wash.
Charlotte is our garment cutter, she lays up the cloth for the garment and the pattern is marked out in tailors chalk and cut out. She prepares the cut garment for the garment makers, making sure all the parts in place to complete each garment, fusing cloth where required, for example at pockets and shoulder seams.
Our throws have their fringes rolled on a purling machine, before they go to the wash. After the roll of throws is finished the throws are cut off the roll, one by one across the middle of the fringes. The throw is folded and is ready to have it’s label hand stitched on.
We have three garment makers, Anne, Sinead and Celeste. Each garment is made, from start to finish by the same garment maker, When the garment is complete Charlotte will steam press it and give it a final quality check. there you go, ready to wear!