The Birthplace of Tweed
As it’s Wool Week we’d like to focus on another textiles business in the Scottish Borders – Lovat Mill. While we knit with woollen yarns, the mill uses this sustainable fibre in a different traditional process.
Lovat Mill is a weaving mill specialising in Tweed fabrics. It is based in Hawick, the very birth place of the woven fabric. Producing over 125 miles of cloth every year, the mill has the largest selection of stocked Tweeds in Scotland. It is also the premier weaver of Estate and Regimental Tweeds and supplies over 150 private estates and military regiments across the UK.
The Big Cloth
Tweed is a woollen fabric and is typically woven in a plain, twill, or herringbone structure. In the 18th century, it was first produced as a means for farmers to endure the bleak Scottish winters. It was woven tightly to create a durable, water repellent fabric. It was not the luxurious fabric we have come to associate with Tweed today. In Gaelic it is called ‘Clò-Mór’ which means ‘The Big Cloth’.
In the 1830’s Scottish country estates had their own Tweeds commissioned for their game keepers and shooting parties to wear as camouflage. Therefore promoting Tweed as a higher-end product to the upper class market.
Did you know the name tweed came about as a simple misunderstanding? It was the result of a misread label on a box of ‘tweels’ – the Scottish word for twill. The delivery was sent to a cloth merchants in London from William Watson weavers in Hawick. Perhaps they mistook tweel for tweed after the River Tweed which meanders it’s way through the Borders – including Kelso where our workshop is based!
Inside the Factory
On a recent episode of the BBC’s Inside The Factory, presenter Cherry Healey paid a visit to Lovat Mill. James Fleming, the operations manager at the mill, gave her an introduction to the weaving process. It was great to see a local business feature on the programme and as a result shine a light on the Scottish Borders textiles industry!
You can watch the episode by clicking the link here.
As well as an extensive collection of tweed fabrics available by the metre, the mill stocks a range of beautiful scarves, throws, and blankets in cashmere and lambswool. Should you be in Hawick, it is well worth the visit to treat yourself to some locally produced, traditional pieces.
Centre of Excellence in Textiles
Alongside Wonky Woolies, Lovat Mill is also part of the collective for the Centre of Excellence in Textiles. A Scottish Borders Council project funded by the Scottish Government to boost skills in the textiles and knitwear sector. The centre is based in Hawick and offers up training and apprenticeships in hand-finishing and machine skills. Alison visited the centre recently and was able to see first hand students learning to use linkers, industrial sewing machines, and programming knitwear designs with Shima Seiki technology. The centre is a great resource in the Borders if you are looking to develop your skills in textiles. A fantastic opportunity certainly not to be missed!
The Home of Scottish Textiles
With our workshop situated in Kelso, Wonky Woolies is in the heart of the Scottish textiles industry. We are fortunate to be part of such a rich heritage and working alongside so many exciting companies right on our doorstep. We are looking forward to a trip to Lovat Mill in the future and will report back next year! Watch this space.