Looking at the fabric making process – Traditional Meets hightech

This cavernous room is full of thread, cones and cones of it ready to be woven. Marton Mills hold a huge range of fabric as stock meaning that smaller niche brands can make the most of their fabrics.

When choosing our fabrics we wanted to make sure that we got the finest in both quality and the technical features we were looking for. We visited Marton Mills in Yorkshire to find out more about how they do things.

Stage One- The Winding

All the woven fabrics start life as cones of thread. The cones pictured are for a Navy and Olive green tartan. Each cone has about 10km of thread on it and hundreds of cones can be used in the making of a single tartan or tweed.

Once the Cones have been dyed the desired colour they are placed onto a machines used for the Warping process. This stage of the fabric making process uses a mad looking machine and is incredibly labour intensive.

The cones are placed onto the Warping machine following a set order – this order determines the pattern of the tartan or fabric. The Warping machine which reminded me of some sort of telephone exchange or the points on a train line – each thread has to be hand tied onto the other side of the machine before being ‘spun’ onto the Warp Bank (like a huge drum covered in thread).

Once the thread is on the warp bank the whole ‘roll’ is transferred to the loom. This is what most people think of when they think fabric milling. This piece of kit hasn’t really changed much since it’s design in 1784, the principles are the same although steam power and child labour are both things of the past (well, in Yorkshire they are).

You can see how the bands of coloured thread form the pattern. This is where the ‘Warp’ and the ‘Weft’ are brought together actually making the fabric. The machines in this room were so noisy we had to wear ear defenders – it’s such an amazing mechanical process. At Marton they have two banks of 10 looms running 24 hours a day 6 days a week, although this may go back to 7 days as business is booming in the UK fabric industry, especially for high quality fabrics such as those made by Marton.

The fabric being milled on this loom is actually a showcase piece highlighting the broad range of colours Marton make. The black and white fabric [pictured below] has a herringbone design, the same as our classic winter jacket, traditional and timeless. Apparently the design dates back to 500 BC when Roman architects used the interlocking design in the road paving.

Finally once the fabric is woven it is checked, again by hand, every single yard of it. This is to make sure no threads have been missed so there is no flaw in the design. Again this level of quality control is what makes Marton’s product so good. Hope you love what we’ve done with it.

This is only the weaving of the fabric. Fabric is then sent to the finishers (Marton also run their own finishers) who ‘brush’ the fabric to make it’s handle smooth and soft to the touch. Any other treatments are also added such as the Nanosphere weatherproofing we’ve used. Once this is all done we get hold of the fabric and the manufacture process can begin…it is truly staggering the number of processes and people involved in the making of one garment…

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