From Yarn to Cloth ~ The Modern Way!
We are indebted to Lochcarron of Scotland for allowing us to
reprint their Mill Tour editorial.
You will immediately notice that Lochcarron, like most other
modern mills, does not process its own wool but brings it in at the
pre-dyed yarn stage.
The yarns used in the mill are spun from raw material sourced
throughout the world. Cashmere from China and Scotland, silk from
China and the Far East, wool from Australia, New Zealand, England
and Scotland, mohair from South Africa, The Americas and the Far
East, and cotton from Egypt
Once unpacked, the yarn is wound onto a spring or cheese to
therequired length ready for dyeing. The cheeses are loaded into a
dyeingtank by slipping them over perforated tubes after which the
lid of the tank isclamped down tight. The tank is then filled with
water. Initially thewater temperature is 40° C but it is then
brought up to boiling pointfor 45 minutes and left for a further
30-60 minutes (30 minutes forlight colours and 60 minutes for dark
colours). The dye is forced upthe perforated tube, out through the
holes into the centre of thecheeses and then outwards through the
yarn wound on to the cheese,dying it thoroughly.
The dyes are in powder form and other chemicals such as acids
are used for the fixing of the colour (to stop it washing out) and
a levelling agent is added to prevent the dyeing taking place too
quickly. Once dyed, the cheeses are rinsed in the tank with cold
water and when that runs clear, the cheeses are removed, spun
dried, then air dried for 8 hours.
The dyed yarn on the cheeses is transferred to the yarn store to
be wound onto cones to the required length, ready for the warper,
with the weft being wound onto pirns (the pirns fit inside the
shuttle). Many of the more popular yarn qualities are kept in stock
in order to shorten production times
The coloured yarns on the cones are now arranged on the bank or
creel using the information set out for the warper on the ticket
for that particular tartan.
The warp threads are drawn from the bank through a wire caulm and
then drawn through a reed. The threads are then tied, looped and
hooked onto a pin on the Warp Mill. The Warp Mill revolves and the
warp threads are wound round the Warp Mill. Once the desired length
is reached, which is anything from 5 to 500 ells' (an ell is 45")
the threads are cut, then tucked away, the reed turned over (the
warp threads that were on the left hand side of the reed, are now
on the right side of the reed and the whole process repeated until
the width is gained, anything from 36 inches to 82 inches wide. So
the warp is made up in stripes of threads and held together by
The Scottish warp is warped from right to left, and the English
from left to right.
When the warp is completed it is wound onto a beam (spool). The
warp on the beam is ready to be drawn in the weaving shed.
Most warps are knotted on to warp threads already in the Loom,
however some have to be drawn by hand. This is done by drawing the
threads one at a time through the healds or heddles which are fine
wires with eyelets in the middle which are held together in a frame
called a shaft.
Once drawn through the healds in the required number of shafts,
the threads are fed through the splits on the reed. Now the beam,
warp, shafts and reed are ready for the loom.
The following steps describe the intricate procedure in shuttle
1 The shafts are inserted in the loom.
2 The reed is also centred in the loom.
3 The warp is tied on to the take-up beam which maintains the
tension of the threads. Temples on the loom, which also help keep
the tension of the cloth, are fixed to either side of the
5 Cards, pegs, or punch tapes are installed to control the weft
6 Shuttles are loaded with weft pirns.
7 Check warp for no cross ends
8 Droppers placed over each warp thread
9 Check weft pattern on the ticket
10 The loom is run for a short while and the woven cloth is
examined to check for any errors - wrong thread counts and crossed
11 Threads - usually white - are used to mark the face of the
cloth - that's the front of the cloth - its best side.
12 The tuner makes his final checks and the weaver is now ready to
The lifting and dropping of the shafts allows the threads to be
lifted and lowered, forming a shed, which the shuttle carrying the
weft passes through. The reed beats the weft thread close up to the
When a thread breaks, the dropper falls onto a castellated ratchet
and the loom stops so that the weaver can find the broken thread
and tie it together with a weaver's knot and restart the loom.
Every piece of cloth is checked and repaired (darned ) until
perfect. Burling is when the cloth is rubbed by hand to find knots
and any other faults. The cloth is grease darned, then washed ,
scoured, dried and pressed. It is then clean darned On average a
length of tartan cloth 60 ells long (59 inches wide) takes 8 hours.
(1 ell = 45 inches.)
Finishing and Scouring.
The cloth is now ready to be scoured and finished. As an example
we'll us cashmere scarves.
1 First the cashmere is washed for 15 minutes in luke warm water
and soap, a warm 5 minute rinse and a further 10 minute wash in
2 The cashmere is then transferred to the hydro extractor, where
it is spun almost dry.
3 The cashmere is now milled by being fed through the mouthpiece
of the milling machine, both ends of the cashmere are stitched
together to make a continuous loop. The machine is switched on and
the cashmere runs through the mouthpiece which is like a runnel,
pressure is added to the cashmere by a lid at the back of the
mouthpiece. Through time the cashmere shrinks in width from 65
inches to 59 inches
4 The scarves are then once more rinsed and washed and rinsed
again in varying water temperatures.
5 On to be spun dried in the hydro extractor.
6 Dried in the tenter which is a large pipe lined drying
7 Brushed on the mozer, which is a large cylindrical machine
clothed with wire brushes.
8 Wet again.
9 Brushed this time with teazels (natural plant like a thistle
found in Southern France) fitted on a cylindrical holder
10 Partly dried once more on the centrifugal
11 Heat dried in the tenter
12 Lightly brushed.
I 3 Finally, softly pressed to add a sheen.
The above unbelievably complex process involves considerable
patience and skill typical of that required to achieve the
traditional quality for which our major Scottish mills are noted
around the world.