We recently paid a visit to the mill we work with in the Scottish Borders and I took along brilliant photographer Ciara Menzies to capture some of the behind-the-scenes action. I’ve worked with this mill since I started my business in 2011 and I love that it is practically on my doorstep just an hours drive from Edinburgh. It means if something is urgent or needs collecting/dropping off I can zip down there and sort it out. I just wouldn’t be able to do this if I manufactured outside of the UK. The team at the mill are highly skilled and all excellent in their individual areas of expertise. I am really fortunate to have found a team who I trust and who always deliver to such a high standard.
It was really exciting taking Ciara to the mill as I know she’s an amazing story teller through her photographs. Whilst the team at the mill didn’t want to be in the pictures themselves they did let us photograph them at work in close detail so you’ll see some of this in upcoming blog posts.
For this instalment I just wanted to share some images of where it all starts really – yarn. We buy all our cashmere yarn from UK suppliers, mainly Scottish but occasionally from a Yorkshire supplier. Each season I review shade cards with all their stock service colours and I choose my core colours for the season, I also allow bigger customers to choose their own “exclusive” colours as I feel this allows my wholesale customers to mould the collection to fit in with the rest of their assortment whilst giving their selection a bespoke edge. Once all my orders have been compiled I place a bulk order for yarn and this is then delivered to the mill for production. This is the stage that is always a little precarious as there are usually some colours that are more in demand so it means they can be delayed as they are sold out or are still being dyed. It just depends but I always try and order my yarn asap so I can let the team at the mill get cracking with production asap and allow them enough time to knit and finish the products to the highest standard.
It’s always so exciting unpacking all the new colours as often I have only seen a small swatch of them. Once production is in full swing I tend to visit the mill once a week so I can stay abreast of what is happening. There are always problems in the manufacturing stage whether big or small I’ve learnt just to stay calm as I know we can always work something out. For example this week one of our new colours just wasn’t knitting, and kept snapping. It knitted absolutely fine on the beanies we were making but on the fully fashioned wrist warmer it had trouble around the fashioning on the thumbs and kept breaking there. This suggested it had been kept in storage that was perhaps a little warm for it and all it needed was either to be re-wound or waxed. Re-winding is quite arduous but on this occasion we were able to wax it and this gives it a little more strength and make it more supple when going through the machine. Thankfully this worked and it stopped snapping. The wax just washes out once the garments are linked and finished.
When I first started my business problems like this were very new to me so I used to worry so much about them and get myself into quite a frenzy but now I just know it’s par for the course and I am just lucky I have regular direct communication with the mill who will keep me updated with anything that needs looking at. There is also such a good network of mills in the Borders and I used to work at one of the bigger ones in Hawick when I was studying for my degree so I know if I have a real dilemma they can usually help me out if it’s re-winding or sourcing an emergency shade of yarn. There is a real sense of community amongst the businesses and we all help each other out.
I’ve rambled on enough so I’ll just let Ciara‘s photographs do the talking.
Hope you enjoy and stay tuned for more mill and production updates!