Blending happens between dyeing and carding and is the process of mixing precise recipes, or raw cashmere, to get the perfect fibre mix for each individual colour on the shade-card. During the blending process fibres pass through opening machines which separate the fibre staples and remove any dirt. Lubricants are then added via an atomizer. The lubricant is added to facilitate fibre movement without excessive fibre damage.
The cashmere is then taken to mixing chambers (unfortunately we didn’t get pictures of these but they are just like huge rooms or domes that the fibre is swirled around in) and layered to ensure good mixing before being pneumatically moved to the fearnought picker machine where final blending and opening is carried out. The fearnuaght is as terrifying as it sounds as you can see from images below. Nothing really stands a chance against it! It is nonetheless an amazing and quite beautiful piece of machinery.
Blending is the muckiest part of the process that the fibre goes through and it can take all day. Roughly speaking it can take up to 8 hours to blend a batch of e.g 500 kilos. The blended cashmere is then transferred in bales to the carding department ready for the next stage.
Enjoying the tour with Ian Scott, Head of Production, at Z Hinchliffe.
Below you can see some test blends. These are put through the sampling carding machine which is used to “shade” blends before they go into bulk production. This basically means the blend (recipe) is tested to see if the correct shade is achieved and that the recipe is correct.
The mill may have added new buildings as they’ve expanded and modernised but some features in the older buildings remain such as these large rollers on the ceiling in the blending department.
Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for the next instalment!
All imagery Ciara Menzies.