Saxon sheep and ladys of the loom

What a month. I’ve been out and about more than Paris Hilton or a Tory politician.

It kicked off with an evening at the Bradford Club, watering hole to Yorkshire’s textile community since 1857.

Gone are the days when the Rollers would line up outside waiting for the mill owners to finish their port and brandys, but it still regularly plays host to the great and the good of Huddersfield’s finest.

Tonight was drinks and a presentation by Peter Ackroyd, head of the British Escorial Guild.

‘Escorial’ fibre is to cloth what Petrus grapes is to wine. It’s very rare, and rather expensive. It started off when a sheep loving member of Spanish royalty nicked a flock of beauties from North Africa in 1340 and brought them back to the El Escorial palace in Madrid.

Then, in 1765, the Spanish King gave some to his sheep loving cousin, the Elector of Saxony, who in turn agreed to sell some to a cunning Scottish lady in 1830. She then shipped them off to the sunshine of Australia and the rest, as they say, is history. Today there are only three remaining flocks in the world – two in Oz (Tasmania and Victoria), and one in Mount Arden, New Zealand.

Pundits talk about it’s ‘three dimensional helical crimp’ which acts like a natural spring, creating light, crease resistant garments.

Whatever, the rules dictate that the fibres must be less than 16 microns in width (about a Super 150’s quality) which means it feels seriously luxurious and does have a magnificent handle.

It was a great presentation by Peter and lovely to chat with people from the trade. Not a bad pint of Boddingtons either.

Then we said our goodbyes and met up the following evening at a celebration of Yorkshire Textiles hosted by Harvey Nichols!

Here, beer was substituted for elegant flutes of champagne, and as I swanned around the bustling bar in my new suit, talking shop and meeting a wealth of new contacts, the world seemed a better place.

Yorkshire textile folk are notoriously reserved. In my opinion, they don’t shout out enough about the fact that they supply the biggest brands in the world with truly incredible cloth. The demise of many UK textile companies has been well documented by the press over recent years, and now the strong remain. A ‘lean and mean,’ passionate group of niche producers targeting the uber-luxury end of the market.

I was the proverbial pig in shit, whose sty only got deeper and smellier when I was invited to visit one of the finest mills in England ‘Taylor & Lodge‘ by Ed Waterhouse, whose family own the business, and their Sales Director, Robert McQuillan, pictured below.

And that’s were I’ve been today. Now, part of the Bulmer & Lumb Group, they’ve been based here for 125 years and are arguably weaving some of the most divine shmatter money can buy. For example, their pure Vicuna collection costs well over a grand a metre and they made the Summer Kid Mohair & Cashmere blend for Daniel Craig’s ‘Bond tux’ in Quantum of Solace.

I’ve warbled on about the weaving process in previous blogs so rather than bore you with the pros of their Karl Mayer Warping machine and Dornier rapier looms here’s some of the people behind the brand:

There’s Andrea Bellwood in the patten room who sends out samples to the likes of likes of Brioni, Burberry, Dunhill, Lanvin, Richard James and James Michelsberg :-)

Here is Carol and Trish having a tea-break, who inspect the cloth after it’s been woven for faults.

And my last lady of the looms, Margaret King, Queen of the inspectors, who gave a good bollocking to Robert for selling too much white cashmere which is a nightmare to keep clean.

What a warm, cheery bunch of people who will no doubt continue to take the company forward for another 125 years of weaving wonderment.

Yes, it’s been a hectic month but I’ve enjoyed every minute. Business has been brisk, the sun’s shining, and I’m off to Spain in two weeks, providing good volcanic behaviour.