Monday, 1 June 2015

From sheep to cloth

In West Yorkshire there is a beautiful village called Saltaire which is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was built by Sir Titus Salt to house the workers for his mill. In the 1830's Titus Salt was one of the first people in England to work out an industrial process for turning alpaca fleece into a soft and usable cloth. Titus had over 3000 workers and once the mill was open in 1853 he kept building the village, with houses, a church, a school, almshouses, library, shops and a park. The village was completed in 1876. Titus Salt was recognised as a progressive employer who tried to make life better for his workers at a time when working conditions in textile mills were very poor and there was much danger and poverty. 


I could talk for ages about Saltaire but that isn't really what this post is about. Suffice to say it is a beautiful place to visit and it gives an interesting insight into industrial history. Salt's Mill is now part museum, part shops and part gallery with a large collection of David Hockney pictures. It is one of my favourite places to spend a few hours. It is absolutely huge and it is possible to imagine what it must have been like as a working mill.   In one gallery space there are a series of murals which tell the story of the making of cloth. They were painted by Henry Marvell Carr in the 1950's. They show the process from sheep to cloth which as a knitter, sewer and lover of textiles I found really interesting.
The sheep, looking very proud. Excuse the reflection, the first two paintings are behind glass.
Shearing time and a big pile of fleece.
Grading and sorting the fleece. Different breeds of sheep produce different quality wool.
Cleaning and scouring the fleece. It gets washed, rinsed and dried.
The wool is carded to produce clean, fluffy wool called roving which is ready for spinning.
The roving is spun to produce a strong wooden thread and wound onto bobbins.
The loom has to be correctly threaded so that it will weave the correct type of cloth.
The cloth begins to be woven.
Checking the thread quality. Obviously quality checking happens in tandem with the other processes.
The cloth being woven on the looms. 
The finished cloth coming off the looms. 
Quality control of the finished cloth. 
The cloth being folded and ready to go. These pictures really helped me to understand what used to happen in the mill. The area where I live would have been full of textile mills years ago so when I see them, standing empty or converted to other uses now, it helps me imagine how they used to be!