My mentor Jennie and I visited the Abraham Moon & Sons mill last Monday. I had used their cloth to make the tweed jacket I displayed at the Dumfries House Wool conference earlier this year in September and they kindly invited us up to visit their wonderful mill to see just how their cloth is made.
Abraham Moon & Sons Ltd, based at Netherfield Mills, Guiseley, West Yorkshire is the last vertical mill in Great Britain. Everything from dyeing, blending, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing processes all take place on one site.
The company was founded in 1837 by Abraham Moon; he was a man of considerable standing within the community of Guiseley.
Moon supplied many local families with yarn to weave cloth on hand looms in their homes, he would collect the woven cloth, paying the weavers for their work.
Today approximately 35,000 meters of wool is woven every week and the company employs over 200 people from the local community and also offers an apprenticeship programme.
It was a truly brilliant visit, it was amazing opportunity to see the all processes we would never get the chance to see at the other mills. The tour started with a look at the wool in it’s raw form in the Sorting & Dyeing Department; the majority of it is sourced from Australia and the rest is from New Zealand and South Africa.
Once the raw material has been dyed it is then taken to the blending room where the various colours are mixed together.
Before the dyed wool can be spun it goes through a process called ‘carding’. The carding machine has two rotating cylinders with ‘wire teeth’ which pull apart the individual fibres and gets rid of any remaining impurities.
Depending on the end use of the wool it also gets ‘combed, this lines up long fibres parallel with one another ready for spinning and gets rid of the shorter fibres.
We moved into the weaving shed. Cloth is woven in two directions; the warp and the weft, it’s initially woven on the warp when the yarn is put on the loom in parallel lines.
The weft is then woven horizontally across the warp going in between the yarns to create a pattern.
After washing, the cloth goes through a machine that dries and ‘sets’ the cloth to a particular width.
Before the cloth can be sent out to customers it has to go through the finishing process. The type of finish applied to the cloth depends on its end uses and application. For example all home furnishings are required to be flame retardant.
We work with the cloth everyday and being able to see what goes into making the cloth was fantastic. Abraham Moon even have there own testing facilities for abrasion and durability, this means they can ensure the quality of the wool they provide to companies.
Sustainability is something I am passionate about, Abraham Moon recycle their dyes, tools and materials. Many other companies will import yarns made in China to the UK but with Abraham Moon, it is all done on site.
The mill was first erected as a four storey building until it burnt down in a fire, it was rebuilt as a long extended building which of course increased efficiency and made the process easier for employees.
In their showroom we got the chance to look through their swatch archive with the Sales Director John Pickles and Sales Manager John Harrop.
The archives went back to when they were first established, it was incredible to see the changing styles and they talked us through the designs they have done for other companies and the different ways their cloth has been used. We saw large variety of the designs, patterns and weights that had been used to make garments and furnishings.
Thank you to all at Abraham Moon for inviting us to the mill, and to everybody who was so kind to answer our questions and demonstrate the many processes.