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Story1: Luxury Cotton

English fine cotton getting spinning home

 

What to expect in 2016?

We must admit it; there has been a gloom and kind of a pessimistic feel in our office. Even though we are a company believing in the power of good choices, and have a general large degree of optimism, we have still been quite discouraged in regards to why the industry can’t make the BIG changes that needs to be done.

No matter how hard one works, things take time. A loong time. And no matter how much we want the world to change, we need the big businesses to want to change too, the changes that changes everything faster.

But the last few months, our hopes have been growing. The world IS changing and we hope that it is a staying change. When reading the textile business news from all over the world, we are getting positive, and want to share it with you. This is the first story of why 2016 makes us smile.

 

Story # 1: Manchesters new cotton mill

English company English Fine Cottons and the Textile Growth Programme, are in total investing £5.8million to bring old British cotton mills back to life.

One of the main goals is to bridge the gap between global retailers, domestic micro businesses and SMEs (Small and medium-sized enterprises), to strengthen local supply chains and promote sustainable growth.

The two initiators are renovating a former Victorian cotton mill, and combining it with cutting-edge technology, to start production of luxury yarn. English Fine Cotton, which today makes material for bulletproof vests at Tame Valley Mill, Dukinfield, is to produce luxury yarn at neighbouring Tower Mill. This way, British cotton is to be spun at home for the first time in a generation. The last time Tower Mill had cotton production was in 1955.

 


The plan is to be
 re-starting cotton spinning in the UK mid-2016, and it will by then be one of the most advanced cotton spinning plants in the world, with the latest in loom technology.

The Mill is not meant to compete with mass production of China, South East Asia or India. It will be a “high end” quality product, produced with luxury cotton from Barbados (Sea Island). The same cotton that Ian Fleming specified James Bond’s shirts were made of, and the ones Daniel Craig wore in the Bond movies.

“We are almost vertical as a company and the only thing we don’t buy in the UK is cotton, which I would very much like to do. The project could hopefully utilize the abundant skills base for textile manufacturing in the UK, as we remain exceptional as a country in specialist manufacturing. From cotton spinning to pattern cutting – the skills are there to make in Britain.”

British shirt-maker Emma Willis
(makes the shirts for Daniel Craig’s James Bond)

Cotton mills in Britain

What is a cotton mill?

  • A cotton mill houses spinning or weaving machinery for the production of yarn or cloth from cotton.
  • Cotton was an important product during the Industrial Revolution. The mechanization of the spinning process in the early factories was instrumental in the growth of the machine tool industry, enabling the construction of larger cotton mills.

The biggest cotton producer in the world

  • Britain used to be the biggest cotton cloth producer in the world. The mechanized spinning and weaving of cotton fiber into fabric began in Britain in the mid-16th century.
  • Manchester had no cotton mills until 1783. By 1800, there were 42 mills, and the city had become the heart of the cotton manufacturing trade. Mills generated employment, expanded population, and Manchester became a large commercial city.
  • The number of Manchester cotton mills reached its zenith in 1853 with 108 mills. In total there were 2650 cotton mills in Lancashire by 1860, employing 440 000 people and producing half of the world’s cotton yarn.
  • Then came the First World War, and cotton could no longer be exported to the foreign markets. The rise of other countries weaving and exporting their own cotton began.
  • By the 1930s, 800 mills had closed and 345,000 workers had left the industry. Though there was a slight revival after 1945, mills kept on closing down.
  • During the 1960s and 70s, mills in North West England closed at the rate of one a week in the, with the last one shutting in Greater Manchester in the 1980s.

Modern cotton mills

Modern cotton mills are increasingly automated, mainly built around open end-spinning techniques using rotors or ring-spinning techniques using spindles.

In 2009 there were 202,979,000 ring spinning spindles installed worldwide, with 82% of these being in Asia or Oceania, and 44% being within China. In the same year there were 7,975,000 open end spinning rotors installed, with 44% of these being within Asia or Oceania and 29% within Eastern Europe. Rotors are responsible for 20% of the cotton spun worldwide.

One large mill in Virginia in the United States employs 140 workers in 2013 to produce an output that would have required more than 2,000 workers in 1980.

 

“A number of times we have had firms coming to us saying they want British cotton. Unfortunately, up until now, we have had to say no. We owe it to the cotton industry – which Manchester was synonymous with – to put it back onto the world stage” 

Andy Ogden
General manager of English Fine Cotton’s parent company, Culimeta-Saveguard Ltd

Sea Island Cottons, know for their limited production of quality slowly grown cotton
Sea Island Cottons, known for their limited production of quality slowly grown cotton


“For more than 100 years cotton was the key industry in the various towns making up the borough and indeed the North West of England. The Park Road area of Dukinfield, where Tower Mill is situated, is a corridor of former cotton mills and testament to the hold spinning once had on the region. We
 believe this project shows how (…) effective a little northern grit and common sense can be in achieving successful solutions.” 

English Fine Cottons

Quality focused future

It makes us happy that it is possible to focus on high quality in an ever faster moving world. Doing it slowly with attention to details and process, from the raw material to the finished product, that’s what we hope for in the future. When you buy something, it should last and make you happy. It’s the volume and pace that we want to fight.

 

Lastly, this video that was made by the British Council to counter Nazi propaganda and help promote British cotton to the world, during the Second World War.

Sources:

manchestereveningnews.co.uk

SpinningtheWeb.org.uk

makeitbritish.co.uk

englishfinecottons.co.uk