I, Willy Wonka, have decided to allow five children – just five, mind you, and no more – to visit my factory this year. These lucky five will be shown around personally by me, and they will be allowed to see all the secrets and magic of my factory.
Reading Charlie’s adventures in the chocolate factory many (many) years ago, I never thought I’d find myself in a similar situation, but recently I did. Always on the lookout for new and fantastic fabrics with which to make even more mouth-watering bags, I came across Abraham Moon & Sons woollen Mill in Guiseley, near Leeds.
It’s the last remaining vertical woollen mill in the country, (meaning all processes are completed on one site – raw wool goes in one end and high quality bespoke fabrics come out of the other), and has been quietly producing amazing fabrics and materials for 180 years.
I gave them a call, was quickly invited down for a tour, and, having ended the conversation on an enthusiastic affirmative, stood mid-office with phone held aloft in the manner (I imagined) of Charlie Bucket and his golden ticket.
You don’t approach Abraham Moon & Sons woollen Mill – you are drawn to it. Built in 1902, (the original 1837 building was burnt to the ground in a fire) the quiet sandstone mass speaks of Victorian industrial might and a brooding permanence. Angular roofs point at industrial skies and it was with Blake’s ‘dark, satanic mills’ on my mind that I scanned the grounds for my own Willy Wonka.
His name was John and while he lacked Willy Wonka’s ‘high and flutey’ voice and quick squirrely movements (thankfully!) he invited me in.
If the outside was stoic and solid, then inside the mill itself is a hyperactive assault on the senses; the mountain of raw wool, the clatter, batter banging of drums and looms, the rich earthy smell of the dyes – it’s an impressive, intimidatory spectacle. Each fleece is subjected to a clinical set of processes that ensures the fabric is of the highest possible quality; from scouring (removing 99.7% of impurities) to dying (over 500 shades available) to blending (up to seven different wools at a time) to carding to spinning to warping to weaving to scouring, milling and finishing (phew!) – every aspect of the production process is carefully controlled to ensure the finished product is delivered to the exact requirements of the customer.
If you are a fabric addict like me it’s a magical experience to see the end to end production of such wonderful fabrics – but it is the blending that (for me) makes this mill special. Grey isn’t just grey – there are filaments of yellow and green and blue in there. It makes the colour more dimensional – makes it stand out from the crowd in a subtle, whispering way. In short, it just makes the fabric look. better.
At the end I half expected to dive into a great glass elevator before being handed the keys to the operation, but alas, I wasn’t. Instead I took ownership of some amazing new materials, full of great new ideas of how to use them in my pieces.
Here is a fine example of our Moon wool bags available online.