The Knitter

Welcome mill! to our

Go behind the scenes at John Arbon Textiles with Francesca Hughes and Laura Davies as they paint a picture of a typical working day at the Devon mill


the moors and through the valleys of North Devon and you’ll find our woolly wonderland. Hidden inside a plain industrial unit in

South Molton is a world of wool, yarn and vintage machinery. The lovely smell of local sheep’s wool mixes unexpected­ly with engine oil to greet you as you come in the door to discover John Arbon Textiles, our mill. We’re a small, friendly team of 13, but we feel more like 25, as each of our machines also has a name and a personalit­y, as you’ll find out as we take you through our day.

We start off by warming up the machines, and warming ourselves with a cup of tea - and, if we’re lucky, some homemade cake courtesy of Helena or Donna; but you have to be quick, as cake news spreads fast around the mill. As people arrive, we give a cheery wave ‘Hello’ across the noise of the machines.

Soon, the machines are clattering, buzzing, whirring and whirling. A big delivery of Corriedale fibre arrives back from the dyers in Bradford. This gets John excited - not just because it’s lots of lovely wool for us to spin, but also because it means he gets to jump on the fork-lift and whizz around the car park unloading the truck. John loves playing - I mean working - on the fork-lift!

Meanwhile, Phil is testing the weights for the yarns he will be spinning today. Phil is a perfection­ist, and every yarn has a mathematic­al formula to create the same consistent colour, and specific gears to get the exact weight required - so he is happy to discover it’s right first time today!

Juliet, Ginette and Lilly are busy picking yarn orders and winding tops for hand-spinners. If any skeins are missing, Juliet will visit her favourite machine, Gillian, our beloved skein winder that’s over a century old, to make sure they can be made in time. The orders are double-checked and lovingly packed up, with a little personalis­ed note from Ginette.

The machines need constant maintenanc­e, and so today John is cleaning the razor-sharp pins that comb through the wool in a gill box. This job is not for the faint-hearted, as it’s all too easy to catch your fingers on those pins - the person doing it should never be snuck up on, ouch!

Now it’s time to put the next colour onto our smaller spinner, Butler. He’s a hungry machine, quickly turning small batches of rovings into single plies. Laura needs to keep feeding him with new bobbins all day, so she’s flying around four machines at once to keep him happy.

 ??  ?? Delicious fibre tops, before being spun onto bobbins
Delicious fibre tops, before being spun onto bobbins
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