Bolton’s quilty se­cret

Lancashire Life - - MORECAMBE - WORDS: Janet Watson Š PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: Chris Fos­ter

From the new Ter­mi­na­tor film to the Silk Road to Baku, one Lan­cashire busi­ness is prov­ing that our tex­tile in­dus­try is alive and well

When you pull on your Bar­bour jacket or your Burberry coat, or per­haps wrap up the dog in a cosy quilted jacket, do you give a sec­ond thought to the lovely fab­ric that helps to keep you warm? And if you did, the chances are you would as­sume it comes from some­where in the Far East.

You’d be wrong. Cale­do­nian Quilt­ing has been qui­etly work­ing away, pro­duc­ing quilt­ing in a small factory in a back street of Brad­shaw, Bolton, for the past 50 years.

Three years ago Vicky Gil­li­brand, born and bred in the town, bought the busi­ness which was set up in 1969 by the West fam­ily.

‘I have a background in sales and marketing in the cor­po­rate world but I wanted to be in­volved in cre­at­ing something, and saw ex­cit­ing po­ten­tial with Cale­do­nian,’ said Vicky. ‘Com­ing from Bolton and un­der­stand­ing how im­por­tant tex­tile manufactur­ing was here, it was an ex­cit­ing mo­ment when I ex­plored the busi­ness po­ten­tial.’

While the quilt­ing busi­ness has

been run­ning for a half cen­tury, it is based in a much older building that was once a var­nish works.

‘Cale­do­nian was well es­tab­lished, with a good team and cus­tomer base, and I wanted to chal­lenge my­self to run and grow my own busi­ness,’ Vicky added. ‘The name comes from founder Bill West’s background – he’s Scot­tish, and moved to Bolton years ago. Fun­nily enough, I also have Scot­tish her­itage.

‘Al­though we’re a rel­a­tively small busi­ness with a team of nine, it feels like we’re an im­por­tant part of the lo­cal com­mu­nity. We’ve a col­lec­tive ex­pe­ri­ence of over 100 years – one of our team has been in the busi­ness for 34 years and

man­ages all our ware­hous­ing, lo­gis­tics and de­liv­er­ies.’

Cale­do­nian lives or dies by the level of cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion. ‘This is how we mea­sure our success,’ she said. ‘Put sim­ply, we de­liver on time a qual­ity hand­ma­chined prod­uct that our clients love. We man­age and main­tain our own ma­chin­ery, too, keep­ing that skill alive within the team.’

You might think it sounds a bit like something out of Coronation Street and, in a way, it is. The staff live lo­cally and clock in and out ev­ery day, stop­ping for break­fast at 9.30am prompt for boiled eggs and “War­bie’s” toast. At 1pm there’s a com­mu­nal lunch­break in­clud­ing the boss. The of­fice dog – Ted the springer spaniel – is fondly known as “Quilt-ted” and he comes into the of­fice ev­ery day. He helps keep the works spick and span by snuf­fling any crumbs off the floor.

‘Our prod­ucts are to be found lit­er­ally from the cra­dle to the grave – with di­verse clients from all sec­tors,’ said Vicky.

‘Yaris Eques­trian up in the Lake Dis­trict, qual­ity gar­ment man­u­fac­turer Beaver of Bolton, the Lan­cashire Sock Com­pany in Bacup, and na­tional brands such as Bar­bour, Burberry, Pri­vate White and Mack­in­tosh. We also make be­spoke items for Sav­ile Row tai­lors. We work closely with tex­tile mer­chants in Manch­ester - Frank Bierne, Frank Pine, Hen­der­sons, P&R Fab­rics and Car­ring­ton Work­wear.’

‘Our main work is with cloth­ing and out­er­wear but we have lots of other in­ter­est­ing clients. We pro­duce quilt­ing for eques­trian prod­ucts, up­hol­stery and soft fur­nish­ings, pro­tec­tive cov­ers for pianos, fire-proof quilt­ing for tech­ni­cians fly­ing out on he­li­copters to the oil rigs, in­su­la­tion ma­te­ri­als for grow­ing vegeta­bles and even cof­fin in­serts. We were com­mis­sioned to quilt the in­side of a plane for the next Ter­mi­na­tor film and our quilt­ing even goes along the Silk Road to Baku!’

The factory has nine ma­chines, and each quilts 200 me­tres a day, so 9,000 me­tres of quilt­ing

can be pro­duced each week at full capacity. They are grow­ing steadily and al­ways in­ter­ested in meet­ing new cus­tomers.

‘There’s a grow­ing de­mand for UK pro­duc­tion. Our unique sell­ing points are qual­ity and quick turnaround. We of­fer a sam­pling ser­vice; then once an or­der is placed, we have a lead­time of 10-12 days.

‘If busi­nesses go abroad they will be wait­ing 12 weeks. We don’t have min­i­mum or­der sizes and will con­sider any en­quiry. We also pro­vide a con­sul­tancy ser­vice, help­ing to con­nect the sup­ply chain from sourc­ing material to man­u­fac­tur­ers of the fin­ished prod­uct. We like to keep it lo­cal where we can – our wad­ding is from Fi­bre Fill­ings, part of the John Holden Group in Farn­worth, as well as Cost­motec in Black­burn. Our threads are from Dan­field in Leigh and our sew­ing tools are from Col­lege Sew­ing in Bury.’

You can tell from vis­it­ing Cale­do­nian that there is a great fam­ily at­mos­phere. ‘It’s team work, an un­der­stand­ing of the big­ger pic­ture and good old fash­ioned factory ban­ter,’ said Vicky. ‘We like to mea­sure our success – we keep stock of how many me­tres we have pro­duced each week, how often we met our dead­line for cus­tomers and, for a bit of fun, the eggome­ter – how many eggs are eaten each week!’

‘We at­tended our first ex­hi­bi­tion in London, last year, Make it Bri­tish. It was a fan­tas­tic few days – we had lots of new en­quiries, met po­ten­tial and ex­ist­ing cus­tomers and other sup­pli­ers to give us new busi­ness ideas. We made lots of busi­ness con­nec­tions, and have since con­tacted ev­ery­one who vis­ited our stand. We will be at­tend­ing again this year.

‘We do get some in­ter­est­ing calls. A cou­ple of de­sign­ers rang us, ask­ing for ideas for Paris and London Fash­ion week; we’ve quilted wool from Laura Ashley’s farm and for Pri­vate White, and we’ve worked on East­man Leather cloth­ing for au­then­tic vin­tage leather jack­ets.’

Cale­do­nian Quilt­ing is proof that with the right peo­ple, and the right at­ti­tude there is still huge de­mand for qual­ity Bri­tish prod­ucts, es­pe­cially those made right here in Lan­cashire.

‘We like to mea­sure our success – we keep stock of how many me­tres we have pro­duced each week, how often we met our dead­lines and, for a bit of fun, the eggome­ter – how many eggs were eaten each week!’

The team - Dave Shar­rock, Robert Tom­lin­son, Vicky Gil­li­brand, Heather Green, Jane Wil­liamson, Martin Bur­goyne, Jamie Jack­son and San­dra Whit­taker RIGHT: Su­per­vi­sor San­dra Whit­taker

Jamie Jack­son sil­hou­et­ted in one of the work rooms

ABOVE:

Skills kept alive with Jamie Jack­son at the weld­ing bench and, be­low, Vicky Gil­li­brand who took over the busi­ness three years ago

Jane Wil­liamson at one of the quilt­ing ma­chines

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