Making it in Textiles: Report

WCW ConferenceOn 14th/15th October 2015, 120 woven textile and textile degree students, tutors and manufacturers from the UK attended a conference in Bradford,  fully funded by The Worshipful Company of Weavers, The Clothworkers’ Company, the Campaign for Wool and the WoolMark Company.

The conference was held in response to Course Tutors feed back ,that at times it was difficult to take students on visits to manufacturers to see industrial processes, therefore making the links to what they were studying about manufacturing at university.

Additionally the students are not always getting first hand experience at talking to manufacturers.

The Conference  provided the chance for manufacturers to discuss other career opportunities, not just in design for textile graduates but also in manufacturing and quality control. as there is currently a resurgence of employment opportunities in UK textile manufacturing, alongside a skills and talent gap.

All delegates had the opportunity of a visit to manufacturers on the 15th Oct. The participating mills were Abraham Moon, Hainsworth, Pennine Weavers, R Gledhill Ltd and Mallalieus of Delph

WCW Conference Pennine WeaversThe conference was held in the Midland Hotel in Bradford, where the students were also accommodated. The speakers for the event covered subjects from colour , spinning, weaving, designer makers using the British textile industry, finishing through to product.

The conference was chaired by James Sugden. The first group  of speakers covered colour, dyeing technology, yarn spinning and designing fabrics.

The first  speaker was Beryl Gibson, who talked about the importance of colour in design and manufacture , her role as an industry colour influencer and how to make critical creative decisions which are fit for the industry. Her talk was followed by Sinclair Paterson, Director of Sinclair Duncan Textiles, who was responsible for installing the new state of the art dye house at Johnstons of Elgin. He also runs his own company producing knitted and woven cashmere accessories in the Scottish Borders. He discussed modern dyeing technology and its place in the supply chain.

WCW Conference panelJames Laxton, Managing Director of Laxtons gave a talk about how the company  decided to bring all their yarn production back to the UK from Poland. Laxtons is now the leading UK producer of fancy yarns for the weaving and knitting industry. They also produce worsted yarns and operate a bespoke service in designing yarns. The final speaker of this section was John Gillespie of Gillespie Designs, who is a design consultant,who was Design Director at Johnstons of Elgin for 18 years and has lead the restorations of Knockando Woolmill, the oldest continually operating rural woollen mill in the UK. The mill  is manufacturing on 19th century card set, mule spinning frame and dobcross looms. They also have two modern rapier looms.

The second part of the conference explored Weaving, fabric production technology and fabric finishing. The first speaker, Harriet Wallace – Jones talked about the design studio Wallace Sewell she runs with Emma Sewell which was established in 1990. She discussed the history of the company and how they design and manufacture their products. Their work also includes designing transport fabrics for the London Underground and buses as well as selling their ranges of scarves, blankets and throws globally.

Richard Humphries, the Director of Humphries Weaving , talked about his company that specialises in figured designs for apparel and upholstery , he discussed silk production in the UK and the types of commission weaving his company does. They have prestigious British and International clients from Roayl Palaces, overseas embassies and private individuals.

Gary Eastwood, of Penine Weavers Ltd talked about their commission weaving business which runs at amazing efficiency, a leader in systems technology  and has state of the art technology giving the company a quality and competitive edge in both warping and weaving. Their largest customers are the worsted suiting sector, but they also have partnerships with the woolen and accessory sectors such as Johnstons of Elgin and Abraham Moon.

The final speaker of the conference was Paul Johnson, the Managing Director of W.T. Johnson and Sons, whose fabric finishing company supports the majority of Northern mills.They do all of the processes in house including milling, scouring, decating, drying and cropping as well as having their own colour lab for dyeing.

The after dinner inspirational keynote speech was given by Victoria Stapleton, the founder and Creative Director of Brora, a mail order and website company that promotes manufacturing cloth, garments, knitwear and accessories in the UK. They particularly specialise in cashmere.

This conference was a first of a kind event for weave and textile students and was a resounding success, as it brought together industry and students and allowed for networking,information sharing and gathering.

The participating Universities would like to thank the organisers for putting on a fantastic event.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.