Profile: Orkney Cloth Company

Orkney Cloth Company
Orkney had a rich heritage of textile weaving which had been lost for over 30 years, and the Orkney Cloth Company is hoping to revive it once again.

Weaving in Orkney completely disappeared in the mid-1970s, when the two mills, Argarden and Sclaters closed. Orkney’s cloth was once more renown than Harris Tweed, well regarded for its softness and lightness, and sold all over the world. Unlike Harris Tweed, without a well known tradition of weaving, Orkney tweed weavers were able to create new and contemporary designs, using bold accent colours.

However, by the mid-1970’s the industry had moved on, with the arrival of ready to wear garments and synthetic materials. Their reluctance to invest in wider looms meant that Harris Tweed had the competitive advantage, and both mills closed down.

The Orkney Cloth Company was started by India Johnson, who aims to revive the industry once again. After arriving in Orkney on a graduate weaving placement with ScotGrad and Orkney Creative Hub in October 2018, she began teaching hand weaving.

India trained as a painter, but uses the knowledge of light and colour in her textiles, preferring simple colour combinations and structures to reflect the shifting seasons and muted colours around her. After the year long placement, she decided to stay in Orkney and set up her own commercial cloth company, making contemporary and sustainable textiles inspired by her island home.

There is a great deal of change within the textile industry, with a real emphasis on where and how products are made. The Orkney Cloth Company aims to revive the traditional craft of weaving on the Island, by developing a range of woven products and cloth by the metre. Their small scale approach to cloth production, weaving by hand and in limited edition collections, ensures the sustainability of their products, and aims to change the way consumers think about the textile industry. Their aim is to make products which will last, drawing attention to their weaving process and the quality of the natural materials they use.

The Orkney Cloth Company are focusing on making as sustainable product as possible, encouraging people to buy less, and consume better. Their handwoven textiles, which are woven in house, made with locally produced wool, and finished in the highlands, are products with a small carbon footprint, with hopes to make a big difference to the way we consume and think about the textiles industry.

At their core, Orkney Cloth aims to invest in traditional weaving skills and craftsmanship, helping younger people get into the textile industry. Over the next year, their ambition is to become a social
enterprise, offering training, mini workshops and demonstrations using their new loom. The Orkney
Cloth Company aims to provide new opportunities to work with textiles which are not currently available, and share the skills involved in the making of cloth with their community, helping young people to see the potential of working in the textile industry in Scotland.


Text and images: Orkney Cloth Company

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