There’s a bench outside our Plettenberg Bay shop. The plaque reads, ‘Loom with a View.’ From here, atop a seat pulled together from old loom parts, you have a full view of our mill. It’s a place to take pause. Have a rest. Slow down. To contemplate the idea of changing pace if you’re feeling introspective…
Cross the mill pond, pass through the open doors, and you’ll find things moving at different speeds. Some slowly. Others at full tilt. Stand on the viewing deck. Look down. Take in the sounds – there’s a rhythm to it. The clack of beaters, the silvery percussion of the droppers. Our 70-year-old Ruti loom, now weaving a new Lisburn Linen Table Runner. Its magazine like an old grandfather clock – 30 hands, each carrying a yarn-wound pirn, and when the pirn is empty, there’s a crash of cymbals as it drops into the vessel below. On the Dornier machine opposite, where the Vrou Vrou Blanket is coming to life, there’s a flash of something silver – the rapier. Two pincers carrying threads, almost imperceptible to the hurried eye. In the warping department, thousands of colourful cotton strands coming together, being rolled onto a drum. Eugene, running his hands through the threads. Like a harpist.
There’s a swell happening. A dance moving in and out, in tune to the sound. Slow, slow. Quick, quick. It represents a few things – if you’re in the habit of getting lyrical. Time. Evolution. Change.
Recently Dax attended ITMA – a textile machinery show held in Milan. He sent us back videos of a loom moving at lightning speed – 1500 rpm. We looked at this with mixed feelings. Human ingenuity or machine madness? Is this the future – hurtling towards us at shuttle speed? Printing textiles… Perhaps. But here we do things a little slower.
Our Lancashire looms are from the 1890s. Historically powered by steam. Running at 130 rpm – a speed just right for producing a cloth that’s lofty and supple. Just right for our organic baby blankets. And those 1940’s Dorniers? 210 rpm. Perfect for our linen bedding or breathable blankets.
Modernity. Change. Progression. Yes, we need to keep up with the demands of a rapidly changing world. But with that, can we hold onto something precious – something perennial? We hope so. To know that this cloth is warped by the touch of a human hand. Woven with the touch of a human hand. Inspected and mended, pressed and cut and sewn by real people. Not automation. Not robots. Not, rest assured, a letter written by AI. This is about connection. About craftsmanship. About finding ourselves straddling an abyss – building a bridge between tradition and modernity.
Ancient fibres – flax linen and cotton. Contemporary designs. Strong weaves designed to stand the test of time. 18 looms. Beating in and out of sync. Loud enough to make your heart beat a little faster. Loud enough to drown out the fears that one day, even this, might be replaced by robots. But at least not, for now.
So we open our doors because we’d like you to see it. To share in it. To join in the conversation. There’s room enough on the bench, if you’d like a seat.