The Dobcoat

Last time around at the one-man-mill in north-east London, there was a Dobcross Loom halfway towards being assembled. A whizzing, thumping, cast-iron bruiser of a machine, the Dobcross, the likes of which the capital hasn’t seen since the Great Exhibition — if not ever.

That Dobcross, today, is now fully assembled. More than that: it is working. Not only that: it is working remarkably well. This is the culmination of almost exactly one year of the one-man-mill going to lengths ninety-nine in a hundred would physically baulk at — things like locating and lugging loom parts from mills operational and defunct in every corner of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, notching up 3,000 miles along the way; dismantling ten-tonne cast-iron frames in residential streets in the dead of night; and commandeering makeshift cranes to raise and lower those frames inside the mill.

The Dobcoat    Garments made with the makers of the British Isles

Then, of course, there is the small matter of building the thing — from many hundreds of parts, and mostly those from one 1950 Dobcross and one 1959 Dobcross — and fathoming out how to use it. It is an uncompromising contraption on good days, and a life-threatening one on bad days, but evidence shows that the one-man-mill has it tamed.

The Dobcoat    Garments made with the makers of the British Isles

The first cloth on the first power-loom ever assembled and operated in the capital is now available in audio format.

The Dobcross, then, is up and running and making cloth. And what cloth. The eight-shaft technology of the loom has brought the one-man-mill bang up to the mid-50s, and, when operated by a man drunk on its potential, it is capable of clever, intricate, and many-textured cloth; cloth with warp and weft doing things above and below and between and around one another, and which can keep the eye occupied for a long while.

The Dobcoat    Garments made with the makers of the British Isles
The Dobcoat    Garments made with the makers of the British Isles
The Dobcoat    Garments made with the makers of the British Isles
The Dobcoat    Garments made with the makers of the British Isles

It is, all told, hugely impressive stuff. Historic stuff, too, for it will be the first cloth ever woven on a proper power-loom in London. It is the first few metres of this landmark cloth that will be used for a woollen overcoat — a full-length, one-piece-sleeve mac, which is currently taking shape, somewhere in North London — sometime next Year.