London weaving, pt. 1

Not every day does the prospect of weaving cloth in London with the yarn of rare breeds of British sheep come along. It’s an exciting prospect, an unprecedented one, and in no small part a peculiar and ambitious one. But, with the help of the one-man-mill and his arsenal of restored looms from bygone eras — only a stone’s throw from the workshop — it’s a prospect that this week started to look like reality.

Sourcing, lugging, disassembling, reassembling, oiling, losing the occasional non-vital limb — it takes industry and graft to restore old looms and relocate them 200 miles south.

But that’s what’s got the one-man-mill this far, makes it the utterly one-of-a-kind enterprise that it is today. He weaves by his own admission less in a day than a modern mill might manage in a minute — but then there is only one of him, and there are only three looms. But the looms work, and output is excellent: herringbones, twills, broken twills — and for this project, the newly and accurately coined two-coloured Space Invader twill. His output is all of an industrial standard but done on a pint-sized scale.

Craft is an overused term, and a misused term — rolled out again and again and again over the years, rinsed and hung out to dry — but it really is the only term that fits here.

The cloth, woven into two varieties of the aforementioned Space Invader twill, will be ready in four weeks. Some of the process may likely be documented here and on Twitter. As of this morning, the yarn — three colours of undyed, natural yarn from flocks of rare and heritage domestic sheep — had arrived, and at time of writing is being wound onto the loom. It’s a hugely time-consuming undertaking, but, once done, it’s both feet to the pedals: the one-man-mill can begin weaving in earnest. And, at the same time, development will begin on some garments that make best possible use of his exertions.