Two new cottons, pt. 1

The story of a cotton mill newly opened for business in North Lancashire may sound as if from the annals of the Accrington Observer — but it isn’t. It is a story very much of today, the facts of which just happen to make as much sense transposed 200 years into the past.

The mill has begun in the corner of a much bigger mill, and is making its name with a couple of cotton structures in a couple of colours. Plan is do them right, become known for them, keep doing them, and get better at them. It is a pleasingly steady and common-sensical approach. Can’t establish your mill without establishing your cloth is the idea.

The first two cloths from the mill are nothing if not useful, functional, and they are in some ways themselves of another time — not 200 years ago, but still knocking on 50. The first is known as airweave. It is a mid-weight cotton with a holey structure, and more will be written about its aeration and moisure-evaporation super-abilities next week.

The second cloth is called desert cotton — so-called because the weft, on a base warp of natural cotton, is undyed flecked linen, giving the cloth an appearance dotted with fine earth-coloured specks, and a structure halfway between the straight-backed uniformity of cotton and the wrinkled easy-going charm of linen. It is a replica of a type of military shirting favoured by the Desert Rats in the mid-50s, and is thus crisp and dry and lightweight, and yet strong and spectacularly resistant to abrasion. It cuts a good shirt.

The heather cotton cloth is plain and sober, but not without character, which is surely what the mill is going for. Indeed, though based on shirting from olden days, the cloth — when made into, say, a button-down shirt or a granddad shirt — is, like good things sometimes are, really of no particular era, but still nevertheless a very particular place.