There are in the region of 30 different processes involved in transforming raw fibre into luxurious Johnstons of Elgin finished products. Our cashmere, merino, lambswool and vicuña production is the work of artisans based on centuries of innovation.
Our expert craftsmen take pride in every thread, every twist, every yarn and every stitch, from raw fibre in the wool store to perfected garment on the showroom floor. From dyeing to blending, carding to spinning, warping to weaving, knitting to teaseling and cutting to folding – it all happens in our own mills in the heart of Scotland.
There are four different, but equally effective, ways to dye our fibre: in its natural state, when it has been spun into yarn or woven into cloth and where smaller quantities are needed, hank dying.
Our dedicated dye technicians have worked tirelessly over the years to perfect our signature colour recipes, according to the character of the raw materials.
Some of the dyes that we use today were developed as long ago as 1856. There are currently around 6500 shades in our colour library, ranging from soft subtle tints to strong, vivid hues.
Like natural human hair, the chemical dyeing process can leave the raw fibres in a felted and matted state. To open the fibres and prepare them for carding they are teased out over a series of spiked rollers and sprayed with a light coating of oil to protect them in subsequent processes.
BLENDING & CARDING PROCESS
Blends can be made of different colour of the same fibre or of the same fibre or of different types of fibre, e.g. cashmere and merino or cashmere and silk.
After the fibre is expertly blended into a colour or a luxurious mix of fibres, it is fed into a carding machine that works like a giant comb to straighten the fibres in preparation for spinning.
Carding converts a continuous web of fibres into individual ribbons known as rovings. It is an age-old process and has changed so little that one of the carding machines bought by James Johnston for his mill in Elgin in 1868 was still working satisfactorily up to 1993.
The rovings are then spun to transform them into yarn. Spinning twists the fibres together to give them strength and prepare them for weaving. The thickness of the yarn is determined at this stage by drawing the rovings out to a pre-determined degree.
The yarn is expertly checked by hand at regular intervals throughout the carding and spinning process to ensure it has an even consistency.
The weaving process begins with laying out the warp of the pattern. The warp consists of the threads which run vertically from the top to the bottom of the cloth.
The number of threads in the warp varies according to the fineness of the yarn and the density and width of the fabric required.
When the warp is ready it is wound onto a circular beam and transferred to the loom for weaving.
Weaving is the introduction of the weft yarn, the thread that runs horizontally across the cloth. The colour, pattern and design of the weave is pre-determined by our team of passionate designers, who look to Scottish landscapes and heritage for endless inspiration.
We have two different kinds of weaving loom: Dobby looms and Jacquard looms. The Dobby looms weave our signature styles of squares, checks and stripes whereas the Jacquard looms can create much more intricate patterns.
Johnstons of Elgin knitwear is fully fashioned, meaning that each garment is knitted to shape to give it the best fit. The ribbed trimmings, cuffs, collars, welts, pockets and straps are knitted first on specialised machines.
These are then transferred onto the main frames that knit the fronts, backs and sleeves of a garment. Colours, textures and designs are all worked into the garment at this stage, stitch by stitch.
Next, the garments are carefully washed and milled, using water from the river Teviot. Finally, any collars are linked to the garment and buttons, buttonholing and trimmings are added.
Many of these finishing touches, such as the point of a V-neck sweater, are still carried out by hand in our knitting mill in Hawick.
When cloth has been woven, its appearance is rough. There are many processes involved in transforming the cloth into a luxurious finished product, many of which have remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
We use only the softest, natural Scottish water to scour our fabric, ensuring that it is gently restored to its natural, super-soft state.
Scouring removes the oil applied to protect the fibre during the manufacturing processes, while milling shrinks and thickens the fabric. After wet finishing, the fabric is dried by passing it over rollers in a Tentering machine.
Depending on the end use of the fabric, further finishing processes are carried out, such as cropping, raising and pressing before final inspection. Whether it’s a glove, scarf, jumper or cloth, every piece is made to last. From accessories to fabrics, our products, made from start to finish in Scotland, define luxury and quality.
Some processes are better left untouched. There is a special raising process only carried out on cashmere. The dried heads of the teasel plant are placed between metal bars, which are fixed around a large revolving drum. When the teasel heads are wet they become flexible and the hooked ends gently tease out and align the cashmere fibres to produce the characteristic ripple finish.
It is the exquisite hand finishing and personal attention to detail, from labelling to hand stitching, that ensures each and every product that leaves our mills is perfect.
See it all for yourself
Follow the fibre on its journey through the mill from wool store to shop floor.