The core ethos of Cushendale Woollen Mills is centred around modern design, sustainability and heritage. We continue to use many age old techniques to create contemporary products in a way that is more attentive to the delicate natural fibres in our wool. Our textiles are made in small batches, each one taking up to 30 unique and delicate stages where skilled craftsmanship and traditional processes are key to achieving the highest quality. In keeping all stages of production under our watchful eye, we are able to control the inputs and outputs of our craft ensuring our blankets, throws and scarves are authentically Cushendale.
Rare Irish fleece
We have very close relationships with our partner farmers who supply us with premium fleece from the rare and protected ‘Galway’ sheep, an indigenous and heritage Irish breed. Understanding and knowing the people keeping the sheep on whom we rely is an important component of our yarns and textiles, ensuring every step from fleece to fabric has a traceable human touch.
Out of over 3.5 million sheep in Ireland, less than 4,000 of these special ‘Galway’ sheep remain in small flocks across the country. These strong relationships with farmers ensure the consistency and quality of our Irish wool products which is uniquely traceable.
Knowing and working with our farmers personally lets us know also that the sheep themselves are well cared for and greatly valued for their special status as a protected rare breed. The welfare of these animals is very important to us and we have visited all of our partner farms as part of our Irish wool selection process.
The pure waters of the mill race first channeled by Duiske Abbey’s Cistercian monks in 1204 continue to play a special role in our mill today.
These soft mountain waters, free of any natural bog tannins or impurities, are diverted from Duiske River about 1 mile from the mill, which sits on high ground above the adjacent Abbey. Below the mill one can see and hear the mill race waters cascade initially at the mill waterwheel and then at Ladyswell waterfall. These soft waters are key to the soft handle and colour vibrancy of our yarns and textiles.
Small Batch Dyeing
This process varies from material to material, this is because each type of wool reacts differently to dyeing techniques.
With Irish wool we gently dye the Galway sheep fleece to custom colours. These are then blended together to develop unique colourways with flecks of colour. For example, our Rowan green is not simply green, it has been carefully designed to hold yellow and red hues which enhances the overall depth of colour.
We source all of our lambswool and mohair yarns in ecru (original natural colour of the wool) which are then delicately hank dyed in small batches, with unique colours designed in-house. This slow and delicate process protects the yarn fibres and softness which is very much a key characteristic of Cushendale textiles. Perhaps one of the most significant aspects of retaining the ability to colour our own wool and yarns, unlike all other commercial makers, is that we can create any colour shade in the entire colour pantone. A Cushendale colour is very much a unique and bespoke creation.
Again, we treat each wool type at this stage of the process differently. With our Irish wool, we are one of only two ‘vertical’ mills left in Ireland which means we make textiles ‘from fleece to fabric’. In other words, we receive fleece from a select group of farmers and we take this raw material through every stage of the process until it becomes a throw or a bed blanket. We card the dyed fleece to create vibrant blended colours.
The carded wool or slubbing is then spun into yarn on our Victorian spinning mule which dates from 1890.
Mohair and lambswool differ slightly from Irish wool as they arrive at the mill already spun onto cones in their natural ecru white and are then hank coloured here in the mill.
From there, all yarns are treated the same. They are specifically placed on the ‘skyrn’, a metal structure which feeds the cones onto the warp. This is the first stage of the design process where each colour is aligned to create the desired pattern. Once this is done, the warped yarn is placed on a beam and sent down to the loom house where the final design look of the product is woven in.
A Hand Touch
Throughout the process Cushendale yarns or textiles are treated with the utmost care and skill. From our in-house design to hand mending and cutting, an experienced craftsperson on our team is checking and refining the product.
This thorough and relentless desire for the highest quality at every stage ensures that we create textiles of exceptional design, colour and craftsmanship.