Where your skirt comes from...

By Lakeland Skirts

Yarns to be woven
Caption: Yarns ready to be woven
Card patterns
Caption: Card patterns hanging in the workroom
A skirt ready to be cut
Caption: A skirt ready to be cut
Putting a waistcoat together
Caption: Kath putting a waistcoat together
Caption: Barbara and Sophia discussing the best way to press a garment
Hemming a skirt
Caption: Sohia hemming a skirt

Well, we all wear them, we all admire a well made one, but how many of us actually know what goes into making a garment? I thought it might be interesting to have a little look at the processes that are involved...from start to finish and everything in between.

Here at Horsley and Lakeland Skirts we are proud supporters of British suppliers. Not only does this mean that our work directly supports other small British firms, but it also means that our cloths are not travelling too far to reach us, which keeps our carbon footprint down (something that we are very keen to keep working on!).

So I guess the journey of your wool skirt begins with a sheep! A sheep who is shorn, and whose wool (after being cleaned and turned into a rough yarn) then finds its way to a mill in Scotland. I have had the incredible pleasure of taking a tour or two around some of the mills that supply us, and I have to admit to being a little overwhelmed by all the processes that that yarn has to go through before it can even begin to be woven. The yarns are dyed, dried, possibly dyed again to achieve a deeper colour, then twisted multiple times on multiple gigantic machines to build them to the correct weight and the correct combination of colours and wool types. I have to admit that my memory is not the greatest, so my facts and figures might be a little awry, but basically there are five or six different dying, drying and twisting processes that need to be completed before a yarn is ready to be woven. And then the fun begins! Each end of each cone of yarn has to be tied on to the loom. There can be around 800 to 1,000 ends to tie!! But here comes the really clever bit...they have managed to design a machine that automates this process. Can you imagine how many days it would take to tie on all those ends without a little bit of mechanical help?! The cloth is then woven, and once it is taken off the loom it is first checked by hand for any blips, and then sent to be finished. Et voila, it is ready to be sent out to us!

Before we receive the cloth we have spent time designing the garment and preparing a paper pattern. I am in fact a pattern cutter by profession, so we are in the happy position to be able to do that part in-house. Pattern cutting is the process of working out all the shapes that go together to make the garment. A little like engineering I suppose. I use a basic shape from which I can manipulate the position of style lines, darts and proportions to create the components that will become the design. All quite mathematical really! I then make a ‘toile’ out of a cheap fabric to check that the pattern works, make my adjustments, and then it can be signed off for grading (for different sizes). This part is rather time consuming if you do it by hand, so we send ours away to be graded by a company in Lancashire.

Once we have the cloth and the patterns, we are able to start making the garment! First our cutter lays the cloth out on the work bench, making sure the grains of the fabric are all straight. The pattern is laid on the cloth and drawn round with tailors chalk (although most of our skirts are simply plotted straight onto the cloth without the need for a pattern). It is here that any adjustments are made to accommodate specific sizes. Each garment is measured meticulously to make sure that the item that is being cut will fit the precise measurements that we have been given....before we make a cut! The garment is then interfaced and overlocked before being handed to our first part machinist who puts the initial seams and darts together. It is then underpressed, and measured again, and any slight adjustments to size are made now. Then the zips and pockets are put in by our second parts machinist, and it is underpressed again. It is then handed to our final part machinist who puts it all together. It is then hemmed, button holed and buttoned before having a final press and a double check. It is then carefully packaged up and sent on its merry way to its new home.

Quite a journey I think you’ll agree!


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