Saturday, 12 May 2012

A grand day out

Today I went to Quarry Bank Mill with my spinning guild. It's an old cotton spinning and weaving factory on the outskirts of Manchester. It's run by the National Trust as a working museum, the original Victorian machines are no more, but the  machines from the 1950's that replace them work in very similar ways.
The whole mill is powered by a huge water wheel (one of the largest of it's kind), and nestles in the bottom of a valley surrounded by woodland.

Inside the mill they have machines that take the cotton from its raw state to finished cloth.

A carder that left me feeling rather jealous.... not only does it card, it also draws off the fibre in to what we spinners would probably call top.

It then gets drawn out in to something very similar to pencil roving

Finally this is spun on huge machines that run the length of the factory floor.

Interestingly they have a working copy of the machine that led to these industrialised ones. This machine is the intermediate step between the spinning wheel, and the giant powered ones. Using it looks to be something of a challenge as you need to be able to stand on one leg, turn the wheel to add twist with one hand, and pull the frame back to do the drafting with the other. I was longing to have a go....
Their replica is proving to be a little bit temperamental at the moment, getting all 16 bobbins to turn at the same rate, and to produce even thread is a challenge. The lady was saying that they suspect that the higher quality cloth was still reliant on the spinning wheel as that could produce a consistent, high quality even thread.

Once spun, the thread is woven in to cloth, a weaver would be responsible for 4 looms and in a week could produce 1000m of cloth.

I went on several school trips to the mill as a child, and it was nice to go back and look at it all through the eyes of a spinner and a weaver. It makes you appreciate how much was made possible by the invention of these machines. 

1 comment:

  1. I remember doing a project on Quarry Bank when I was at primary school! I'm going to have a trip there one day, possibly this summer, when I'm over at my parents'.

    If you can get into Manchester, the museum of science and industry has a hall of cotton spinning and weaving, I blogged about it a few months ago. Probably similar to Quarry Bank though, thinking about it.