I almost feel Rowan yarns run in my blood - when I use it I feel inexplicably confident that the pattern will work. It's not just the gorgeous colours and fabulous yarn qualities, it's the way that the company has always blazed an exciting trail. In the beginning you could almost see the rank and file of the staid and stolid Northern woollen mills wagging their fingers and predicting Rowan's demise - a flash in the pan, their new-fangled ideas gone with them.
Well I'm glad to say the fibre fishwife faction were completely wrong and in fact Rowan have prevailed and sadly it's the mills who have fallen by the wayside - unwilling to move with the times. Today the most important thing is to be flexible and innovative, something that was never previously understood in the woollen industry, when it seemed like all you needed to succeed was a tried and tested formula for argyle socks.
I remember trying to source an order for 20,000 garments in the UK for Laura Ashley. They were fairisle sweaters and had twelve colours and in the early 80s this was unthinkable. 90% of factories we approached weren't interested, many had antiquated machines which couldn't cope with the design and some had newer machines capable of all sorts of different techniques, but their technical knowledge and attitudes hadn't yet caught up with their modern machinery. We eventually found only two mills who were prepared to take a chance, one in England and one in Scotland.
Tea and coffee was ready for us to take along into the workshop, where Kate Buller, Rowan's Brand Manager and David McLeod, their Design Room Manager were waiting to formally welcome us. And what a welcome it was! We were treated to a slide presentation preview of the upcoming Autumn/Winter 2012 collection, some of which were already on display around the room. Many of the designs were Martin's - it was so good to be able to see the wonderful new things he's been working on and get an overview of his designs.
|Martin and Kate|
|Chatting to David over morning coffee|
|Kate talking with Catherine and Seik Yee|
|Last of the summer Wine is the world's longest-running sitcom.|
Photo © BBC
Once in Holmfirth, home of Last of the Summer Wine we headed straight for a little cafe, which turned out to be next door to Sid's Cafe from the series, where we were warmed by a very welcome bowl of hearty lentil and veg soup. We then paid a quick visit to Up Country, the Rowan stockist who also stock an interesting collection of clothes, to check that everything was ready for our visit later, then back to the mill - by a slightly less taxing direct route.
|Cindy & Joanne in Martin's workshop|
We got back to a hive of industry with everyone enjoying their big cables, most by this time having graduated to working oversized cabled hearts which could be made into anything from oven gloves to cushions to bags.
The mood was buoyant, with the group obviously having a whale of a time. Martin is a very good teacher and communicator, and I love the way he demonstrates a technique from behind the students. Why have I never thought of that?
The day was a great success, in fact definitely one of the highlights of the tour. Lots of pictures were taken, yarn and sample sweaters bought, and later on the coach it was interesting to hear what each knitter planned to make with their swatches. All too soon it was time to pack our things and leave the people at the mill to get on with the day to day running of this busy yarn company.
|Love this pic of Martin...|
|... and this one of Madeleine|
|Kate, David, Martin, Annabelle et moi|
It was a wonderful day with many special memories made - I think I can speak for us all in saying we enjoyed every minute at the mill. A big thank-you to the team for allowing us a peep at life behind the scenes at Rowan and creating such an exceptional experience for us all.
PS Lots more pics of whole Lakes & York Knitters Tour on Facebook