In 2010 Daniel Harris opened the first mill in London for 100 years. This ‘micro mill’ uses traditional machinery that has been restored to produce short runs of wool and cotton cloth.
“England used to be one of the key cotton weaving markets in the world. I don’t want to let that rich heritage go to waste.”1 This statement summarises the motivation behind the London Cloth Company: Daniel’s personal interest in revitalising Britain’s industrial past. The project started as a hobby, so Daniel could learn to make his own fabric for a jacket. He is self-taught in a process he describes in simple terms: “Weaving’s always been the same. Essentially this yarn goes up, this yarn goes down, weft goes through, alternate it, do it again. That’s weaving, it’s been like that forever.”2
The antiquated machines, now being used in London’s first micro mill, have been salvaged from all over the UK. Daniel’s journey started with the first loom salvaged in 2011. “I did a bit of research into early industrial weaving, and looked at the more modern stuff, realising we were never going to be able to afford that. I found what I wanted in a barn in the Welsh borders and they said, you’ve got to come and get it now, we’re going to pull the barn down.”2 He also has a 1950’s dobcross loom, a 1930’s warping mill saved from a Welsh blanket factory and the youngest machine in the mill, a 1961 bobbin winder.
Moving the acquired looms is just the first hurdle. “The most recent loom we bought weighs three and a half tons and is 15 feet long. The problem was, where I bought it from, it was on the second floor. Obviously, you can’t take it apart and carry it down the stairs. So what we did was shove it out onto a gantry, take the roof off and lift it out with a crane.”3 Once inside the mill the machines must all be reassembled by hand, helping Daniel to build an intimate knowledge of each one.
In a short video he describes how people have lost touch with where their clothes come from – and how the desire to help foster a reconnection has taken him on a journey that has led to the mill taking orders from Ralph Lauren, Ben Sherman, ASOS and Horsley.4
The mill produces bespoke, single width, short runs of cloth and is currently producing Prince of Wales check, Herringbone in different sizes and Laundry Tweed. A recent collaboration brought together the London Cloth Company and Tiger of Sweden to create a collection that celebrates the Swedish brand’s heritage of over 100 years. The cloth created by Daniel uses “a more coarse Shetland yarn which gives it more of a rough and ready appearance when it is finished”5 and has been used for jackets, scarves and kilts.
Daniel’s aim is to open the mill as a museum for the public so that people can learn about traditional techniques and production methods. “The absolute, ultimate long-term goal, in five to eight years, is to open a working museum in London. Monday through Friday, we’d operate a working mill—no public. And then on weekends, people could come in and be educated on the process. People, I think, have lost touch with how fabric is made, where their clothes come from. What we’re doing for the time being is continuing to buy machinery, improve on the process and really bring the fabric up to an exceptional standard.”3
Images Courtesy of London Cloth Company