Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Visit to a Scottish Cashmere Mill

In April I spent a week in Scotland. I was born and raised there - in the Kingdom of Fife - and go back to visit my mum fairly regularly. (I'm going back in August for a whole month!) She lives in a quaint 13th Century village, just down the road from a palace that used to be a holiday retreat for the Stewart monarchy, including Mary Queen of Scots.

Just 10 minutes away, on the shores of Loch Leven ('on yon bonny banks...'), is the mill where the world renowned Todd and Duncan cashmere is produced. Todd and Duncan sell their coveted cashmere fabric to tons of famous designers – Prada, Givenchy, and Chanel to name just a few. They’ve been in business for 142 years and this mill has been around since 1897. I'd whizzed by it in my mum's little Peugot many times and never realized that this unassuming, rather dreary building contained so many delightful treasures.

Thanks to my mum, who also loves to knit (and has a serious cashmere addiction), we had a tour of the mill on day number two of my visit. We saw the huge area where massive bags of raw fiber from Mongolia or China are stored, which had an overwhelming smell of goats. We learned about and watched how the yarn is cleaned, carded, and spun into single ply strands in all the colors of the rainbow.

After that the fun really started! Next was the design studio. In the studio, those single ply strands are combined to produce incredible results in a truly amazing range of colors. As many as 20 single strands can be twisted together - this would result in a very chunky yarn - most yarns contain a lot fewer strands. Other fibers, such as cotton, linen, or silk, can also be mixed with the cashmere strands to produce all types of knitted fabric. Each season new colors and fiber combinations are introduced and sold all over the world. This year’s range includes fancy names such as Lunar and Cruise. Todd and Duncan also produces patterned fabric knitted on their fantastic industrial knitting machines.

The best part of the tour for me was seeing the many garments that had been hand-knitted or machine-knitted using the various yarns. I felt like a toddler in a candy store but instead of candy it was a collection of the most exquisite colors, textures, patterns, and fashions ever. The cherry on top of the cake was when the nice lady in charge very kindly gave me some ends of cones to take home with me. I then spent the next few nights in my mum’s cozy little cottage, drinking vino and chatting while knitting up a storm!


  1. Lovely post... how wonderful to have lived in such an historic place. We tend to overlook what is right in front of us as children...I know I did.

    And how wonderful to be given such treasures as you left!!Know the evening with Mum, your vino, and your new treasures was fun!

  2. You're so lucky. I would LOVE to go on such a tour.