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Fashion – Enter Wales: Novelle Yarn Project – Enabling Small to Medium Scale Ethical & Sustainable Textile Manufacturing #12


Continuing with the development of the Novelle Yarn project with SMARTCryum and Potter Group, Nick Evans discusses the need for re-localisation of raw material and processing machinery such as spinning machines… 

Nick Evans


The fashion industry is infamous for itslong and abusive supply chains. A more ethical and sustainable approach to garment production requires making these supply chains shorter and more transparent. By re-localizing the farming and processing of (natural) fibers for the fashion industry we can make the necessary fundamental changes to the way our clothing is produced. 

A major obstacle to this re-localisation is the lack of machinery to process the raw material (a sheep’s fleece, a field of flax, post-consumer fibers…). Currently, raw material processing tends to happen at one of two extremes: either it is done by the craftsman in her garden shed or in multi-million pound industrial factories. In order to support the re-emergence of commercially viable local textile economies, an alternative “middle ground” processing infrastructure is required. The development of this middle ground is a project I am deeply committed to. 

Current Status 

I am currently involved in a project (together with Rosie Bristow, https://www.instagram.com/straw_into_gold/) to develop machinery for the processing of flax into linen. As part of this project we also want to encourage farmers to consider flax as a possible choice in their crop rotation cycle. One of the machines we have built is an automated spinning machine. This is based on open source plans produced by the Berlin based Studio Hilo (https://www.studiohilo.com/). One of Studio Hilo’s explicit aims in the design of this spinning machine is to enable the (re)-emergence of alternative, small to medium scale textile manufacturing. We are currently in close collaboration with them to alter the machine to make it suitable for spinning flax. They are also currently developing a carding machine to produce the roving that can then be fed to the spinning machine.  

In its current state, the spinning machine I have built is suited to the spinning of fibers with a shorter staple length, such as wool. I am also involved in the Made With Wool project, a Welsh government funded initiative to develop a Manifesto for Welsh Wool and support the re-development of the Welsh wool economy. 

The Hilo spinning machine on display at a workshop at Herriot-Watt University. 

The Hilo spinning machine in action 

Some yarn samples spun with the Hilo machine (on the above Welsh wool and below merino). 

Future Plans 

I believe that enabling shorter and more transparent garment production chains is an essential component of a future that is both environmentally sound and offers meaningful, rewarding work. I am extremely keen to be involved in any project that aims to develop textile processing machinery that can contribute to making these changes happen. 

By Nick Evans

More developments from this project next week.

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