A Visit to Bute Fabric Mill on the Isle of Bute, Scotland

I knew of www.butefabrics.com back from my Habitat days when Tom Dixon, our then Design Director, worked with them to produce some beautiful textured woollen weaves in rich dark colours for Habitat upholstery. We sourced product from all over the world and so for me it was really refreshing to be working with a supplier based on an Island off the coast of Scotland, so wonderful to have such quality produced so close to home.

On a recent visit to see my brother in Scotland I felt an extra excursion to this little Island off the west coast had to be worked into my trip. Thankfully my brother was very accommodating and fell in with my plans. He brought along his wetsuit to go swimming in the freezing cold sea, rather him than me, whilst I had an inspiring visit learning more about this amazing mill and the production techniques and seeing some of the most stunning colourful weaved fabrics. I love that Bute Fabrics is a design led, contemporary, high end producer of beautiful quality fabrics, yet it is tucked away on a small island, accessible only by ferry. It feels all the more special for this.

My work often involves working in collaboration with designers or artists and illustrators to produce bespoke fabrics with which to work on my chairs but I also want to offer my customer a range of existing fabrics to provide more choice and flexibility. I hold a small number of sample look books at my studio, one of which is Bute. I also hope that I may work in collaboration with them in the future as their fabrics can be customised for clients for as little as 100 metres, or 50 metres for piece dyes. So, for that big project that could be on the horizon, I love to think that one day there could be an exclusive design between myself and Bute.

The first thing that struck me when I walked through the door was the incredible noise. It was so loud that we could barely hold a conversation. The first step in the process is the spinner that converts the wool into yarn. This is done by straightening the fibres, before simultaneously pulling and twisting, converting the wool into a fine yarn.

The yarn is then wound onto cones as seen here

The yarn is then wound onto cones as seen here

The weaving process takes place below on state of the art machinery. The way in which the warp and weft interlace is determined by the design of the weave, which is programmed into the loom. By combining yarns of different colour with a variety of weaves the beautiful colourful ranges at Bute are created.

The weaving process takes place below on state of the art machinery. The way in which the warp and weft interlace is determined by the design of the weave, which is programmed into the loom. By combining yarns of different colour with a variety of weaves the beautiful colourful ranges at Bute are created.

Finally the finished fabric passes under very close scrutiny and is painstakingly checked by an expert mender. Any imperfections are repaired, this ensures the highest quality.

Finally the finished fabric passes under very close scrutiny and is painstakingly checked by an expert mender. Any imperfections are repaired, this ensures the highest quality.

After seeing the production process in the mill I had the pleasure of meeting one of the weave designers, a young graduate from Glasgow School of Art, who showed me the process of developing new designs on the hand loom, seen below. I love that these designs are still created by hand, with a series of xxx mapped out on paper as a starting point. The design is then developed from paper to loom by hand weaving, before being programmed into state of the art machinery for production.  A wonderful development cycle is complete.

After seeing the production process in the mill I had the pleasure of meeting one of the weave designers, a young graduate from Glasgow School of Art, who showed me the process of developing new designs on the hand loom, seen below. I love that these designs are still created by hand, with a series of xxx mapped out on paper as a starting point. The design is then developed from paper to loom by hand weaving, before being programmed into state of the art machinery for production.  A wonderful development cycle is complete.

These gorgeous rolls of fabric below were a favourite that caught my eye, a relatively newer range called Tutti Frutti Tweed, very bright almost neon pops of colour and not for the feint hearted.

These gorgeous rolls of fabric below were a favourite that caught my eye, a relatively newer range called Tutti Frutti Tweed, very bright almost neon pops of colour and not for the feint hearted.

Couldn’t resist one last photo of my brother freezing in the Scottish waters

Couldn’t resist one last photo of my brother freezing in the Scottish waters

Please contact me if you are interested in seeing samples from the Bute range.

Please contact me if you are interested in seeing samples from the Bute range.