The Caribbean. An archipelago known for its diverse beauty, and vivid colours.
Blue above, and below. Golden sunshine. White beaches. Turquoise waters. Hot pink corals. Green of the palms, mangroves and rainforest.
They are a group of islands varied in virtue; some are coral, others volcanic, some are shady and sheltered against the elements, others open, exposed to the wild Atlantic. And they pull from a patchwork of influences, having seen dominion from the French, the Spanish, the Dutch and Americans; passed from hand to hand to leave behind a melting pot of memories and influences, indelibly linked to a rich and varied African tradition.
It is a place of unending inspiration and interest. And so too has it inspired our newest tablecloth – The Caribbean Check.
A breezy, checked cloth that draws from the richness of Caribbean colour. Woven to life on our newly acquired Saurer loom from 100% cotton, for a drape that’s soft, light and breezy. A drape that will sweep over your table, just like a balmy billow over the tropics…
So why the Caribbean?
It so happens that our founder and Master Weaver, Stu Holding, is not only an adept textile craftsman, but a keen sailor too. If you’ve ever made your way down to the Garden Route, you might have spied him on his boat – which he built by hand. A boat which, for those who know their way around a loom, is quite aptly named, ‘Flying Shuttle.’
The story goes that some time ago he set sail on Flying Shuttle with his wife, Janet, and his two children, Tessa and Dax.
The idea was to see how far they could go. And how far they got was the Caribbean. Here they took up residence for two months, enjoying the beauty of the tropics – crystal clear, warm waters, sunny skies… you get the picture.
It was from these windswept memories that he later wove the first run of Caribbean Check Tablecloths.
This was around the time that Stu had moved from handloom to mechanised weaving – a move that had given him the chance to weave finer textiles – ‘less chunky cloths’ in his own words – and in turn to be more flexible in his designs.
The first run of Caribbean Check Cloths were cut from a shuttle-operated Saurer loom, one much like the kind that’s newly made its way into our mill…
The Saurer Loom
As of 2021, a new loom has entered our midst: the Saurer. A loom donated to us by Jan Paul Barnard, who, in his day, was one of South Africa’s great mohair weavers. A loom which, in the words of Stu, was once considered to be the Rolls Royce of its day (it’s day being the 1960s).
Initially Stu wove a run of kikois on the Saurer – testing out its features and flexibility. This he did from our top mill – a restored dairy barn in the Crags which at one time housed our full operation. After this first run of kikois, we then moved the Saurer down to the Mungo Mill at Old Nick Village, to be united with the rest of our looms.
Now, with a bit more finesse under our proverbial belt, we’ve woven a new Caribbean Check – a reimagining of Stu’s original design.
What makes the Saurer so special?
The Saurer has a set of unique features.
Like our Hattersley, Lancashire and Ruti looms, it operates by means of a shuttle – a tool designed to carry the weft threads across the warp. One of the prize points of the shuttle is its ability to produce a textile with a true selvedge – a tightly woven, self-finished edge that requires no extra hemming.
Incredibly, the Saurer can also accommodate not one, but two pattern cards. One card to control the colour sequence of the warp, and the second to control the formation of the weave.
Unlike our other shuttle looms, which operate with a single shuttle, the Saurer can accommodate four – giving us flexibility to add multiple colours in the weft.
The missing link
The Saurer is a rare find that forms the missing link in our story at the Mungo Mill – where we showcase a display of weaving techniques and technology from pre-industrial to present day. It fills the gaps between our really old girls like (the 100+ year old domestic Hatterlsey loom), and our more modern rapier-operated Dornier machines, crafted by the airline company of the same name post World War II.
Our Saurer thus brings to life the progression of weaving through the ages – from hand weaving, to shuttle looms, and rapier-operated power machines. From the progression of cottage industry textile production, to the models of mass production that came in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.
Which brings us to where we find ourselves today – a meet point. A niche textile producer, committed to quality craftsmanship, and thoughtful production. Finding the balance between age-old tradition and contemporary design…
Setting Sail Once More
It so happens that the story of Stu, and his Caribbean adventure, lives on…
For just this month, Stu has been roped in for a ferried favour – to bring over a boat to the Caribbean. Soon he’ll be on his way, back in the land of coral and colour, that so inspired a breezy cotton cloth some decades ago.
Stay tuned – this story is to be continued…!