Tools of the Trade: Lightowlers Yarns

Throughout our 120-year long history, we haven’t just established lasting relationships with valued customers – there are also a number of suppliers we have worked with for a significant amount of time, whom we continually trust to provide us with premium-quality products. In this blog series, we pay homage to those brands whose enduring renown and reliability have won our loyalty over the years.

In previous posts, we have explored the history and legacy surrounding Hancock’s chalk and Prym’s thimbles, but this time we’re shining the spotlight on traditional yarn spinners, Lightowlers Yarns Ltd.

The history

First established in 1960 by brothers Frederick William (Ted) and Richard Morley Lightowlers, the Meltham-based Lightowlers Yarns has been producing high-quality yarns for a range of industries – from apparel and upholstery, to blanket and hand-knitting – for almost 60 years.

Both experienced carding engineers at the time, Ted and Richard invested everything they had to start their own company – determination that helped make it the success it has been and continues to be today.

The family-owned firm is currently run by the second and third generations of Lightowlers – Mark, Peter and Michael – grandson and sons to the original co-founder, Richard. And this diverse spinning skillset is already being passed further down the Lightowlers’ bloodline, with fourth generation member Adam also playing his part in the business where possible.

“At Lightowlers, there is a duty to pass on as much knowledge and information to the younger generations as possible.” – Mark Lightowlers

Having helped his father Mark in the company since he was nine years old, Adam represents the future chapter of the company. And in 2015, his enthusiasm for the family trade was recognised with the Lord Barnby Award. Presented on behalf of the Worshipful Company of Woolmen, the prize identifies the most talented and promising people involved in the West Yorkshire textile industry.

Stationed in the historical Brigg House Mills – dating back to 1866 – the Yorkshire firm is well placed within the beating heart of the region’s longstanding clothmaking heritage.

And Lightowlers’ craftmanship is apparent in its capability to spin a diverse catalogue of materials – spanning basic British wools, to the finest Chinese cashmere.

To this day, the business continues to spin yarns on a commissioned basis for a variety of high-profile, international fashion houses and household furniture brands – as well as industry-recognised cloth merchants such as Dugdale Bros. But its main focus is on its sale yarns, which sees the firm design and colour-match all yarns themselves – on a bespoke, non-stock-support basis. And it is this personalised approach to the craft of spinning that makes Lightowlers Yarns a firm favourite in the sartorial space.

The tools

Before arriving at Lightowlers, the raw wool is scoured and dyed by another local company. It then undergoes a lengthy blending, carding, spinning and winding process at Lightowlers Yarns, prior to being sent on to be made into cloth or used for handcrafting.

One particular feature that makes Lightowlers so unique in its preservation of heritage, is that it’s the only yarn manufacturer in West Yorkshire that still uses traditional mule spinning in its commercial production process.

Invented in the late 18th century, the spinning mule was designed as a hybrid of the spinning jenny and the water frame. It marked a revolutionary step forward for the textile industry, as it mechanised and accelerated the rate of cloth production, as well as affording finer thread creation.

Well-renowned in the textile industry for its premium bespoke yarns, designers, weavers and cloth manufacturers alike work closely with this iconic Yorkshire firm, to produce an array of high-quality garments and products.

Many of Dugdale Bros’ collections have been produced using locally-sourced wool spun by Lightowlers Yarns, including the recently revitalised White Rose Sporting Tweed & Tattersall. You can find out more by visiting our website, or by contacting our sales department on 01484 421772.