THE TILCOULTRY CAPE
We visit Johnstons of Elgin's mills in Elgin and Hawick to find out more about how and where much of our knitted and woven woolen clothing, including our Tilcoutry Cape, is made.
Alexander Johnston was just 22 when he founded his mill in 1797, an age at which most of us are about as sure of our career path as we are of the meaning of life. He was a remarkable man in more ways than one; life expectancy was about 36 at the time, and he lived to the ripe old age of 89. In the early years he processed wool from local farmers and made blankets. “We have a huge range of these old patterns, and they've lasted incredibly well because wool is sustainable,” explains Jenny Urquhart, part of the fourth generation of owners at Johnstons. “Books of old fabrics become a live archive of the collections, and they still inform and inspire our design team today.”
At the weaving mill in Scotland, the raw fibre is dyed, made into yarn, woven, washed and finished. The washing part of the process is crucial – great properties are attributed to the soft local water from the River Lossie in Elgin, which, judging by feel of Johnstons' garments, seems to do the trick. The company has complete control of all processes on site, whether it's making blankets, cardigans and capes or scarves, gloves and hats. This is 'totally unique', Jenny says. 'We are really proud that everything we make is made here in Scotland.'
We've worked with Johnstons for over a decade now and we know they're the experts when it comes to wool – the company employs more than 1,000 people and considers the development of skills and apprenticeship programmes hugely important. The newest Johnstons addition to our collection is a cape; originally popular in medieval Europe, they have stood the test of time. The Tilcoultry Cape is made from a classic, large-scale check woven from 100% lambswool. It's super-soft to touch and its compact weave will repel whatever the British weather throws at it.