I was in Elgin recently. You can read more in this post for exploring this cathedral town in Moray, but today I thought I'd tell you about a mill tour at Johnstons of Elgin which is not only free, but fascinating!
Johnstons of Elgin has been a family-run business between the Johnston and Harrison families for over 200 years, producing cashmere, tweed and fine woollen goods by the banks of the river Lossie.
Raw fibres are gathered from far-flung places like Mongolia, Peru and Afghanistan. These are brought to Elgin, where the only remaining working weaving mill in Scotland goes through many processes to create beautiful clothing and homewares. There is also a sister mill in Hawick, in the Scottish Borders. The below video gives a great introduction to the Johnstons of Elgin story.
Based on the banks of the River Lossie, mill tours take place at both sites, and you can see the entire manufacturing process (with over 30 separate processes) with one of the tour guides. The first stage is the dyeing process, where there are over 6500 shades in the Johnstons colour library.
Fibres are then taken through a multitude of machinery led to straighten and strengthen them for the spinning stage.
Some of the colours and patterns I saw throughout the mill were familiar - Johnstons supplies some of the world's top luxury brands.
It was during the second half of the tour, that we saw the depths of craftmanship from the staff.
Staff have often many years of experience and oversee the machine processes, before finishing goods with hand-stitched labels, and reviewing the quality of every single piece by hand.
These little things are teasels, which tease the fibres out to give the cashmere a classic ripple finish during the production process. Johnstons investigated making their own teasels, but nothing could give them as good a finish as these ones, from Spain!
The Mill Shop is full to the brim of Johnston's goods and gifts, and a bright and airy cafe that I didn't get to experience this time round. Next time!
Adjacent to the Mill Shop, the Courtyard has a beautiful collection of homewares, and this building also contains the heritage centre where the tour starts. Definitely don't miss visiting the heritage centre - there are some lovely exhibits.
Mill Tours at Johnstons in Elgin take place daily. In Hawick, these take place on weekdays. Take a look at this page to see times and to book your space on a free mill tour!
Thanks to Amber at Johnstons of Elgin for taking the time for a mill tour, and for providing the captioned photos. I was not paid or gifted for this post.