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New Lanark

November 03, 2008


A few weeks ago I took a trip with my friend and colleague Sarah to New Lanark. It’s a world heritage site that doubles as a fascinating day out and yarn store, wonderful. You can read more about it’s history, Robert Owen the most famous owner, and buy yarn, on the mill’s website.

New Lanark is a small village, comprising an eighteenth century cotton mill and the mill workers’ housing that became delerict and was almost demolished before being rescued. The mill buildings now house a visitor’s centre, including a frankly weird ‘ride through time’, but yarn is also still being spun in one of them.


This is local wool, rather than the cotton that the mill was founded for. It was so interesting to see spinning on a much grander scale than we’re used to. There are examples of other parts of the process, including some that children (or we) could play with, such as samples of different fibres and hand carders to contrast with this.


There’s also lots of wool to fondle, and examples of different textiles.


Isn’t it pretty? We managed to find the same colour for sale in the shop at the end of our visit. And of course we had to take some home, along with several others. (Sarah’s wearing garter stitch mittsknit from her own handspun).


The roof of one of the mill buildings has been landscaped into a great garden to enjoy the view from.


The workers’ housing has also been restored and most of it is now occupied, real people actually live here, although there is a lengthy waiting list. There’s also a hotel and some holiday flats and houses available. Although we were far too busy with the yarn / museum side of things I’ve heard some great things about the walks through the surroundings too.


There are also some flats that have been outfitted to re-create how they might have been at various points in the mills history. The 1930s one had plenty of evidence of the strong place that needlework held in the domestic, as well as work, lives of the people of New Lanark.



New Lanark, for Robert Owen, was as much social project as business. Many of the principles he put into practice here laid the foundations for the continuing movements to establish safe, fair employment practices and access to education for all. I was pleased to see that the museum works hard to show the connections between the mill’s history and the present, especially in the exhibits aimed at children, such as the schoolroom which we didn’t really get to look at since it was so full of very rowdy children! These principles also don’t seem to be ignored when it comes to the business side of New Lanark, the food served in the bright spacious cafe was fair trade for example.


We had a wonderful day out and bought far too much, that I’m sure you will see appearing in my projects soon enough. Unfortunately (from a stash management point of view) we also discovered that it was much closer than we’d expected, we might be tempted to return before long.


There’s something else I’d like to address, because I fear it will crop up in the comments if I don’t. Over the last year or so New Lanark yarn seems to have been discovered online and one aspect of the appeal was that it was unbelieavably cheap. Recently the prices have gone up, which seems to have caused rather a lot of grumbling. Thing is, even though percentage wise the increases were pretty significant, the yarn is still a bargain. Although I can’t claim to have any inside knowledge of why they choose to increase the prices it seems that they’ve gone from selling the wool mostly in the mill giftshop as souvenirs that probably made little to nothing financially, to dealing with a huge rise in processing internet orders. That costs money and if the increased interest also indicated that the mill’s yarn production could help to pay for the continued running of the site, rather than just being a by-product of the museum, I think that’s wonderful. I’d love to know your thoughts on this, but please take a moment to think about it before you start complaining that they’re simply trying to rip you off.


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