Valley Mill
Valley Mill

Valley Mill in Delph is a fully vertical operation where natural raw fibre is converted into beautiful fabrics and accessories

Since medieval times the abundance of wool from sheep grazing on the Pennines and the soft water flowing off the millstone grit of those moors has made the area around Delph a centre for woollen weaving. Mallalieus of Delph is proud to maintain that unique heritage for its contemporary clients. By controlling the entire production process, the company can work expertly with clients who want to create individual designs and qualities rather than buying from the mill’s extensive stock range.

"MALLALIEUS IS ONE OF BRITAIN'S LAST VERTICAL textile MILLS. EVERY PROCESS happens AT ONE LOCATION"

The Fibres

Working with expert growers around the world, Mallalieus sources the best fibres for apparel and furnishing fabrics, including Shetlands, fine Merino lambswools, various traditional British wools and cashmeres.

The fibre warehouse at Valley Mills, piled high with bales of precious raw materials, is a fascinating starting point for visitors’ tours of the mill and the starting point too for the vertical process that creates the company’s quality fabrics.

Dyeing

With Mallalieus’ long-standing reputation for colours and complex designs like checks and authentic tartans, much of our dyeing is done on-site at Valley Mill.

Stock dyeing is the process of applying colour to fibre before it is spun into yarn. It is done by putting loose un-spun fibre into large vats containing the dye bath.

The resulting fibre is described as being “dyed in the wool”, which is where the familiar expression originates.

By controlling our own dyeing at Valley Mill, we can create bespoke shades for our clients if required. Our skilled dyers maintain meticulous details of the “recipes” used for each colour to ensure consistency across all batches.

Blending

This is the process of opening up the fibres and blending different colours or fibre types. The blends created are known as mixtures and it’s at this stage that exquisite melange colours are created. The artistry of Mallalieus’ colour matcher is evident in our beautiful yarn strings.

Additionally, during this stage a special spinning oil is added to help the fibres slide together during the later processes.

Teasing

This stage sees the opening out of the wool staples, mixing of the fibres and the elimination of impurities. The result is soft light fluffy wool ready for carding.

Carding

Carding is a vital continuation of the opening and mixing of the fibres. The carding processes align the fibres and the final stage, referred to as the condenser card, produces loose untwisted strands that are called slivers. When a sliver is drawn or lengthened further and given a slight twist, it is called a roving.

Spinning

So they can be woven on the looms, the fibres must be twisted at high speed to create a smooth, durable and continuous yarn.

Mallalieus is one of the few mills still using the mule spinning technique to produce cashmere and ultra-fine woollen yarns. This traditional method creates a softer, more elastic yarn by spinning on an intermittent rhythm.

We also use ring spinning, which produces a smoother, stronger yarn. A continuous system of spinning, it drafts or extends the roving, twisting the thread and winding it on to a bobbin simultaneously and continuously.

“Mallalieus of Delph is a proud member of the British Wool Marketing Board."
“Mallalieus of Delph is a proud member of the British Wool Marketing Board."

Warping

A woven fabric comprises of yarns running its length – the warp – and interlacing yarns across its width – the weft.

Warping is the first step in the fabric manufacturing process. Given our reputation for colour and pattern, Mallalieus uses a process called sectional warping to create multicoloured warps.

The sections are wound on to a large cylinder known as a warping drum or swift. They are run off simultaneously onto a weavers’ beam, ready to be taken to the loom.

With our expertise in complicated and colourful patterns, the warping process is often complicated and time-consuming. Once again, the talents of our skilled workforce are appreciated by clients who wish to have bespoke patterns created.

Weaving

Mallalieus has 24 rapier looms which are kept busy as the warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) yarns are interlaced to weave the desired pattern.

At Valley Mill the weaving options are almost unlimited, so thousands of qualities can be created.

As throughout the whole process, quality control is paramount to ensure consistency from order to re-order.

Mending

The wools and other natural fibres used by Mallalieus of Delph are naturally strong, but if any faults occur in the weaving process they are skilfully repaired by hand by our team of meticulous menders.

Finishing

This is where the magic happens as woollen fabrics are truly “made” in the finishing. To begin with, the soft water sourced from the local Pennines is essential to scour or wash the woven cloth.

Mallalieus’ in-house finishing department has an extensive range of machinery allowing the mill to achieve many specialised finishes, including milling (which compacts the cloth), raising the surface using natural teasels on a piece of equipment called a teasel gig, or adding lustre by boiling.

Our traditional capabilities and the expertise of our skilled employees allow Mallalieus to achieve a huge range of different effects.

As always, we are committed to being as environmentally-responsible as possible while providing clients with a comprehensive range of finishing options.

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