Rolling green hills dotted with grazing cows give way to village streets… and that sound? Wind and waves sweeping in from the Atlantic Ocean. Welcome to Downings, a quaint spot in the North of Ireland, where we are joined by one of our favourite photographers, Adrienne Pitts(@hellopoe), to explore the town and one of the mills responsible for delivering some of the finest linen in the world.
Our Irish linen mill, Baird McNutt, was established as a family business over 100 years ago. Made from flax fibre, it’s a labour intensive process that transforms a flowering plant in to one of the oldest textiles around. Harvested by hand at 100 days, the plants are dried and the seeds are removed before the inner fibres are separated. The next step is called scutching, where the hard outer part of the plant is removed by crushing the stalks before the remaining fibres are separated with a heckling comb. Left behind are only the long, soft flax fibres ready to be spun into fabric.
“Made from flax fibre, it’s a labour intensive process that transforms a flowering plant in to one of the oldest textiles around.”
The Downings mill is specifically responsible for warping and weaving the yarn. The traditional processes at work here foreground quality above all else. While machines do the heavy lifting these days, tradition informs every element of the weaving, dyeing and bleaching process. How do they get the freshest shade of white? Most modern mills bleach their linen for no more than 20 minutes. The team at Baird McNutt spends 20 hours to make sure the resulting shade of white is just right. After this, the linen is sent on to Kells for the finishing touches.
“Most modern mills bleach their linen for no more than 20 minutes. The team at Baird McNutt spends 20 hours to make sure the resulting shade of white is just right.”
A scenic drive along winding roads takes us inland to Kells, in Northen Ireland. Beside a river lined by impressively old trees is the mill where our linen journey is completed. Steam pressed linen is cooled before being carefully cut to allow for shrinkage. To retain that super soft, lived-in feel, each piece of fabric is also washed repeatedly. However, fear not! The mill enforces a strict, low energy and water consumption policy, great for the environment and great for you, as it helps us deliver high quality products at the best possible.