Elliot Weave

Old Company History

Scottish Textiles

Forest Mill

For centuries the Scottish Borders have produced Tweeds - in fact the name 'Tweed' immediately conjures up a picture of the Border hills and valleys. The company is based at Forest Mill, Selkirk in the heart of the Borderland. The original building dates from 1838, and was one of the first mills in the town, built by George Roberts & Co.

The Roberts family started manufacturing in the Kilmarnock area of Scotland during the 1700’s, producing Paisley style shawls. With the advent of the Woollen trade in the Borders area during this time, they moved to Galashiels and set up to produce gents’ fabrics. As the number of mills grew, waterpower from the Gala Water was insufficient for dyeing, scouring, driving looms, card sets, spinning etc.

They decided to move to Selkirk where there was greater supply from the River Ettrick, and started weaving at Forest Mill on the site of an old “waulk” or cloth washing mill. At that time weaving in Selkirk was a cottage industry, so part of Andrew Elliot Ltd is sited on the pre-1838 date.

Roberts continued until the early 1970’s when the industry started to go into decline, and eventually ceased weaving to concentrate on spinning, at which point Andrew Elliot bought part of the old original building and commenced weaving again.

Of specific historical interest, it is now classed as one of Scotland's "listed buildings".

Scottish Textiles

Andrew Elliot and the Company

Andrew Elliot left school at 15 years of age in 1941, and started training as a textile designer of ladies and gents woollen fabrics for home and export, with day release studies at the Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels. He joined the Royal Navy and served from 1943 – 1947 on a small vessel, HMS Widemouth Bay, a type of small destroyer, in the Pacific.

Returning in 1947, he commenced a 3 year degree course at Galashiels. As well as obtaining the degree, he won the prize as best senior or final student and acquired 3 City & Guild 1st Medals in Design, Textile Mechanics & Machinery and Textile Raw Materials. Also during this time he taught 2 nights per week in these subjects to junior apprentices.

Following this, Andrew worked practically in design with mills in Scotland, England and Ireland, and subsequently in 1960, set up privately as a textile consultant with Scottish Harris Tweed Trade, Otterburn Mill in England (mainly export to USA, Canada and Japan), McNutt Hand Weavers of Co. Donegal, and St. Patrick & Carbury Woollen Mills in Co. Cork. He also worked with a group of Yorkshire fancy yarn spinners on Donegal yarns, loop yarns, boucle, etc. advising on colour and texture.

In 1972, after 12 years of global travelling, Andrew decided to start his own manufacturing company. By purchasing warping, drawing, twisting and weaving equipment from a closing mill, and having initially rented, he bought the premises at Forest Mill to commence manufacturing. Initially this was for tie fabric or neckwear, but as the market was not sufficiently large to provide work for 8 looms, this soon progressed into ladies Shetlands, lambswools, cashmeres, etc., quickly followed by specialist fabrics such as District Checks, unusual travel rugs, scarves and specially designed tartans.

Scottish Textiles

When Otterburn Mill ceased manufacturing in 1977, Andrew Elliot Ltd took over the full production of their Baby Rugs and Tweeds. Since then the company has specialised in interior design fabrics, and other unusual textures that larger mills cannot simulate.

Scottish Textiles

The weaving looms are shuttle operated and can handle up to 6 or 7 weft colourways, i.e. the crossing colours. Widths of finished fabrics if necessary can be up to 70”, and threads per inch can be handled as low as 4 up to 80 per inch. The looms were made in the village of Dobcross in Yorkshire, the oldest of which dates from 1926, and most recent from 1960.

Scottish Textiles

The oldest machine on site dates from around 1900, called a twister or throstle (as it sings like a thrush), and can 2, 3 or 4 ply threads together to give unusual colour blends. This was made by Boyd’s of Glasgow and although old, can cope with the finest of cashmeres.

Andrew Elliot continued to be involved in the business until early 2009, when sadly, in March he succumbed to ill health.