Stepping Back in Time – Knockando WoolmillKate Stuart
Early this year, Kate Stuart, our NSN contributor and owner of The Phoenix Green Store, visited Knockando Woolen Mill, an old woolmill in Scotland that contains textile machinery from different periods over the centuries. The Trust who renovated the mill buildings works to educate the general public about the historical significance of the mill while keeping alive the weaving and spinning traditions of the area.
There is something slightly eerie about stepping into a space where the activity therein has remained much unchanged in a few hundred years. Knockando Woolen Mill has been settled into the landscape of the Spey Valley in the Grampian region of Scotland since the 18th century – in 1784 it was recorded in parish records as the “Waulk Mill”, and spinning and weaving activity on the site has likely been going on for much longer.
Nestling by the Knockando Burn, a tributary to the River Spey, this cluster of buildings, including the surviving of two original water wheels that created the energy for the mill before 1948, when electricity came to the valley, look much as they did when the first families came to have wool washed, dyed, carded, spun and woven into usable cloth.
I visited in May this year, and couldn’t shake the feeling of being pulled back in time. Hearing the voices of the folk that created cloth which may still yet survive as family heirlooms, through the stories my guide shared as we walked the site. There was a magic to it, and a sadness too. But more than all that, a great victory that this tiny place, full of su
ch creative energy and entirely unique in its position as the oldest surviving district wool mill, was continuing an ancient tradition so successfully. And a joy, that the voices are still heard, the people who were here before still remembered and joy indeed, that the slow craft and patient skill that creates such strong and durable cloth still continues into an age of fast fashion.
Cloth created on the looms of Knockando Woolmill is beautiful, rich in local history, and, if you’re lucky enough to own some, to be treasured.
Find out more about Knockando here: www.knockandowoolmill.org.uk