Message of hope woven into TV tartan

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Selkirk’s Anthony Haines textile mill is weaving an earthy tartan for the US TV series Outlander, which is about to start filming in Scotland.

“We’re delighted,” sales director Kevin Nicoll said: “it’s an opportunity for us to get two new looms. We’ve now got our two Dob Cross looms from the 1900s working to full capacity.”

Kevin and managing director Colin Brown took full ownership of the mill in February this year, following Anthony Haines retiral after 30 years at the loom.

“Anthony was all about keeping the workforce going,” Kevin said, “we’re all about getting new business, and adding to the workforce.”

Outlander is based on Diana Gabaldon’s historical fiction novel, Cross Stitch, the first in a series of seven, focusing on characters Claire Beauchamp and James Fraser, set in the clan life of 18th-century Scotland.

But the history of Border textiles has gone full circle, said Mr Nicoll. “It’s been in competition with foreign imports, but now the fuel costs can be prohibitive.

“We’ve seen a massive upturn in orders, meaning job security for the existing workforce: we’ve had to double the amount of money invested in our yarn, and we’ve expanded with two new staff, so we have 12 working here now. It’s good because the Borders has had a kicking in the past.”

The mill has woven lightweight tartan for Hong Kong University and, he adds, “Anthony’s name is still recognised in Japan and Korea. They can buy the material cheaper, but they want the quality, history and heritage, and the Made in Scotland label. The demand is there, and it’s improving all the time.

“Three or four staff members have been here 30 or 40 years. New blood will be an issue: the youth have no real interest. We need at least three younger people to get involved.”