The Mike Crabtree Memorial Lecture

By SDC member Adam Pursell

Held at SDC’s Perkin House Head Office in Bradford, Dr Mike Bartle gave the third lecture under the ‘Mike Crabtree Memorial’ banner. It’s maybe worth noting, that SDC’s North of England regional committee made the decision that the Mike Crabtree lecture was to be one that focused on historical events.

Speaker Dr Mike Bartle

Speaker Dr Mike Bartle

Guests arrived for a hot meal – normally this would have been perfect for a mid-September lecture, but even though the mercury was high, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the food. Conversation over dinner generally leant towards the fantastic light show that residents of the Pennines were treated to the night before (thunderstorms and lightning!)

The first video that was presented to the audience was discovered in the rubble of a demolition site, of Listers; a sad casualty of its own success. The tape, presumably 35mm, was transferred to VHS, and later, to DVD. The promotional film, filmed in 1947, followed Betty, Ted’s wife. Betty went to the wool shop, to buy some new wool and knitting patterns so she could make herself a new jumper. The wool of choice…Lavenda! The film delved in to the fascinating world of knitting wool/pattern production, all filmed at Listers. The narrator explained the 20(ish) processes that led from fibre to finished product. A noteworthy area is the level of perfection that was required for each set of written instructions that was produced by the design department, with the quote “No trouble is too much, perfection is essential” being the company’s ethos. The film was a wonderful throwback to life and culture in the 1940s, and was enjoyed by all.

img_0852The second video was about the company’s silk division at Manningham Mills in Bradford. The silk division produced Jacquard woven silk, silk velvet and many other qualities, mainly for 100% silk scarves. The mill was built in 1850, and until the 1980s, was the largest single mill in Europe. Around the war, the silk division alone employed around 5000 staff. Sadly, this was reduced to around 40 by 1980s. The film followed the production of silk, from cocoon to cravat! Viewers were wowed by the numbers: 1250mtrs silk from one caterpillar, 1 yarn had 20 ends, 40inch woven fabric had 13000 ends…all to be hand knotted! The silk followed roughly 26 processes reach the retailers, each one as fascinating as the next.

img_0847The evening was enjoyed by all, with some interesting discussion on how knitting is making a return to the craft sector, as people want the handmade and bespoke feel again. New classes are starting to teach people the skills that were presumably lost by a generation, and hand knitting wool production is on the up!

Thank you to Dr Mike Bartle for his time and resources.

The SDC regions organise regular events which are open to all. Check the website for details.

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