Case Studies

Orkney Cloth Company

Orkney Cloth Company was founded by India Johnson as a way to rejuvenate the textile industry in Orkeny. India aims to use her skills and passion in textiles to help younger people. Orkeny Cloth Company offers training and mini workshops to help individuals see their potential and inspire them to follow a career in textiles.

What was your inspiration for setting up your social enterprise?

My inspiration for setting up a social enterprise was the heritage of weaving in Orkney. I came to Orkney on a graduate weaving placement in October 2018, and was fascinated with the history of weaving and how it could been revived. Two textile mills, Argarden and Sclater’s were producing cloth which rivalled Harris Tweed in the 1930s, but by the mid-1970s, weaving completely died out, when all commercial weaving stopped. Our main aim as a social enterprise is to revive and sustain weaving by reinvesting back into the community through education and training. We want to ensure the heritage of weaving continues so that weaving can continue on the Island once again.

How Firstport helped you?

Firstport have been a huge help in supplying us with Start Up funding, meaning we can afford all of our initial materials. It means that we can afford to wholesale our first order of locally produced wool, and ensure that our products are as environmentally friendly as possible. It has also allowed us to work with local suppliers, who will finishing our cloth for us when it is woven. Firstport have allowed us to fulfil our aims to become a sustainable business, through the materials which we have been able to buy.

We were given a Hattersley Mark II loom in desperate need of repair, and this fund has meant that we can slowly restore and repair an original loom which was working on the Island 30 years ago! It is going to be a labour of love, but we can’t wait to use a piece of heritage machinery which was responsible for world renown cloth only a few decades ago.

What challenges have you faced on the way?

The main challenges I’ve faced along the way have been turning an idea in my head, into a fully working business! Firstport have provided that initial boost in order to get the materials we need and start repairing our loom. We have also been able to start weaving sample products, and really testing our idea in the market.

They have given us a practical step forward, giving us a year to test out our idea, experiment with new products and start getting customer feedback!

What your hopes and aspirations are for the future?

Alongside repairing our Hattersley loom, my hopes are to be able to invest in an eco-friendly double width loom, meaning we can start weaving cloth by the metre, as well as larger blankets. This will allow us to start our education and training programme, and attract textile production back to Orkney.

We are also hoping to use locally sourced Orkney wool in the future, limiting our carbon footprint. We want to make as sustainable product as we can, and using wool which has been supplied from just down the road is our dream!

The Firstport funding has been the driving force I needed to get The Orkney Cloth Company started. I am using the fund to cover the costs of our setting up the business, and for our first order of locally sourced wool. We have been able to start weaving our samples and to get the wider community excited about our new venture!

You can check out their products and journey on their website.