Kate Embleton, The Border Mill

Photograph of a plastic tub filled with fleece that has pieces of debris in it
Raw state fleece ready for assessment and weighing

Kate Embleton is the Production Manager for The Border Mill, which provides a bespoke processing and spinning service for a variety of natural fibres including alpaca, wool, and silk. Kate’s job is to advise customers and plan the mill’s production schedules. In the first instance, Kate has to grade the quality of fleece delivered by customers and – in discussion with them – determine how it will be processed. Because the mill offers a bespoke service, each batch is individually assessed. Customers can choose to have their fleece processed into yarn of different weights, blends and colours.

Photograph of raw state fleece laid out on a mesh table
Preparation of raw state fleece – debris and poor quality fleece are removed.

Many of the mill’s customers are animal breeders or owners who are unfamiliar with the spinning process and rely on Kate’s knowledge, experience and advice. The first decision customers need to make is the end purpose of the yarn, as yarn for knitting and weaving require different strengths and handle.

Kate has to combine her familiarity with natural fibres with her knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of the mill’s processing machinery. Her experience allows her to advise customers on whether their fleece needs to be blended with other fibres. This can be done to make fleece viable for processing or to improve the handle of the finished yarn. Once these decisions are made, Kate can weigh and label fleece ready for the first stage of processing

Photograph of the side of a box filled with fleece. The box has details written on it.
Each batch of fleece moves round the mill in separate boxes marked with the details of the customer, fleece weight, colour and yarn specifications

Kate also enters the fleece into the mill’s production schedule. Because the mill often works with owners or breeders who have only a small number of animals, the production schedule often captures not only the name of the customer but also the name of each animal.

Photograph of a plastic bag containing fleece. The animal's name - Chaos - is written on the outside of the bag.
Prepared fleece with the animal’s name.

All photographs taken by a member of the F2F team and used with permission of The Border Mill.