The name Patons has been synonymous with hand knitting yarns since the mid-nineteenth century. Founded in 1813 as a spinning mill, Patons expansion took off in the 1860s with the growth in popularity of handknitting. Based primarily in Alloa and surrounding villages, the company was unusual in pioneering an integrated business model that combined production of yarn, publication of instruction and pattern books, and retail. By the 1960s, the company had established a retail network across the UK, which was merged with the Scotch Wool and Hosiery Stores when Patons acquired Fleming, Reid and Co. Ltd during the decade.
Success for the company led to expansion in Scotland and overseas. The company opened factories in Canada, Australia and China. And in 1920, it merged with Baldwins of Halifax, also producer of handknitting yarns, to form Patons & Baldwins. For a time, the economies of scale benefited the company, making it the largest producer of knitting yarn – for both hand and machine production – in the UK. However, the post-World War Two decades were to be the high-water mark.
A series of mergers protected the Alloa production for a while, but the contraction of the knitwear industry in the 1980s left Patons exposed. In 1999, the Alloa factory closed. Patons is remembered as a good employer and for its civic philanthropy, but sadly the original mill was demolished to make way for a supermarket. However, the Patons brand name survives under the auspices of a European handcraft conglomerate DMC.