This micro mill in the Borders was set up by Juliet and John Miller when they discovered that it was impossible to process small amounts of alpaca fleece in Scotland. Although the mill initially specialised in providing a bespoke processing and spinning service for alpaca, it has now extended into processing and blending a range of natural fibres including wool and silk.
The Border Mill concentrates on variety rather than volume production and only processes about 50kg per week. Each customer’s batch of fleece is assessed and treated individually. A single batch weighing only a few kilos can yield several types of yarn depending on the customer’s requirements. However, the provision of a bespoke service also means that there can be a waiting list of up to a year for processing.
Many of the mill’s customers are breeders and animal owners who have little or no experience of yarn production. They rely upon the knowledge and advice of the mill’s staff to determine how best to process their fleece. The mill receives inquiries every week from potential new customers and almost half of their customers return regularly each year. In addition to processing and spinning yarn, Juliet Miller can also be commissioned to weave products using customer’s own yarns.
Border Mill Yarn Collection
Border Mill also spin their own collection of yarns, which showcase their skills and capabilities. This vibrant collection of dyed and blended yarns is stocked in their mill shop, available online, and also shown at selected yarn fairs throughout the UK. The mill also collaborates with knitwear designers who specify Border Mill yarns for their patterns. As only 25% of the mill’s production capacity is devoted to their own products, this gives them opportunities to experiment – and they are currently sampling cotton and other cellulose fibres.
Border Mill Staff
Each member of staff at the mill has a specific job description. However, because there are only four members of staff – the two owners, Juliet and John Miller, Holly Murphy and Kate Embleton – their roles can sometimes overlap. This gives staff opportunities to gain valuable experience of all stages of processing and machinery operation, which creates a flexible and multi-skilled workforce capable of providing cover for illness and holidays.
All photographs taken by a member of the F2F team and used with permission of The Border Mill.