Friday, 21 April 2023

Production of Irish Beetled Linen is right at the heart of William Clark. It is a specialty of ours, a process unique to our mill, that currently is not replicable in any other country. Our staff are knowledgeable and expertise in manufacturing that doesn’t exist anywhere else.

Recently we discussed re-shoring. What it is and the potential it has for the local textile industry. In light of Brexit, the current movement towards reinvigorating the British manufacturing sector is more important than ever before. Established facilities for production like ourselves are well positioned to be able to continue and lead this movement forward.

Our Process:

We employ and train the best textile experts in the industry. Our team is headed by knowledgeable and established craftsmen. Each individual in our mill trains under a master in a chosen discipline. It takes time and diligence to learn to read the fabric, it is a skill honed with practice and time. An ability that is irreplaceable by any manmade machine. Machines although useful, are simply tools that help us to increase performance. Do things faster, increase production and shorten lead times, provided one of our knowledgeable team is operating them.

Years and skill has seen us take on every fabric imaginable. We need to be constantly creating and innovating. Now there are hundreds of fabric varieties and finishes produced at William Clark every single day. Fulfilling everyday uses in apparel and furnishings to specific functions in the aeronautical and medical fields. Our archival fabrics, the aero repair linens and box linen fabrics are used by historians at the British Library for restoration work.

It gives us great pride to know our fabrics are making a difference. That is why we never settle for anything less than excellence. Each fabric is painstakingly checked at every step to ensure each piece meets our standard. Nothing will ever leave the factory door if it has not passed the approval of our master auditors.

Beetled Linen:

There is one extra special fabric that we have mentioned briefly. If you are familiar with the linen industry, you will likely have heard of beetled linen. Which we believe-

“Is the most important in the finishing of linen and imparts to these fabrics their highly prized gloss.” Report on Industry of U.K. by W.A. Graham Clark, U.S.A. 1913, (p43, Linen on the Green by W. Clark).

Beetled linen requires highly specialised machinery and great skill. Over an allotted time, the linen fabric undergoes a strenuous process. First the fabric is soaked and wrapped around an iron cylinder. The cylinder then passes through the beetling machines where it is repeatedly pounded with large wooden blocks. There is no other man made process that can achieve the same end result. Beetled Linen is completely unique. As a fabric it is hard and flat with a high gloss and increased water resistance. Its distinctive sheen has made it a sought after fabric within soft furnishings and tailoring. The beetled linen that we manufacture here in Northern Ireland is exported across the globe. Primarily used by the world’s finest tailors on Saville Row to create a perfect suit time and time again. Even created into conceptual furniture pieces in high end design houses.

Beetled linen is a fabric truly unique to William Clark and Sons. Our beetling room at Upperlands is one of the last working in the world. Making us the only authentic linen beetlers in Ireland and some of the last remaining linen beetlers in the world. It brings us great pride to continue to manufacture and distribute this rare fabric now for over 300 years.

It is our great honour to work with Sam the master beetler here at William Clark. He has shared a little of his story with beetled linen.

1. How long does it take to learn how to beetle linen?

It took between one year and 18 months for me to learn how to beetle linen. But even yet I can have bother as no two batches of cloth are the same.

2. How long have you been beetling linen for?

I have been beetling linen for 26 years.

3. How did you gain the skills required to be a master beetler? 

I was trained by a man called Joey Lindsay who Beetled linen for almost 50 years. His father before him beetled for 60 years. Learning from a master with experience is essential.

4. What is the most difficult stage in the beetling process?

The most difficult stage in the beetling process is as the Linen starts to dry. It is vital that creases are prevented from forming in the batch as when creases dry they leave marks on the cloth.

5. What is it that makes the beetling process so superior?

Beetled linen is far superior when it comes to construction. Tailors in Saville Row seem to prefer beetled linen as it keeps its shape better and is easier to work with, creating neat seams in clothing. Due to how it holds its shape it is often used as interlining and can be a beautiful fabric for furnishings.

Please get in touch if you would like to learn more about beetled linen or arrange a site visit. Sam our master linen beetler has a wealth of knowledge about linen and the history of the industry. It is a privilege to watch him work and the product he produces is unrivalled anywhere else in the world.