Life as a Yarn Spinner – spinning around with new technologies

23 August 2017

In the final instalment of a three-part series, Colin Lawton, grandson of the founder of Fred Lawton & Son, shares how the company came to specialise in woollen carpet yarns and the technology that enabled them to do so.

We took the decision to leave our traditional markets and focus solely on supplying to the carpet industry to meet the growing demand for best quality 100% wool and 80% wool/20% nylon carpet yarns.

The important new technical developments which facilitated this change in focus can be summarised as follows:

  1. The development of large, fast rotating spinning frame spindles, each of which had a device on its upper tip (called a pross top) which collapsed the yarn balloon and thus eliminated the tension in the yarn. This resulted in higher drafting speeds and the production of a package of 1.5kgs of continuous yarn at speeds of 20 metres per minute.
  2. The introduction of traversing creel condensers on carding machines enabled slubbing to be wound at an increased pitch, to match that of the new spinning frames to allow the building of a larger continuous lengths of slubbing.
  3. The introduction of large package twisting frames facilitated larger packages of plied yarns which had become the standard requirement for pile carpet yarns.
  4. The availability of new cone winding machinery made it possible to make large cones of up to 3kgs of yarn which could be electronically measured and wound to a controlled length.
  5. The introduction of latex jointing to make knot free yarns and later yarn splicers, which were first developed by Fred Lawton, enabled a joining to be made by air-entangling the fibres of the yarn.
  6. Eventually the introduction of better engineered, high speed, carding machines of 3 metres wide, with output more than double of what was previously achievable allowed us to ramp up the quantity and quality of production.

These developments took place over a period of around 5 years and by the early 1970’s, we were spinning woollen yarns exclusively for the carpet trades on a world-wide basis, predominantly for the rapidly expanding tufted carpet producers.

By 1989, we had around 350 employees and no room for further expansion so we needed to relocate production to a larger facility. We purchased a spacious, modern factory and over the next year, we relocated all our plant, machinery and personnel to the new 40,000m2 site. By 1990 we had increased our output to around 75 tonnes of yarn per week and had become one of the world’s leading carpet yarn spinners. Our continued innovation and investment in new technology make us one of the notable survivors of the wool textile industry’s decline.

I retired from active involvement in the company in 1996, when the family sold its interests to new owners, who chose to retain the name of Fred Lawton & Son Ltd and do so to this day as Lawton Yarns. Further expansion has since increased output to over 150 tonnes per week and the business is now a world leading wool spinning facility known for its scale, quality and innovation.

Colin Lawton