We begin our tour of the spinning mill upstairs. “This is where it all starts,” says Chris, gesturing around. “In this room, Nora mixes the colours that Emma [the TOAST knitwear designer] has specified.”
The room is small and unremarkable but for its large and captivating centrepiece – a display of brilliantly coloured wools, all spilling out of their boxes.
Nora is responsible for colour and she describes it as being like a painter. “I think of it as my colour palette,” she explains, picking out different wools, “as soon as I see a particular shade, I’ll know which colours I need to achieve it, and how much of each.”
This is quite a skill. Purely by eye, Nora is able to work out the quantities to create an exact shade of marmalade. In an easy, and much practised manner, Nora chooses her colours and begins to card the wool by hand, passing it back and forth between the teeth of the two carders. By doing this she is, she notes, “repeatedly breaking down the fibres and realigning them, so that they all face in parallel lines.”
Nora then takes the wool and quickly – but carefully – spins it by hand, passing the finishing yarn to us. It is a beautiful, warm colour with shades of ochre, sand and rust. “That’s the yarn for your sweater”, smiles Nora, “it’s a lovely colour.”