When we first thought about wrapping our speakers in British fabric we were occupied with thoughts of how to wrap it as tightly as possible to the casework and worrying about getting it as acoustically transparent as possible. Then we visited Marton Mills to see what goes into the making of the material and promptly had our minds blown.
Do you remember watching How It’s Made on TV and being mesmerised by the intricacy of processes that go into everyday items you take for granted? We basically got to spend 48 hours in a LIVE episode and loved every second of it. Here’s our take on what went down in those not so dark and satanic Mills so that when you rest your gaze on our fabric clad Yoyo speakers, you can appreciate how it came to be.
DISCLAIMER: It would be easy to fall down a hole of textile related lingo that will leave you none the wiser so we’ll try and keep it as jargon free as possible with two exceptions that we need you to get on board with:
Warp – This is the name given to the thread that runs lengthways through the material.
Weft – This is the thread that runs horizontally across the material.
Our selected colours of yarn arrive at Marton Mills on a whole load of baby bobbins that then need to be transferred onto an uber bobbin (not a technical term) in the correct pattern and length required in the final fabric. We saw the threads for a tartan fabric being transferred (or beamed - get us) on to the uber bobbin and can confirm it makes for quite an alarming cacophony of colour.
The way the thread is transferred is using a creel. This rotating machine applies the correct spacing and tension to the threads for the desired outcome. In the case of our material, it is at this point in the process that we experimented with halving the amount of thread used to keep the material open for sound to pass through.
Once the warp is all good to go, the weft needs preparing. The weft is threaded into the fabric by being woven through the warp by individual needles, so every yarn in the weft needs to be threaded through the eye of a needle. If you’ve ever tried threading a needle, you'll be relieved to know this process is performed by a machine or we’d have all begun wearing bin liners a long time ago.
Once the warp and the weft are prepped, it’s on to the main event – the weaving, which took place on one of Marton Mills’ many power looms.
Even in slo-mo it’s difficult to spot the weft being shot across the loom it's that quick – check it out:
Again, for creating the fabric for Yoyo speakers, we dramatically decreased the number of threads in the weft to leave as open a weave as possible. Not something that's previously been required of Marton Mills, sheer kilts don't appear to have hit the catwalk just yet.
As well as each loom being supervised for any errors that could occur, the material is then scanned by eye across every millimetre of fabric to check for imperfections. This is called being on the perch.
Any imperfections are marked up and the material is sent upstairs to be hand mended before being sent on to the finishers.
Marton Mills work exclusively with Roberts Dyers & Finishers in Keighley and previously unbeknownst to us, this whole phase of the material making process is absolutely critical. The fabric in its raw natural state is very coarse and still contains natural waxes and oils on the fibres. It would also be liable to distort and be ruined if subjected to any number of environmental changes like heat, damp or light. In order to be the beautifully soft fabric that you expect to wear next to your skin and be able to throw it in the washing machine at the end of the day, it has to go through quite a bit.
The first stage our Yoyo fabric went through on arrival at the finishers is to be scoured. This is an extremely intensive cleaning process that removes all the dirt and oils from the material and can be done in a number of ways with varying intensities. Most fabrics essentially need to be beaten up. Quite literally. They’ll be smacked about by metal rollers which tighten the fibres and make for a more robust fabric. Our speaker cloth did not get punched in the face because we needed it to remain as open and loose as possible. So it just got a nice bubble bath.
The material is then stretched on to a tenter machine. (Ever wondered about that phrase – being on tenterhooks when being in a state of suspense? Well material is stretched tightly on to tenter hooks i.e. in a state of suspension before being passed through an intense heater to dry the material to that size and shape as held by the tenter hooks. It all makes sense now…)
So it’s had a wash and blow dry, what’s next? A shave obviously. Although in the business this is called ‘Cropping’. The material is passes back and forth in varying proximity to some razor sharp blades – depending on the finish required on the final fabric. We wanted as little loose fibres and bobbling as possible so it had the equivalent of a Turkish shave.
After its shave, it’s time to go back on the perch for another routine inspection. Again every inch is scoured for imperfection before being approved to the next stage which is the NanoSphere® treatment.
NanoSphere® is a coating which is applied to a lot of school uniforms and various other materials that are subjected to slightly more intensive wear and tear in their lifetime. This treatment wraps a protective coating around each of the threads almost like a light lamination, to allow dirt and spills to bead on top and roll off rather than be absorbed into the material. We want your speakers to stay looking as good as new for as long as possible so this process was a must.
After this, it’s time for another even more intense blow dry, so intense a heat that no other heat from your washing machine or dryer should have the power to distort or shrink the fabric later on. (Please do not put your Yoyo speakers in the washing machine regardless of its shape retaining abilities) and then another TWO inspections – One at the finishers, and one back at the mills.
And finally it was ready to wrap around 3 differently shaped speakers in 4 different colours and start life as one of the best sounding speakers you'll ever have the fortune to clap your ears round.
If that was all a bit too complicated, just sit back and watch the video, you’ll get the general idea.