Yorkshire Post

New Era Begins in Life of Specialist Yarn Firm

Laxtons is looking to the future with a focus on UK manufacture and a major investment in yarn production capabilities, while remaining committed to providing quality and flexibility for its customers.

Laxtons Specialist Yarns

James Laxton, left, the fourth generation of his family to run the business, shows Yorkshire Bank business partner Andrew Cook yarns created on the new production machinery acquired with Yorkshire Bank backing. Right, early days at Laxtons.

After a number of years processing almost all its products in Europe, Laxtons has recently brought its manufacturing expertise back to Yorkshire. With countless examples of the UK’s textile production shifting to Eastern Europe and Asia over recent decades, instances of textile companies moving operations back to Britain have been few and far between.

But Laxtons, which specialises in the manufacture of yarns for use in hand or machine knitting and weaving, is bucking this trend. To underline its commitment to British manufacturing, Laxtons has invested in both fancy yarn and worsted spinning machinery to re-establish itself as a major player within the UK textile sector.  The new production unit, based in Guiseley, West Yorkshire, is now fully operational and comprises state-of-the-art technology working alongside traditional textile machinery.

“Although it was vital that we invested in new technologies, for fancy yarn production in particular, it was also critical that we equipped ourselves with the right tools capable of producing top quality yarns, with the flexibility required to meet market demands,” says managing director James Laxton.

One of Laxton’s biggest strengths is the ability to manufacture a diverse range of yarns for a multitude of different markets. Specialist machinery enables the company to produce yarns from a wide variety of natural fibres, including wool, mohair, alpaca, bamboo and cotton, as well as manmade fibres like nylon, polyester and tactel. Laxtons can also supply a complete range of fancy yarns.

“We invested in machinery to improve flexibility in terms of yarn type and production quantities,” says Laxton. “Now we are working hard to inform our customers about our new capabilities, which in turn will help create closer working relationships going forward. This is the key to the success of any business but is particularly relevant for the small number of textile companies here in the UK.”

Laxtons, which was established over 100 years ago by James’ great grandfather, prides itself on its vast experience in fancy yarn and worsted spinning production which it has built up over the years.

With the emphasis on producing specialist yarns for many niche market sectors, Laxtons has a very diverse customer base. “Global markets are becoming increasingly important as our product range grows,” says Laxton. “Generally we find we have a good balance across our export and home markets although this can fluctuate from year to year depending on fashion trends in both weaving and apparel.”

Sales manager Alan Thornber adds: “We have a relatively young team in terms of age, but not in terms of experience. It is very important to us that our customers have the confidence that we can follow manufacturing specifications and produce top quality yarns, as well as suggest ways to improve the product, such as modifying fibre blends to help performance and hit price points or re-engineering a yarn in order to reduce lead times or minimum order quantities.”

Laxtons has seen a resurgence in interest from both existing and new customers following its return to UK production, as the attraction to consumers of UK manufactured products continues to grow. Similarly, the company’s emphasis on natural fibres, predominantly wool, is proving an increasing advantage given the growing demands that the global consumer is placing on traceability issues, sustainability and the effect manufacturing has on the environment. The Campaign for Wool, initially titled The Wool Project, and recently launched by HRH The Prince of Wales (see Twist March), is a venture that Laxtons is proud to be involved with. “We see the promotion and, probably more importantly, the education of the consumer to wool and its benefits as a key factor in the long-term future of our industry,” says Laxton. “The closer we can work with the retail sector in particular, the better we can understand each other’s issues and work towards a goal that will benefit all concerned.”

Products that are manufactured entirely in the UK, from fibre through to finished garment or cloth, are also playing an important role in new development projects for the company.

Laxton explains: “We are working very closely with a number of customers who are keen to encourage closer links between the UK textile manufacturers and the retailers with the aim of supporting the industry, maintaining skills, creating employment and offering products on the high street that are of good quality yet still affordable.”

He sees forging strong relationships with customers and suppliers, and helping to create new products as the most rewarding aspects of the business. The company is currently working alongside the British Wool Marketing Board to develop new yarns in British Wool that can be used in knitwear, woven fabrics for apparel, and upholstery, using a combination of cutting-edge technology and traditional techniques.

“British Wool and the varying characteristics evident across the different sheep breeds allow us to engineer yarns where we can focus on a particular strength or character of the breed and ensure its advantages are reflected in the end product,” Laxton says. “These products can be very diverse, from a bulky yarn for chunky knitwear to a woven cloth suitable for contract furnishings, either with added texture that fancy yarn production brings or worsted spun to give a sleek finish and soft handle.”

Laxton adds: “In moving back to the UK, Laxtons has entered a new phase in our history, and with our commitment to putting the customer first and encouraging creativity, both in the yarns we produce and how we produce them, we intend to be here for another 100 years.”