Seljak Brand’s latest blanket range, Rugged, is made at a heritage mill in Geelong, one of the renowned textiles regions of Australia.
We came across Geelong Weaving Mill a few years ago by way of the intimate textiles ecosystem here in Australia. After realising we shared many values and a willingness to innovate with the mill’s director Quentin Vahl Meyer, we were absolutely thrilled to hear the mill was leaning into blanket production. Since, driven by textiles designers Gemma Glazik and Ana Petidis, Geelong Weaving Mill have perfected beautiful, Australian-made wool blankets.
The Geelong mill has operated and specialised in wool fabric since 1920. Today, they continue to create quality upholstery and apparel fabrics for commercial and domestic use. Whether it’s fabric for public transport seats, or school uniforms, the mill has been manufacturing locally for over 100 years.
Karina and Ana inspecting a loom at the mill
We wanted to share the mill’s story, so we caught up with Gemma and Ana to hear about weaving in Geelong, straight from the source!
“Some of the notable fabrics that have been woven at the mill are the “baggy green” (caps worn by the Australian cricket team), the fabric on the Sydney Opera House seating, and the upholstery on the Queensland Rail and V/Line trains.” says Gemma.
“Geelong Weaving Mill is unique in the way we use colours and check designs for our blankets and also that they are entirely manufactured in Victoria, from dyeing the yarns, to weaving, milling and cut and sew. [The latest iteration of] Geelong Weaving Mill started by wanting to use the deadstock yarn that had been collected over years in the yarn store, and blankets seemed like a great idea as there were so many colours and it was all Australian wool,” continues Ana.
Mill director Quentin and textile designer Ana at the mill
For Seljak Brand, a local mill committed to making blankets from waste was right up our alley so it was a perfect alignment. Given Covid-19 presented many production difficulties for us, both onshore and offshore, Geelong Weaving Mill was the ray of sunshine we needed amongst a tricky year.
We worked closely with Ana and Gemma – the designers at the mill – to create our latest range Rugged, which are 96% wool, 4% nylon Geelong-made blankets. Durable but cosy, these blankets are perfect for the bed, or for adventuring outside and their stripes and colours reflect the beautiful Australian landscapes we love. Our first two blankets Peak and Swell reflect gumtrees after a climb and watching waves roll in from a headland, respectively.
The Swell blanket on the cutting table at the mill
The yarn in Seljak Brand blankets is considered deadstock yarn. Mills are left with ‘deadstock’ yarn if it's over-ordered or their customers change their designs or quantities last minute. The yarn sits unused in the warehouse gathering dust and getting moth-eaten and eventually gets sent to landfill. The yarn in the Peak and Swell blankets is made from leftover yarn from an airline upholstery job. They are limited edition because once the deadstock yarn is used, it’s gone, and we can’t make the blankets again – which is a unique aspect of working with deadstock. But not all yarns are suitable for blankets, so the mill is committed to finding other uses for their deadstock too.
“If this yarn is not used, it will sometimes go to local people for their crafts, go to landfill, or become moth food. We are working on trying to use up these leftover yarns and process them into useable items other than blankets as they are not all suitable for a blanket.” says Gemma.
They are doing this by adding to their fabric range...
“Geelong Weaving Mill was also created to start selling our fabrics by the meter. We have started with a discreet range that is popular with digital and screen printers. We are about to launch an upholstery range called Pebbles and Duke and in the future we will be creating a range of fabrics suitable for making clothing, accessories and using wool and other fibres,” says Gemma.
The small holes in this yarn shows its motheaten, and rendered useless as yarn
We are stoked there are exciting and ingenious ideas that the mill is bringing to fruition, right here in our backyard! It certainly takes a team to continue the craft of weaving in Australia and it’s no easy feat.
“On the ground, making all our production happen, are quite a few people equally passionate about their area of expertise. We have our Mill Manager who oversees production, a Logistics Manager, a Warper, a Technical Weaving Manager and Technical Weaving Assistants who set up the looms and maintain them whilst they weave, and a Fabric Mender who inspects every roll of fabric that comes of our looms looking for inconsistencies.” says Gemma.
The yarn warehouse
It’s an absolute pleasure to find more local manufacturers to work with – and those that are so committed to finding production solutions that are sustainable and ethical.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to work as a designer in a manufacturing context. It is important that as a textile designer I am able to influence the impact my industry has on both the environment and people's lives.” says Ana.
We’ll be bringing more stories from the mill, and a new edition to the Rugged family before winter’s out, so watch this space.
One of the deadstock yarns in our Rugged range