Meet Otterburn the Memory Bear

Unfortunately I have to make it clear that this is not my idea or my doing, I’m afraid but I do take my hat off to the lady whose idea it was. The pictures of this memory bear were kindly sent to us by a lady whose relative had recently passed away and in her relatives wardrobe she found an Otterburn Mill tweed skirt. This is something in itself as we stopped production here at the mill in the mid 70’s.


In the build up to this Otterburn textiles had been used in the designs of the likes of Mary Quant and had graced the cover of Vogue. We still have some of the photo’s here in Weavers Cafe.


The skirt was used to commission a memory bear, as a lasting tribute and Zilla Brown of was the lucky lady who was given this task.


What you see are photos of the original skirt and the end result, which look fabulous and I’m sure will be a lasting reminder.

Memory bear





10 Reasons to visit Otterburn Mill


Well, – I don’t know about you but sometimes I’m guilty of missing what is under my nose and it does me good to just sit and contemplate things. So here are my top 10 reasons on why to visit

  1. Before you even get here, you will have travelled through some of Northumberland’s finest and wildest scenery, seen remote houses and villages and enjoyed landscapes not often enjoyed.
  2. This is easy – Free parking and lots of it, room for everyone really, from motor homes to motorbikes.
  3. Free Admission – doesn’t happen often these days.

That’s the first three taken care of and now more of what is at the mill.By the way, I have not dared to put these in any particular order; they are a list, a straight forward list, so here we go with 4, 5 & 6.

  1. Weavers Cafe, with its 5/5 hygiene rating you know the basics are done well, then layer on top of that our locally source produce (were possible) and “freshly made everyday” dishes, then you’ve the ingredients for a filling, value for money, tasty meal or snack. A particular fav of mine are the freshly baked cheese scones.
  2. Picnic area, for use by visitors allows you to bring your own picnic and choose from the fine selection at Weavers, however their is nothing like a warm day to sit outside with a bite to eat and a coffee and listen to the sounds of nature.
  3. Children’s’ play area – a vital point for me, if there is something to keep the kids happy, then great that makes my life a lot easier.

The last four…………….

  1. Artefacts, ok, so I know this may sound a little boring, but the mill is littered with old traditional artefacts from when the mill churned out textiles and was a manufacturing unit. The walls are littered with designs from the likes of Mary Quant who used Otterburn Textiles, and graced the cover of Vogue.
  2. Otterburn Life – our retail shop, it’s huge, not some afterthought, but a lovely bit of spacious retail space, again some of the original mill machinery cogs can still be seen in the shop. We also have a shop in Rothbury for those who want to explore more.
  3. Brands, yes, BIG brands, we’ve got most of the major ones covered from the likes of Joules, Regatta, Crocs, Weird Fish, White stuff and many more.
  4. The Otterburn baby blanket – goes all over the world and is well known for its Royal connection, it graces some of the best dressed prams in the world and is a real thoroughbred air loom.

When it’s finally time to leave, don’t worry you can still find us at  so we are never that far away.


The Otterburn Mill History and the Waddel Family of Jedburgh

It was in 1821 that William Waddell of Jedburgh, younger member of a respectable family of woollen manufacturers, brought his young bride, 17 year old Charlotte Ferrier, with whom he had eloped, to the remote borders village of Otterburn – Charlotte having absconded from the fashionable “School for Young Ladies” in George shops_17Square, Edinburgh.

The textile trade was one of the first to benefit from the Industrial Revolution and, at the start of the 19th Century, woollen mills were being built by landlords to convert and profit from locally produced wools. By the 1820’s the practice of these landlords had changed – they began leasing off these sites to the new generation of men trained in bulk textiles.

Undaunted by the prospect of a crippling 109 year lease, whose terms precluded any substantial expansion, William, aided by his wife, their everincreasing family, and a small local workforce, took in the wool fleeces from local farmers and in return supplied the farmer with blankets, cloth or knitting yarn. The wool was converted to yarn in the mill and sent to the local hand loom weavers who produced the blankets and cloth. The woven product was returned to the mill to be washed and finished, ready for use.

Expansion at the Mill – supplies to Royalty.

On William III’s succession the textile industry was no longer a cottage industry but had now become a factory based operation. In the past, the farmers would bring in their wool and it would be washed and dyed to the colours required and during the winter the farmer and his wife would hand spin the wool and bring it back to the mill as yarn. The yarn would be then hand woven in tweed, blankets or rugs. William III introduced the carding and spinning jenny to Otterburn Mill, mechanising the yarn production.

Wool bartering

The farmers would bring in their wool clip to Otterburn Mill during July and August and a value would be placed upon it by the mill and a credit note issued. Throughout the year the farmer would visit the mill shop to acquire knitting yarn and tweed for clothing and have it offset against the credit note.This practice was common in the border woollen trade up until the 1960’s.

Williams old age

Recently we were visited by the Scot family from Burness (near to Otterburn) who were researching their family tree. They found that their great, great, great grandmother nursed William III during his old age, as he suffered from gout. From their family papers they found a letter stating that one day she was dressing the gout ridden foot and it fell off in her hands!

Bulk manufacturing arrives

By 1910, the first power looms were installed requiring further expansion of the mill building. A new diesel engine was installed to run the machinery. The mill became famous for its quality, colour and design. William, along with his brother George, acquired another mill in Carlisle and Otterburn Mill became a brand leader in woven cloths.

Rena Waddell

By the late 30’s Rena, daughter of William, took charge of design and marketing for the Otterburn Mill ranges and became a fashion icon. Such was the popularity of the materials and designs, that the Mill’s products were sought after by members of the Royal family. During this period, Otterburn produced tweeds which were adopted by such notable fashion houses as Dior and Schiaparelli, Balmain, Pacquin and Jaques Griffe. Garments were often featured on the cover of top magazines such as Vogue.

Our pick of the Winter Jackets

It’s an important purchase, and has several roles to play. As well as looking stylish and smart, a new winter jacket also has to fend off the harsh wind and cold, as well as being water resistant.

We’ve that many brands that this has not been an easy task, but here is our round up of our top 3. We think we’ve covered most things so if you like something knee length or waist length, dark or bright, zips or buttons, angled packets or deep pockets we think we’ve got just the thing for you.

1.Icepeak bring us our first little beauty in a fab green which is sure to brighten up most dark days, finishing at the waist and with a contrasting green over the shoulders with a darker bottom section, pockets and a hood finish this little beauty off

2.No collection would be complete without a contribution from Joules and I feel this floral jacket is a great reminder of summer days, lovely thick padding make this a must have.

3.Target Dry bring us our full length jacket, not as heavy as some of our other jackets but that suits some who prefer to layer up. A versatile colour which will go with most bags and shoes.



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The histoy of Halloween

Halloween’s origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.

By 43 A.D., the Roman Empire had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of “bobbing” for apples that is practiced today onHalloween.

On May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs, and the Catholic feast of All Martyrs Day was established in the Western church. Pope Gregory III (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1. By the 9th century the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted the older Celtic rites. In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. It is widely believed today that the church was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. All Souls Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

Celebration of Halloween was extremely limited in colonial New England because of the rigid Protestant belief systems there. Halloween was much more common in Maryland and the southern colonies. As the beliefs and customs of different European ethnic groups as well as the American Indians meshed, a distinctly American version of Halloween began to emerge. The first celebrations included “play parties,” public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other’s fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. By the middle of the nineteenth century, annual autumn festivities were common, but Halloween was not yet celebrated everywhere in the country.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish fleeing Ireland’s potato famine of 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today’s “trick-or-treat” tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors.

In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything “frightening” or “grotesque” out of Halloween celebrations. Because of these efforts, Halloween lost most of its superstitious and religious overtones by the beginning of the twentieth century.

By the 1920s and 1930s, Halloween had become a secular, but community-centered holiday, with parades and town-wide parties as the featured entertainment. Despite the best efforts of many schools and communities, vandalism began to plague Halloween celebrations in many communities during this time. By the 1950s, town leaders had successfully limited vandalism and Halloween had evolved into a holiday directed mainly at the young. Due to the high numbers of young children during the fifties baby boom, parties moved from town civic centers into the classroom or home, where they could be more easily accommodated. Between 1920 and 1950, the centuries-old practice of trick-or-treating was also revived. Trick-or-treating was a relatively inexpensive way for an entire community to share the Halloween celebration. In theory, families could also prevent tricks being played on them by providing the neighborhood children with small treats. A new American tradition was born, and it has continued to grow. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the country’s second largest commercial holiday.

The American Halloween tradition of “trick-or-treating” probably dates back to the early All Souls’ Day parades in England. During the festivities, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes” in return for their promise to pray for the family’s dead relatives. The distribution of soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits. The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.

The tradition of dressing in costume for Halloween has both European and Celtic roots. Hundreds of years ago, winter was an uncertain and frightening time. Food supplies often ran low and, for the many people afraid of the dark, the short days of winter were full of constant worry. On Halloween, when it was believed that ghosts came back to the earthly world, people thought that they would encounter ghosts if they left their homes. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, people would wear masks when they left their homes after dark so that the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits. On Halloween, to keep ghosts away from their houses, people would place bowls of food outside their homes to appease the ghosts and prevent them from attempting to enter.

*****COMING SOON*****Welcome aboard ICEPEAK

The innovators and early adopters amongst us will be familiar with Icepeak, research shows is regularly “googled”. The first I heard of it was when we decided to stock them here at the mill. I’ve seen some of the samples and I must admit I’m sold, I’m a fan, and I’m happy to pay that little bit extra for something different and eye catching.


ICEPEAK, established 1996, is one of the biggest sports clothing brands in Europe. Icepeak offers active sports clothing for sports shops and department stores.

The brand designs sports clothing to maximize the consumer’s outdoor experience. Affordable prices, quality materials, functional details and trendy design are the key factors in the brand’s great success.

The brand provides functional, active apparel for optimum performance in sports, leisure and everyday use.

The Nordic Nature sportswear collection is casual but spiced up with a pinch of the unique Nordic nature and Finnish simplicity. The collection merges an urban active lifestyle with outdoor-inspired elements. Nordic symbols are seen in patterns and prints. Protective and stylish details are many, including different hoods, protective back hems, taped seams, higher collars, adjustable waists, and new personal structured surfaces. Casual functionality, a trendy look and comfort are the key words of the collection. Neutral tones create an authentic and modern style.


The Power of Walking. 8 reasons why walking is great for your health

8 reasons why walking is great for your health. So jump up and get going…….

Gentle, low-impact exercise that’s easy, free and available to everyone – here’s why walking rocks.

1. Walking strengthens your heart

Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke by walking regularly. It’s great cardio exercise, lowering levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. The Stroke Association says that a brisk 30-minute walk every day helps to prevent and control the high blood pressure that causes strokes, reducing the risk by up to 27 percent.

2. Walking lowers disease risk

A regular walking habit slashes the risk of type 2 diabetes by around 60 percent, and you’re 20 percent less likely to develop cancer of the colon, breast or womb with an active hobby such as walking.

3. Walking helps you lose weight

You’ll burn around 75 calories simply by walking at 2mph for 30 minutes. Up your speed to 3mph and it’s 99 calories, while 4mph is 150 calories (equivalent to three Jaffa cakes and a jam doughnut!). Work that short walk into your daily routine and you’ll shed the pounds in no time.

4. Walking prevents dementia

Older people who walk six miles or more per week are more likely to avoid brain shrinkage and preserve memory as the years pass. Since dementia affects one in 14 people over 65 and one in six over 80, we reckon that’s a pretty great idea.

5. Walking tones up legs, bums and tums

Give definition to calves, quads and hamstrings while lifting your glutes (bum muscles) with a good, regular walk. Add hill walking into the mix and it’s even more effective. Pay attention to your posture and you’ll also tone your abs and waist.

6. Walking boosts vitamin D

We all need to get outside more. Many people in the UK are vitamin D deficient, affecting important things like bone health and our immune systems. Walking is the perfect way to enjoy the outdoors while getting your vitamin D fix.

7. Walking gives you energy

You’ll get more done with more energy, and a brisk walk is one of the best natural energisers around. It boosts circulation and increases oxygen supply to every cell in your body, helping you to feel more alert and alive. Try walking on your lunch break to achieve more in the afternoon.

8. Walking makes you happy

It’s true – exercise boosts your mood. Studies show that a brisk walk is just as effective as antidepressants in mild to moderate cases of depression, releasing feel-good endorphins while reducing stress and anxiety. So for positive mental health, walking’s an absolute must.


The Story of the Scarf

The Story of the scarf

As the seasons change and the temperature drops our minds turn to keeping warm and these days it’s done with style. I got to thinking of scarves, I’m a fan of scarves, all types of materials and got to thinking how the scarf came about and here is a little of what I found out.

Ancient Rome is one of the many origins of the scarf, where the garment was used to keep clean rather than warm. It was called the sudarium, which translates from Latin to English as “sweat cloth”, and was used to wipe the sweat from the neck and face in hot weather. They were originally worn by men around their neck or tied to their belt. Soon women started using the scarves, which were made of cloth and not made of wool, pashmina, or silk, and ever since the scarf has been fashionable among women.

Historians believe that during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Cheng, scarves made of cloth were used to identify officers or the rank of Chinese warriors.

In later times, scarves were also worn by soldiers of all ranks in Croatia around the 17th century. The only difference in the soldiers’ scarves that designated a difference in rank was that the officers had silk scarves whilst the other ranks were issued with cotton scarves. Some of the Croatian soldiers served as mercenaries with the French forces. The men’s scarves were sometimes referred to as “cravats” (from the French cravate, meaning “Croat”), and were the precursor of the necktie,

The scarf became a real fashion accessory by the early 19th century for both men and women. By the middle of the 20th century, scarves became one of the most essential and versatile clothing accessories for both men and women. Celebrities have often led fashion trends with film props subsequently becoming mainstream fashion items.