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5 Jun 2024

Meet the Makers: Keith Russell from Lochcarron of Scotland

A man stands next to a table holding a roll of tartan fabric. There are shelves full of rolls of tartan fabric in the background.
Keith from Lochcarron of Scotland
The Trust has teamed up with five talented local makers to produce a collection of products celebrating the re-opening of Craigievar Castle.

Please introduce yourself and your business:

My name is Keith and I have been part of the sales team at Lochcarron of Scotland since January 1999.

Where are you based?

Lochcarron of Scotland’s mill and Visitor Centre is based in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. We also have a retail store in Wester Ross, our Lochcarron Weavers Heritage shop, just outside Lochcarron’s village on the NC500.

When was your business first established?

Lochcarron of Scotland was established in the Scottish Borders by John Morris Buchan in 1947. Mr Buchan was invited by a local laird in Wester Ross to help teach locals to spin and weave cloth, encouraging local crofters to enhance their income by weaving tweeds and tartans.

However, our heritage dates to 1892, traced back to Peter Anderson of Galashiels, who worked in the town’s woollen mill industry from the age of 12 before setting up his own weaving shop here. In 1962, Anderson’s son sold the business to John Morris Buchan and the Lochcarron name was adopted at a larger premises.

What products do you make/design/create?

Tartan can be used in many applications. It is ever-present in fashion and extremely popular as highland dress for a whole range of events and occasions, including weddings, balls and black tie events. We weave over 500 authentic Scottish tartans within our own stocked range, as well as many exclusive tartans for individuals, corporations, and events. In addition to cloth, we also make and stock accessories, clothing, kilts and blankets.

What makes your business unique?

We design, create and weave all our tartans in-house at our mill in Selkirk and are one of the few remaining textile weaving mills in the Scottish Borders. We are the leading manufacturer of tartan and produce high quality authentic woollen textiles. Lochcarron has a long textile heritage and extensive archive we have decades of experience and knowledge circulating throughout our mill, with these skills being passed down through the generations. We continue to work to improve our sustainability, and in 2023, we converted one of our best selling fabrics, our heavyweight Strome kilt cloth, to be produced from 100% Scottish wool.

A print of colourful tartan lies on a tables next to bundles of threads in various colours
Selecting the colours for the Pink Castle Tartan

Development of the Pink Castle range

How did you approach the creation of the Pink Castle bespoke tartan, what elements influenced the design of the tartan?

We began by researching Craigievar Castle, exploring images of the castle for inspiration and reading about the history of the castle itself. As the construction of the castle was completed for William Forbes and owned by the Forbes family for 350 years, the Forbes tartan was used as inspiration, with some designs referencing this tartan sett (pattern) as a nod to William Forbes. The colours and proportions of colour in the design were influenced by where they appear in the castle and its surroundings, with the pink from the castle being the base colour. For the secondary colours: the blues were mainly based on the spires, deeper slate, and a lighter blue to complement it, representing the sky or flag. The browns were taken from the detailing on the castle, and the green was from the trees surrounding the castle. The gold was taken from the weathervane and incorporated into the design in small flashes to highlight this feature. As the castle is said to have influenced Walt Disney’s design for Cinderella’s castle and was mentioned in a call with the Trust, we felt it was a key element to incorporate into the design. Pastel and muted tones were used within the design, which complemented the pink but also created the magical, fairy-tale feel of Disney.

Where does the wool come from that is used to make the scarves and other items in the collection?

All our products, including the Pink Castle range, are crafted from the finest 100% lambswool. This premium material is sourced from the pristine pastures of New Zealand, ensuring the highest quality and ethical standards.

An electric loom weaves a light pink tartan
The Pink Castle Tartan being woven

Production of the Pink Castle range

Can you walk us through the journey of taking the designs from concept to finished product?

Our in-house design team worked with the Trust to develop the Pink Castle tartan design. We created a variety of CAD (computer-aided design) designs, and once the final design was selected, our production team made it into fabric.

Our team in the dye house would prepare the yarns, dyeing them to correspond with the colours and yarn samples from the chosen design. The threads are then organised for weaving. The warp threads are inserted in the warping creel and are then drawn from the creel in the correct order through a reed and wound around the warping drum. The warp is then transferred to a wrap beam which is ready to be loaded onto the back of the loom. The threads are drawn through the heddles in the required number of shafts (or knotted onto the warp threads already in the loom). The loom is now ready for weaving. The lifting and dropping of the shafts enable the rapier (which carries the weft threads) to travel across the loom and interlace with the warp threads to create the tartan design.

Once the cloth is woven, our darners inspect it for knots or faults and mend any issues. The cloth is now ready for finishing, where it will move through different wet and dry processes until the final quality is achieved, ensuring the fabric is fit for purpose. When returned to our mill, the fabric is inspected and made into the accessories and clothing within the collection.

Did you use any traditional techniques when creating the collection?

Our weaving process is very traditional throughout. With some new looms, there are aspects of innovation, but overall, the traditional process of weaving is done now as it always has been done.

Are there any innovative or modern techniques you incorporate into the production process?

Our recently updated innovative CAD system allows for a seamless design to production process. We use automatic looms to weave our fabrics, which allows for speed and efficiency.

A piece of tartan on a electric sewing machine with a label held on top by a hand. The label reads 'National Trust for Scotland'
The National Trust for Scotland label being sewn onto the Pink Castle products

Working with the Trust

How did your collaboration with the National Trust for Scotland unfold whilst creating the collection?

Collaboration developed nicely between the Trust and Lochcarron, with consistent communication throughout the project, allowing for a smooth process. Expertise shared on both sides led to the creation of the tartan design and production of the Pink Castle collection.

The Trust provided key information that was helpful for getting started with the project. Further research was then undertaken to develop a fuller understanding of the castle and the Trust to create beautiful design options that fulfil the brief. The Trust provided feedback after the CAD and yarn samples were sent to them, and any questions regarding Pink Castle were discussed throughout the project.

Did you enjoy working with the Trust?

Yes, the Trust was super to work with. Both teams treated the project with a great deal of enthusiasm, and there was a wonderful level of shared knowledge and skills. We were provided with plenty of information, which helped with the development and smooth progression of the project.

Have there been any benefits to working with the Trust?

The Trust communicated well throughout, and the knowledge they shared about the castle during our call helped us understand what they would be looking for and how to proceed with research and design concepts.

How did you feel about being approached to be involved in the Pink Castle project?

We were very excited and honoured to work on this project, as it is such a beautiful castle. We were delighted to be involved in designing a tartan to celebrate its reopening after the 18-month closure for conservation and repairs.

A range of pink tartan scarves sit on a table, one modelled on the bust of a mannequin with green grass and a pink castle blurred in the background.
The full range of Lochcarron of Scotland Pink Castle products

The finished Pink Castle range

Can you share any highlights of working on the project, and what you found most inspiring?

The castle itself was most inspiring. This included learning about its background and associations with Disney which helped to get a better feel for the place. Likewise, it is a wonderful building to have as a source to reference for the project and influenced the Pink Castle tartan design colours and colour proportions.

Can you talk us through the finished range of products?

The range of Pink Castle tartan products includes scarves, blankets, ponchos and serapes which are made from 100% brushed lambswool. These accessories have a cosy, soft texture, keeping you comfortable and warm.

The Lochcarron of Scotland Pink Castle range is available at selected properties and online.


Hi folks. My name is Keith. I'm part of the sales team here at Lochcarron in Selkirk.

We are currently producing the exclusive Pink Castle tartan for the National Trust for Scotland.

We will be manufacturing lambswool scarves, lambswool blankets, ponchos and serapes.

The National Trust for Scotland and Lochcarron have been working together for about 4 or 5 years now.

To complement the existing range that we run with the National Trust for Scotland, we have added the Pink Castle tartan. It's been a combination of about 18 months' work to bring the product to you.

Once we get the raw wool in, it moves into the dye house.We'll mix up the batches to dye them into separate colours;then from the colours there, it goes to the next process: the warping.

The warper will set out all the colours in a correct order to create the pattern or the Pink Castle tartan.

All in all, there's probably about 400 threads on one machine. It goes through a creel onto the warping bank; from there onto a beam.

Then the next process is the noisy part -- it will be the weaving side.

Into the weaving loom, it might take probably about 4 hours to do 60m of fabric woven there.

All in all, there's probably about 2,000 threads in a piece of fabric which will be 150cm wide.

Then from there, it'll go to the darning for inspection, then from the darning to the finishing, and back to us in the warehouse.

Pink Castle collection

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