Having completed his Craft Fellow placement at Knockando Woolmill, today we say farewell to our Carding and Spinning Engineer, Toby Tottle.
We took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his time working at the Woolmill...
Please introduce yourself...
Hello, I'm Toby and I am the Carding and Spinning Engineer here at Knockando Woolmill! I started as a Craft Fellow through Historic Environment Scotland and I have been working the old machinery here for just over 2½ years.
What makes Knockando Woolmill so special?
The fact that it is the last one of its kind. As far as district mills go, this is the last one left in Scotland - it's extremely unique in that sense.
What was your favourite thing about working with the machinery?
The fact that they are so unique. There's so few machines of this kind of age still in operation. It's been a privilege to have the opportunity, especially coming from a hand spinning background.
What will you miss the most about the Woolmill?
The thing I will miss most about the Woolmill... it's a phenomenal location to come to work and the machinery is so unique. It's something I'll never find anywhere else - it's very special.
What is your favourite memory of working at the Woolmill?
Oh, I have 2 favourite memories! There was one day in particular, one of my first days running the spinning mule with Hugh (one of the last owners of the Woolmill). He was showing me the mule running, one of our volunteers was running the carding set, and the Dobcross loom was going next door - the whole place was humming! And of course, the opportunity to represent the Woolmill at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival - that was great! It's was a privilege to be surrounded by so many talented makers in the same place.
What is a common question that visitors ask?
I get asked a lot about the dyeing process - when do we put the colour in? We tend to card and spin just the natural shades so I tend to tell them about the dye plants we have in the garden and the fact we are able to use roots from those through the summer and make up our dye baths - it's a very slow and traditional process. As far as I'm aware, it's quite unique to the Woolmill.
Why are heritage crafts so important?
They are important because there's so few machines of this age still in operation and even fewer people left that know how to work them. It's a part of our shared cultural heritage - it's important to keep these things going.
What advice would you give to the next craft fellow?
To always keep a lookout on Ebay! There's no manuals for machines like this - the nearest thing I found were these old books that you find online every now and then, that's the closest thing you can get to a Haynes manual!
We are looking for Toby's successor but meanwhile the Dobcross loom is to undergo a significant overhaul, once the work has been approved by Moray Council. It was the only historic machine not to have been refurbished during the renovation.
We plan as much public access to this work as possible, both at the mill and on our website and social media.