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Beetling back to relevance in 2021

Unique linen finish created through mechanical pounding using beech hammers.

7th October 2021

Innovation in Textiles
 |  Upperlands, Northern Ireland


William Clark and Sons –the oldest surviving linen mill in all of Ireland, founded in 1736 – has been awarded a British Fashion and Textile Technology (BFTT) R&D grant to pioneer sustainable and innovative developments with its signature Beetling process.

The grant will allow the company, based in Upperlands in Mid Ulster, to breathe new life and relevance into the historic process of Beetling – a now globally unique finish created through mechanical pounding using beech hammers which produces a highly desirable sheen on linen which is unrivalled by modern finishing equipment.

Traditionally, these finished products are used in tailoring for seam reinforcement due to the fine linen that the process creates, making it almost invisible when used in garment construction.

Beetled linen found new fame and popularity when it was featured heavily in the Alexander McQueen SS20 collection, stepping out from being hidden in garments to being a decorative fabric. The traditional finish is created entirely naturally with starch, which is fragile and can easily mark which, limits its usage outside special items.

The project is set to last 15 months and will research sustainable products that can embed inherent stain resistant qualities in the finished product while staying true to the historic nature of the process, creating more durable fabrics and opening up end uses from fashion and accessories to interiors. This will involve establishing a controlled production environment for the Beetling engines to gain more scientific control over manufacturing and installation of video technology to give consumers an insight into the production of this unique linen, which takes in the region of 140 hours to gain its character sheen.

William Clark & Sons will be working with local weavers based in Northern Ireland to produce a sustainable collection of fabrics.

“Working with BFTT, the University of the Arts and Leeds University will give us access to up-to-date knowledge and research on eco chemistry which will be hugely beneficial in progressing the beetled finish,” said the company’s creative director Duncan Neil. “We’re absolutely thrilled to be the the first Northern Irish business to be awarded the BFTT grant and we look forward to championing innovation within the region and the Irish linen industry.”

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