Factory Memories Rediscovered…

Posted by Ella & me on

 Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been having a tidy up here in the factory, which isn’t unusual but this time it’s on a much bigger scale.

We tend to have a ‘save & reuse everything’ mentality, some people would refer to us as ‘hoarders’ which has been the case long before recycling & sustainability became a big thing, and then we also have a few of those areas left untouched for so long, that nobody dare venture in for fear of never being seen again!

This week we’ve given almost one ton of old card patterns to a local paper mill which will be recycled into making toilet paper and almost a ton & a half of metal, made up of old sewing machines, racking & cabinets which will eventually find it’s way into the automotive & rail industries.

Re-discovering & sorting through everything is like taking a very nostalgic journey back in time. Garment patterns bearing customers names such as C&A, Great Universal Stores, Littlewoods, Woolworths, Empire Stores, to name but a few and then there were the popular style numbers, garments which we made in such volumes that you never thought they‘d come to an end. This was at a time when British garment manufacturing was in full swing & very little was imported.

Inevitably, the demand for long length, brushed nylon, button up to the neck nightdresses, which gave static electricity shocks to the wearer, (especially when combined with nylon bed sheets), was probably always destined to wane.

Many of the old patterns had already been reused several times over, just adapted with clever & strategic use of sticky tape and small slivers of card from previously used donor patterns. Reflecting back on the time, effort & skill someone took to manually make & grade these patterns originally, it’s a little sad to think that they’ll now end up as toilet tissue yet if there was even an inkling that they could ever be reused we’d have certainly kept them.

Over the next few weeks we’ll reveal more bygone, rediscovered memories from the factory but for today we wanted to show you this letter which was found inside one of our vintage style books from the 1950’s.

It was written, (typed), in 1957, just five years after the Queen’s coronation, and sent from the underwear buyer of a company called ’International Import And Export Company Limited’. It was sent to ourselves, (Headen & Quarmby before we more recently opted to use our brand name ‘Ella & me’ for the business), from the procurement company owned by Littlewoods and as you can see from the letterhead the directors were John & Cecil Moores the founders of Littlewoods Stores & the namesake football pools businesses.

The prices they’ve quoted were in ‘old money’ shillings and were for twelve garments, everything purchased in those days from our factory was priced & costed for in dozens!

The sizing was.. W, WX, OS & XOS which stood for Womens, Womens Extra, Outsize & Extra Outsize, …translated roughly today this would be Small, Medium, Large & Extra Large.

The reference in the letter to ‘Keynote’ labels & swing tickets’, this was Littlewoods brand name, a little like St. Michael is to Marks & Spencer.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this first of many trips with us down memory lane with us and hope we haven’t bored you too much, have a wonderful Jubilee weekend.


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