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Behind the Scenes at Axminster Carpets

There’s nothing like the warm luxurious feel of a pure new wool carpet. Its soft and springy fibre will retain its colour and beauty for years, and though there have been many attempts to duplicate its unique properties, there is still nothing quite like pure new wool. Nowhere is this better known than at Axminster, in the heart of the Devonshire countryside, where a world-class industry has grown up over the last 250 years in the manufacture of 100 per cent pure wool and wool-rich carpets.

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Carpetinfo decided to pay Axminster Carpets a visit to see exactly how a quality carpet is actually made and what procedures are involved in producing a stunning work of art capable of withstanding years of foot traffic and everyday spills and accidents.

Well it all starts with the sheep, and with more than forty varieties of pure bred sheep in the UK, the choice of wool is vital for producing hard wearing qualities, appearance, colour fastness and the overall lustre of a finished carpet. The wool from Axminster Carpets own Drysdale sheep is highly prized and thanks to its hard wearing qualities, is blended with wool from other breeds to produce the very finest carpet yarn used in the production of Axminster Carpets.

There are well over 40 million sheep in Britain with more pure breeds than in any other country and Axminster Carpets Ltd incorporate more than 90% British wool in their carpets.

All of Axminster Carpets yarn is sourced and supplied from their Buckfast Spinning Mill, on the southern edge of Dartmoor. It is here that the raw fleeces start their journey from fleece to floor. Sorted, washed, stretched, dyed and spun, the wool takes a form similar to knitting yarn which is wound on to cones before delivery to Axminster.

loom carpet roduction

Axminster Carpets have an unrivalled reputation for quality and throughout the production process the Company adopts a rigorous quality control system. The incoming cones of yarn from Buckfast are subjected to further inspection on arrival, including colour comparison against a calibrated standard to ensure a perfect match. The yarn is then rewound onto smaller bobbins, which are in turn placed into a feed array for the loom called a ‘creel’. Up to 9000 bobbins in a creel can feed a single loom creating a single carpet – a quite unbelievable sight.

The base of the carpet is partly formed by the Jute ‘weft’, grown and spun in Bangladesh. This weft is passed between alternate parallel cotton yarns or ‘warps’. The yarn is fed into the loom, where grippers draw pre-selected lengths of yarn which are cut by a series of razor sharp knives. The resulting tufts are positioned between the warps by the grippers, and retained by each pass of the weft.

In this way a woven lattice of tightly packed cords and wool tufts build up to form a carpet, at the rate of three to five yards per hour, under the expert supervision of the weaver.

The quality of the carpet is determined by the number of tufts per square inch, the count or weight of the yarn and the length of pile. Some carpets have more than 160,000 tufts per square metre.

axminster spool

The newly woven carpet then undergoes a meticulous finishing regime to ensure the finest quality result. Firstly, the “cloth” is lightly brushed, then gently steamed before tip shearing removes any high points in the pile to give a smooth, level finish. It then moves on to the first of several rigorous inspections, where any imperfections are highlighted.

axminster carpet picker

Any minor faults are then corrected by hand in a way which replicates the weaving process, before moving on to large passing tables for further inspection or correction if required.

The carpet is further brushed and after additional steaming to burst open the lush woollen pile, a coating of vinyl is applied to the back of the carpet to assist tuft retention and ease cutting and fitting. Further brushing is followed by a second and final tip shearing operation to ensure a smooth, level finish.

A meticulous final examination, carried out by Axminster’s most senior inspectors, then follows on a specially illuminated, tilting table, to ensure perfection.

There is not doubt from our visit just how Axminster Carpets have built a reputation of exceptional quality control and manufacturing standards and why they are justly proud of the result.

When you next look to buy a new carpet, just take into account the processes involved in producing a fine axminster carpet.

One thing that really came to light is that Axminster pride themselves on being the best of British with carpets made to exceptional standards guaranteed to give you years of unrivalled service. We all know that buying a carpet is a big investment which deserves looking after so don’t undermine all the hard work Axminster undertakes by compromising fitting or underlay. Also, care for your carpet - Vacuum regularly and treat spills quickly and in the correct manner and you can be sure of a great looking carpet for many years.

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