Textile Society of America



Date of this Version



From Creating Textiles: Makers, Methods, Markets. Proceedings of the Sixth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Inc. New York, NY, September 23–26, 1998 (Earleville, MD: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1999).


Copyright © 1998 by the author(s)


Weft·figured Scotch leno gauze, known as madras, was made in Darvel and other Ayrshire townships that had by 1800 become highly specialized in the production of fine, patterned cotton fabrics. This paper shows how pride in madras-weaving skills and a desire to maintain them not only perpetuated the design and manufacture of these cloths, but also inspired the development of new cloth types. It demonstrates the significance of a passing reference in Three Generations in a Family Textile Firm (Jocelyn Morton 1971, p.49) to the response by Alexander Morton - a Darvel madras weaver turned merchant/manufacturer by 1870 - to the introduction in c. 1873 of power-driven lace machines:

He conceived the idea of weaving tapestry, and later, chenille goods, which could be done to some extent on the old madras looms, and were of a nature that would easily be taken up by people skilled in madras weaving.

By the mid-1880s power-driven madras machines were also working in local factories, but designs too elaborate or in short demand were still hand woven until about 1904. When the Alexander Morton firm otherwise relocated its mills to Carlisle, England, in 1914, madras weaving (together with its former rival, lace production) was retained in Darvel. Records of 1930 demonstrate the skill levels still necessary to their manufacture.