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Thistle and Broom Stories
Johnstons of Elgin

St. Andrew’s Cross, adaptedAlexander Johnston established in 1797 in the same location as it stands today ~ Newmill, Elgin in Morayshire. Initially the mill was concerned with linen, flax, oatmeal and tobacco. Innovative and forward thinking, Johnston gradually introduced textiles and phased out all other products. Johnstons pioneered tweed for camouflage eventually creating what have come to be known as Scottish Estate Tweeds.

Then came the testing of exotic fibres from around the world - cashmere, guanaco, vicuna, camel, mink and yak for fabric and throws. In the early years, the company struggled its way through many failed ventures but a dogged determination paid off. (Scots know a little about such things.)  Today the firm bearing his name, Johnstons, is known throughout the world for their luxurious treatment of both fibre and colour and nowhere is this more apparent than in this collection of throws.

The oldest continuously used national flag, since 832 AD; there is nothing like the azure and white of the St. Andrew's Cross against a Scottish sky to make you fully appreciate when the sun comes out. The design inspiration for St. Andrew’s Cross, adapted came from the desire to create a lap rug that was evocative of Scotland bound together as a nation. A consensus of sources established 32 political districts (counties) in Scotland. To ensure the scale and independence of each Saltire, fine blue and white lines were inserted whilst the selvage edges are composed of the ubiquitous checkerboards found on Scotland's police caps. The design team at Johnstons of Elgin deserves a large measure of credit for their patience because our collaborative effort resulted in the creation of Thistle & Broom's exclusive St. Andrew's Cross, adapted.

My heart sinks, actually it feels as though it’s being ripped from chest, every time that I am forced to take leave of Scotland. On one such occasion, sitting in the Edinburgh airport it was the morning after the football match between Wales and Scotland, sadly Wales won 4-0. And while their faces showed only remnants of the blue and white Saltires so proudly painted upon their visages the night before with their kilts swaying their bravado was certainly intact.

For some odd reason these returning warriors reminded me of the five Royal Scots Dragoon Guards met outside Edinburgh Castle in November of 2002. In extending a compliment about their dress blue uniforms resplendent with chain mail epaulets gleaming in the winter sunshine brought forth this reply... "Aye lass 'tis nay the uniform bu' ta man in it." Perhaps Brian, but at moments such as these how could any woman fail to fall under the spell of such a country?  One of the most incredibly moving places I have ever visited is the Scottish National War Memorial. Designed by Robert Lorimer shortly after the First World War and located within walls of Edinburgh Castle, the architecture can make you weep. Within the Hall of Honour, bound in red leather books, the name of each of Scotland's fallen heroes. Set upon the bare rock tip, which makes up the foundation of the fortress, rests a steel casket and contained within are the Rolls of Honour of the regiments. The Archangel St. Michael carved of Scottish Oak hangs above the casket recalling Righteousness over Evil. If you are lucky, a gentleman named Jim Crew of Historic Scotland will explain each detail with proper weight given to the sacrifices and achievements of the Scottish people for several hundred years. It will be an hour you will cherish forever.

For wearing your heart on your sleeve and honouring men like Monty, Ross, Dean, Brian and Kevin, as well as the bravery of all those who have gone before. It seems fitting that the sale of each St. Andrew's Cross benefit The Scottish National War Memorial located at Edinburgh Castle and to ensure the continuation of the Gaelic language, Fčisean nan Gŕidheal.

Johnstons mill in ElginJohnstons mill in Elgin, stands on the site where the company was first founded in 1797. It remains one of the few vertical mills still operating in Scotland and is the only British mill to transform cashmere from raw fibre to finished garment. Throughout its long history, Johnstons have specialised in working with cashmere and luxury fibres to create exciting new collections of knitwear, accessories, home furnishings and fine fabrics.

Using the purest cashmere from China and Mongolia and finest lambswool from Australia, our products are dyed, spun, woven and finished at Elgin and at our knitting plant in Hawick. Located in the far north of Scotland, our Newmill site in Elgin is one of the most beautiful in the country. Situated on the banks of the River Lossie, we use the same soft highland water in our manufacturing and finishing processes as that used to distil the finest malt whiskies in the world.

Our Visitor Centre at Newmill offers mill tours and the opportunity to browse through our elegant shop situated in the original mill buildings. You can also enjoy a light meal or some home made Scottish baking in our comfortable coffee shop.

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