THE BALTIC WORKS
The concept of waxed cotton was originally developed in the early 15th century by sailors. Scottish North Sea herring fleets operating from east coast ports began treating flax sailcloth with fish oils and grease in an attempt to water proof their sails, keeping them light and efficient. Remnants of these sails were used as capes to withstand the high winds and sea spray, keeping the sailors warm and dry. These capes were the forerunner to the fisherman's slicker.
The east coast Scottish textile manufacturers, many of who had their own fleets of sailing ships, would bring in linen and flax from the Baltics, hence our "Baltic Works".
Sailcloth evolved and by the mid 1850's, to be made from lighter weight double fold cotton yarns, treated with linseed oil.
Early Royal Navy sailing ships and tea clippers were amongst the first to use these light weight cotton sails, famously "The Discovery", that still sits in Dundee's port today.
Linseed oils yellow and stiffen through weathering. Through this oxidation process, the oil would eventually lose its water proofing qualities, hence the development of alternative water proofing compounds. In the years that followed, various treatments were applied to cottons in an attempt to find the most effective, and the combination of densely woven cotton, impregnated with a paraffin waxed coating proved most successful. These fabric constructions are still used to this day and the wax treatments have been developed to give longer lasting, waterproofing finishes.
The Baltic Works site in Dundee has been manufacturing textiles since 1864, beginning life as a Jute mill and soon evolving into Dyeing and Finishing. Halley Stevensons (formerly Francis Stevensons) have pioneered the development of waxed cotton to this day, with our first patent being awarded in 1910, for "cleaning and water-proofing textiles". With over a 150 years of experience, we create many thousands of meters of waxed cotton every year, with each roll produced to custom specifications. The beauty of waxed cotton is its durability and longevity, it is built to last. The fabrics are breathable, the wax adjusting to ambient temperature to be softer/more breathable in warm weather and stiffer/more wind proof in cold conditions. Its proofing can be maintained by the end user, by applying wax into the surface, keeping it soft, supple and weather-resistant. The densely woven cotton is strong and reliable, while the finish ensures that the fabric looks better with age. The wax naturally picks up marks and creases through use, which adds to the character of the fabric itself. Garments continually adapt to the wearers personality, creating unique, one-of-a-kind products.
Today, we have many modern developments in machinery and raw materials available to help us produce quality fabrics. The high tradition of skill and fabric development imposed by the sixteenth-century guildsmen is still our benchmark standards of honest workmanship.