Innovation and more at region's '˜last broadloom weaver' based in a Harborough village
He says he's the only broadloom weaver in the Midlands '“ and the only traditional rope maker in the Midlands too.
But if you want to know the main reason why, you have to turn the lights off at Paul Hall’s small mill. Genesis Products, on Harborough Road, Kibworth.
Paul, now 72 and a weaver for 57 years, has arranged some scarves on a hook at one end of the factory and asked photographer Andy to stand back.
One of his ropemakers flicks the light switch on Paul’s instructions. It’s instantly very dark in the mill.
“Now use your flash to take a picture of the scarves” Paul tells Andy.
The long-serving Mail photographer’s camera flashes. The scarves light up like Christmas trees.
“You see!” says Paul, “It’s the reflective bands woven into the scarves. There are thousands of tiny glass beads coated with aluminium and attached to a substrate. That creates the retro-reflective yarn, which shines light back at the source.”
It took two years of research and trial and error before Paul managed to weave his retro-reflective thread into a woven broadloom fabric. He was the first person to do it.
It’s not cheap – the acrylic yarn he uses costs £4.50 per kilo; but the retro-relective yarn is £250 per kilo.
But the high-vis scarves glare back at car headlights just as they did at Andy’s flashlight.
And as Paul says: “There are 2,100 kids killed or injured every year on UK roads.”
An impressed former Harborough MP Edward Garnier has said: “Every primary school in Leicestershire should require their pupils to have these scarves.”
So far 45 Leicestershire schools have Paul’s glow-in-the-dark scarves in their school colours.
Perhaps an even better advert is that Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service use them as safety blankets.
“I do an enormous amount of work for them” said Paul. “I’m going after the other 43 fire services now!”
He also weaves the retro-reflective thread into ropes, used for anything from road work sites (they can do 25 ropes an hour) to dog leads (40 an hour).
Two women – Sally Brice and Alice Fletcher – walk constantly up and down while we’re at Genesis Products, creating parallel threads which are then twisted rhythmically together to form the ropes. Normally some of the six looms would be rattling away too “but we wouldn’t hear you speak in here” explains Paul.
Paul started as a 15-year-old boy weaver at a mill in Colne, Lancashire, a photo of which he keeps at the Kibworth factory. He had an aptitude for it, and was the gold medal award winner at his City and Guilds course at Burnley Municipal Technical College.
He was snapped up by the huge agricultural corporation Monsanto, and opened their textile development sector in Leicester.
He’s had his own business for 40 years, with wife Carol, starting by weaving triple-layered horse blankets that kept horses dry by taking the moisture away from them.
“And then there’s our multicoloured blankets and throws” says Paul. “I’m at Market Harborough market every Saturday and do rural shows - that side of it’s a hobby really.”
And the future? “When I get up in the morning I know I’ve got to got to work” says Paul. “And I go to Gran Canaria three times a year. I like that.”
See the Kibworth company’s website at www.genesisreflectiveproducts.com