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Highland weaver launches natural fibre face mask

By Calum MacLeod

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Prickly Thistle founder Ckare Campbell.
Prickly Thistle founder Ckare Campbell.

The only tartan weaving mill in the Highlands has launched a subscription service for totally natural fibre reusable face masks.

Clare Campbell, founder and director of Black Isle based Prickly Thistle, has teamed up with the Edinburgh based Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM) to test the particle filtration and fit of its "Mask of Integrity" wool face mask design so that the final refined product completely covers the nose and mouth and can be confidently presented to the community for optimal protection.

Ross Clark, head of occupational hygiene at the IOM, said: “This project has been an exciting collaboration. To optimise the product fit Prickly Thistle Scotland made modifications on-site at the IOM lab working closely with our team of face fit testers. The IOM team were able to demonstrate the filtration abilities of the material, and how the natural materials shaped to wearers’ faces well.”

The Mask of Integrity, the first UK filtration tested wool face mask designed for community use, will be available for pre-order by mid-October with delivery in November.

Prickly Thistle is also working with Zero Waste Scotland to ensure that all masks returned as part of this subscription service will be recovered and repurposed.

Ms Campbell said: “On day one of lockdown in Scotland, I got to work on contacting everyone I knew in the textiles industry, celebrities and politicians who were in a position to influence the immediate action of ensuring every single person in Scotland could have a mask. Despite our best efforts, this hasn’t been fully acknowledged by the government yet.

“This has not stopped us. We have continued to strive for a multi-faceted solution. The pandemic has taken our passion and commitment to a whole other level to help others. I truly believe businesses have a responsibility to be positive activists in what we do.

“Over the last six months, Prickly Thistle has been bombarded with requests for a natural fibre mask, and I could not morally produce these without the confidence in their effectiveness.

“Now that we have a fully tested sustainable face mask, we can start to mobilise the supply chain and wider Scottish textile industry to meet the pre-order demand. From the yarn suppliers and weavers to the finishers and seamstresses, this is a collaborative endeavour. We have evidenced that the production of the Mask of Integrity has the power to stimulate the green economic recovery of

our industry”.

Prickly Thistle has looked to the woven sail craftsmanship of the Viking age to ensure the durability of the new mask with the help of Professor Donna Heddle, director of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI ) Institute for Northern Studies.

Professor Heddle said: “The Vikings were the finest sailors since the Phoenicians and their ships were models of efficient and resilient construction. Research based on the reconstruction of the five scuttled Viking ships found in Roskilde Fjord in Denmark show that Viking woollen cloth sails have far greater longevity than the later linen ones, such as those found on the late medieval ship Vasa, and adapt and cope with weather conditions much more effectively.”

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