The History of Acorn Fabrics established in 1975

Our History

The Chatburn family which owns Acorn Fabrics on Nelson’s Lomeshaye Industrial Estate can point to a tradition in textiles dating back 90 years and spanning four generations.

Textile Heritage

It all started with Arthur Chatburn, who was a managing director of a shirting mill in Colne, Lancashire, England from 1928 to 1970.
The mill was a major employer in the local area. During this time, his son John joined the company and became a senior manager. In 1975, The mill was bought by Courtaulds. John, who was still working for the company, did not like the direction the firm was going so took the brave decision to start his own business.
While working for Courtaulds, he realised they had a warehouse full of fabric that was commission woven for specific customers but for various reasons was not wanted.
This left a varied miss match assortment of fabrics which has very hard to sell. So in John’s new venture, he decided to weave fabrics he knew could sell and that would look attractive as a collection. This meant weaving the fabric first and hoping to get orders for it, which was not without risk. However this stock service meant he could supply companies who only wanted smaller amounts of fabric and couldn’t match the minimum order quantities of the larger mills. So Acorn was born in its initial guise as a small shop in Milnthorpe, Cumbria, offering a small range of fabrics.
Acorn created a quality called Kendal, a 20% wool/80% cotton blend which was woven on 100 year old John Pilling shuttle looms. This was available in a range of country checks and is still a main stay of the current collection.
It was during this time John began travelling down to London twice a week which was necessary to obtain orders due to the lack of communication technology at the time. This was also the time Acorn’s relationship with London’s bespoke shirtmaking community was established. The highest density of shirt makers and tailors at the time and still today was Jermyn Street and the famous Savile Row.
Acorn was the only firm in the UK to be using West Indian Sea island cotton, which was the finest long staple cotton at the time.
As the business grew, Acorn moved to Skipton then, in 1985, to a modern, purpose-built premises here in Nelson. It was soon after this John’s eldest son Chris joined the company.
By the mid-eighties Acorn had a well- established global network of agents spreading the word about Acorn supior shirting fabric.
In the early 90’s up and coming UK designers started to use Acorn’s shirting fabric in unconventional ways like trims for hats, blouses and skirts.
2006 was when John’s youngest son joined the fold. The three generations still work together trying to fulfil an ever growing global demand for fine quality fabric. Making sure they still service the needs of Savile Row and Jermyn Street, Acorn’s customer base has diversified to designers, theatre and film costume departments, students and lately private individuals with the launch of their e-commerce website.
Acorn launched an e-commerce website to reach out not only to existing traditional shirtmakers but also to service new emerging markets like ladies wear, childrens wear, fashion students, home sewers and costumiers. All areas that Acorn’s old approach of using agents could not reach
Fashion student designing with Acorn’s shirting fabric.

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