This film is part of Free

Behind the Sirdar Label

A tour that begins with spinning wool and ends with a room full of women, not typing, but silently hand knitting the fashions of swinging London.

Promotional 1969 20 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


An insight into the success of one of Britain’s leading producers of hand knitting yarns when they became a world leader in fashionable knitting patterns in the 1960s. The film not only shows the entire process of producing the finished knitting yarns, but perhaps more interestingly, the painstaking process of testing new designs with dozens of women hand knitting at impressive speed: everything from toddlers wear to the crochet disco dresses of the Sophisticates range.

Established originally in Ossett in 1880 by the Harrap brothers, the woollen company moved a decade later to the Bective Mills Alverthorpe in Wakefield, which is still producing worsted for hand knitting wool. Led by the pioneering figure of Jean Tyrrell (aka Miss Harrap), who took over the running of the company on the death of her father Fred Harrap in 1960, Harraps greatly profited from the use of advertising features in women’s magazines in the 1960s. The company was taken over in 2007 and now, much expanded, trades under the name of Sirdar; which harks back to Britain’s imperialist past, as it was adopted after Lord Kitchener was assigned as Sirdar (leader) of the Egyptian Army in the 1880s.