From The Farm To The Store: A Good Nights Sleep With John Lewis & Partners
PAID PARTNERSHIP// What is the definition of sleep? The Cambridge English Dictionary tells us that it’s ‘the resting state in which the body is not active and the mind is unconscious’. It’s proven that sleep reduces stress, can improve your memory, lower your blood pressure and also put you in a much better mood, all important factors for healthy living. We spend a whopping third of our life sleeping and resting so it’s only natural that we should think carefully about the products in which we invest in order to optimise the likelihood of a good nights sleep. So when John Lewis & Partners asked me a few months ago if I would like to join them on a trip to find out what goes into making these products and how our choices can relate to our wellbeing, I jumped at the chance.
The trip comprised of a visit to Herbert Parkinson in Darwen to see sleep products being handmade by the team, followed by a visit and stay at the Harrison Spinks Farm, finishing with a visit to their Leeds factory to see how the natural mattresses are developed and produced. Here’s how we discovered how important it is to consider these products as lifestyle investments and how these companies are helping us to be more sustainable in our purchasing.
Day One: Herbert Parkinson
Herbert Parkinson established his weaving mill business in Darwen back in 1934 to weave jacquard cloth. The John Lewis Partnership was looking for a mill to weave fabric for their own bespoke product range so in 1953, Herberts daughter sold them the business. The mill now produces John Lewis own brand duvets and pillows with high quality goose down sourced from Eastern Europe and Siberia, plus a bespoke curtain range. They also produce cushion pads and a range of filled products such as beanbags.
The factory produces duvets ranging from 2.5 to 15 in tog and can also create a completely customised product suited to you. They also offer a Yours & Mine service – this means that you can have a duvet created that suits both you and your partner, one side lighter or heavier than the other. Another excellent bespoke service is the Toasty Toes which is heavier at one end of the duvet than the other to keep your feet warm at night. The duvets are predominantly goose down and all completely natural.
Herbert Parkinson are EDFA certified which means that they commit to standards in relation to animal husbandry, including no live plucking, no force feeding and all the down is a byproduct of the food industry. They even do a bespoke eider duvet, complete luxury and as light as air. An ‘entry level’ pillow is 85% feather and 15% down, going up the range to Hungarian which is 90% down. Pillow prices range from £30 right up to £180 for super premium Mountain Goose. Quick tip for keeping your pillow plump? Poke in the corners, then puff back out and the down will return to the right place.
It was absolutely fascinating listening to the knowledgeable team talking about these products who production they have perfected over the years – the passion for their brand was obvious. We were given a tour of the factory and even had a go at filling our own pillows and duvets. Both the bespoke and standard products are all handmade and it was so interesting to watch the team at work.
Day Two: Harrison Spinks Farm & Factory
Harrison Spinks is a fifth generation family business dating back to 1840. They have over 600 people working with them, from the farmers who look after the prize sheep to the craftsmen and women who still sew, side stitch and tuft the mattresses by hand. The core of the business is a 300 acre farm in North Yorkshire called Hornington Manor and this is where they rear their 600 sheep and produce hemp that provides the filling for their mattresses. It’s not possible for their herd and crop to provide for all of their products, so they work with local farmers who help fill the quota.
We stayed on the farm the night before and in the morning, were taken on a tour of the hemp factory which is on site. Using locally grown natural fibre crops of hemp and flax as well as wool lessens the impact on the environment by dramatically reducing CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, so it’s far more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The tour was absolutely fascinating – did you know that the word canvas comes from the Latin for cannabis?
The hemp fibre is harvested and the oil from the extract makes your body function better (the first High Street store to make hemp hand oil was The Body Shop). Harrison Spinks use this raw product to manufacture padding for beds, hanging basket materials, create biofuel to run the plant and also use it for animal bedding on the farm. They also compress the waste which provides all the energy used on the farm. Hemp can also be used to make organic plaster for houses which is totally fireproof. Plus, when you build with plant based substances, you lock up the carbon thus no carbon emissions. Amazing! It’s unsurprising that Harrison Spinks have won the Queens Award For Sustainability. The main benefit of using hemp in your bedding is moisture control. It can absorb ten times it’s weight in moisture (key fact: you use at least a pint of moisture a night) and also regulates your body temperature.
We moved on from the farm, an 18 mile journey to the factory which is based in Leeds. Here we were shown how the mattresses are put together by hand by a skilled team of craftspeople, many of whom have worked with the business for years. All parts of the mattress making process are done by hand or using by hand machines, including the tufting and sewing. Again, we got to try these skills out ourselves which was both interesting and nerve wracking – the people who do these jobs are highly experienced and perfection is essential! The team were really friendly and so knowledgeable, it was great to see how it all works and gain some understanding of the huge amount of thought and care that goes into making each mattress.
And Finally, Relax…
Back to the sleep theme and this month, John Lewis & Partners have brought out a new range of 100% linen bedding in a beautiful, earthy colour palette. The range includes tones of Blue Grey, Forest Green, Loch Blue, Orange, Blush Pink and White and I’ve chosen Forest Green combined with Blush Pink for my own bedroom. It’s super tactile and soft to the touch and has enhanced breathability to ensure a regulated temperature. The colour works well with the white walls and dark woodwork in my room and combined with my own Herbert Parkinson produced duvet and pillow, I’m all set for the perfect nights sleep. Starting at £15 for a pillowcase, it’s available both online and in stores now.
Thanks so much to the teams at Herbert Parkinson and Harrison Spinks for making our tour so interesting and enlightening. I really enjoyed finding out what goes on behind the scenes and I will certainly never look at bedding in the same light again! And thank you to John Lewis & Partners for taking me on the journey to discovering a great nights sleep.