A DARWEN soft furnishings manufacturer is developing a secret new product line and is set to continue recruiting new staff into next year.

Stuart McDonald, managing director of Herbert Parkinson Ltd, revealed the future plans as he showed the town’s MP Jake Berry around the company’s new £3million ‘bespoke’ goods department.

He is now in the final stage of recruiting the 70 new staff needed for its full roll-out by the end of August, with 20 vacancies still available.

Owner The John Lewis Partnership has invested the £3m in the Harvest Mill factory in Monton Road over 18 months, creating the highly-specialised service making individually-tailored curtains and blinds.

Mr McDonald showed Northern Powerhouse minister Mr Berry round the site yesterday, introducing him to the ‘partners’, as John Lewis call its employees, and revealing its new £10,000 quality laboratory.

He said: “We are now in our final drive to recruit the remaining 20 of the 70 people needed. We need enthusiastic individuals who are keen to learn.

“We are currently developing a new soft furnishings line to complement our existing product range for launch next year but I cannot give any more details.

“It is a further demonstration of the confidence John Lewis has in the Darwen site and its continuing investment here. I expect to see further recruitment of partners running into double figures in 2019,” said Mr McDonald.

Mr Berry met staff and was given a coaching session on a new £30,000 blind stitch hemmer by trainer Mick Fallon, who said: “I think we could make a sewing machinist out of him. We can train almost anybody.”

He also met 21-year-old former apprentice Sophie O’Hare, who persuaded mum Kathy to join the firm a few weeks ago. Mrs O’Hare said: “I’m delighted with her. It’s my dream job.”

Mr Berry said: “It is fascinating the see the new department which confirms John Lewis’s continuing commitment to Herbert Parkinson and the excellent workforce of Darwen. It’s helping adapt the company to new online world and prepare it for the next 100 years.”

Administrator Jane Gorman showed Mr Berry the new quality lab, while section manager Immy Hussain took him round the new bespoke department, saying: “It’s a great opportunity to learn new skills and do new things.”

The link for would-be recruits to apply for the 20 remaining vacancies is: https://www.jlpjobs.com/search-jobs/sewing-machinist-2/