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"Happiness always looks small when you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and at once you learn how big and precious it is."
Maxim Gorky

Monday, December 10, 2012

The journey of wool!

Last week some friends and I went over to Saltspring Island.
One of them had to go to a meeting and afterwards we
went off to visit a small spinning mill.
Did you ever think of the journey which takes fleece to finished wool?

(Stella from Tugwell Creek Farm)

First there is all that growing of the fleece...the munching of grass and the
long wet winters and then the beginning of summer and off it comes!
Then it is brought to a mill...
           This is a small-ish operation but does quite a bit of processing
for people and shops on the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island.
So we begin with raw fleece...
Then it's put into these big tubs for washing which is done with
cold water and NO agitation, otherwise it will felt.
After cleaning it goes into an old washing machine for just the spin cycle.
Then off to be air dried it what is basically a giant dehydrator
about 6 feet by 4 feet...
         Here is Amy who graciously gave us the tour.
She's from the East coast of Canada but lives on Saltspring now...
Here she explains the next step which is a carder...
            The wool is fed into a hopper and then feeds through these fine teeth
to separate the fibres...
It always amazes me to think of the person who invented such a machine!
Next it goes through a series of a few other machines of which I can't exactly
remember what they all do but eventually the one they call
"Rumplestiltskin" spins it into wool...

You do not want to get your fingers caught in these machines or
no more knitting for you!
And magically here you go...
Alternately your wool can be left in the 'roving' stage (which is what I use for needle felting) and can be spun yourself or put into this machine...
The unspun wool is put in between the two big grey trays which have a surface
to agitate the fibres. For now it was being used as a shelf.
It is closed down sandwich style and run for about
15 minutes and VOILA...
FELT!
Sure saves a lot of time and arm muscles!!
Here's some of the waiting fleece and roving (unspun clean wool)...
Tools of the trade...
The Mill...
Small but mighty.
So next time you pull on a sweater or go to knit yourself some socks,
think of the journey this amazing fibre takes to get there.
 
P.S
Just outside the mill is the gate to the recycling depot which had the greatest design!
Recycling at it's finest...

4 comments:

Suz said...

loved reading this...but loved the shot of the sheep the best...so cute

Mary said...

Great post. And fascinating. Yes, this will definitely cross my mind the next time i wear a wool sweater! :) Lots of time and work. I love the pic of the sheep best too!!

acornmoon said...

We have a history of woollen mills and spinning in the are I grew up in. Lancashire had sheep, soft water and a plentiful supply of labour. I loved reading this.

farmlady said...

This is so interesting, seeing this porcess on a small scale.I noticed that someone has to wear a mask when working with the wool.I'm sure that I would have to too. Great shot of the tools of the trade.
Stella is a beautiful sheep and your photo of her is lovely. They are such interesting animals.
Good post.