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...a glimpse into life on Vancouver Island, needle felting, photography, food, gardening, etcetera...etcetera
"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

Friday, February 28, 2020

Pickers, carders, strippers and travellers...

Sounds like the characters from an old Western movie 
or a travelling carnival right?
These are some of the terms I learned the other day after 
visiting one of the last tours of  the 
The farm has been in operation since 1980 raising Alpacas and 
three years ago began the fascinating journey 
into processing fibres in their onsite woollen mill.
The grand Duchess of the mill room (and yes, thats the name of her!)
is the carding machine built in 1870 and still running like a charm!
 Her name has worn off mostly, but then you might be a bit 
worn yourself after 150 years of work!
She came from Philadelphia but her history up until recently is a bit unclear.
She worked in Crofton, then Qualicum Bay 
before moving south down Island to North Saanich, B.C, Canada.
 This beautiful beast of cogs and drums and belts and wheels is a 
fluff layered machine of incredible ingenuity.
The dawn of the Industrial Revolution brought this machine to the forefront 
of processing wool on a grand scale.
Basically the picked, cleaned, raw fleece... fed onto the large belt where it is taken 
into and through a number of needled drums
 (kind of like those fine tooth dog brushes).
Here is John...master of fluff, using cards to set a gauge...and no, thats not
why it's called 'carding'! The word is derived from the latin word carduus which means 'thistle' or 'teasel' which 
are seed heads that used to be used to comb fleece.
Everything is covered in a gauzy, layer of bits of fleece...
As I stood there watching, I couldn't help but wonder what products had come from the fleece processed on The Duchess throughout it's 150 years of service...soldiers uniforms, blankets, woven
textile for suits and coats...
After several turns through the various gauges of needles, it comes out
as beautiful, fluffy strands called pencil roving...
 It then goes into a smaller, but none the less intricate than the big carder,
machine called a Pin Drafter where it gathers the pencil roving
into a more stable texture...
 where it is transferred over to a spinning machine.
 The roving now begins the process of becoming yarn. It is spun first in one direction and then, depending on the ply, is switched to another part of the machine to twist the ply's together thus creating different 
gauges of yarn ready for knitting and weaving.
PHEW! This making yarn is exhausting!
It takes a lot of finicky messing about to set 
this machine so the yarn comes out right!
 Each small batch order is accompanied throughout the whole process
with all of the pertinent information of the owner of the fleece insuring
that it stays together with every bit of info that the customer has requested.
After the spinning machine has finished, the yarn is either spun 
onto cones or twisted into skeins ready for pick up...
Unfortunately I must end this post on a sad note as Inc Dinca Do Farms
is on the chopping block. The owners will be closing the mill and selling
the farm due to personal reasons.
I only hope that through some amazing circumstances, that this
does not happen. 
These people who work and live here are passionate 
about what they do, using organic and low carbon footprints and 
only process local, small batches.
The work is long and tedious.
It is part of the slow fashion movement that begs you to think
of how and where fibre and clothing comes from.
Please visit the farms website to meet the wonderful people 
who spent the time to explain their wonderful world!
I wish you all the best and hope and pray the mill will be saved!

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