FIBERuary Peggy Hart Mills

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FIBERuary Day 23     Peggy Hart   Spinneries

MINI MILL

 

SPINNERIES
The big woolen mills are gone, but a number of small custom work spinneries have sprung up to spin yarn for fiber farmers. On the custom weaving page of my website, blanketweave.com, there is a list of some of the ones I have worked with. Whether you  keep sheep yourself, or are just looking to source locally grown and processed wool, this list may be useful. Some use old industrial equipment, some use the new Mini Mill equipment. Most spin woolen system and others semi worsted.
Questions to consider when choosing a mill:
  • Where: You will save yourself some expense and trouble if you can drive your wool to the spinnery. This also gives you the opportunity of talking to the spinnery about the best design for your yarn and for them to look at your wool. If the wool is damaged or has too much vegetable matter in it they can tell you right then and there.
  • How much wool: Spinnery minimums range from totally custom (one fleece) to 100 lbs raw fleece to 300 lbs. washed fleece. Costs of spinning at some mills go down dramatically as you have larger quantities spun.
  • Yarn design: Mills spin either woolen or semi worsted system. Woolen yarn is lofty and especially suited for knitting and most weaving. Woolen system mills typically accommodate staple lengths of 2 1/2”-5”.  If your wool is longer, you will need to find a mill that spins semi worsted yarn, which will result in a stronger, more lustrous yarn.
  • Scouring: Some mills scour, some don’t. Riteway offers a scouring only service.
Green Mountain Spinnery, Zeilingers, Harrisville Designs and Bartlettyarns are woolen system mills that use old industrial equipment. Bartlett has been in operation more than 150 years, Zeilingers has been around since 1910, while Harrisville Designs was started in 1971 and Green Mountain in 1981. All of these do custom spinning as well as selling their own line of yarns.
The Hampton Fiber Mill and Still River Mill both spin semi worsted yarn, using modern equipment.
There are a number of Mini Mills around; some of the others on my list fall into this category. Mini Mills refers to the Belfast machinery that is designed to serve the needs of alpaca farmers. Because alpaca is long, fine, and needs to be dehaired before spinning, it cannot be spun using conventional woolen equipment. The Belfast Mini Mill is a smaller piece of equipment than the old industrial machines, and they describe it themselves as cottage industry spinning equipment. It reminds me of the spinning jennys of the early 1800s. They sell 4 and 8 spindle models. I will say from my experience that quality of spinning varies widely. Many owners got into the business knowing nothing about spinning, qualities of different fibers, or functions of knitting and weaving yarns. However there are a lot of them all over the country now. Word of mouth recommendations are a good idea. They will process small quantities.

Spinning Jenny

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FIBERuary Peggy Hart Blanket Weaver

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FIBERuary Day 15  Peggy Hart  Weaver

TUNIS FIBERUARY.jpeg

Photo by Tripps Eldridge   Caney Fork Farm

Red Headed Sheep

For the last 30 years I have woven blankets on old industrial looms. A large part of my work is weaving blankets for sheep farmers, who send me their wool spun into yarn for me to weave it up for them. Their blankets are unique to them as I work with them to choose a pattern that will bring out their yarn’s best qualities. The breed of sheep determines much of the look and feel of the finished blanket. Over the years I have worked with many different breeds, everything from Rambouillet and superfine Merino to Churro.
One of the joys of this work for me is that every warp is different, and that there are sometimes delightful surprises. The current project is a case in point, Tunis wool from Caney Fork farm in Tennessee, spun in Michigan as a singles at Zeilingers.  100% Tunis wool had never come through my barn door before. The farmer chose an overall textural pattern of twill floats within a plain weave background. When washed up, the hand was unexpectedly soft and supple.
Tunis is an American heritage breed, developed from fat tailed Tunisian Barbary sheep crossed with Leicester and Southdown to make the wool finer and softer. The earliest documented importation were two rams gifted to George Washington by the Bey of Tunis. The two rams were placed with Judge Richard Peters of Belmont, PA, with flocks later established in PA, MD,vA, GA, NC and SC. They became the dominant breed in the midAtlantic and upper southern states until the Civil War, when they almost became extinct due to most of the stock being eaten by troops.
Tunis are hardy, medium size sheep, and adapt to both northern cold and southern heat and humidity. They are raised for both meat and wool, with the fleece in the same micron range as Corriedale and Shetland. Wool yield is on the low side, only 4-5 lbs. per ewe. The wool is a creamy white, with a crispy texture and a healthy crimp. The staple is 3”-5”.
Tunis often bear twins, and the lambs are born red (hence the name), gradually turning
white. TUNIS FIBERUARY.JPG
Photo by Christie Davenport
Otterknol Farm Tunis Sheep
Peggy hart