Tuesday, June 23, 2015

PEI and Belfast Mini Mills

While visiting Prince Edward Island recently I had the pleasure of touring Belfast Mini Mills. I encourage you to explore their website and watch the video below. They design and build milling equipment capable of processing small batches, using less space than traditional milling equipment and less water. My friend Jani of Starcroft Fiber has a Belfast Mini Mill with which she spins her Nash Island fleece.

 There are sheep and a guard llama that greet visitors at the farm.

 And there is a peacock with a whole lot to say.

This is their dye set up: I want to recreate this inner colander on a pulley on small scale for my dye stove.

Fiber going into the carder comes out like ...


And then it is spun and sent through a steamer that looks like a cannon. A yarn cannon.

The company store has hand crafted items as well as yarn and books and tools.

I often boast that I'm not at risk of over-purchasing when I head off to a yarn event. I typically come home with one or two skeins of yarn and a big smile.  I'm afraid my bragging rights are gone after this trip.

It's easy to see where the folks at Belfast Mini Mills get their color palette. I am a big fan of bright colors, especially as today's trend leans toward neutrals.

I grinned the whole eight miles across the bridge to the mainland. My mud smeared truck was filled with sweet yarn and inspiration.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Delivery to MacAusland's Woollen Mill

These are my Brother-in-Law's sheep. The black faced girls are Clun Forest and the solid colored girls are Cheviot.

 Everyone wanted to tell me this was first day of weaning. Not sure if my words of comfort were any help.

I jammed ten bags of the girls' wool in the back of my family's Suburban. I hit the road from New Hampshire to Prince Edward Island.

The bridge to Prince Edward Island is eight miles long. I was happy to make it there before sundown to capture the thrill.

The next day I traveled to MacAusland's Woollen Mill in Bloomfield. We unloaded the truck and I was allowed to explore the mill -- big kicks for me. I used to work in a weaving mill many moons ago: I have an abiding love for the greasy smell, the constant clatter, the simple ingenuity, and (be still my heart) the machinery.

These are the wet processing tanks for washing and dyeing. They are about the size of a hot tub. 

Baled dyed wool waiting its turn.

The big chewing machine, teasing the wool to open it up.

A segment of the carding machine. The chewed wool goes in one end, and sliver comes out the other end.

The rolls of sliver (unspun yarn) are mounted to the spinner and spun into single strands of yarn.

Some of the singles are plied into two or three ply yarn,

some yarn is wound onto cones,

and some yarn is wound onto bobbins for the loom.

The coned yarn is arranged and tensioned into a warp (the long ends of yarn dressed on a loom).

I love their use of cottage cheese lids.

The warp is wound onto a back beam and then sleyed (fed) into the loom. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the loom -- please imagine my ear up to the door that said "Employees Only".

This machine brushes the almost complete blankets -- they go in stiff and scratchy and come out fluffy and inviting. The ends are finished with a jumbo serger and each blanket is carefully inspected. Check out their website if you would like a blanket to cherish for a lifetime, made by a small group of welcoming and hard-working folks.

After touring more of the island I retired here, one of my favorite places to sleep, with my new MacAusland's plaid stole, a good book, and a ball of yarn.

And this was the view out my window.