It is like being reborn! It is joy in a sunbeam!! Today people will be in such a good mood! Perhaps springtime has finally reached us. (it snowed this past week!)
Such unpredictable and unusual weather! This is why I am working with Fibershed.com and involved in getting our textile industry back to our country.
It will help reduce the carbon footprint of such a massive industry. And by connecting farmers to local processing mills to small local textile mills to the end users, we are creating a small economic hub with a very small carbon footprint. Also by encouraging farmers to grow organically, and by encouraging the mills to process with little waste, again we are reducing our carbon footprint. By doing this, we will help reduce the carbon footprint of a very massive industry.
Stephanie is explaining how she heard about a place where bison were being raised for meat, but were burning the hides. She negotiated a deal where she bought the hides, and is now processing bison fiber into yarn. Bison fiber, that is taken when the winter coat is thick, is as soft as cashmere! Her mill is also singular in accepting black fleece.
First stop is the receiving dock, where we saw bags and bags of various fleeces. Here Heidi Goldberg, Professor of Art at Concordia, listens to the stories being told by Stephanie.
The washing room has a screened surface as a picking station on the right where organic animal matter and vegetation is removed from the fleece to ready it for washing. Sharon Marquardt and Charlie Hovde view the Washing Room.
The impressive array of sink stations available for different fleeces is located on the other side of the room.
As we proceed into the drying room, we are struck with a wall of heat. The right side of the room was lined with racks of merino that had been washed and were drying overnight.
The left side of the Drying Room was lined with racks drying multiple levels of Bison fiber.
Each piece of equipment throughout this facility was often designed on-site, put together on-site, and even constructed on-site.
Stephanie told one story that would have made most people walk away from this project in defeat. It left me absolutely amazed at this slight woman's strength of character and determination. She had contracted with a man who's credentials she had thoroughly vetted, to find the various machines she needed, bring them to the facility, put them together and teach her staff how to use them. Well, she got most of the equipment, but the man skipped the country, and she was left with crates of machine parts.
What she does next is amazing! She decides that the only thing to do is to dump each crate out on the floor and try to figure out how to put it together. Each machine's operator was empowered in this process by now knowing exactly how their machine works, down to each nut and bolt!
This Roller Machine is next in the line-up. It takes the picked and cleaned wool fiber and rolls it in a combing action through 6 different rollers, with each pass processing the fiber to a higher, cleaner state each time, until it comes out the end in what is called a sliver, which is about a 4" X 2" fluffy batting of fibers all running in the same direction.
This sliver is inserted into a combing machine, for further alignment.
The sliver runs down this channel and through the combs, coming out the other end as roving.
This is one of the Spinning Machines, spinning the roving into yarn. Yarn can come in either an 'S' or a 'Z' twist, which can be done to order at this mill.
Bobbins needed for the spinning and plying process.
Dawn Tommerdahl inspecting a spinning/plying machine.
Some of the freshly spun and plied yarn is wound onto cones via this Cone Winding Machine. Cones are usually used by professionals needing yarn in larger quantities, in an easy form to use.
Other yarn is wound into skeins for use by hand knitters and other fiber artists.
We learned so much during our trip to Northern Woolen Mills, and I plan on going again, if only to luxuriate in the wonderful yarns made there!
Northern Woolen Mill has been featured on CNBC! 'Crazy' innovative: How one entrepreneur is reviving 'Made in USA' wool