Sunday, August 19, 2012

A visit to a spinning mill

Harrisville Designs manufactures looms and yarn (and probably other things). We had the privilege of visiting their yarn spinning mill when I was in Harrisville a couple of weeks ago. They are the only mill that spins woollen. Most other commercial yarns are spun worsted. They spin their own yarn as well as yarn for a couple of other brands. One of those brands is Jared Flood's Shelter and Loft yarns.

As you enter the mill, you see bins of scoured and dyed virgin wool. You can see a close-up of what the wool looks like above. Below, you can see the bins that contain the raw material for Jared Flood's yarns. This wool is  like ingredients in a recipe. Colors are mixed together to create the heathered effects that we love so much.

The bins below contain Harrisville's own line of ingredients. The base colors are different so the ingredients are kept separate.
 There was some other fiber that was bagged. I took a picture of this green fiber spilling out of one of these bags. It is difficult to see how this will become yarn.
There are also bins of waste fiber. Harrisville tries to recycle as much of the fiber as they can so they are bagged up and used for various purposes. If they can use them, they will. Otherwise, they are sent off to others who will use it for other purposes.
There were also bins of other grades of fiber. Some of this was destined to be rug yarn.
Another bin of coarser fiber.
 When it comes time to make a batch of yarn, the various colors that make it up are put in carts in a specific proportion (think recipe) and wheeled over to this scale to be weighed. The other colors are added based on the recipe, all by weight.
Then we moved on to the picking area where the fiber is hydrated with oil and spread apart. On the day we were there, they were spinning primary colors for some of their kids' products.
  The fiber gets picked and moved to the other side where it is sprayed with oil to keep it moving in the machinery.
A very telling sign that could be at home anywhere.
 Moving on to carding, the fiber is carded in a series of rollers. Some rollers pick up the fiber and others strip it off other rollers.
 Fine adjustments determine how much fiber gets moved onto the rollers.
 Here is a view of the rollers at work.
 Cages protect us from the machinery. This is the second set of carding rollers.

Carding goes on for a long time in terms of space in the mill. Just as we spinners card fiber multiple times, there are multiple sets of rollers that card the fibers in the mill.
 The carded fiber comes down in fragile sheets after the rollers.
Eventually, it is divided into strips of roving that are wrapped around spools.

  Next we moved on to spinning. Green roving was being spun. The next two pictures are of the same spinning machine. It was just too high to take in one photo. The spool of roving is in the top of the first picture.
 The yarn gets spun and then wrapped around cones.
 Here is Nick holding a cone of spun yarn. These are singles. Nick was our guide at the mill.
 Cones are then plied together to create the final yarn.
 The plying machines are in the background along with bins of yarn in the process of being processed.
 After plying, the hand-knitting yarn is made into hanks. This is a pretty cool machine that makes hanks of a specific length.
 Weaving yarns are coned. This is the coning machine.

 The skeins are washed to set the twist and then hung here to dry. Fans keep the air moving to dry them quickly.
Another really cool machine was the one that twisted the hanks into the skeins we know and love. A really proficient operator makes it look easy.

 Lastly the boxes of yarn go up a conveyor belt to storage in the attic if they aren't being shipped out right away.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of the mill. I was fascinated by the fact that the same steps we take as hand-spinners are being carried out by these machines. Fiber is teased or picked, carded, spun, plied and then washed to set the twist. The scale is just different.


Terry Sailingknitter said...

Thank you for the virtual tour! I love factory tours and have never been in a textile mill so this was fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this - very interesting.