Sometime ago I posted this excellent Hands Series of a Dublin Wool Mill, but it seemed to have been taken off of youtube so couldn’t be viewed. Now almost three years later, I have found it again, a superbly artful wool spinning mill & weavers from the late 1970’s. Watch and find out what happens when colors layered in to wool sandwiches are fed to the “fear-not machine”, the “scribbler machine”, and old style mill spinning with a “mule”, then various weaving of the cloth and processing into the Irish Tweed that is world renowned. This episode is absolutely loaded with all sorts of tweedy goodness ~~~ enjoy!
I am revisiting a very personal ambition of blending signature colors from local landscape and spinning into yarn, as is always the genius of Harris Tweed, and it all began for me in this post a few years ago. Soon my own color blending experiments were born, and became a literal obsession with me, and I created Tweed Chronicles on this blog. But also it is about my intrigue of the life of a weaver, particularly the tweed weavers of the the Hebrides, their tradition and industry that has held on through the test of time. Whenever I find an old film about textiles, or mills, I am sure to post it here, and I do look often for the most wonderful ones, and it appears that I have dug one up out of the vast archives of the internet. The film opens with the weavers working their fields, cutting peat, doing the work of island life, but soon gets in to some great footage of the Harris Tweed company making warp bundles to deliver out to the resident weavers of the island, then once in the hands of the weavers, warp is set up on their looms, weft shuttles loaded, and then the shuttles fly. I love how when the cloth is finished, its left out on the roadside to be picked up by the Harris Tweed people. I know you’ll love this little gem as much as I do!
A pile of sweaters; two finished and one not quite. Another is not in the photo for it is only half finished, and in a bag somewhere up in the tiny attic, and another still was knit almost to finish and then ripped out. These three represent a lot of knitting through recent months; through weeks of dusty loud logging, of waiting frustratingly for building permit to be issued, through scorching heat waves, some cool summer fog waves, and through Autumn equinox. Now the rain has come, and construction of house has begun. It is perfect timing for these sweaters to be finished and have their debut.
A sweater debut? Yes! In a couple of days I will be visiting with my youngest niece who is soon having a birthday and turning sixteen ( so will be Miss Sixteen for a year) and she’ll model the brown sweater and then there will be a pattern release of a design I have been working on for a long time. The Autumn photo shoot with both of them must wait until the November holiday this year, when Miss Eighteen comes home from college.
At first the design was going to be a set-in sleeve invention, then I couldn’t manage through the stress of things going on, so I changed my mind, promptly ripped it out, and started over with more classic style I realize that can not live without, so it became what it really wanted to be.
I will leave you in your anticipation of the forthcoming while enjoying my latest find of video mill tours, this one has given me hours of enjoyment as I knit frantically one more sweater for niece’s birthday. It rather has a calming effect while starting out a bit sleepy, but the excellent jazz music accompanies about a minute into the narration …
I found a beaut of a vintage documentary video for my Mill Tours, brimming with information of American Woolen industry, and narrated by Orson Welles! Enjoy…
A truly rustic yarn, made in a small scale production, is so wholesome it resonates history with each stitch. In a bygone era yarn was made for the locals, from the local sheep, with woolen mills scattered along rivers, because at one time before the use of electricity it was the power of water which drove the machinery. Those ancient days are gone now, but there are still a few yarn mills today, making yarn with very old machinery, in small batches.
In small scale production, a whole fleece off-the-sheep, in its entirety, would be carded and blended, often with no ‘skirting’, and with all the varying shades a natural fleece can have, resulting in each batch being very individual, and creating what I call a rustic yarn. Today there are still a few old mills standing , where the end result of making yarn is nearly as it was done on the small holding farms. I might add how nice these small scale boutique mills are for the Indie Designer who wishes to produce a personal line of yarn to sell and with which to prototype their designs, and I am observing a growing number of such designers who are doing this that it seems to have become the fashionable In Thing.
This of course all is leading up to a Mill Tour, with a short film I recently discovered, about one of those few old mills still standing, Cushendale Woolen Mills, in Ireland…
I just love these films of old mills. Evidently I have begun to collect quite a few, so have created a category on Yarnings called “Mill Tours”, so click HERE to peruse them all ~~~ I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
I am so inspired by this video about the weavers and the local culture around Harris Tweed, on the Isle of Lewis & Harris in Scotland’s outer Hebrides. I seem to be hooked on these woolen mill films these days! I am not so much infatuated with the idea of weaving the tweed yarn, but if I could be immersed into any one part of the process, it would be the blending and carding of the many colors of wool for the tweed affect in yarn spinning. This is what excites me the most, and thinking a lot about what to card next on my new blending board. I realize that I am , and always have been a colorist. Like a painter dreams of mixing pigments on palette, I am the very same, and training to see past the surface into a hidden palette of color in the fiber. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this video I’ve watched now countless times…
Mid day light seems to pour though windows, filtered through a mulberry tree and various shrubs, into this quiet warm room. There is my favorite knitting chair, **temporarily transplanted from its mountain home to this echoey clean & empty place, kept company by my knitting basket, cup of coffee-to-go, and myself. Oh, but is that a sleeve cradled in it’s seat?
Oh, perhaps more than just a sleeve, it looks like maybe three sleeves and two bodies, which means only one thing…
It is nearly time to join all the pieces together to make a couple of lovely cardigans to greet the Autumnal equinox. My usual first weeks in September are all about this stretch of frenzy knitting into my favorite season of all.
I also wanted to share with you something very fun I ran across on a series of internet clicks I wandered down this morning, ending up at an old mill in UK. Here is a room with spinning, and all the rhythms and sounds associated with milling yarn put to music, a lovely little video for you all to enjoy as I have, called ‘A Short Day At The Mill’…
And here is another similar, but with more footage called ” A Long Day At The Mill ”
** Knitting chair & basket is occupying a corner space in a room of the house Jeff has been renovating for nearly 6 months (with a little bit of my help) and finally, it is empty & glowingly ready to find a new owner, as I knit while waiting for real-estate agents to show intermittently. No worries, I am not moving, nor is Jeff, this is but his old house in town that he lived in when we met in the summer of ’94.
Bye bye old house, it was nice revisiting your rooms, and I will miss you.
There is a place in Northern Italy which is nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Alps, called Biella. High mountain pastures and bountiful springs and lakes has been intrinsic to Biella’s standing in the wool & textiles industry as far back as mid 13th century. However, since the turn of the modern 21st century, the wool industry has suffered from widespread global competition. Today, the “Wool Box” is there, still in the midst of it all, striving to keep heritage wools alive and well and most importantly ~~ available.
The Wool Box offers a carefully curated selection of rare Italian and European wool yarns in addition to a fine selection of wool roving for spinners and felters. The Wool Box focuses on short supply chain processing and full traceability of materials so that their 100% Italian wool means exactly that.
I am very excited to have the opportunity to design ‘a little something’ for the Wool Box, and folks, today I have just received yarn sent all the way from Northern Italy from the hands of Bonnie, volunteer English-speaking ambassador of the Wool Box. To me it resembles freshly pulled taffy from off of a candy pull machine, and swirls with such pleasurable tones of color & personality, that I can hardly wait to be flung into a spree of maniacal knitting.
I hope that this project will breed other designs for the Wool Box yarns, as Bonnie has of course, sent me an armful of samples, which could very possibly keep me busy for a good long while, and of which I will show off another time. (Thank you Bonnie!)
For now, I am watering at the mouth at this beautiful duo of Oropa 1 ply wool from an historic wool mill of Biella, with one wish on my mind . . .
. . . and that is to have this design finished and ready for knitters before the cool weather subsides in the Northern Hemisphere. I will keep you posted as I go along.
You can read all posts about this design for The Wool Box with Oropa 1ply HERE
Lastly, You can read more about “The New History of Italian Wool” from Bonnie’s blog called “Wool In Italy” . . . on her post HERE .