A good woolen mill is at the heart of what I create. If I don't have access to the high quality milling that transforms wool from the sheep's backs into beautiful roving as I know it, I wouldn't be able to create the exquisite fabrics, wearables and wall art I do. It's important that there are local mills transforming local fibers into a product that we can work with. It takes many steps to be able to get the roving I work with; a mill helps to complete this circle.
Our main mill is Zeilinger Mill in Frankenmuth, MI and they too are over a century old. I haven't made it up to see the folks there that transform our sheep's wool into beautiful roving, so stumbling upon this wool mill was the closest to seeing some antique milling equipment that I've been.
The wool has to be washed (scoured) and then dried. It then goes through a picker, a machine that fluffs it up in preparation to be carded. The video above shows picked wool getting run through the carder, and then being made into a large quilt batt. They can also run it through a drafter at the end to thin that batt into the strips of roving we use called roving. Once back from the mill, I do the dyeing and blending for my art and for customers at Esther's Place .
The thing that astonished me the most was how beautifully this beastly machine ran. Though it looks like a hundred tiny parts cobbled together and all running in chaotic rhythm, it has a smooth peacefulness to it, at the same time. Slow and steady, it runs on the same principles that have kept it running for over a hundred-fifty years. The outside world has changed around it; cars got faster and more fuel efficient; telecommunications got clearer and more sophisticated; computers can now reside on our wrists and run our lives, more or less. While the pandemonium of technological advancement gained momentum around it, this machine kept making; kept doing what it was invented to do.
Sometimes there was nothin' wrong with yesteryear. While our world demands things instantly, can we find a beauty in the slower, steady pace of times long forgotten? Watching the rhythm of monotony, it can lull us into a place 150 years old, a place that is productive in a simple yet complex manner. How I love the machines of yesteryear! Their nostalgia never ceases to charm me.