Field trip! Last Saturday the Yolo Wool Mill in Woodland, California, was having its annual Mill-In. The mill can take your dirty fleece and turn it into a lovely two-ply yarn, or return it to you as sliver or roving. A nice hour-long drive with Carson as my co-pilot brought us to this set of buildings in the middle of some fields in the central valley. We were lucky in the weather: warm, to counteract the strongly gusting winds.
Several vendors had booths set up: I indulged in some local cashmere roving from Barbara Fiorica, a local goatherd, and a hank of naturally dyed yarn from Sincere Sheep. A shearer demonstrated the use of hand shears—he had a lovely attitude, noting that it can take him an hour to shear a sheep, but they are both happy to settle in together while he is working without the stressful whine of electric clippers.
But the real fun was the mill tour. The buildings were filled with old equipment: giant carding machines, combs, roving makers, spinners, plyers, skeiners. The machines were built in American between 1923 and 1956; solid metal workhorses from the days when the US had a thriving textiles industry. Jane was happy to tell us where each piece came from—none of it was bought new. She had to scour the country to find what she needed back in the 1990s when the mill was started as a way for local farmers to add value to their products.
You need a real feel for wool and for machinery to make this all work! Communities that have a local wool mill are lucky indeed.