Hi, Make + Doers! This is Tina speaking. Austen’s on vacation today, so I’m filling in as guest poster. You might remember me as the slightly obsessive craft-room organizer from a few months ago. I’m delighted to be back and to share a little about the crafty trip I took recently. Remember the excitement of Grade 5 field trips, when you got to get out of the classroom and see something REAL? That was how I felt last week at The Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, Vermont. I grew up in New England, so I go back often. This time, my mom and dad decided to spoil me and hit all the yarn shops within a 50-mile radius. They were all filled with lovely yarn, but the Spinnery really stood out. It’s a cooperative of like-minded wool lovers who work really hard to sustain sheep farmers in the area. They produce a range of gorgeous yarns using environmentally friendly techniques, and the results are inspiring. Of course, the part my dad was most excited about was the mill behind the shop. The folks who work there are extraordinarily proud of their setup, and you never have to ask twice for a tour. The Spinnery uses vintage machinery to card, spin and skein their wool. I was amazed at the ingenuity of the people who work there – including one particularly resourceful ex-Navy man who minds the inner workings of these behemoth devices. It’s kind-of like having a ’57 Chevy with a ’92 Toyota engine and ’87 Ford bearings. These folks hunt for parts on the Internet, raid yard sales for old bobbins (New Englanders often use them as candleholders!) and machine whatever they can’t seem to find. It’s a testament to New England frugality and inventiveness. First, we checked out the chilly barn, where bags and bags of fleeces reside in various states. Some were fresh off the sheep, some were washed and some were just back from the dye house. Each colour is done independently, then a number of colours are blended together to create a specific shade of yarn. Then, it’s to the carding machine, which stands about 8 feet tall at one end. Fleece goes into the hopper and gets dragged through successively finer-toothed rollers. The carder takes out burrs, twigs and other stuff sheep get into and tease the fibres apart to make them workable. Here’s my dad’s finger, pointing at the crazy-sharp teeth on the rollers. Here you can see wool fibres on the rollers on the right, with the smooth, carded batt at the bottom left. The batt then rolls up over a conveyer into the machine that separates it into individual pieces of roving. Roving may look like yarn, but it’s not twisted into its final shape yet. Here you can see a whole row of roving being wound onto a big spindle to preparing it for spinning. The spindles go into the top of the spinning machine, where the rovings are twisted to form yarn. It could be a single ply for a finer finish, or a bunch of plies together for a yarn with more heft. At the bottom, you can see the bobbins the spun yarn winds around. The yarn gets a good steaming to help it stay in its new form. I loved these huge bins of freshly steamed wool on their bobbins. They look so fresh and inviting, almost ready to pick up and knit. The bobbins then go on a skeiner, which winds the yarn around a huge wooden contraption that looks a little like an old-fashioned clothes dryer. These big circles are then twisted into the skeins you see at the front of the store. Apparently, this machine takes a steady, patient hand. There’s no rushing a persnickety old skeiner like this. Before you leave the shop, you run into (literally almost) the pattern wall. The Spinnery designs a huge number of their own patterns – basically, if you can knit it, they have a pattern for it using their beautiful yarn. I was a little overwhelmed by the variety of wools the Spinnery offered, so I ended up with just a couple: Maine Organic in a smoky brown and Sylvan Spirit in Amethyst. Rest assured, I’ll be back. I hope you enjoyed this virtual day trip to New England. Tell us about the special places you find wool – we always love to hear about the champions of handmade!