On 12th November 2013 Fuel Ghoul drove to Listowel Ontario on a business trip to buy knitting supplies at Spinrite Factory Outlet and there I did manage to sneak a peek inside the Spinrite woollen mills.
There's NO Tour of Sprinrite Woolen Mills Available to Public
Don't even ask for a private tour. You have to be very special indeed to walk through those doors with a digital camera in your hand because they frown on a whole lot of picture-taking inside the plant as they hope to keep their best trade secrets safe from prying eyes on the internet. I had to swear an oath on my honour as a respectable alternative energy blogger that I wouldnt betray them and I'm still not even sure these pics I'm sharing today are altogether safe, but they are fascinating .. im sure of that
What exactly happens behind closed doors at Spinrite? Enquiring minds want to know... Do you want to watch the employees of this leading yarn manufacturer make the yarns and knitting supplies that they sell across North America and all over the world online? It is pretty interesting...
Kader Cekerek Gave a Tour of the Spinrite Factory Outlet in Listowel
We started at 11:50 am right beside a lunchroom that was filling up with employees and the smell of beef stews and sandwiches drifted into the busy hallway. We all lined up to push a button on a wall dispenser and get an issue of ear plugs, but alas they were too effective and blocked Kader's low pitch voice entirely.
Here comes the wool.
You may have heard people say that something or someone is 'dyed in the wool'? and by that they mean something or someone has a permanent and unchanging adherance to some value or tradition. The saying comes from the schmutz trade or drapers.. You see woven fabric can be dyed in a number of ways; it can be coloured after it is complete, or the threads may be dyed before they are woven. When a color is "dyed in the wool," that means the wool itself is dyed before being spun into threads, so the colour is least likely to fade or change. The fibers below appear to be fresh spun and were dyed in the wool; this is preyarn at the beginning of its long journey through the plant.
Above you can see this bright coloured loosely spun fiber arrives at Spinrite already 'dyed in the wool', or perhaps this material is coming from a different part of the plant? the warehouse? I loved the colour contrast of this photo. These fibres are so soft before they are spun into yarn - I would have no trouble finding or making a place to take a nap at lunch in here as there are so many soft places to hide and sleep.
I snapped a great many pictures in here - I photographed the entire wool dying sections of the plant but cannot publish them as they are too explicit and expose too many woolwrights' secrets
The air in here has a lovely smell of gentle solvents on a clean cement floor. The staff likes to drink soda pop and every station has an open can beside their machine's controls. The air is filled with odd sounds over a melodrous rattle and hum as miles and miles of yarn is processed, weaved, cleaned, dyed, dried, and bound on spools or wound in skeins for more complicated processing deeper in the plant.
Spinrite makes Advanced Yarn for Knitting
The green spools of yarn on this rack are a composite thread for a green and blue compound weave happening a little further down the line. The blending machines are each manned by one or more persons who smiles and nods as we pass; they're busy keeping an eye on the rigors of the machines.
Inside the Reeling Room, skeins of coloured yarn are wound and cut and moisturized before being packaged in paper bands. Kader says the finishing process has four stages; the wool is balled and then labelled, shrink wrapped, boxed and sent to the warehouse.
Look at the soft pink wool for babies issuing from the steel labeling machine inside the plant.
You can read our travel blog about shopping for yarn and knitting supplies in Listowel, and see all my pictures of the Spinrite Factory Outlet store on Flickr. The photos that I snapped inside the plant are particular close-up shots that won't reveal any trade secrets or liability are all published in the Typepad photo gallery Spinrite Wool Mill.
The tall brick building above was erected in the mid 1900s and is the biggest legacy structure remaining today - remember they aren't really woolen mills at all anymore, but instead the entire complex is a dye shop. Spinrite makes beautiful coloured yarn for knitting and creates and distributes many different brands including Caron, Bernat, Peaches and Cream Yarn, and Phentex yarns which are some of the most popular labels in Canada.
There is a long history of fulling and looming and carding and weaving local wool in Listowel Ontario. There is a much longer history of sheep farming around here and when the first of these woiol mill buildings was erected over one hundred and twenty five years ago, there was a lot of raw wool for milling and terrific profits could be made working that material into blankets, rugs and drapes and sending them to distant markets by train. The process of fulling the freshly sheered fibres requires repetitive mauling and water powered mills were well suited to wool textile production. Spinrite is around today because it catered to the home market with yarn for knitting.
North Perth was once part of the Queen's Bush Settlement 1820 - 1870s ?
There's an explanation detailing some of the earliest (1830s) settlement stories of the Queens Bush on Dumpdiggers, the post is about the randomness of buying knitting supplies in Listowel and how this sleepy village beside the Maitland river came to boast a thriving wool mill. History buffs visting the town can still see the beautiful homes built in the 1800’s. Visitors are encouraged to take a walk through downtown Listowel which still has many old buildings and step inside the historic Carnegie Library, and enjoy the architecture of Livingstone Manor or the four-storey bell tower of the Italianate-style house that operates as a bed and breakfast.
There's more to Listowel Ontario, the Spinrite Factory Outlet Store and its massive selection of discount coloured yarn.