Pendleton Mill Redeux

I haven’t been out of town too far since last November. So cabin fever is being cured by short road trips a couple counties away or over the state line to Oregon. Knitting Hubby and I were able to both finish up our work weeks by mid day on Friday so we drove down to Pendleton for lunch and a full mill tour.

We ate at an old favorite restaurant – The Great Pacific. We don’t eat there very often, once every 5 years or so and were happy to find that they still served dynamite sandwiches and total yummy vegetable beef barley soup. After lunch we headed over to the Pendleton Woolen Mill. Remember, I’d arrived late last time and had an shortened tour. This time it was just Knitting Hubby and I and another couple. I’ll walk you through step by step on the processes. As always, I keep the photo file sizes nice and compact so you shouldn’t have to worry about slow loading. Some of the photos are a little on the blurry side, they were taken through Plexiglas windows or I was in a rush to take them. Sorry.

If you own a Pendleton blanket (not some of the the lap blankets or baby blankets) that are 100% wool (not the types of Pendleton things that have cotton warps like upholstery fabrics) and are not woven clothing (made from New Zealand and Australian Merino) the wool came from 2300 sheep that live 30 miles south of Pendleton OR. Click on the link for a good read.

The tour guide didn’t mention the dyeing process and I was too busy not falling into spinning industrial equipment while taking photos to ask. So by the time we saw said sheep, they had already been shorn and dyed purple. Fast forward to where they shovel a zillion pounds into a giant picker. Big nasty teeth that look like they are from Jaws of 007 fame swept the fleece past good old fashioned nails. My Patrick Green picker is small but could take off an arm, these pickers are 8-10 feet wide (my estmate) and could just plain kill you.

From the picker the fleece falls into a hopper where it is pulled onto carders. Again, you don’t want to be anywhere close to these, thus the Plexiglas windows.

Somehow the carder mechanism knows when to send on the carded fleece to the initial spinning stage. It becomes pencil roving.

The filled pencil roving cones are mounted on the top of the next machine that attenuates the roving even more and loads it onto long wooden bobbins. We were amazed at how many miles of wool was spun in a short time. I didn’t take notes and have since forgotten but as a spinner I was, needless to say, really impressed.

When the bobbins are full they are gathered in laundry carts and sent to a steam room just a bit larger than the cart. It’s there that the twist is set. The carts are then taken out and the bobbins left to cool. pendle-bobbins-after-steaming

The filled bobbins are then mounted on a machine that transfers the yarn to a machine that winds it onto cardboard cones. The machine is so smart that if the yarn breaks, it automatically spit/heat splices it and restarts. (it used to just automatically tie a knot and restart). When a cone is full it stops that part of the machine long enough to dump the cone into net in the back and then eventually stacked by color.

My post in January showed most of the weaving process so I won’t duplicate it here. I will though give you a preview of a fabric that is part of the 2010 Pendleton line. So you lucky reader have scooped the general public.

I leave you dear reader with a picture of my finished handspun hand woven stole. As soon as I finish putting together tonight’s dinner I’ll be snuggling under it. One of my next projects will be a blanket!! I’m looking forward to weaving it.


9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rae
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 07:14:29

    Love the stole!


  2. Roxie
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 07:26:40

    Oh, the stole is gorgeous! Love the color and what beautiful edges!

    Marvelous photos. I’ve never been to the blanket mill, so this was a treat. Thanks for taking us there!


  3. heideho
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 07:53:48

    Fabulous tour (I’m askeered of that picking machine). The stole is amazing!


  4. Chris
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 19:06:17

    Your stole is gorgeous! And of course I love the purple yarn they were spinning. 🙂


  5. Cathy-Cate
    Feb 09, 2009 @ 22:18:02

    Thank you for the tour! Though my favorite part may have been picturing the sheep that were shorn and dyed purple….
    Very interesting, truly.

    I have to tell you that inspired by you, I’m taking the train out & back when I come to BMFA Sock Camp at the end of April. With a sleeper car! However, didn’t have time when I come to Madrona this week….
    Has it been too awfully late going to Seattle? I know it varies….if it’s more than a few hours late, I’ll miss my ride from Seattle to Sock Camp, so just wondering what your experience has been IRL!

    Nice shawl. If I ever take up weaving, that will be your fault too, I believe.



  6. Miss T
    Feb 10, 2009 @ 10:08:07

    Very cool tour!


  7. Jeanne
    Feb 11, 2009 @ 18:16:07

    Very cool tour – thanks for sharing the pics! Love the stole…


  8. Miss T
    Feb 12, 2009 @ 12:49:04

    Blog award for you! Check out my post today.


  9. Trackback: 2010 in review « KitKatKnit

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