Class, please settle down. We have a lot to see today, and if you eat your sack lunch now, you’ll just be hungry when it’s lunchtime so LEAVE YOUR SACK LUNCH ON THE BUS.
As we all discussed during Circle Time, today we are going to visit Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, Vermont. This is a mill that spins yarn. It is a worker-owned cooperative, which means they all get along with each other and never bicker. QUIT BICKERING, ELLEN AND KYLA.
Yarn is the greatest thing in the whole world, right? Today we are going to see the very special yarn that Alice O’Reilly figured out with the nice people at Green Mountain Spinnery.
Alice has a company called Backyard Fiberworks. Alice is very good at yarn. She thinks about yarn all the time. She is what we call obsessed.
This is what will turn into the special yarn we call Alice CVM Silk.
No, it is not dryer lint, Mr. Smarty. It is rare and special fiber in its raw form. On the left, that’s the fiber of a rare and special sheep, called California Variegated Mutant. No, Kia, it is not made out of aliens. The middle fiber is silk. The fiber on the right is light-colored CVM. When you spin all this fiber into one long string, it becomes yarn.
See this? It’s raw silk.
Isn’t it pretty?
No, Consuela, that’s not Andy’s real hair.
It takes a lot of work to turn fiber into yarn, and a lot of different machines, most of which will take a finger off—JULIA GET YOUR HAND OUT OF THERE.
[Julia sticks her pencil into the carding machine and shuts down production for the day.]
[The next day.]
Thank you for having us back, Green Mountain Spinnery people. You are nothing if not forgiving.
Carding is (let me find my index card on this) “a mechanical process that disentangles, cleans and intermixes fibers to produce a continuous web or sliver suitable for subsequent processing.”
Our friends at Green Mountain Spinnery remind us in their tour guide: “The main body of the Davis and Furber carder dates from 1916. The picked fiber is added to the feeder, then a series of rotating drums blends the fibers, producing a soft lofty batt that is then separated into 4 rolls, each with 24 pencil roving ends. Although the roving looks like yarn, it has no twist.”
This is roving.
What happens next?
According to the Spinnery folks, “The full rolls are then carried to the 1951 Whiten Model E spinning frame where the 96 ends are threaded by hand. The thickness of the yarn is regulated several ways. The card can be adjusted to make a thicker or thinner roving, but the most control comes on the spinning frame where the number of strands of roving spun together and the drafting tension are determined.”
This is the spinning frame. It is spinning so fast that it can take off a—JULIA GET YOUR HAND OUT OF THERE.
[Julia sticks another pencil into the spinning frame and shuts down production for another day.]
[The next day.]
Thank you, Green Mountain Spinnerfolk, for letting us come back yet again.
No, Franklin, Julia isn’t with us today.
The newly spun yarn is in big rolls.
This is a plying machine. It twists strands of yarn together. Alice CVM Silk has two plies of yarn, which makes it really bouncy and awesome for handknitting.
This sample shows what the finished yarn will look like. Alice and the Green Mountaineers spent a lot of time thinking about the mix of fibers and the thickness of the plies.
But there are more steps before it’s really done. It has to be steamed so that its complexion will be moist and dewy. Or something. I can’t find that index card.
Then it has to be wound into skeins, which are smaller bundles of yarn that can be sold individually to avid handknitters who understand the joy of working with the most beautiful yarn in the world, made from start to finish by people who care deeply about what they’re—
KATRINA! DO NOT STICK YOUR—
[Katrina chucks her sack lunch into the spinning skeining machine and shuts down production.]
[The next day.]
Class, I have decided that maybe we don’t need to go back to Green Mountain Spinnery.
But don’t think that sabotaging their mill is going to keep me from getting to the end of this yarnmaking process.
After the yarn is carded, spun, plied, steamed, and skeined, it still needs more work. The yarn is washed, twisted, and labeled by hand. Never has there been a yarn with more tender care put on it than this yarn from Alice O’Reilly and the forgiving people at Green Mountain Spinnery.
Here are the three shades that were made for Alice CVM Silk: Medium, Light, and Dark.
Can you tell which is which? I know, neither can I. They all look like pretty sheep colors to me.
No, Irene, you don’t use sage in knitting. That’s just to be pretty. Do I have to explain everything?