Day 5 of the Fiber Me 2014 tour began at Jagger Brothers Spinning Mill. This mill was started in 1898 and has continued producing fine quality yarns for the textile industry, hand weavers, and hand knitters ever since. This mill differs from the one we visited on Day 4 in that they start with cleaned processed wool in the form of roving. From there the fiber gets blended and drafted four times and finally spun into single ply strand.
When the strands are being spun, the spindles turn so fast you can hardly see the thin strand or tell that the spindles are moving! Here, they also have modern, computerized equipment. We watched a machine ply strands and wind it on a cone. When one spindle ran out, the operator would replace the spindle with a full one and the machine would make an air splice that was incredibly strong and smooth. When the cone was filled to capacity, a moving automated box would remove the cone and replace it with an empty one. Then the plying process would start again. It was fascinating to watch.
Next we toured the Saco River Dyehouse. This dyehouse has been in operation since 2012 and is growing quickly as it takes on more contract jobs. We visited the room where dyes were mixed and tested and the recipes were refined. Then we saw the dyeing room where many hanks of yarn are dyed at the same time. Once the processing is done, the hanks of yarn are hung up to air dry. Seeing all the racks of drying yarn was like walking through a rainbow.
While having a catered lunch, we were treated to a panel discussion of local Maine fiber artists ranging from alpaca and cashmere farmers to linen clothing producers to marketing products, and the program at the Maine College of Art.
Our last stop on the tour was a visit with Susan Mills, Felt Artist. Susan’s felt art dwells in the mystical, in rituals and healing spirits, in spirits of the underworld. Her pieces were quite unique. We were able to tour her studio and home and see them on display.
Oh, and it only took me 5 days to figure out that if I put my phone on airplane mode I could take pictures without the battery going south. Live and learn!