Friday, January 08, 2010

Archival Woolens

by Erin O'Meara


When people think of wool, images of sweaters, socks and toques come to mind. But wool isn’t just for clothing. Here are a few of my favorite woolen items.

Wool filled pillows for your bed

One of my grade school teachers told us to invest in satin sheets since we spend so much of our lives sleeping. That’s why I have a wool-filled pillow. Virgin wool is a great filler for pillows since the lanolin provides a natural deterrent to dust mites. It will also shape to your head better than synthetic fillers.

You could purchase a ready-made wool pillow or make your own by procuring a woolen batt from somewhere like Beaverslide Dry Goods – an amazing ranch in Montana that makes beautiful yarn from their own flock.

Milled Blankets

Domestically milled wool blankets are another favorite woolen good that’s a wonderful addition to any home. MacAusland's Woolen Mills (actually in Canada) is one of my favorite sources for milled wool blankets. I visited them last Spring. Here are some images from my tour:

Mill and store front on Prince Edward Island

This is the start of the processing for MacAusland blankets


One of their looms

Prepping the wool for the loom

Washed wool ready for spinning

Some finished products--they do a special plaid each year with different colorways

Other recommended sources for milled wool blankets include Amana Woolen Mills (since 1857!), Faribault, Bemidji Woolen Mills and of course, home state favorite, Pendleton (we like the National Park blanket series).

Sheepskins from a real farm

We’re not talking about a mass-produced product from Ikea or Costco, but rather, a real sheepskin from a working farm. There are resources on the web to help you locate a sheep farm in your region. In Oregon, contact Oregon Wool. Tanneries that handle small-scale processing are becoming scarce, so support your local shepherd or shepherdess by buying a sheepskin for a chair or couch in your home. I have a Wensleydale sheepskin from Dayspring Farm. Not all sheepskins are white - the variety of colors and curls of different types of sheep means that you can get one that suits your style. If you've never touched the real thing, you're in for a treat.

15 comments:

Don Guss said...

Fine post! I keep two sheep skins on my sofa. The dogs love them.

Also happy to see Bemidji in the conversation.
They need all the help they can get.
Keep in mind, Bemidji will make a blanket from any of the wools they produce with NO UP-CHARGE for the custom order. The navy blue is a very nice fabric. This has me thinking I may need a Blaze Orange blanket.

http://www.bemidjiwoolenmills.com/exlarge.php?id=bm07_160&im=bm07_160.jpg

Lesli Larson said...

I love Bemidji Woolen Mills. I'm wearing a scarf from them today. Their blue x black blanket looks very close to the version by Filson. I'm wondering if they're the source mill for this item?

Definitely need to support the last living mills before they disappear.

Mr Brown said...

Pia Wallén's slippers are worth an enquiry.

As too is the welsh mill Melin Tregwynt.

I picked up a sheepskin from (a falling down outbuilding on a) Devon farm. It's far superior in character (read curl) to anything I've seen in the usual retail suspects.

My favourite comment on the latter was an amazed friend saying 'you can wash them too?'.

Erm, yes, have you ever seen a sheep with an umbrella?

plumsyrup said...

Don - thanks for the tip. I just called Bemidji and they will make the blanket in any size. I just placed two blanket orders - queen in the Blaze Orange and a twin in Green Diagonal.

Lesli Larson said...

Odd. I just emailed Bemidji and they referred me to Pendleton--saying they don't do blankets. I'm looking for something king sized.

Lesli Larson said...

Some of these places are slipping away as we speak. Lynn just emailed to tell me that Faribault mill has closed (open as late as this summer):

Faribault mill closure (news article from July 09)
http://www.faribault.com/news.php?viewStory=92861

This is tragic - since these guys even had blankets listed with Garnett Hill and other high profile retailers just this year.

Support these mills sooner than later. I'm putting in a blanket order this weekend.

diplomatica said...

Thanks for the nice comments. I worry about so many of these wool producers - the continuum, from the shepherdesses to the family-run mills.

Don Guss said...

Leslie,

Just call and ask to make a special order.
They will take your info and it's a lock.

If you want to do more business with them.
Ask to speak with Bill Batchelder.
It may seem strange to ask for the president, but if he's available. He will talk with you. It's a very small company.

A call is needed for a custom order.
Sorry I didn't add that.
I think it is an old school mid-western thing.

It's sort of sweet. Just saying.
D

Don Guss said...

I'm not sure about the Filson connection.
Interesting to think about.

I've been hit and miss with a few of their wool fabrics.
The Black Watch pills and pulls, not good,
My favorite jacket is made from this print, and it makes me crazy.
But others are some of fabrics the best I've seen.
The same quality as the Filson green used for the double mac coats. Very tight and almost boiled in quality.

Let me know what you find out.

Anonymous said...

Question: Where can i find a REALLY THICK aran sweater? All the offerings o nthe net seem similar in weight. I'm looking for a tightly wooven very thick one that's rough (natural) to the hand.

Anonymous said...

Question: Anyone have an idea where i can get a REALLY THICK Aran/Fishermans sweater? All the offerings on the net seem to be similar in construction and weight. I'm looking for a tightly wooven tough thick sweater thats rough (natural) to the hand. We're talkin' hang out with the sheep in the rain and still be warm and dry THICK. thanks!

Hans said...

So cool to see these photos. I just realized I have a wool blanket from this wool mill that Martha bought for me at the Black Sheep Gathering as an early Birthday present several years ago. I absolutely love it! I think it's the same grey one in your photo of the finished blankets.

Don Guss said...

Hi, Lesli.

So did you call Bemidji?
Did you have any problems?

Just curious.

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