Uist Wool Mill

My host, Denise, kindly offered to arrange a visit to Uist Wool Mill in Grimsay, North Uist, about 1 1/2 hours from here.

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From their brochure, here is a brief description of their goals:

“The Uist Wool Mill will spin local and other fleece into desirable, unusual yarns to supply weavers, craftspeople, and visitors alike. It will help,to revitalize this traditional island industry through creating employment, training, and workspace using a local asset – wool. Uist Wool will also become a Centre where skills, ideas, design and inspiration are shared by young and old, novices and experts, islanders and visitors alike, through training programmes, workshops and education.”

We were greeted by Dana, the project manager, who took time to show us through all the processing areas, even though the mill is not scheduled to be fully operational until 2016.

We began in an area currently being used for preparing the wool for washing and as a storage area for wool received for processing. Here, a “fearnaught” (I may have got the spelling wrong) – a picker – from the 1920s is being worked on. They have found that opening up the wool staples by running through a picker prior to washing gives them a better, cleaner wash.

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Here is wool being stored prior to picking/washing and the tagging system., with any special instructions (“random feed yarn” means that the wool will be carded varying the colors so,as to achieve a variegated yarn).

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The picked raw wool gets washed in one of two washers from the Belfast Mini-mill systems which can handle 6 or 9 kilos (approx. 13 or 20 pounds) dry weight of fleece per load.

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Washing is, of course, followed by drying with passive heating. I like the drying racks above my head!

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That was done in this building.

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Now the clean, dry wool is picked again in the building where the carding and spinning will happen.

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Next, comes the process of carding the wool. Uist Mill is doing a woolen spun wool, that is, in the carding preparation for spinning, the fibers are going in different directions with air spaces between the individual fibers. The wool goes through the first carder and then enters the second carder crosswise.

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It emerges as a very fine “web” which is then cut into very fine strips and rolled onto a large spool.

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Here is a small piece of this stage that I brought back with me.

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Next, these spools are loaded onto the spinner where the twist will be put into 9 strands at a time (in the first photo four strands going to the front and five to the back of the spinner) from each spool going on to individual bobbins. From there on any plying and additional finishing will happen.

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Here is some finished yarn drying after being washed and some items made from Uist Wool.

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A very interesting look at a mill project in development.

Denise and I got a little lunch (crab and salmon cakes!), a quick stop at the local (South Uist) craft shop…

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And home to check on sheep. It looks like the moms are keeping an eye on their babies playing on the wall, doesn’t it?!

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The time is flying too quickly at this stop on my trip!

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Published in: on May 20, 2015 at 8:12 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Jackie,
    This was a wonderful post. I had no idea how each of these processes would be done by machine. And such beautiful machines in such a charming building. Loved it!

  2. Hi Jackie
    We have just returned from Texel visiting the woman that commercially markets Texlar wool. There are NO wool milks in the Netherlands. She has to take her fleeces to Germany for processing. All the other Texlar fleeces are going to ……. China.
    Great post by the way.


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