Fiber Mill Tour

This week, we (Sharla and Linda) took a quick trip out to Gallatin, TN to drop off this year’s fiber for processing and to tour New Era Fiber Mill.  It was a fascinating tour led by Jessica, who took the time to explain each step of the process and introduce us to the talented people who work so hard washing and spinning our fiber into the beautiful yarns that we and others enjoy so much.

The fiber process starts here on our farm with shearing during the first weeks of May (by David, with help from the rest of the family and friends).  From there, each fleece is sorted by me (Sharla) to determine which fleeces should be combined or processed separately, whether they should be yarns or rovings, or now, as rug yarns.

Once the fiber arrives, it is checked in and weighed.  Jessica gives me a call to discuss what I want done with each batch and make recommendations for each fiber based on how it will process best.  After that, it moves up to the waiting room as they work through their orders in the order they arrive.  Right now, orders are taking about 3 months to work through the process, so we expect our yarns to arrive at the farm around the first of the year.

When their turn arrives, our fiber will be tumbled to get loose hay and dirt out of the fiber, then washed to remove the remaining dirt.  It is separated by hand into a thin layer of fiber to dry on trays.  Once dry, it begins the trip through the machines.

The first machine picks the dry fiber apart to loosen up the fibers.  The second separates the fibers allowing coarser fibers and debris to fall out.  From there, the fiber is moved to the carder and combed to line up the fibers and form rovings.  (With some fibers, this is as far as we will process, and will have lovely fiber for hand spinning and felting.)

The rovings are drafted together and stretched thinner before being moved to the spinner where they are spun into single ply yarn.  From there, they are plied together to form our lovely yarns.  We usually get 3ply yarns in weights from sportweight to worsted, though this year we are going to  get some bulkier yarns as well.

Once the yarn has been spun and plied, it is moved to a steamer which sets the twist and put onto cones.  From there, our yarn will be wound into 4 ounces skeins ready to be shipped back and sold in our farm store.

It was a wonderful tour, and fascinating to see each step of the process.  I’ve included some pictures here, but have even more in an album on our Facebook page.  (You can see them without joining Facebook.)  We will be letting everyone know when the yarns arrive.

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