Would you like to see around a really old woollen mill? Step this way.
And yes I know; there’s been a wee bloggy hiatus, caused by us spending a week scrambling through the forests and mountains of Snowdonia*…
…plus taking the twinnage down to Pinewood Studios to get fitted for costumes for a small non-speaking part in a major feature film. The film thing is something of a surprise because amongst the things that we Twisteds do each day – step over casually abandoned piles of yarn and lose our shoes, for example – we rarely get to include ‘appear in a major movie’ in our day’s activities. But sometimes life throws random things at you when you’re least expecting them. Filming will take place over the summer. 🙂 Meanwhile, let’s get back up that mountain:-
I missed our chats, Blog (though I could, thankfully, still read your comments whenever we found a phone signal). You were very much in my mind, especially when the Stoic Spouse told me that he’d found an old woollen mill where they’re quite chilled out about visitors having a nosey around. Welcome to Trefriw Mill. It felt a little different from the Stylecraft woollen mill. Shall we go inside?
Trefriw takes in sheep-fluff and turns it into traditional Welsh tapestry fabrics, such as this:-
They’re woven on machines that are well over half a century old:-
And the whole shebang is powered by water because if there’s one thing you can rely on in the Welsh mountains, it’s the presence of water that’s on the move:-
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take it from the top.
When the sheep-fluff arrives at the mill, it’s first carded, so that all the fibres are lined up.
The carding machines look a little as though they’re slowly munching the wool. Nom nom nom. Nom nom nom nom nom:-
Then the wool is worked into a thread and wound onto spools, but there’s no twist in the thread yet, so you wouldn’t want to knit with it:-
Look at this!
So how do they put the twist into the yarn? Watch this (old, old, old) machine in action!
This turns the twistless tape into proper yarn:-
It must be wound onto bobbins before it can be used:-
Ah, the colours!
And then the weaving happens:-
And boy do these weaving machines devour the yarn:-
And that, my friends, is how they end up with beautiful traditional woven Welsh fabrics such as these:-
Not bad, huh?
∗ A quick intro to Snowdonia, because I know that most of you lovely folk are non-UK. In short, it’s a gorgeous, mountainous area in the top left corner of Wales, carved long ago by glaciers, and excitingly up-and-down-y to a geology/outdoors-lover like me. If you’d been with us on our trip (and I sincerely wish that you had), then the first thing you’d have noticed was how magically, vibrantly, green the landscape is. Because it rains up there. A lot. I lived in Wales – albeit the other end of Wales – for a few years, and there really is a special kind of Welsh rain that’s very fine, yet very persistent and soaking.
Lovely post Phil thanks so much. The woollen mill is fascinating and I’m sure that the twinnage enjoyed the machinery.
Eileen Henry says
Your piece couldn’t have been more timely. Glorious pictures and how wonderful to see real craft in the making. The tweed is beautiful and the colours delicious. A trip to Wales needs to go on the agenda.
I’ve been to Wales several times, just like the Cotswold’s it ended in even the caravan and car started leaking. But the history and the green scenery is worth it though. Love to listen to their language. Not surprising there’s a film made, it’s kinda magic there.The mill is fascinating, I got two technical sons and holidays always ended in buildings like that. To have a big cloth with those gorgeous patterns, what to make!? Getting greedy here. Watermills are always mesmerizing to look at, water is so powerful. Thanks for guiding us. Hope you loaded that battery this holiday x
Love old mills, this was a gem of a find, well done Stoic Spouse
Chris Scholes says
I visited the mill shop way back in the 1960’s when I was a teenager. I bought a single bed covet. Now it’s me that’s in her 60’s and I still have it. The quality is fantastic, it never faded and never shrunk and it still looks like new.
Ah! The rain! I’m in Wales and it has rained solidly for days. No, I lie – we have had some glimpses of the sun but today, despite a good forecast, it’s overcast and I’m wondering whether or not to chance it and put some washing out.
I can’t rid myself of the notion that if I nip a couple of miles up the road across the border it will magically be bright sunshine in England.
Glad you enjoyed your trip. I love old industrial buildings and processes. Snowdon I’m not so sure. I ‘walked’ to the top some years ago and afterwards seized up completely and couldn’t walk for four days.
PS – that’s a lovely photo of you.
Julie Bailey says
Beautiful! We visited Snowdonia as a family when I was a kid and I remember it raining allll the time. But it was beautiful. How remiss of my parents not to take me to that mill! Those fabrics are wonderful.
Beautiful! I love finding places like that. And a film – how very exciting! Hope you all have fun.
CAROLE WESTBROOK says
thanks so much for this beautifully fascinating blog. That wonderful old machinery still going, and making beautiful yarn to weave into exquisite fabric.
Ahhhh, how lovely–the mill, the hills, and your tales of Wales. Wish I could be there, and why did my ancestors leave there? Thanks for sharing the lovely scenery and your knowledge.
Ms Sue says
Thank you so much for sharing the pictures and story. I have been to Wales, but didn’t see anything like this – have to look for that cloth next time.
Again, thanks for the pictures and video.
Thank you for such a wonderful blog. My only question is how do you carry all your knitting paraphernalia with you? I always seem to get mine messed up or lost when traveling. I would LOVE to see that woolen mill, but I would love to just get to the UK. Very wonderful pictures.
A grand tour of the mill, thank you Phil, but could you fill us in please on what stage the dyeing happens?
Blimey that was well noisy. Thanks for the trip to Snowdonia, we had many a holiday there as children. We whinged all the way up and down mountains, I can’t imagine the twinnage being such a pain. Did you buy yourself a wooly welsh whatsit as they were known in our house? Those blankets last forever, but cost a fortune.
Stunning scenery and weaving and processes and water powered and just about everything in this post Ms T. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Ahh I’d heard about Welsh ‘tartan’, but never actually seen any. It’s beautiful! And how wonderful to see it made all the way from the beginning like that
Really good to knock movie star off the to do list early in life!
Loved the post, must go on an ‘outing’ to Trefriw as I haven’t been there for years – shocking as I live in Llandudno ?
Thank for the tour! What a joy.
Completely off-topic, but first-time reader and I adore your knitted header! What a cool idea!
I’ve always wanted to visit Wales, since a good chunk of my background is Welsh, but I’ve never been able to get over there. That mill is so fascinating!
Thanks so much for this post; my Mum loved weaving, as do I. By the way, one CAN knit with unspun wool, but you have to have very light hands, it’s much like handling a high-spirited horse . . . I have a few skeins of a heavier unspun yarn, plus a few more I inherited from Mum. It’s all in the storage, of course, but one day . . . I’d love to have a go with some fine unspun like that in your photo.
I’ve always been interested in Wales and loved my one Aunty’s stories of the time she was able to visit there during a package tour of Great Britain. She loved the singing, but likely they didn’t see any old woolen mills. I’ve had Jamiesons’ on my ‘hope to see during my lifetime’ list for ages (it’s on Shetland) and now I’m adding this one, too.
I used to love hill-walking (a much nicer name, I think, than ‘hiking’, which always sounds like too much work to me), but these days would have to take it pretty easy. Once I get my land-legs back in order, though . . .
I especially loved the video of the thread being spun; wish I could have shared that with my Mum. Thanks for taking the time to share that and all the other photos. It’s all been a real treat for me.
Hugs from Canada, Phil. ~ Linne
Born To Organize says
What a beautiful place to spend time. I’m so glad you all got away for a bit. I think it would be so much fun to tour a factory like that. The fact that someone worked out all that math to get such beautiful patterns is amazing. Congrats to the twins. I’m looking forward to hearing the updates when you’re aloud to spill the beans.