Inside The Blanket Mill

Wool yarn on modern spools and old bobbins, or quills, at the Waterside Woolen Mill in Pennsylvania.

 

These are spindles and bobbins (quills) of rough yarn that go into a very old set of looms in a water-powered woolen mill that still runs in Pennsylvania, although today electric motors power the leather belts that make the machinery turn. The mill is so old they made woolen blankets for the Union Army during the Civil War which were very similar in the broad weave and texture to the one in the picture. The looms run a variety of patterns using a punch card system, an early form of computing which only a few people in the world can use, understand, or repair today. Today this mill makes reproduction military blankets for Civil War reenactors and collectors a few times a year, and the entire site and machinery are a throwback window into our industrial past.

The modern yarn shown here on the larger spools is shipped in these days and wrapped around the quills for use in the old weaving machines. But long ago, the many shepherds nearby would send their raw sheared wool here to be made into yarn and then into blankets and other woolen items. With the exception of importing the yarn nowadays, the process and the old machinery hasn’t changed much at all in close to two centuries. It’s amazing that it still exists and runs. See it on Facebook as the Waterside Woolen Mill for location and hours to visit.

The outside main door of the mill, which is set into the thick gray fieldstone foundation walls dating from the 1830s, can be seen elsewhere on the website as Lucky Welcome, #14030. Have a look, it’s a pretty nice image and has found a place with many home decorators.

The picture of the yarn spools and wooden quills above is called Blanket Mill Bobbins #14029.

Equipment: Nikon D3s, Nikkor 24-70mm, and some fiddling about…