Blanket Mill Bobbins #14029

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The Story

Here are wool yarn spools and bobbins (quills) that go into a very old set of looms in a water-powered woolen mill that still runs in Pennsylvania. The bobbins and spools lay on one of the blankets the mill produces, one of a broad, heavy weave made with thicker yarns. Surprisingly, the old machinery here still runs today and the owners produce small runs of replica US Army blankets, just as they were made for the Union Army in the Civil War over 150 years ago.

Originally, the machinery here at Waterside Woolen Mill ran on water power, but nowadays electric motors power the overhead leather belts that make the weaving machinery turn. The pond and old cement dam are still there outside. The old looms run a variety of patterns using a punch card system, a very early form of computing that only a few people in the world can use, understand, or repair today. The old weaving looms use these narrow wooden bobbins, or quills or spindles, seen here.

The larger modern yarn spools shown here are shipped in these days and the wool yarn will be re-wrapped around the quills for use in the old looms. It’s actually done on a machine at the blanket mill called a quiller. 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 weaving process and the old machinery hasn’t changed much at all in close to two centuries.

The entire blanket mill site and machinery are a throwback window into our industrial past. The original mill on this site was built in 1830 followed by the current building which was put up in 1860. It’s surprising that it still exists and runs when once there were hundreds of mills like this one across the land. In fact, along this Pennsylvania stream for four miles, there were once seven mills with other kinds of products being made.

In the image called Lucky Welcome #14030, you can see the heavy wooden door set into a fieldstone wall that’s the mill entrance. Of course, the horseshoe above it gave the title and probably some needed luck through time…it’s amazing this old mill is still around! There is more information about the Waterside Woolen Mill on Facebook.

Location: Waterside Woolen Mill, Waterside, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Picture and story © Andrew Dierks

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