This was a day I was really looking forward to. I was disappointed with the realization that there was no way I could clean all the alpaca fleece I got with hand cards....so I made the decision that I'm going to have to get this processed. After researching mills online I thought this was one of the better mills we have in Alberta so off we went. After driving for 2 1/2 hours south on Hwy 2 we saw our turn off. It was a beautiful clear day and what a joy it was to see the mountains for most of the way.
Looking west of Red Deer.
The sign we were looking for. It was quite easy to find.
There was hardly any snow left on the fields the further south we went quite a difference from where we live.
This is Custom Woolen Mills entry sign.
Kaleidoscope-A Wool Shoppe where you can find anything wool. From socks to sweaters, to fibre for spinning.
Everything neat and tidy....and lots to choose from.
Inside the shoppe.
Across from the shoppe is the quonset that has all the machinery for cleaning and preparing fibre to whatever the customers wants. The right picture is the shed where they house all the bales of different sheep fleece. I had DH stand next to the bales to give some idea how big they are. Unfortunately he got distracted by the farm kitty so he's bending over.
Inside the main door you're hit with the humid warm air. It was like walking off the plane when landing in Hawaii or Mexico.
The fella standing by the red machine was where it all begins. They cut the bales open and he starts feeding it into this separator which gets vacuumed up and sent over to the first bath.
First bath. These spikey nails on an overhead frame act like a rake to move the soaking fibre along the bottom of the tub.
Sorry for the weird angle on this picture, but it's showing the spikes dragging the fibre up on to a conveyor belt which direct it to the second bath/rinse.
Second bath/rinse. Same sort of principle that the spikey nails drag it along the bottom of the tub moving it along to the next stage.
After the second bath/rinse it comes off the conveyor and slides into the waiting hampers. The fibre is still heavy with moisture so it goes next into a drum which spins the dickens out of it. The camera managed to catch the fibre inside amazingly the picture isn't blurry.
Next we were given directions to head up to the observation deck. This area was off limits to the self guided walking tour. I could understand it because it was too dangerous with all the machinery going. On the left in the picture is the spinning machine which wasn't being used this day, but the plying machine just across from it was making a two ply wool yarn. On the right hand side was two of the carding machines. The lady in the picture was making batts for quilts this day.
This is one of three of their sock knitting machines. There was a lady there who kindly gave us a demonstration of how it works. There are more pictures of the tour in my flickr page which you can link to.
That was basically it for the tour. Short and sweet. All the personnel were friendly and were ready to give answers to any questions as well as describe any part of the fibre process. I ended up buying two lbs of fiber and a spool of sock yarn at their shop. I had to keep reminding myself to stop shopping because I'll be getting more fibre in a couple of weeks when I return to pick up my alpaca roving. I'll post pictures later on.
The tour couldn't have ended any better with some love from one of the mills resident kitties. How sweet is that face!