Yesterday I took a road trip to rural Alberta to check out the Custom Woolen Mills near Carstairs Alberta, which is a working museum and store. I order my wool from there for my felted soaps and wool dryer balls and wanted to take a day to go and check it out and see how wool is made and learn more about the materials behind my products.
Well, it was well worth the trip!
When you get there it’s like a step back in time. All the machines date back to 1886 and Custom Woolen Mills started operation in 1975 as a family run business. They have grown from processing 40,000 pounds of wool a year when they first started to over 100,000 pounds a year now! The mill has a self-guided tour of their working museum which is where they process the wool and you can watch the machines and staff working away. There is also an elevated working area that you can climb up to to get a top-down view of the processing area.
When I walked in there, it was noisy and a little dark, and my glasses immediately steamed up. I thought for sure I had walked into a place where I shouldn’t be. ie. only for workers. A nice lady came out and introduced herself and welcomed me to the mill. After defogging my glasses, I could then see all the machines in front of me and was in total awe. I hadn’t really thought about the processing of wool being a warm & humid experience, but it makes sense! To wash & clean the wool, you need very hot water, which makes for a steamy workplace. It’s also a little bit stinky as you can imagine with the amount of wet wool in there. It’s really not very strong though and your nose adjusts pretty quickly.
I got a chance to have a quick tour and learn a bit more about the wools they process and where they get their wool from. They get wool from farmers in: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, BC, and some from northern US states. They process wool form the following breeds: and even do some alpaca wool processing. All the wool is what is called “new wool” meaning it’s fresh from the sheep and hasn’t been processed before it reaches their mill. Fact of the day for me was: There is no need to be envious of New Zealand wool or Uk wool, Canadian wool is often of a higher quality, loftier in texture than imported wools because our sheep live in more extreme temperatures. Our Canadian climate helps makes their wool more fluffy and bulky and higher quality! That’s something I can support and be produce of despite all the snow we seem to get getting this year!
The staff are very nice and take pride in what they do. Their little wool shoppe is adorable. It’s where you can buy wool, roving, sweaters, socks, etc. all made from their wool that is carded, spun, and dyed on site. They even make wool pillows, blankets, comforters, and wool insulation for your house. How neat is that?! If you want some of these awesome products but can’t make it to their store in person, check out their online shoppe.
Why I love wool! Wool is:
- a sustainable, renewable resource
- fire resistant
- water resistant
- wrinkle resistant
Wool has insulating properties keeping you warm in winter and cool in summer. Wool can absorb 30% of it’s weight in water without feeling damp. One of the reasons they are great in wool dryer balls and felted soaps!
Before I left, I picked out a car full of roving wool in a variety of colours to bring back to Edmonton with me to get working on my dryer balls in prep for the Royal Bison, May 3-5 and a few more shows coming up after that! Check out my events page to find out where I’m at for upcoming shows and my products page to see which stores are carrying some of my products.