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About Our Mill

Why a Fiber Mill?

Our mill means so much more to us than just a place for spinning yarn. It is our connection with the natural world, the satisfaction of meaningful work, and also the livelihood of our little family. Alan and I never applied or interviewed for our jobs; we made them up. After stepping away from public school teaching, I taught myself hand spinning as a hobby. Soon after, I started begging my neighbors for raw wool so I could practice scouring and carding. About five years later, Alan and I bought our equipment. I taught myself to use it all during a very intense period of time filled with 16-hour work days and countless mistakes. Since then, Alan has been able to leave his job in software development to work full-time at the mill. Now we both enjoy a simpler life that allows us to spend more time doing things we love with people we love. We owe any success we’ve had to those early mistakes; they came tethered to the choice between learning something new or quitting. Mistakes have taught us how to be efficient, how to spin exceptional quality over a diverse range of fibers, and most importantly, how to live a balanced life filled with work we love

The Machines

Located at the south end of Whidbey Island just a few blocks from the Clinton-Mukilteo Ferry dock, we operate refurbished industrial machines to scour, card, and spin small batches of breed specific, non-superwash wool.

McDermott - Card: 26” Wide and about 13’ long, this machine turns clean locks into batts or roving.

Warner Swasey - Pin Drafter: This mid-century drafting tool refines carded roving with a series of pins that blend multiple ends together then thins them out again. This gives us a smooth, consistent gauge for each roving to be spun.

Whitin Roberts NW - Spin Frames: We have two machines with 32 spindles each:16 on each side. We rescued these machines from becoming scrap metal after the mill that previously owned them went out of business. We adapted them to run independently and have dedicated one of the four sides to plying.

An average week at our mill produces about 75-100 lbs. of yarn. Our small batches range from 5 - 100 lbs., or the equivalent of abou 25 - 450 skeins of yarn per batch. We spin custom yarns for a few regional yarn businesses as well as about a dozen local family farms. We also spin our own products which are available through  our online shop and at various shows and events throughout the year.

Benefits of Small Batch

It’s my belief that now more than ever the system needs small batches.

Maintaining Small Batch production may seem like swimming against the current in the highly competitive world of yarn. It’s no secret that domestic mills big and small have been dying out since the 90's. It’s my belief, however, that now more than ever the system needs small batches. Working in small batches brings us closer to the raw material and connects us with the source. This means a more direct path of revenue for the farms, ranches, mills, and designers involved with each project. With less automation, small batches require skilled attention to detail. This means there can be higher quality and individuality in each project as well as less overall waste. Each day at the mill we are challenged to think creatively and adapt quickly to a diverse range of factors in wool. In fact, working with diversity rather than against it is a hallmark of our small batches.

With less automation, small batches require skilled attention to detail. This means there can be higher quality and individuality in each project as well as less overall waste.

Small Batch Wool Apprenticeships

Before we opened our mill, we hung a sign on our front door that says, Abundant Earth Fiber - Curiosity Welcome. As a former school teacher, I have always imagined our mill would someday become a place of learning. In sharing our mill in this way, we hope to encourage new growth and understanding among fiber farms, cottage mills, yarn businesses and fiber artists.

Initial planning is underway to make wool processing apprenticeships at our mill a reality, but we need your input to move forward. If you raise fiber animals, have a yarn business of your own, or are a passionate fiber artist, your curiosity is most welcome. We invite you to take a very short survey (takes less than two minutes) or simply follow our newsletter and #AEFWoolApprentice on Instagram to learn about future opportunities.

 

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