Spinning past into future

Carla Allen callen@thevanguard.ca
Published on January 15, 2014

A woman with a passion for knitting is launching a local business that will enable producers to have fleece from their sheep processed into a high quality yarn.

Paula Smith is leasing space in the former Dominion Textile cotton mill for her new enterprise, which is called Yarnsmith Fibreworks Inc.

From 1883-1991, the cotton mill was Yarmouth's primary large-scale industry, employing 330 at the time of its closure announcement. It had an annual production capacity of 13 million metres of fabric.

Smith will be producing on a much smaller scale – spooling out 20 pounds of yarn daily.

The purchase of close to a dozen specialized units for the operation, from Belfast Mini Mills in PEI, has required a personal investment of tens of thousands of dollars.

These include a washer for the fibre (fleece), a picker and extractor fan, a carder, a fibre separator, a draw frame, a spinner, cone winder, steamer and skein winder.

Yarnsmith will be able to able to turn dirty wool fleece into clean fibre, batts, roving, yarn, and felt. It will also offer custom processing for local producers of alpaca, mohair and cashmere.

“People want their own wool back (as yarn),” said Smith.

“You have to shear the sheep, that part’s not optional. Whether you do anything with the fleece or not, that’s optional,” she said.

“The sheep are mostly being raised for meat, they’re not being raised for their wool, but there’s nothing wrong with their wool. Every kind of wool, from a Dorset or a Suffolk to a meat sheep, it’s still good for all kinds of uses. It may not be next-to-the-skin-wear but not everything has to be Merino.”

Smith says the nearest mini mill for fleeces is Legacy Lane in New Brunswick. She will be operating the mill with her daughter, Rose Jokuty.