Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Superior Fibers

A couple Saturdays ago we went down the road 4.5 miles to Superior Fibers in Edmonds, WA to drop off the rose gray alpaca fleece that we found at OFFF and also a partially washed Rambouillet which we found at Black Sheep in '07 and finally cried uncle on processing ourselves.

We tried. Really. Once when Betty was here she said she'd show us how it was done so we went out and bought several little open-weave bags to put the fleece in for washing, we spent the afternoon learning about how hot and how much soap and rinsing gently and not shoving it around to avoid felting. It was a smelly, sweaty, nasty job which we did not enjoy. I'll go one step further and say we disliked it. A lot. About a year later Peggy actually considered throwing that fleece out. tisk. It was a weak moment and didn't last long. We had been looking at the stack of stuff in the garage that needed to be dealt with, the unwashed portion of the Rambouillet fleece being on top of the heap. We decided instead to give it to Superior Fibers to finish for us. If we had known how close they were, we would have done this long ago. It took 15 minutes to get there.

Bill and Inga live in a regular house in a regular neighborhood a few miles north of Seattle. They have all their fiber processing machines in their double garage and it's a snug fit. They have four Belfast machines (carder, picker, felter and rug yarn maker) in there, as well as the washer and the drying rack. Their plan is to move to Oregon, around Salem somewhere, and spread out a little, maybe three times the space.

Belfast Mini Mills is located on Prince Edward Island, Canada-eh. Bill says the guy from Belfast Mini Mills comes to Edmonds every year or two to tune up the carder and make sure all the machines are working well.

Bill explaining how their Belfast Mini Mill Carder works.
It's big. Probably seems bigger than it really is
because it's in a small space.

The mechanical picker.

This is one very large washer.
They keep the temperature at 140,
which de-greases the fiber really well.
This machine has an incredibly fast spin cycle.

The drying rack has a motor-driven fan
for a 24 hour drying schedule.

This is the Belfast rug yarn maker.

What comes out:
Alpaca wrapped around a jute core.

The Felting Table (with decoration.)
Bill and Inga are gardeners, too.
This plant is in for the winter.

Fiber ready to go back to the customers.
We didn't bring any home because
the fleece we gave them at OFFF wasn't processed yet.

There are quite a few YouTube videos which are worth viewing on the various Belfast machines if you're interested.


Jody said...

Gotta luv those Belfast minis eh!
I do luv to process my own fleeces by hand though.

MaryB said...

As you know, I do not spin. My interest in all these machines is, frankly, minimal. I do prefer t float along, concerning myself only with the finished yarn. But I love reading your descriptions about all of this. You have made it quite, surprisingly for me, fascinating.

vanessa said...

how are you having them prepare the fiber? combed top? darded batts? inquiring minds and all.