A Day in the Life of a Fiber Mill

Last Friday, Cathy (Luvswool) and I took a lovely drive out to Belvidere, Illinois to tour the Illinois Wool and Fiber Mill.

Nestled in the midst of farmland, we were surprised to turn into a  homestead driveway. I guess we were expecting a huge factory, but it was a quaint store and small facility crammed with custom made machinery.  The idea for the mill started when Jane Zeien’s family purchased two ewes  for a 4 H project.  The family enjoyed working with the sheep and began raising Cheviot, Hampshire, Shetland and Cotswold sheep. They decided to expand their services to help promote the industry.

The Illinois Wool and Fiber Mill can handle everything from washing fiber, blending, picking, carding, pin drafting, custom dyeing, preparing batts and spinning.  All types of natural fiber are welcome  unwashed or washed.  And no order is too small and each fleece is processed individually.

Jane greeted us and led us into her workspace and into wool heaven.

We were surrounded by fleece waiting to be processed in a variety of  breeds and blends and piles of roving in a potpourri of colors and blends.

The picker has a big enclosed space behind it where the fleece piles up ready for the next step.

PickerThe carder dominated the center of the room.

front of carder carder back











Batts can be made on the carder by changing out the parts on the back of this machine shown here making roving.

This is the pin drafting machine.

pin draftingDepending on the job finishing the wool can be done on the spinning machine, then the skeining machine.

Spinning Skeining machineWhen the tour was over we visited the shop where everything is related to sheep from skins to finished good by Pendleton and Woolrich along with handmade items, books, roving and yarn. If you want to learn more about the mill visit their website http://www.ilwoolfibermill.com/

Of course, we both bought some new wools to play with. One of my treasures was an English Merino wool batt.

Eng Merino batt

Here are Cathy’s new treasures —

Cathy treasures


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16 Responses to A Day in the Life of a Fiber Mill

  1. How interesting. I can imagine how enjoyable this trip was for you.

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      It was enjoyable and interesting Judy. I didn’t know what to expect so it was a pleasant surprise.

  2. Lyn says:

    A grand day out! That batt looks amazing.

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      Yes, it was Lyn. The batt is very soft and white. I’m going to have to think of a special project(s) for it.

  3. luvswool says:

    My two cents–a very enjoyable day, and it was cool to see the wool processing. Did some early Christmas shopping, too. Someone is going to get a very beautiful sheepskin rug.

  4. Leonor says:

    I’d love to see a wool mill in person! All that fibre yumminess… You two must have had a lovely time 🙂

  5. zedster66 says:

    I’m so jealous! It looks like a great place to visit for the day 🙂

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      The tour only took us an hour. Everything was right there in one space, but it was fascinating to see the process of each of the machines.

  6. ruthlane says:

    I have been to several small fiber mills and they all looked very similar to this one. The people always seem to be super friendly and glad to teach others about wool/fiber processing. I love working with batts and I bet you’ll like the merino batt you got.

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      I love working with batts, too. This one is so white I don’t want to just use it as a base, so I’ll have to come up with a special project to use it. Yes, Jane was very friendly and helpful.

  7. craftywoman says:

    What a fun day out, and they do all the cleaning and carding, that has to worth knowing about.

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      It was. When you see a skein of yarn or roving in a store, you never think about all the steps it takes to get there. At least I don’t, since I’ve never done the process myself. 🙂 I know many people do it all themselves. I give them credit its a lot of work.

  8. Mill equipment is so cool to see working. I always wonder how someone worked it all out in the first place. Looks like a great place to visit and spend some money.

    • Marilyn Nelson says:

      It was very cool. If she hadn’t had most of her stock packed up for a show the next day we probably would have spent more. 🙂

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