Friday, July 31, 2015

July 31, 2015 - For the Love of Spinning

Alpacas are popular in Maine, along with sheep, of course.  We love our textile industry here.  It used to be that whole towns built themselves up around textile mills:  Brunswick, Saco, Lewiston, Biddeford, etc.  Maine used to make uniforms for the Civil War, and we shipped fabric all over the world, even to China.  Maine was known far and wide for its wool and cotton fabrics.  That eventually all changed, of course, when cheaper labor and materials were found overseas.

But there’s a dark history to the textile industry in Maine.  Rivers were polluted to the extreme 100 years and more ago.   It got so bad that many of them were completely brown and no fish could live in them.  The smell around the towns was horrific.  Yes, beautiful Maine--in some areas--was anything but.  Eventually environmental progress came to Maine and the rivers were cleaned up.  Now they run crisp and clear again.  The mills left for not-so-greener pastures, and for a long time the textile industry in Maine was virtually at a standstill.

Her wool will soon be a very warm hat!

All things change, though, and I’m happy to say that the textile industry is growing again in Maine.  Many of the antiquated machinery and looms are being put back into service with an emphasis on “going green.”  Raw materials are gotten here in Maine but also from elsewhere because Maine is not producing enough wool, even though we produce quite a bit.  Of primary importance, things are being done in a much “greener” fashion with the environment coming first.  Because of this, these new Maine textile products are expensive.  Some people will buy them; some will not.  But apparently the industry is growing and growing!

My favorite niche part of the textile industry is those who raise their own sheep and alpacas, shear them, and either sell the wool to individual customers or spin it themselves into yarn, which is then sold.  There are many spinners here in Maine.  Yes, the old foot pedal spinners are very popular here and growing in popularity daily.  There’s nothing quite so satisfying as wearing a garment made from sheep or alpacas you personally know, the wool having been spun by yourself or a friend and then knitted or crocheted by yourself, or perhaps worked on a loom.  To me, this is one of the most satisfying things a person can do.  Now, add growing your own food into the mix, and I’d say I was in paradise.

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