A visit to Briggs and Little wool mill


A visit to Briggs and Little Woolen Mill

Text and photos by Marie-Hélène Morell

Way back last summer I published Issue #5 with a focus on fibre arts, including artists who do felting, quilting, embroidery, knitting and the rest. One of my favourite features was my visit to the Briggs and Little wool mill in Harvey, NB. It is the oldest woolen mill in Canada, and every step in the process of making yarn is done under one roof. John Little walked me through the three levels of the mill, where you can see that mixing wool, scouring, carding, spinning and dyeing is all done with huge, specialized machines, which were all bought after the fourth (and hopefully last) time the mill was damaged by fire.

As an avid fibre enthusiast and knitter, it was really neat to see the process of yarn-making up close, especially since the mill is local and uses Canadian wool (mostly from Ontario). When I walked into the first large room, there was what appeared to be a huge layer cake covering most of the floor. It was wool! A layer of nylon and a layer of dark wool sandwiched in between two layers of white wool. The whole lot was about to be run through the mixer, twice. From there we went to the carding room, huge machines in a row through which the wool passed, getting combed smooth. Then it was the spinning room, long aisles of spinning machines tuned just so to yield the signature Briggs and Little weight of yarn. Next we met the ladies who are experts at working the machine that loops the yarn into the skeins you see in stores. Everyone I came across seemed to know their job inside out and were in their element, many of whom having worked at the mill for years. John Little spoke with pride at employing so many local people, making a product that was used by many and known for its legacy of good quality.

I thought I'd share a few photos for those of you who haven't seen the printed article. I do have copies left if you'd like to snag one!