Made Right Here.

What happened to milling in America?

Despite having conditions and climates that allow us to grow almost anything needed for textile manufacturing here in the US, political and economic decisions in the 1970's and '80's stripped us of a critical number of mills and companies making textile-adjacent products - think zippers, buttons and snaps, for instance. 

A few yarn mills, dye houses, clothing manufacturers and weaving houses held on through sheer determination. 

[Click here to read about one of our personal favorite mills, Harrisville Designs, which opened in 1794, but almost closed for good in 1970. Thanks to the quick movement of a historic society and the Colony family, who had the foresight to see how to keep good jobs in their tiny community, it's thriving!]

Most importantly to us, and to a lot of other small wool yarn mills here in the US, one of the facilities that made it through the textile manufacturing exodus in the 1970's was Chargeurs Wool, in Jamestown, South Carolina.

[Click here to find lots of interesting press about Chargeurs, or for the tl;dr just keep reading.] 

Chargeurs opened in 1955 and is the largest facility in the US for scouring, combing, and superwashing. Chargeurs also provides the US DoD with much of the wool it uses in uniforms, blankets, and upholstery.

Wondering why I'm off on such a rabbit trail? Stay with me here...

In 1941, Congress decided it was necessary for the textile supply chain to be contained completely within the US. Because wool is flame resistant and comfortable even when wet, the armed forces use the material a lot. Because they create a large demand, Chargeurs has been able to stay busy and stay viable.

Is textile manufacturing coming back?

In a word, yes!

Smaller mills and dye houses riding the wave of the rekindled interest in slow fashion and hand craft - like us! -  and industries such as fabric weaving, carpet mills, and camping outfitters, have been able to start small and grow thanks to access to US grown and prepared wool from Chargeurs.

[For a bit of backstory on how Kate and I began as dyers and handspinners and became wool mill owners in 2017, read this.]

Current trends point to a desire to slow down, make our own clothes, and do meditative things with our hands. The yarn industry has benefitted, and jobs in textiles have begun to come back to the US. But that long hiatus in American-made textiles left us with an interesting problem: It's almost impossible to find and hire anyone who has experience working in wool mills! 

This means that when we hire a someone for our production crew, the training period is long. Typically, it takes about three months, or 500 hours, before a new employee is fully trained and able to work unsupervised on all of the machines in the mill. 

On the flip side, the fact that we can't often hire someone with a wool milling background also means that our staff is very diversified. We have folks coming to work at Spincycle with experience in construction, farming, photography, ceramics, baking, social work... and as a few examples!

[We couldn't be more proud of our team here at Spincycle. I could write an entire bio page for every single person, but in the interest of time, instead I'll tell you to click here to see the lovely faces of the folks who make your yarn.]

What's next?

So what is next for Spincycle as a mill? Right now, we are leasing a warehouse to hold our mill, dye house, and offices. We have space constraints, but more critically, we aren't able to install the kind of HVAC system we need to prevent static in the spin by controlling humidity, or to filter and turn the air over quickly for the best possible health of our staff. We also want to use solar power to run our machines, which we can't install in a rental situation.

In 2022, we bought a vacant building in Bellingham's downtown core, and we will be renovating it over the next two years. Eventually it will house our dye facility, mill, offices, and retail space. It will also bring a bit of manufacturing back to our town and a bit of beauty to a block of downtown that is currently empty. We are looking forward to our mill being accessible and open for tours. Our building sits directly across from Bellingham's children's museum, and it's a dream of ours to spark curiosity and interest in the next generation of makers and entrepreneurs.