Spinnery News

From Raw Fleece to Spun Yarn – A Tour



Photo by Marti Stone

At our spinning mill, in Putney, Vermont, we make thousands of pounds of yarn each year for fiber fans like you as well as for yarn shops and individual farms. Before you transform our yarn by the work of your hands, the transformation of raw fleece from flocks from Vermont, Maine and New Mexico into certified organic yarn takes place in several steps.




Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery



Scouring begins by soaking the fiber in very hot, soapy water using non-petroleum based soaps.  After soaking, the fiber is moved through a series of squeeze rollers and basins of hot water until it is clean. The wet fiber is place in an extractor which is much like the spin cycle on your home washing machine. After a spin and one more hot water rinse, the clean fiber is moved to an industrial dryer. The lot size, from 50 to over 300 pounds, dictates the length of time for this process.



Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery


The clean fiber, having been scoured, now undergoes the picking phase where the fiber locks are opened and blended. This is repeated two or three times over the whole lot. Organic spinning oil is lightly sprayed over the fibers, adding moisture to prevent the clumping of fibers as well as static electricity build up. This is the step where the different types and colors of fibers are combined according to the Spinnery’s individual recipes for our yarns.







Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery



Carding is the next step where the picked fiber is conveyed to a series of rotating drums that first blend the fibers into a web and then separate the web into pencil roving. This looks like yarn, but it is without twist or tensile strength.








Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery


The carded pencil roving is wound onto spools which are carried to the spinning frame for the spinning stage of the yarn production. 96 roving ends are threaded onto the machine by hand.  This machine turns the roving into yarn within a few hours or several days depending on the lot size. Bobbins of the yarn are placed in the steam box for two or three hours to set the twist. The plying machine is the next stop for the yarn where again, it is threaded by hand. The Spinnery’s own plied yarns, including Maine Organic and New Mexico Organic, are 2-ply but we do produce 3-and4-ply yarns.



Photo by Green Mountain Spinnery



In the finishing department, the yarn is skeined or coned. The skeining machine winds twelve skeins at a time. The skeins are weighed, twisted and labeled by hand, ensuring that each skein is seen and felt as a final quality-control check. The combination of utilizing our venerable machinery, respect for the liveliness of the natural fibers and hands-on finishing touches, creates wonderful yarns that are ready for their next transformation into the project of your choice!






Be Our Neighbor!

©Marti Stone

We’re celebrating 30 years of bringing hand-crafters the finest organic and natural fibers yarns.  If you’re new to the Green Mountain Spinnery, we’re glad you found us!  You came along at an exciting time, and we’re thrilled to be able to introduce you to the people who create the yarns you love right here on this blog.

We’ll be sharing many stories in the months to come through our “People in Your Neighborhood” series.  Today, we’d like to introduce (or re-introduce!) you to the history of the Green Mountain Spinnery.

The Spinnery began to take shape in 1975, when Claire Wilson and Libby Mills encountered beautiful skeins of yarns from overseas, the likes of which they hadn’t found stateside.  At the same time, David Ritchie and Diana Wahle were in a study group with Claire that focused on revitalizing rural economies by creating small, local industries.  Over the next six years, these two ideas began to intersect and grow, fueled by a growing Vermont Sheep population and the gas shortage of 1976 (most imported yarns were petroleum-based) – clearly, a locally-made yarn would solve a multitude of problems!  After extensive research and gathering the support of friends and neighbors, the mill store opened for business in 1981 (for more details, you can read the full story in The Green Mountain Spinnery Knitting Book).

Their vision to create a workplace committed to sustainability, the responsible usage of natural resources, and of course, the creation of high-quality yarns, has remained steady over the years.

How does this translate to the yarns you hold in your hand?

  • All of the fibers we use – alpaca, mohair, wool and organic cotton – are grown in the United States; we make every effort to purchase directly from individual growers, and to feature fiber grown in New England
  • Unlike most commercial mills, we do not use chemicals to bleach, mothproof or shrinkproof yarns.
  • Our yarns are carefully created in small quantities using vintage equipment
  • Orders are often shipped in recycled boxes
  • Waste wool is put to many creative uses including home insulation, mulch and oil- spill spill clean up
  • Mill ends are directed to charitable organizations that teach knitting or donate knitted items

Our staff  tends to each and every aspect of production, from initial contact with the fiber grower to the final labeling and approval of each skein of yarn.  The Spinnery founders have always worked collaboratively, making decisions by consensus and often involving the entire staff in this process, but it wasn’t until 2006 that a worker-owned cooperative model (a founding goal) became a reality.

We’ll be introducing you to the people behind the yarns you hold in your hands; look for future installments of the “People in Your Neighborhood” series right here on our blog!


Scenes from STITCHES East

We had a great time this past weekend in Hartford CT at STITCHES East. Thanks to all of you who stopped by to chat, show off your projects and to “enhance” your yarn collections. Below are a few of the Spinnery patterns we saw knit up.