Going to the Country

It was a beautiful day as we headed north on the highway to meet up with other relations; my Auntie Ruth, cousin Rob and his wife Deb; to share an adventure at the Custom Woolen Mills Ltd., located near Carstairs, Alberta.  There was quite a haze covering the landscape due to forest fires blazing in northern Alberta and British Columbia, but still the canola fields were golden and the undulating hills rich summer green.

I look back to the years I attended the University of Lethbridge and meeting Fen Roessingh and husband Bill Purves-Smith for the first time.

These portraits are borrowed from the company information booklet, professionally produced to inform visitors to the mill of the process from the collection of the wool until its creation as a beautiful wool product.

P1180124 P1180125Back in the 70s, these two young folk were ‘learning the ropes’, working along side my Grandfather John Moors, at the Magrath Wool Card and Spinning Mill, this, after developing an interest in fibre arts and weaving out at the Leighton Center near Calgary.  They had a truck load of raw wool and were seeking out some guidance about how they might turn it into yarn…something that my grandfather was generously able to do.

My Auntie Eleanor with her Dad, John Moors

My Auntie Eleanor with her Dad, John Moors

P1160907P1160913 P1160914The equipment at the custom mill dates back as far as the 1860s, some of it, coming directly from the Magrath business when grandpa, in his 70s, decided to sell it and support this new adventure outside of Carstairs.  Interestingly enough, I found equipment yesterday that was manufactured in Sherbrooke, Quebec, my mother’s home from the time she was twelve.

Equipment Manufactured in Sherbrooke, Quebec

Equipment Manufactured in Sherbrooke, Quebec

From the time that any member of my family enters a woolen mill, a flood of memories returns with the warm smell of raw wool.  This isn’t everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but I suppose that the sense of smell really DOES inform memory and for this family the smell of wool is very nostalgic.

We proceeded to enjoy a tour and lively conversation with all of the staff, our friends, although this was a day when all of them were ‘running their feet off’, being short-staffed and filling lots of orders.  It was lovely to see how gracious and respectful all were with Dad and Ruth, giving their intimate connection with this story.  In fact, my Aunties Eleanor and Ruth spent a lot of time as women, working for my grandfather in the mill, so this was even more special for Ruth.

P1180080Fen, Ruth, John (my Dad) and Garry Swanson.  (The following short bio is about Garry and the reasons he is viewed as such an asset.  He was also very welcoming and informative on our visit.  Thanks, Gary!)

P1180122 P1180123Following, an archive of images snapped throughout our visit, a magical afternoon that took us through all aspects of the processing of raw wool; washing, dyeing, carding, spinning, producing skeins of wool, quilts and socks. The summer’s day ended with Dad’s purchase of a pair of wool socks, a lunch time visit on the front porch and a beautiful drive home.

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P1180117 P1180116 P1180115 Dad grabbing a photo of the different varieties of raw wool.

P1180114 A porch for hanging out with Ebony and the cats…

P1180113The quilter shares stories of the origins of this equipment and her role at the mill… P1180129

P1180111 P1180110 P1180108 P1180106 P1180105 P1180104 P1180103 P1180100Sock making machine explained, in detail and demonstrated at full speed and slowly, so that we could see the magic of the process, by Garry.

P1180099 P1180098 P1180097 P1180096 P1180092 Auntie Ruth used to make skeins in the Magrath Mill…this was like a blast from the past for her!

P1180090 Someone caught me in a photograph in front of the mule, a piece of equipment that DID come from our family mill.

P1180087 P1180086 The dyeing sheds…several of these.

P1180085Fen’s feet…many miles a day put on for years!

P1180084Telling stories…and listening to stories.  Pure awesomeness!

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The Piece Maker

A friend of mine in the east has opened up a blog. I am very proud of her as it shows some of the projects that she does.  She creates exquisite folk art with amazing technique.  She is a fantastic baker, cook, home maker, mother and has created a beautiful home.  I hope that you will stop in and look at The Piece Maker’s blog.

See her beautiful Etsy Shop at Wooden Needle Nook.