Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mary Meigs Atwater: Hope for Ragweavers

In any community, no matter how small,
 there is an income in the weaving of rag rugs.
 This is not very interesting work,
but it leads to better things.

Mary Meigs Atwater,  Shuttle-craft Courses in Weaving, 1922

The truth is some of us will get stuck on rags.  The sun came out just as I was tying on the last bouts of a black, 12/6 Swedish cotton rug warp, threaded in Rosepath, again.  25 yards of fresh warp on the loom seems loaded with possibilities.  I'm weaving wool rags cut from my wool remnant from Minnesota's Faribault Mills.  Most of it I hand dyed.  Almost 28 years on in my weaving career, and I feel no urge to leave rag weave behind for better things.

Sadly, I discovered when I tried to order a new supply of blanket remnant from Faribault Mills, that the company closed last year.  It was founded and run continuously since 1865.  That's the Civil War, mind you.   It was a mill that processed wool by the bale, carded, washed, dyed, spun into yarn, wove beautiful blankets on huge looms, finished, packed and sold the product, all in one factory.  It was one of the last mills in the US to process the raw wool straight through to the finished textile.

The only thing missing in the factory was the flock of sheep.  I am devastated. I don't know the reason the mill closed, other than the terrible economy, but it is a terrible loss.  And now my supply of  wool rags seems especially precious.


Hilary said...

I totally understand. I would rather weave rag rugs than just about anything else.
And the state of textile mills in this country is shameful, makes me very sad.
Beautiful rug.

Can we see the whole thing when it is done??


That is so sad. I can't imagine what we will be left with, at least once a month I hear of another textile related business closing up.

Susan said...

Hilary, I know you love rags, too, and bless you!

Deep, It's too bad. I love some old places, and also very modern design, architecture, art. But what's the replacement for a 145 yr old working woolen mill?


Unfortunately nothing. It's painful to know that it survived, produced and employed for 145 years and now...

Rosemary/sonrie said...

I found a blanket by that company at a thrift shop several years ago. It serves as the backing to a hand-sewn scrap wool quilt. Such a shame...

Susan said...

Sonrie, You're lucky you found one. It's beautiful wool. I read in a story about the mill struggling to stay open that yearly Faribault made over half of the new blankets in the US.

riverweave said...

I mourn the loss too. I have some of their pieces and
scraps and a blanket I use. Well made, USA made wool is precious and now will be even harder to find.

Unknown said...

a terrible loss. how lucky that the last of the remnants landed in your caring and capable hands.

Anonymous said...

Oh, too bad about Faribault. But maybe this will comfort you - US made wool from Oregon:

In school we used to buy their wool for our weaving projects.

Happy weaving!

Brittany | the Home Ground said...

I hate hearing stories like this... Too bad you couldn't get one last bundle of woollies. What you have is even more precious now :)

Susan said...

Thanks, E. I am looking into my options for solid colors, and soft wool for weaving.

Meta Skoglund said...

It is awesome to hear the lock of mills in US. In Sweden 100 years ago here was lots of mills and now most of them also is closed up.
Though small farms in the countryside with there own sheep, starts again proceeding wool. It gives hope!
I think the big problem is that no one goes out for the spinning. So I make rag rug´s instead and are a part of the recycling system.
Thank you for your dearly comment of my post about my rug with roespath design.
How are you proceed with your rug?
Meta in Sweden