Last Mechanical Loom Mill Making Jeans in US Closing Dec 2017

Cone Denim’s White Oak plant in Greensboro, North Carolina. Unlike most other textile plants in the U.S., White Oak has always produced nothing but denim. In the late 1800s, the plant’s owners, Cone Denim, sold Levi Strauss his first wholesale supplies, soon therafter filing the original patents on selvage denim. photo courtesy of Cone Denim, LLC, a division of International Textile Group

The facility closing at the end of the year is using looms built in the 1940s (!) which uses shuttles like traditional looms.  At 3 passes of through the warp per second they are clearly more technologically savvy than hand powered looms.  They make a sturdier cloth than modern looms because the weft (horizontal fibers that are woven through the warp which are the vertical fibers) is continuous, it goes back and forth across the weft all the way through the cloth.  Modern looms cut the weft at the end of each pass (and use air jets to propel the fiber!) because the width of the loom is too wide to use shuttles.

The other interesting aspect of these older looms is that the motion of the shuttles on a wood floor causes small imperfections in the weave that give the cloth a unique look that isn’t found in cloth produced on a “modern” loom.  In addition, vintage jeans were also dyed with indigo plants (vs synthetic indigo)  and only the warp threads are dyed to give the finished fabric that familiar worn blue color (blue warp, white weft).

Primarily cheaper labor in other countries (Turkey) caused this plant closing.  The looms (Draper X3 manufactured in Hopedale, MA) are being bought up by other small specialty startup mills so there is hope that they will some day be making quality cloth in the US again.



Watch the weavers at work! – Skye Weavers: Tweed, Scarves, Throws, Clothing woven on the Isle of Skye

A beautiful, informative 6 minute video of a small weaving company on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Their looms are powered by bicycle! Gives me lots of ideas.  Gorgeous woolens.

Watch how we design and weave our woollen cloth, scarves, throws and more. Follow our footsteps across hills of Skye to find inspiration for our designs.

Source: Watch the weavers at work! – Skye Weavers: Tweed, Scarves, Throws, Clothing woven on the Isle of Skye

Weaving Samplers

I’ve been weaving some samplers to explore techniques.  Since my working looms are rigid heddle looms (a Mirrix tapestry loom and an Inkle loom) I’m focusing on using only two sheds.  More intricate things can be done on these simple looms by adding pickup sticks but my poor vision makes me prone to threading mistakes so I’m working on getting the most out of simple methods.   The sampler below explores color and weave.  The patterns that can be created are nearly endless and use plain weave!  The trick is in threading the warp with a color sequence and then following the same for the weft.


Color and Weave Sampler

Color and Weave Sampler in Progress

I used green and white 100% wool mill ends at 10 ends per inch (epi).  The warp was threaded as follows (left to right in photo):

20 ends white, 1 green 1 white 10 times (20 ends total), 2 green 2 white 5 times (20 ends total), 1 green 2 white 7 times (21 ends total), 1 green 3 white 5 times (20 ends).  I also added 2 warp rows of green on each end for a selvage.

The weft followed the same pattern:

20 picks white,

20 picks total of 1 white and 1 green alternating,

20 picks total of 2 green followed by 2 white alternating,

21 picks total of 1 green followed by 2 white,

20 picks total of 1 green followed by 3 white.

This produces 25 blocks of patterns (5 wide x 5 high).

Initially I had a difficult time getting a good shed but after about 4 inches of weaving it finally started behaving.  Wool is ‘sticky’ so it is tricky to use with a small epi in both warp and weft.  Also, the green was not as strong as I would have liked so it was difficult to get good even tension across the warp.  I made a few mistakes (!) but it will make a great reference for future weavings.  I finished it using twisted fringes, the first time I have ever used this method.  I bought a very economical fringe twister from Fiber Artist Supply.  It made the job go quickly and it would have been difficult for me to do by hand due to my arthritis.

Color and Weave Sampler Off the Loom

Color and Weave Sampler Off the Loom


In order to use up the rest of the warp on the loom (ie- not waste all that yarn and effort!) I created a Ghiordes knotted mini rug using BFL, Coopworth and Shetland fleece locks.

Ghordes Knotted Sampler Rug

Ghiordes Knotted Mini Rug

It is done with all natural colors and so luxurious feeling.  The length of the locks was quite different so the pile length varies.  I did some trimming to remove “split ends” as I went along.  The edges have 2 plain weave selvedges to keep the rug laying flat and there are 4 plain weave rows between knots of the shorter BFL and shetland locks (~2 inches), 8 plain weave rows between the much longer coopworth locks (~6 inches).  The most time intensive part of the project selecting evenly sized locks from the fleece and organizing them to be pulled up quickly while weaving.  I’ll definitely do more of these on a larger scale.  Just need to develop a design.  One more item for the to do list!

Early Spring Fiber Projects

I’ve managed a few fiber projects in recent weeks around all the spring time farm work.  I’ve been making inkles over the winter and this week did two from 100% Dancing Waters Farm yarn (70% mohair and 30% wool).  The draft is the same for both as they were both done with the same threading, but I used white for the weft of one and black for the weft of the other.  The difference is only in the edge, as the last two threads are black.  I prefer the solid black edge, but the white ticking version along the edge is pretty too and the difference in appearance between the two is not huge.  Using a tweed for the center section gives it a gentler look. Will go for greater contrast on my next project for comparison.


DWF Yarn Inkles

DWF Yarn Inkles


Another project was spinning a variegated fleece purchased at the 2013 Garden State Sheep Breeders Fleece Show and Sale.  It is a black and white fleece, and the color of some of the locks change from white to black along the lock.  According to the sheep’s owner, the color change along the lock reverses from year to year.  I thought this would be perfect for hand spinning from the lock as the beautiful natural variegation would end up a uniform grey if it were carded into roving.

Kiss's Variegated Fleece (Cheviot)

Kiss’s Variegated Fleece (Cheviot)

Unfortunately the white sections of the locks where too short (~0.25-0.33 inches) to give me as much color separation as I had hoped.  Also many of the locks had a fair amount of weather damage on the ends (tippy).   This meant pre-drafting before I spun the locks versus spinning right from the locks after washing.  Since there was less color separation than I had hoped, the fiber was not consistently even and there was some VM in the fiber, I went for a thinner single and then plied it versus going with a fat singles or  a Navajo ply (ie- versus preserving the color changes in the single)

Kiss's Variegated Fleece Handspun 2 Ply

Kiss’s Variegated Fleece Handspun Into 2 Ply Yarn

So…it did not turn out as I had imagined but it is still a pretty skein.  Most of the rest of the fleece is a gorgeous pale steel grey and I look forward to spinning the rest of it.  My plan is to use this skein in a tapestry rug, thinking it has perfect color variations for a cat outline but it would be good for a sheep too!

Another fun project was making coasters out of DWF roving.  I did a needle felted sheep coaster (70% mohair, 30% wool):


Sheep Coaster From DWF Roving

Sheep Coaster From DWF Roving

As well as hand braiding three colors of roving, then stitching them together.  Next I needle felted one, wet felted another for comparison.  I much preferred the needle felted version.

Coaster from DWF Roving

Coaster from DWF Roving


I’ve gotten my tapestry loom warped and my drawings taped up behind the warps, ready to go.  Now to select my background colors and get started!

Adding Heddles to Tapestry Loom

Adding Heddles to Tapestry Loom