On our family vacation last week, we spent a fantastic day together at Upper Canada Village, in Eastern Ontario. While my son is a little young to grasp much history, he loved the farm animals, train ride, and especially milking a cow (ok, he “helped” me milk a cow, but still!).
I was able to take in some history, when I wasn’t chasing him around the Confederation era farm. As a knitter, it was the wool factory that really captured my attention. I didn’t associate Upper Canada in the mid-nineteenth century with the Industrial Revolution, nor do I tend to think of yarn as a factory made commodity, but the woolen factory certainly proved me wrong. The Asselstine Woolen Factory was originally built in 1828. Between 1828 and the 1930’s, it employed mostly women who carded, spun and wove sheep’s wool into roving, yarn and blankets. The water powered factory has been restored to working order, using almost exclusively technology from the 1860’s.
Large machines carded the wool and spun it into 1-ply for weaving. Some of the 1-ply was then doubled, tripled or quadrupled for knitters to purchase at general stores. A recreated sign reminded factory workers that while fashionable, hoops and crinolines are unsuitable for work around the large powerful machines.
Today water still runs through the turbines, and the huge nineteenth century machines still turn the wool into 1-ply for weaving into blankets and 2-ply for purchase in the Village Store. I bought a few skeins of the wool in black and soft pink. It’s much thicker than the 2-ply you would buy at most yarn stores, and is much closer to worsted weight. I can’t wait to turn it into some classic mitts to remind everyone of our family vacation – any thoughts on a pattern?