Thomas Kay Woolen Mill – Carding, Spinning, Dressing, Weaving


After all the scouring, picking, and drying, the wool entered the main Mill Building.  Today the museum is on the first two floors, but of course originally all four were used.  The stone and concrete walls on the lowest level are 24 inches thick, then 16 inches of brick above.  An elevator (water-powered, natch) served all four floors.


In the Carding Machines, the wool passed repeatedly through rollers with fine metal fingers and from one machine to the next, separating and straightening the fibers and then twisting them back together into long loose ropes called roving.


Spools of roving were mounted to the Spinning Mule and hand-spliced to bobbins on the moving bobbin carriage, which drew out and twisted the roving, then wound the yarn onto the bobbins.  This machine could handle over 300 spindles at a time.


If the yarn was not already dyed (in-the-wool), then that usually happened after spinning, before moving on to dressing.  The yarns which would become the lengthwise or warp threads were transferred from the bobbins to large spools in the Spooler.  The spools were set on the Warp Creel and then the threads passed through the Dresser, where they were carefully aligned and then wound on the Reel.

Then they were rewound on the Warp Beam (another large spool).  Next came the tedious process where individual yarns were threaded by hand through the eyes of the Heddles in the Warp Harnesses to carefully match the designed weave pattern, and then through the Reed, a comb-like frame of metal wires (originally reeds or canes) which kept the threads separated in a one-to-one match with the Heddles.


The Warp Beam, Warp Harnesses, and Reed were then placed in the Loom.  After that and filling the bobbins for the weft threads, it was mostly letting the Loom machine clatter away… until a thread broke.  The Shuttle carried the weft thread back and forth just in front of the Reed as the Warp Harnesses moved up and down in alternate sequence so the weft thread would be woven over and under the warp threads.