Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Welsh Odyssey - 2. Scary Armchair to Woven Treasure

My journey then took me from mid Wales into Snowdonia and North Wales.

I was really impressed with the Welsh roads. From my childhood memory they were as bad as the roads on the Island (and that's bad!). Now they are all smooth and well maintained. Speeds are clearly shown and the road signage is the best. You won't get lost in Wales.

I had a bit of a scary moment going through one village, a car towing a trailer pulled out from a side road and went on ahead of me - half a mile down the road he was accelerating, being familiar with the roads, and I was so glad he'd made some distance between us. The next thing that happened was a large armchair bounced out of the trailer and bounded down the road towards me. Luckily I'd spotted what was going to happen as if in slow motion, as the chair first began its escape from the trailer, so I was almost at a stop. My guardian angel was definitely looking after me that day.

I reached Trefriw mid afternoon and was delighted to be given a lovely special tour by Morgan Williams, who showed me the carding, spinning, plying and weaving processes. It was so much more involved than I'd imagined and the machinery was on such a massive scale.

Bales of wool in the lower shed:

The wool is 'blown' upstairs into large holding bins - this is a mix which turns out a soft grey:

Then loaded into the hopper on the carding machine:

Then carded on increasingly fine-toothed heavy rollers:

Cunningly scraped off the rollers into a sliver which is hoisted into the air transported overhead, and laid down crosswise:

Then to be passed through a second set of carding rollers. This wool is CARDED!

Here's a shot of Morgan fixing a drive band - this shows the huge scale of the carding machine - this shot shows only half of the length of machinery that the fibre is passed through. The rollers are heavy mahogany.

Here's a shot of a roller totally gunked up with grease (the dark skinny one in the middle). Cleaning this is a BIG heavy job as the rollers have to be manhandled off the supports and the clogged roller scraped manually .

The yarn is eventually drawn off into fine pencil rovings - sadly my shots of this didn't come out.

Then it's off to be spun on a huge spinning mule, the whole width of the factory floor.

Then the cops are drawn off onto cones:

Then the cones are plied:

After this the yarn is too tight on the bobbins to take dye, so they are drawn off into hanks and tied by hand.

The first stage of the weaving process is winding the warp:

Here are several shots of the looms, with tweed and traditional Welsh patterns in production:

After such an interesting and informative tour, I was also shown the nearby small spinning and weaving workshop which is open during the summer months, and browsed around the large shop.

There were a lot of antique spinning wheels on show. Here's one display:

All in all Trefriw Mill is well worth a visit, I received such a warm welcome. Lots to see if you're a bit of a fibre processing anorak like myself, and a nice large tea room. If I'd have had time I could have taken the footpath up into the hills and looked down from the site of the old mill higher up. The Williams family have done a lot of research into the history of the mill and this can be seen in the Turbine Room.


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