One of the things that amazes me, is the fact that most of the East Cost fiber mills are older than the state I live in! The woolen mill in Harrisville, NH has been around since 1794. The Colony family has created beautiful yarns here since the mid 1800’s (longer than New Mexico has been a state!).

John Colony, Elsada and I Touring Harrisville Designs

John Colony, Elsada and I Touring Harrisville Designs

In the early 1970’s, John J. Colony III started Harrisville Designs, keeping the textile tradition alive in this little New England town. John, not only has consistently spun beautiful yarns and manufactured wonderful looms, but has also continued to carry out the mission of creating jobs for the locals and maintaining spaces for lease, helping to sustain the economic vitality of Harrisvile. You can read more about the wonderful history of this mill here.

The Weaving Studio Building at Harrisville Designs

The Weaving Studio Building at Harrisville Designs

We were able to visit Harrisville Designs last week during our visit to New England. We stayed at the beautiful Harrisville Inn, where we were treated to salmon scramble, coffee, tea and orange juice for breakfast. Then we were off to The Weaving Studio, where we met John and his wonderful wife, Patricia. We took some time to browse through all of their gorgeous yarns and weaving products and peaked in on a class being taught in their expansive studio on the second floor.

Taking a Look at The New WATERshed Yarns in The Shop

Taking a Look at The New WATERshed Yarns in The Shop

The Classroom at Harrisville Designs

The Classroom at Harrisville Designs

John then drove us to the mill to see the spinning in action. What a treat! Almost all of the huge machines were running with one or two people tending each one. We ran into John’s son, Nick, who helps to run the mill. Nick has developed a beautiful new line of yarn, WATERshed, that is definitely worth taking a look at!

Bales of Pre-Dyed Fiber

Bales of Pre-Dyed Fiber

Fiber Storage Area, Pre-Dyed and Natural Fibers

Fiber Storage Area, Pre-Dyed and Natural Fibers

One of the First Machines in The Mill

One of the First Machines in The Mill

The Carder

The Carder

The Spinning Area

The Spinning Area

One Section of The Spinning Machine

One Section of The Spinning Machine

Clos- Up of The Bobbins Being Wound

Close-Up of The Bobbins Being Wound

A Bin Full of Empty Bobbins

A Bin Full of Empty Bobbins

Working Away with Bins of Freshly Spun Yarn

Working Away with Bins of Freshly Spun Yarn

Our next stop was the warehouse and woodworking shop. It was beautiful! (I will have a space like this some day!) We were also able to see them preparing some of their weaving kits. Walking away from here, my mind was filled with ideas and inspiration! John proceeded to tour us through the office to meet more of the wonderful staff and through one of the many spaces that are for lease in the beautiful restored mill buildings. One of the spaces there is leased by Walt Siegl, the creator of beautiful custom motorcycles!

One of the Beautiful Buildings

One of the Beautiful Buildings

Leaving the mill, I joked with John, “If I ever decide to move on from my current life, I would love to come work for you!”. It is an amazing operation they have going in Harrisville! If you ever get a chance, it is well worth the visit. And don’t forget to stop at the Harrisville General Store for an apple cider doughnut… delicious!

One of The Beautiful Views in Harrisville

One of The Beautiful Views in Harrisville

Ciao,
Teresa Loveless and The Weaving Southwest Crew

PS Have you ever visited a fiber mill? If so, where? Leave a comment telling us about your experience. We would love to hear about it!

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7 comments on “A Small New England Town and A Historic Woolen Mill

  • Harrisville is wonderful (my grandparents lived near it). Actually, my first job was in one of the last worsted wool textile mills in New England (but that too was gone by 1985). Top two floors were a spinning concern, bottom two were dedicated to cloth production for men’s worsted wear (suits primarily). I worked for a couple of years after high school in everything from accounting dept, to the office in “dressing,” to the lab (testing tensile strength of spun yarn before it went to dressing or weaving, testing for fiber content in blended yarn, and the micron counts on samples of wool top brought in for spinning—to determine if we got the quality of wool we paid for). Nice to see the old spinning machinery again. I miss going through the weaving room with hundreds of looms banging away. I guess I’d need to go to India, Mexico, or China to find that now.

  • Teresa,
    I was in Harrisville last summer. Could not get inside the mill since it was SUnday. But what a perfectly picturesque little town. I would love to rent a lake house there for a month next summer. Thanks for sharing pictures of the inside of the mill.

    Cate

  • I took the only class I ever took, on color, in the studio there, when I still lived in Massachusetts. It was fun seeing everything again, through your pictures! I have no desire to ever move back to that degree of cold and moisture, though! Pictures suffice! Hope you had a wonderful time…looks and sounds like you did!

  • A friend and I visited two weaving mills in Lodz, Poland this summer. Lodz was a textile town that has a proud history still visible in its fine mill architecture. One mill complex has been renovated into a civic space (hotel, movie theater, mall, restaurants). The other one houses the Central Museum of Textiles. The languages may be different but the equipment, processes and lives lived are very similar.

  • Love viewing your visit to Harrisville Yarns.

    I have visited Pendleton Woolen Mills in Pendleton, Oregon.
    Was able to see the spinning and weaving of the blankets. I have bought many bags of selvedge ends to weave rugs. It was interesting that the selvedges were cut off and wound into a bag as the blanket was being woven.
    Thanks Teresa.

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