THIRTEEN MILE LAMB & WOOL COMPANY

WOOL PROCESSING

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To all our customers and fiber producers who we don’t know yet, we have some good news!

One of our beloved employees, LaVonne Stucky is teaming up with her husband Chris Stucky to purchase the wool mill. This is good news for everyone---for the Stuckys, for Dave and Becky at Thirteen Mile, for all our employees, and for you. LaVonne has thought about this for a while, but over the holidays when all her family was together including adult son and daughter, they collectively said to LaVonne and Chris, “Go for it.”

LaVonne and Chris will move the equipment to their place about 7 miles from here, fulfilling our hopes of keeping the mill in southwest Montana, surviving and thriving for the long haul. All of our employees will remain involved, so there should be a seamless transition coming up… It will take a little while because the Stuckys are doing some work on buildings in preparation. In the meantime, we’re busy processing full-time still here at Thirteen Mile, so go ahead and send your fleeces and we’ll keep at it. Any remaining backlog will transition smoothly.

We are both honored and happy that LaVonne and Chris have made this decision.

We’ll do all that we can to help make it go without a hitch, and of course, we will continue to have our wool processed at “The Wool Mill”. The Stuckys have all the necessary skills---LaVonne’s entrepreneurial spirit, experience in the mill, passion for fiber and for the fiber community, and Chris’ affinity for accounting, hard work and general build-and-fix abilities. It doesn’t hurt that, in the background, their son Kelly works in a machine shop and daughter Juliana has plenty of business savvy from her experience in the banking and high-tech worlds.

Our Thirteen Mile yarns will remain in production, as will the other products on our website…. LaVonne will be adding new options on their website as the transition develops. In the meantime you can inquire about dates and plans with the Stuckys at their new email: thewoolmill@gmail.com

Questions are still welcome here as well with becky@lambandwool.com, 406-581-8543

Keep watching this page in the near term for more profiles of our employees…..the people who have made all this possible and will help keep it vital.

 

Thirteen Mile is a full-service, small-scale natural fiber processing mill. We process our own wool, and we custom process for other fiber producers---washing, picking, carding, pin-drafting, felting and semi-worsted spinning. We can produce roving or batts, pin-drafted sliver, felt, or yarns.

We set out to build a mill that is versatile enough to add value to regional fibers, that is consistent with our goals of organic management, and that is a pleasant place to handle the natural fibers that grow, remarkably, from grass. After remodeling, reroofing, and rewiring, the white barn at Thirteen Mile Farm was ready to receive and wool processing equipment in early 2004. With partial financial assistance from Northwest Energy Corporation for renewable energy projects, we hired a local firm to install solar water heating panels on the barn's south-facing roof. This solar energy system supplies most of the hot water needed to run our wool wash tank. An adjacent greenhouse, built primarily to replace the lambing-barn space stolen by the wool mill, also houses drying racks for the wool-washing system, and large pots for our plant-based dyeing of Thirteen Mile wools. In 2011 we added a 3.84 kW Photovoltaic, net metered power generating system. For the past year, this system has supplied all of the electric power used by the mill.

In Spring 2004 we began washing, picking, carding, pin-drafting, and felting wool.  By early 2005, we began to spin yarn---the last major process to add to the mill.   We now have a variety of carding and spinning experience, ranging from fine fibers like merino and guanaco (a canelid fiber that is finer than alpaca) to longwools like Karakul and Lincoln, and double-coated fibers like Icelandic and Shetland. We also do alpaca, bison, dog, llama, mohair, and angora rabbit, usually, but not always, as wool blends.

yarn
yarn

 

Tony Blundell's Knitting Sheep showed up on a birthday card thirty years ago from my husband-to-be.   I was a geologist/spinner/knitter, beginning to imagine raising sheep and taking care of a piece of land. Dave, an engineer, was already hallucinating about sheep going in one end of a barn, and sweaters coming out the other. Thirteen Mile Farm hasn't achieved that pinnacle of four-toed, long-tailed, V-neck-sweater-knitting sheep, but this homely beast does convey the hopes of Thirteen Mile Lamb & Wool Co.; to add value to lamb and wool products that grow so well in the Rocky Mountain West; to let sheep live on pasture, like sheep; and to care for our corner of the Gallatin Valley in Southwest Montana.
yarn yarn yarn

 

SOME INFORMATION ABOUT OUR EQUIPMENT AND PROCESSING

WASHING:

Wool scouring is often the weak link in small-scale wool processing. We've done a lot of experimenting to try to avoid the pitfalls that can plague the small operator. We're still refining methods, but our basic system has several useful features, including a custom-built stainless steel tank with an unusual system for diffusing a gentle veil of bubbles up through the wool, avoiding damaging agitation; and temperature controls and tank insulation so that we can avoid temperature shocks and wasted energy.

We do not use harsh chemicals to dissolve vegetable matter or other contaminants. The bottom line is, the cleaner your fiber is to begin with, the better your final product will be.
wash tank

PICKING AND CARDING:

A Stonehedge carder and a picker from Carolina Specialty make the heart of the mill. For especially clean fibers, we can sometimes bypass the machine picking if there is risk of excessive breakage of delicate fibers. Our 32" carder, with a few Thirteen Mile modifications, has proven capable of handling a wide range of fiber types and lengths from ~2" to 12". We can produce roving or 30" wide batts. You can specify the thickness of either.
roving deck

PIN-DRAFTING:

Our pin-drafter is scaled down from industrial-size versions, although its head of rotating combs is one extracted from an industrial machine. We can produce a carefully drafted sliver for handspinners who seek a light, combed, consistent preparation. Most handspinners are happy with the roving as it comes off the carder. All of the roving intended for spinning here at Thirteen Mile goes through the pin-drafter first; that pre-drafting is the basis of the semi-worsted spinning system.
pindrafter

FELTING:

Our felting machine can produce fabric pieces up to 47" wide and 90 " long, in thicknesses ranging up ~3/4 inch. Please call email to discuss your specific felting needs.
felting

SPINNING:

We added a second spinning frame in 2006. Its adjustable draft zone and digital controls allow us to spin a wide variety of fibers with finer control and better reproducability than our old machine.We generally use the old frame for plying only.
turan

OTHER SERVICES:

We have ample supplies of natural colored and white wool, including Corriedale, Romney and South African merino. It is available in roving or batts, or we can use it for blending with your fibers. Occasionally, with some exotic fibers, we require blending with a small amount of wool to enable processing. We do not make any such decisions about your fiber without consulting with you first. Our lamb and wool products are certified organic.

 

THIRTEEN MILE WOOL MILL PRICES

Note:    As a small mill, we provide a set of services that are not easily duplicated. We hope that story is meaningful to you, for we cannot compete with the larger processors based on price alone. We can provide: the ability to handle small lot sizes; customized, quality workmanship on a wide spectrum of fiber types; one stop for the full sequence of processing; a willingness to experiment; our commitment to renewable energy (solar hot water and wool-drying), non-petroleum-based scouring, and participation in a decentralized, rural economy that celebrates the potential of what grass can grow.

 

SCOURING: based on incoming raw weight of fiber. We reserve the right to reject fiber if it is heavily contaminated with vegetable matter, bugs, or if some other reason we think we will not be able to get it clean enough for effective processing. We prefer that you send raw fiber. You may send scoured fiber, but if re-scouring is required for proper performance on our equipment, we must charge accordingly. Our scouring agent is citrus-based and includes no synthetic or petroleum-based alcohols or oils.

$4.00 / lb All fibers
$3.25 / lb For washing your pre-washed fiber (we don't encourage this; it seems it's harder to get a good result with fibers that have been washed, dried, stored and later re-washed
$1.50 / lb For each extra wash that is required
  Note: Our normal wash cycle consists of pre-wash (initial rinse to remove the bulk of dirt), two washes, two rinses. Therefore an extra wash is generally not required. However some particularly greasy fleeces (e.g. rambouillet, corriedale) or fine clays combined with grease demand extra washing.    Fleeces that have been stored for years sometimes require extra washing.

Note: We always sort through the wool in preparation for scouring, but if your fleeces have a lot of unacceptable debris such as burrs, heavy chaff, manure tags, we will need to charge $25/hr. for the extra time required for handling. If the contamination is extreme, we will return the fleece at customer's expense. It's in your best interest to provide well-skirted fiber.

CARDING: based on incoming raw weight of fiber.

$9.00 / lb

Includes wash/pick/card into roving or batts

(Add $3/lb for exotic fibers - alpaca, guanaco, mohair, bison. We may include this charge for llama if it is very fine and/or contaminated.)

We can card as little as 2 lbs, but we must charge a minimum of $50 due to machine cleanup time required for all lot sizes.   Note that some mills charge for carding based on finished weight, and some charge based on raw weight.   We choose the latter because it is easiest for you to determine costs up front, and it provides an incentive for you to send us well-skirted wool; the cleaner your clip, the better your deal, and the more efficient our mill will be.

 

PIN-DRAFTING: based on incoming raw weight of fiber

$13.00 / lb

for wash/pick/card/pin-draft into sliver (Add $3/lb for exotic fibers -alpaca, guanaco, mohair, bison)

 

SPINNING:   based on finished weight of yarn.   Price below includes drafting and spinning of wool fibers.   See separate fee above for washing/carding, and below for plying/skeining or coning.    The yields from raw wool to carded wool, and from carded wool to yarn vary a lot, depending on grease, dirt and vegetable matter, and on fiber type and tip damage.   That is why we must institute separate fees for washing/carding (based on raw weight)   vs. drafting/spinning (based on finished weight).     Otherwise growers with clean wool end up getting penalized, which is illogical and unfair, OR we end up bearing the increased labor and maintenance costs of handling contaminated or damaged wool; that will quickly force us out of business.

We strive for as high a yield as possible, but we can't make predictions before we try out your fiber.   Our spinning frame can handle staple lengths ranging from 2.5 to 12 inches.   If you have a sample of the yarn style you would like us to match, send it along with your fiber.   Otherwise give us as much description of your objectives as possible: twists per inch, yards per   pound, etc.   If you'd rather have us make an assessment of a suitable yarn for your fiber, we're happy to do that. The spinning frame does seem to run most smoothly at particular speeds for particular fibers.

If we observe characteristics of your fiber that we believe may hinder a consistent, attractive, spin (e.g. gummy tips, weak fibers, excessive short fibers), we'll discuss that with you before beginning processing. You may choose to have us proceed at your risk (sometimes imperfect fibers yield imperfect, funky, wonderful yarns), though we reserve the right to reject fibers for spinning in cases of extreme contamination or other problems.

Exotic Fibers: The wool spinning charges listed below are the baseline for exotic fibers as well, but after several years of diverse experience with a range of alpaca, dog, bison, and llama fibers, we have concluded we must be able to add surcharges for more challenging fibers, because the processing times are substantially greater. We didn't want to ask customers to subsidize our learning curve, but now that we have the experience, it is clear that variable fibers add variable demands. If your lot contains considerable guard hair, or short fiber, or hay chaff, or for some reason does not hang together, we would like to have the option of adding 10-25% wool. We can spin 100% alpaca for those who prefer it, and will charge accordingly.

$18.60 / lb*

for drafting/spinning into ~800-1600 yards/lb singles, i.e. suitable for knitting worsted and bulky weight 2-ply yarns.

$19.80 / lb*

for drafting/spinning into >=2400 yards/lb singles, i.e. suitable for sportweight and finer 2-ply yarns, or knitted worsted 3-ply yarns.

* For lot sizes less than 10 lbs finished weight, there is a setup fee of $45

 

PLYING   2- or 3-ply

$1.50 / lb Call to discuss pricing and feasibility for more than 3-ply

SKEINS

$0.30 / lb

To exact skein weight. No extra charge for skeining whatever weight is on bobbins

CONES

$0.20 per cone

FELTING

$17/piece + carding charge

Basic charge for plain felt; Please request quote for specific felting jobs

*  Prices are subject to change without notice

 

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THIRTEEN MILE LAMB & WOOL COMPANY
13000 Springhill Road
Belgrade, Montana 59714
Tel. (406) 581-8543
becky@lambandwool.com