This Christmas I got one of the best and most thoughtful presents from my beloved Sister-in-law (SIL). She sent me 6 natural colored (same color as the sheep) skeins, two each of white, grey and dark brown. She and her partner had toured the countryside in Catalonia at the end of September and ended up going to Fabrica de lanas de Arségual. An actual Spanish mill, with a really mule-Jenny! I had no idea that there was a working mill here in Spain, let alone one so historic!
Since there are a lot of blog/videos/ information about this mill in both Spanish and Catalan I thought I would do a post in English, even if I have yet to visit the mill, after all, I do now have 6 very precious Spanish made skeins. Hopefully I will have translated all of the information right. If any of you have ever been there and have corrections/additions, let me know.
The mill was closed to visitors on the day my SIL went, but she was able to take pictures of the outside the mill and inside the shop. All photos are taken by my SIL unless otherwise noted.
This historic mill is located near the very small town of Arséguel in Catalonia. Here is a link to their website (in Spanish).
It is completely run on hydroelectric energy, a water-wheel is powered by the river Segre that travels down a kilometer and a half long channel that ends in a 10 meter waterfall. The carders, the mule-jenny and the looms are run on this power. The only non hydro electric energy they use is for the lightbulbs in the factory.
|Bridge that crosses over the river to the mill|
The family that owns the mill have been spinners since 1695 and have been in the building that the mill is now housed since 1902. The machinery that is still in use has been in use since the 18th century.
Luckily for me, the store was open, and she was able to buy me some yarn.
|Blankets for sale|
The mill sells the yarn, socks and blankets....and admits that the yarn has a very rustic feel "The socks made from our wool is adequate for a rigorous climb in the Pyrenees, or a nice sturdy blanket for a shepherd....it might not be comfortable to wear this wool next to your skin". The blankets are made by hydraulic powered looms and the socks are hand cranked on a circular sock knitting machine.
In the picture below you can see what I believe to be the sock knitting machine on the lower right and on the lower left, some sort of electric sock blockers. The yarn in the back is for sale.
Like I said it is possible to take a guided tour, but since my SIL was not able to I have chosen to highlight some photos/videos from Spanish/Catalonian bloggers who have toured it. All sources are noted under the photos. If you read Spanish I invite you to take a look at their posts.
Here is short video that briefly shows a lot of their equipment, and the process.
There are six different machines that the wool passes through to be picked and carded before going to the spinning machines.
One blog states that the picker is known as el diablo (the devil) I wonder if that is just for this particular picker, or for all of them? They do have wicked teeth, I am sure that is where the name comes from.
Everything is water powered. How do they do it? Big leather belts attached to a pole turn by the water-wheel.
A Mule Jenny spins woolen spun yarn, this is the only Mule-Jenny in Catalonia, and maybe Spain? It can spin up to 300 balls at once.
They also have an antique hydroelectric powered loom (15 meters long!) that they use to make the blankets. For more photos of the looms and even a photo of their pattern pegs go to this blog (Spanish)
They also have conserved on site, but not in use, a 17th century"Draper mill"carder made of thistles. Fun fact in Spanish thistle is "cardos" and the verb to card is "cardar".
|Image taken from here|
Finally here is a more general video about the mill if you are craving more it is image only, no commentary.
Because this town is so small and remote I am pretty sure the only way to get there is by car. A lot of the wooly attraction in Spain are remote and only reachable by car, which is probably why you do not see more of these posts from me (I have yet to drive in Spain).
What do you think? Would you go for a tour?