Off The Beaten Path: Wooly Girls | VideoCliff Naylor | 2/6/2012
Diane Schill and Janet Jacobson don`t have a lot of time on their hands. Their fingers stay busy cutting out and sewing thousands of mittens.
"This is my grandma`s mitten pattern and I use my grandmother`s old Singer sewing machine, so every time I make a pair of mittens it just reminds me of my grandmother, she was the one who helped me to learn to sew," said Schill.
The Wooly Girls manufacture mittens the old fashioned way, starting with raising and shearing the sheep. Then they clean and wash the wool by hand.
"Textiles through most of history have been done by hand, it was only in the last several hundred years, since the Industrial Revolution that clothing has been made in a factory," said Jacobson.
Janet and Diane don`t do everything by hand, Ethel helps out with the monotonous task of aligning billions and billions of individual fibers of wool into a parallel pattern.
Schill explained, "This is Ethel, this is our carding machine, she combs the wool into a nice thick web from which we make a batt. She has lots of sharp teeth on each of these rollers. It goes through each one of these rollers up and over the top and comes back out on this side in a real thin web."
This 1930`s carding machine looks like an old grain thresher, and since parts aren`t available anymore for contraptions like this, Ethel has replacement parts from a John Deere combine on it. The thin web of wool this machine produces is then pressed into a felt batt, and from there the material is cut out and sewn into mittens, then checked for extreme weather resistance.
"We test them here in the northern tier of counties in North Dakota and you can`t get much colder than this," said Jacobson.
Wooly Girl merchandise has been sold all over The United States, Canada and a few pair have even been sent to Norway. Janet and Diane say as long as Jack Frost continues to create cold, they`ll keep making homemade mittens that take the chill out of winter.
You can see the Wooly Girls mittens and all the products they produce at www.woolygirls.com