Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dying mills and dye jobs

An old photo of the Biddeford Mills
  Back in what seems like a long time ago Maine had thriving textile factory centers, Biddeford was among them along with across the river neighbor Saco.  Cloth for military uniforms (Saco), blankets for the United States Navy(Biddeford), upholstery material for the auto industry(Sanford), if it was cloth Maine could make it.  Those cities and towns just mentioned are but a tip of the iceberg.
  Then came tax deals with the southern states, a desire to move closer to the cotton farms, but mostly the tax deals, it's always about the money.  Maine collapsed, employment was gone south.  The 1950s were brutal times in Maine.  My own family moved to Ohio for a few years so Dad could work.
  Forward to today.  There are more farms in Maine today then there ever were.  Most farms in Maine produce food crops like vegetables or fruit, but a large number produce fiber.  There are a large number of sheep, rabbits, goats and alpaca grown for fiber.
  Fiber needs to be (among other things) cleaned, carded, spun into yarn or thread.  It also needs to be available in different colors.  Enter a portion of one of the Biddeford mills.
  The Saco River Dye House is in operation to make those yarns any color people want.  In the end, if things work out, twenty thousand pounds of fiber will be processed.  Click to enlarge the photos.
Don Morton the dye master carries yarn to a water extractor after dyeing.
Shawn Ouelette/ Photo

Yarns are dried.
Photo: Shawn Ouelette/
Samples of the finished product.
Photo: Shawn Ouelette/

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