Material gains— Minnesota


Faribault Woolen Mill Co seemed dead and buried when it was forced to close in 2009. Its renaissance under the guidance of two local businessmen has proven blanket-like: comforting and all-encompassing.

business, Factory, Industry, Mill, wool

When Faribault Woolen Mill Company closed its doors in 2009 it seemed that one of America’s most venerable blanket-makers would be left to history. However, such concerns were premature: two enterprising Minnesota businessmen have given the firm a second life.

Just before the turn of the 20th century America’s Upper Midwest was home to some 800 woollen mills. Minnesota’s Faribault Woolen Mill Co, founded at the close of the American Civil War in 1865, would ultimately become the region’s most successful. The original “one-man mill” consisted of…

The process

  1. Carding
    Raw wool fibres are combed and aligned then pulled into individual pencil roving and wrapped onto a spool.

  2. Spinning Spinning frames are loaded with spools as centrifugal force winds the yarn tightly onto individual bobbins.

  3. Weaving
The fabric starts to form as yarns cross in the loom. Warm water and lubricant cleans and pre-shrinks the cloth.

  4. Cutting and sewing
    The blanket yardage is laid onto cutting tables and shaped to size before being labelled, folded and packed for shipping

Other woolly mammoths

America’s finest mills

Pendleton is based in Portland and its roots go back to the 1860s, when English-born weaver Thomas Kay opened one of Oregon’s first woollen mills. In addition to woollen clothing the company manufactures blankets, many in the historic patterns of the Native American tribes Pendleton sold to in its early days.

Founded in 1830 by English immigrant John Rich, Woolrich began as a humble trading 
operation selling woollen fabric, socks and yarn but has grown to be one of the world’s most important woollen brands. Today the Pennsylvania-based company is probably best known for clothing but it still produces a range of blankets, which includes the legendary Hudson’s Bay blanket.

Another Minnesota mill, Bemidji produces heritage clothing, winter caps and blankets. Now owned by the fourth generation of the Batchelder family, Bemidji celebrates its 92nd anniversary this year.


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