Learning about wool spinning at New Lanark Mill in Scotland

There’s really so much to see at New Lanark, but I wish I had spent less time looking at fibreglass mannequins, and more time up in the mill on the 4th floor. That was exciting and real.

Visiting the mill

If you’re going, I’d recommend you could plan a full day just around the mill, walking along the river, visiting the museums. There’s plenty to see, but do leave time for this part. The machinery is amazing, and the fella working there was great to talk to. It’s a bit loud/squeaky so it does make conversation difficult.

I am sorry I didn’t get this man’s name. I did ask for permission to take a video/photo. But I wish I had video’d when he was speaking. I was asking him about the machine, how it works, woolen v worsted, and about my findings as I had already swatched up the wool before seeing the mill.

He said “A wool jumper is alive. After you wear it, it starts to change. It takes on the smells… it’s always evolving.”

I love that! It’s very true.

At the time I visited, the fella was loading up the slubbing bobbins to the machine. This illustration from the Woolmark site illstrates the processes well. You can see the spindle on a moving carriage. It spins around and puts thousands of pounds of pressure on the wool, and it pulls and twists.

Here’s a short video I took:

Things I learned

I’m going to leave the yarn review for another post. But I wanted to share some details about what I learned.

First: The big message overall is about the improvements in working conditions. I was very moved by stories from people who had worked there. I felt very impressed by hearing that this was the site of the first nursery schools, and that we have this experiment to thank for so many improvements. To go back to buying from suppliers when you don’t know the working conditions now sounds so barbaric and old. I had read No Logo years before, but I hadn’t considered the history behind the progress.

So I’m more convinced now I want to think carefully about purchases I make.


The machines in the video above are woolen spinning only. Worsted requires a different machine. This is probably stating the obvious! But it was news to me. This was the plying machine, but we didn’t see this in action.

Below you can see the fine tubes of wool on the huge spools- before they get twisted- is called slubbing not roving (I guessed wrong!). If it was cotton it would be roving. See in the photo below they are loosely lined up fibres in a nice round strand. They break very easily before they are twisted.

After they get twisted onto the bobbins they are very tight and fine. The photo here shows the wool after it’s spun. It’s hard and tight.

I thought he was making a different weight, but he said, after plying it gets washed and it FLUFFS UP….

IT FLUFFS UP to Aran weight!

That is amazing, isn’t it?

Then it becomes the wool they sell in their shop and online 🙂


I was very impressed.

I wish I could have spent more time there. But you do sense that he is trying to get actual work done.

I hope to visit more mills someday!

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