In 1821 Ozias Bartlett built a spinning mill in Harmony Maine to process fine pure wool. He accomplished this by using a spinning mule invented by Samuel Crompton in 1779 that uses water as it’s power source.
The spinning mule has a fixed frame with a creel of cylindrical bobbins to hold the roving, connected through the headstock to a parallel carriage with the spindles. On the outward motion, the rovings are paid out through attenuating rollers and twisted. On the return, the roving is clamped and the spindles reversed to take up the newly spun thread.1
Spinning wool is very different than cotton: wools staple fiber is naturally twisted and easily adhered to other staples creating clusters or locks of wool fibres. Numerous wool staples together form fleece which is essential the coat of wool a sheep grows and is sheared off to start the process of making wool yarn. The yarn can be bulked out by pressing in short fibres that are considered too short to spin if cotton. As this process is understood and refined the thickness of the yarn can be controlled and larger quantities can be produced.
As with basically all historic mechanical inventions the machines were large and the buildings to house them even larger. Here is a picture of the Bartlett Spinning Mill a 3 storey main building and 7 storey water tower that housed the power aqueduct on the edge of the Higgins Stream. This picture is a bit deceiving of the the actual mill’s size. There are 17 four foot wide windows that have about 2’ between each that run the length of each floor. The first floor windows are 6’ tall and the 2nd and 3rd floor windows are 8’ tall with hardwood floors throughout, what a beauty!
Current owner Lindsay Rice, pictured below took over the Bartlett Mill in the1980’s and continues to run it today.
In October of 2017 Icebox Knitting received its first batch of yarn from Lindsay to produce a small run of 500 hats for Bartlett Yarns. “The colors were really great . We had 10 colors and ran 50 units of each beautiful jewel tones,” said Scott Baker, Owner of Icebox Knitting. “It has been a wonderful project for us to be able to participate in the production collaboration with the historic Bartlett Spinning Mill by knitting their hats on our antique hand powered loom.”