Last Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting the Hoof-to-Hanger Fiber Processing Mill in Bridgman, Michigan. Being a weaver, I was very excited to discover that a fiber mill lived just a short drive up the road. One of the owners, Rick, had attended the same event I had back in the fall. So, I knew there was going to be a tour of his facility in my future.
My friend, Lizz (she’s a buddy from the Duneland Weaver’s Guild) met me at the local library and we made the 40 minute drive into southwest Michigan Friday afternoon. I had planned for us to arrive early so we could check out the Sandpiper, which is the retail space connected to Hoof-to-Hanger. The Sandpiper is a sweet space, full of unique, handmade items – and yarn! Let’s not forget the yarn! I picked up a gorgeous olive green yarn that felt just like mohair, but was an acrylic that was really well done. (Let’s take a beat to appreciate how far acrylic yarn has come in my lifetime! I remember Grandma making me a sweater with some Red Heart acrylic yarn in the late 70’s. Wow! Not great. Not great at all!) Lizz found an adorable llama magnet while we were there – so cute!
We met Rick, Anna, and Suzy (all three owners) and Rick was the one to take us through the tour. Now, I should give you a little history here. I used to live in South Carolina in the mid-late 80’s and the fiber mills in the area had just finished shutting down. They were these enormous, brick buildings that sat dormant while so many of the fiber processing plants moved overseas. The vision in my head of a typical mill is of these gigantic fiber mills I grew up around. It never occurred to me that it could be a small, intimate operation, like Rick’s space at the Hoof-to-Hanger.
One of the side stories that Rick told us was about his connection to the building. He said his family used to own a Ben Franklin in the location where the Sandpiper is today. So cool! Ben Franklin was one of my favorites – I miss them.
Hoof-to-Hanger is in an attached building on the back of the Sandpiper. It’s not a very big room, but they already have plans to expand to keep up with demand. When I first walked in, I got the impression of a bright, airy space that was surprisingly clean, considering they are dealing in floaty fibers all day long.
Rick talked about working with various clients and I could tell he spends a lot of time asking questions in order to determine exactly how the mill can best process the fiber to get a good result. Not everyone needs the fiber to end up as dyed yarn. Matter of fact, some don’t even need the fiber to end up as yarn at all. I was really impressed with the level of dedication to producing the right result for each client. But that’s something you can do more easily if you aren’t a gigantic mill, right?
Lizz and I got to see all the various equipment used to magically transform fiber right off a sheep or alpaca or goat or rabbit into something usable. It was amazing to go through the process step-by-step with Rick, giving us a visual storyboard for a fiber’s journey. I have definitely known spinners and dyers that have walked me through their process. But it was wildly impressive to see it in this setting!
We were able to peek into a few boxes of finished yarn on its way out to Chicago. And they had many other projects in the queue. It was simply fascinating! I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the yarn-making process. Hoof-to-Hanger does tours at the end of the day and there is a small fee for the experience. Give them a call to book your tour today! You will love it!
Have you done a tour of some kind of production facility before? What was the most amazing part for you? That’s a
warp wrap on this week! Happy weaving, everyone!