"Here I am wearing my son in downtown Middlebury, Vermont overlooking the lovely Middlebury Falls of the Otter Creek. These falls once powered David Page's cotton mill originally built in 1811. Here in 1817 Joseph Gordon assembled twenty power looms from plans he had brought with him over from Scotland."
What is a mill? Often "mill" and "factory" get used interchangeably. However, they each refer to different parts of the production of cloth. Namely, a mill prepares the fiber, (which includes fulling, carding, dyeing, etc), while the factory then takes the spun yarn and on mechanical looms, weaves it into fabric or cloth on giant spools.
So why not manufacture Poésie Tissée woven wraps in Vermont from start to finish, as that was my original intent? In fact, why not manufacture right here in the heart of Addison County, (my home for the past 10 years as well as the agricultural hub of the state).
In 1809 Vermont had 28 carding mills and 58 fulling mills. By 1820 there were four times as many of these mills throughout the state! In fact, by the 1830’s, Vermont was home to 80 textile mills.
Unfortunately the landscape of Vermont's fabric and textile milling industry has changed quite drastically over the last 150 years. Once a burgeoning center for the thriving merino wool industry in New England, Vermont's mills have all now sadly closed.
Many, many factors played a role in this including the decline of the sheep population between 1840 and 1870, the industrialization of the North, the migration of many textile mills to the South where cotton plantations thrived in the 1800s, as well as in more recent times, the migration of US textile milling overseas to third world countries in the East where labor costs and regulations are both much lower.
Thankfully, good old Vermont ingenuity has re-purposed, or upcycled, many of the once abandoned mills as apartment buildings, shopping centers, and other types of manufacturing operations.
So this left us with the only option to either pursue one of the (surprisingly many), extremely small-scale hand-weaving operations within the state of Vermont, or broaden our search to other areas of the United States. In an effort to keep costs reasonable, both manufacturing as well as retail, we opted to forgo the handwoven path, and travel a little further out of New England.
As we are still in the very early planning stages, we can't pinpoint which particular mill will be producing our wraps, but I can say that it will be east of the Mississippi!
Other segments of the manufacturing process, however, we will be keep within the borders of the Green Mountain State, and I look forward to sharing ways in which we will be working with other local businesses in the coming months.