Pict Wool processes local fleeces into yarn in Wilton

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 9/9/2021 2:37:30 PM

Wilton historically had a lot of textile mills, and now, one’s back in town. Pict Wool, a fleece to yarn mill owned by Antrim residents Paul and Amy “Bel” Vassar, took their first fleeces in for processing at the start of September.

“The whole fiber arts industry is just really going through a boom,” Bel Vassar said. There’s increasing demand for wool that is locally grown and processed, and a dearth of mid-size operations to process it into yarn, she said. 

In late August, Vassar and her husband were hard at work restoring the vintage mill equipment they’d purchased through a wholesaler. Each piece of equipment helps to tease out “a big tangle of hair” to make all the fibers lie in the same direction, Vassar said. The Vassars’ equipment will create worsted yarn, which is smoother and denser than woolen yarn, she said.

Their equipment has a somewhat larger capacity than the so-called mini-mills that dot the region, Vassar said, and they anticipate being able to serve customers who want to process wool from flocks of five to 30 sheep. Vassar said she’s in tune with the “fibershed” movement, which supports local “farm-to-closet” industries in the same way the local food movement supports farm-to-table dining. Vassar said she believes in sustaining a variety of supply chains for both food and wool, including small and medium-scale industries. “People who have small farms are doing something that’s really important for our communities,” she said. 

Vassar is a fiber artist herself. She’s been crocheting and knitting since childhood. “I’m not a terribly fast knitter, but I love the process,” wondering how a piece will turn out and feeling rewarded when it’s finally completed, she said. In 2019, she toured the Harrisville Mill with her youngest child as part of a homeschool project. “It sparked my interest,” she said. She and her husband soon decided they’d like to run their own mill, and got serious about finding equipment and working space. “The whole thing has been fascinating,” she said. “It’s been an awesome adventure.”

Most of Pict Wool’s machinery was made in Massachusetts and spent its working life in a New England mill, she said. The Vassars operate out of the Riverview Mill building at 5 Souhegan Street. The Riverview Mill wasn’t a textile mill itself, but manufactured machines that were used in some of the ones operating nearby, Vassar said.

Pict Wool will feature in the New Hampshire Wool Arts Tour on Oct 9 and 10, Vassar said. For more information on the business, check them out on Instagram and Facebook, or contact Bel at 540-3462 or bel@pictwool.com. 


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