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Road Trip with Spin Artiste: Sweitzers Fiber Mill + Rachel Jones’ Yarn Giveaway Winner!

by The SpinArtiste on October 29, 2013

SFM - LogoPublisher’s Notes:  As a fiber enthusiast, I feel very fortunate to live in the South Central Pennsylvania  area.  This puts me in close proximity to great local farms and festivals and also, we have plenty of cool weather that works well with “fibery goodness”.  About a year ago, another wonderful resource came into my corner of the world in the form of Sweitzers Fiber Mill.  In all the time I’ve been posting here, I had not featured a mill and since this is an integral part of our world, it was time!  So, I posed some questions to the woman behind this business, Heather Sweitzer, so we could all get a peak behind the scenes at a small mill.  Take it away, Heather!

Spin Artiste (SA):   How did you find yourself running a Fiber Mill? What is your fiber story?

Custom Dye Work

Custom Dye Work

Heather Sweizer (HS):  I grew up in Towson Maryland with a very small back yard — nothing even close to where I live now. I was fortunate to have friends that had moved down the street that were from Switzerland. They were into anything fiber and it truly peaked my interest. I first fell head over heels when they took me to The Maryland Sheep in wool festival. Years passed before I truly pursued knitting, crochet and fiber arts. Before I knew it I had graduated college with a degree in Graphic Design. I worked one year in the field and was laid off.  I wondered what I was going to do with myself and it came to me that I should open a yarn shop.   So for 5 years I sold yarns that I purchased wholesale and taught classes and had knitting groups. Deep down inside I knew that I wanted to develop and create my our yarns and fibers and along came an article in Wild fibers Magazine about Chuck McDermott and Stone hedge Fiber Mill Equipment.  Eightenn months later we were off and running. Currently I no longer am able to have a yarn shop because the mill has become so successful that my husband and now devote 7 days a week to keep up with the demand.

SA:  What would you say is your business model or philosophy?

HS:  We make certain that every fleece that you send will be handled and proceed with only the utmost care. Every one of your precious fleece will be tagged with your name and processing instructions. Then they will be examined to guarantee the highest quality product to be returned to you. We 100% guarantee your fiber to be returned to you.

56 Head Whitin Roberts Spinner

56 Head Whitin Roberts Spinner

Picker

Picker

 

SA:   I can testify to that.  The fleeces you have processed for me came out beautifully and you were very thorough in discussing with me how I wanted them handled.  How would you describe your customers?

HS:  Our customers are a range of small hobby farmers with a few sheep, goats, alpacas or llamas, to those with hundreds. We also offer a private label program to yarn shop owners designers and mid-sized commercial yarn companies.

 SA:   I’m sure you never know what is coming in the door next!  How do you make sure everyone gets their proper fiber allotment? 

HS:  All fiber and fleeces brought to the mill are tagged on the outside of the bag, with the customer’s name and animal name (if known), date arrived, and the type of process to be done. Paper work is then started for each run or fleece. Then an assessment is done of the incoming fiber and paper work is placed in each page.

Carder Making Roving

Carder Making Roving

Pindrafter

Pindrafter

SA:   How many people work at your facility, and how would you describe the working atmosphere of the mill? 

HS:  There are a total of 6 people working at the mill:   4 full time and 2 part time people. The 6 of us work extremely well and very efficiently. It is always busy inside the mill but we also make sure to take time for a few laughs over lunch.

Custom Natural Dyeing

Custom Natural Dyeing

SA:   How has your company changed in the past year? 

HS:  In the past year we have grown rapidly. So much so that we had to move from our 1500 sq. foot building to a 12,000 sq. foot building. It was a welcome move that has allowed us to accommodate and process many more orders.

SA:  Tell us about the mill itself; what kind of equipment do you have?  

HS:  We are medium sized mill capable of processing up to 100 lbs. of fiber a day. The majority of our equipment came from Stone Hedge Fiber Mill and we have a few pieces that came from large commercial facilities.

SA:  I know you give guests tours of your mill. What seems to be the highlight of the tours?

HS:  I that people are overall amazed at the amount of work that it really does take to get a fleece from the raw state to a finished pretty skein of yarn.

 

Spinner

Spinner

Washing in biodegradable soap

Washing in biodegradable soap

 SA:   Where would you like to see the mill in 10 years?

HS:  In the next ten years the projected plan is to double our processing capacity and grow the private label division of the mill. My goal is to not only help the local farmer but reach as many yarn shop owners as possible to be able to achieve the maximum amount of profit from the yarns and fibers they grow and or sell.

 

Skein Winder

Skein Winder

Private Label yarns

Private Label yarns

SA:   What is your favorite part of the fiber-to-yarn process?

HS:  Knowing that I was able to give someone a finished product that they are proud of and helping them to maintain or grow their flock, herd or store through the sales of their yarn or rovings.

Plyer

Plyer

Plying Machine

Plying Machine

 SA:   What do you like to do on your off days? 

HS:  Days off? When you are as passionate about something as I am I don’t really think there ever is a day off. But on that rare occasion I get some time, I spend every minute focused on our three children and my husband. I have three children:  Hunter 12, Brooke 10 and Lilly 4. They are my number one love.

Finished samples from private label yarns

Finished samples from private label yarns

SA:  Thank you so much, Heather.  It has been a pleasure getting to know you better and as a customer, thank you for taking such good care of me!  Readers, please check the mill’s website to find out more information about where and how you can drop off your fiber.  

…And, we have a giveaway winner for the fabulous yarn from Rachel Jones!  It’s Silja!!!  I will be in touch to help you get your prize!

Thanks to everyone for their wonderful encouragement with www.fiberygoodness.com and The Journey to the Golden Fleece.  The launch date is almost here!  Don’t forget to go to www.fiberygoodness.com to enter your email address to get notified as soon as everything is live over there.

 

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