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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Buy low, sell high


The chief part of weaving is the thread for the loom. When I started up again, it was not too difficult to round up the basic supplies. People who used to weave for us, like Ann and my daughters, still had boxes of the stuff. Not boxes and boxes, but boxes. Not a big palette, but enough.  I put it all on three or four shelves in the laundry room, and thought I had plenty to be getting on with.

In the old days, after I discovered thread jobbers, there was plenty of thread. I’d call and big boxes came in a few days. Beautiful mill ends from the cotton sweater factories, from the cotton afghan factories in the south, or in New England.  Always plenty for the imagination of my sister to put together to weave into beautiful cotton fabric.

Once at show in North Carolina I had a great conversation with an executive from a well known clothing manufacturer who had been “drug” to the show by his wife. Rather wistfully he showed his wife our different weaves and textures, telling her “we used to do this here.” He had just finished overseeing the move to Indonesia of a large spinning plant their company used.

As our weaving career wound down, so did American spinning and knitting mills, though there was no relationship one to the other.  Socks went to China. Ordinary fabric went to India. Poof, like dandelion fluff, cotton products left this country.  

One good thing about the stock of thread I have left, aside from the cost, is the conundrum I must solve every time I put together a new warp. In the old days Jan and I would go to the barn with our trash bins on wheels, put a range of shades in the bins, go back to the studio and wind a hundred pounds of thread onto the back of a loom. Now I need to make five or six pounds of thread look equally as fun, and there are only so many ways to shade a bunch of natural cotton.

Sourcing inexpensive cotton thread in this second decade of the twenty first century is close to impossible. I can buy it from India, thousand pound minimum order. Haha. The jobbers in this country have no cotton to sell. All the odds and ends we once bought for $2 a pound are no more!

The weaving supply houses in this country, who cater to hobby weavers, import thread they have dyed for them. The thousand pound minimum order stuff, which they put onto one pound cones in house and sell, starting at $18 a pound. I’ve bought a few cones and it’s not the beautiful ring spun of cotton sweaters or coverlets. I’m sure the beautiful stuff is still being spun somewhere, but out of my price range.

Trolling the internet for thread is amusing. I have EBay on a constant search. It mostly returns the $18 a pound stuff from the last paragraph, from the same shops, but for $12 a pound and $5 shipping. I won’t weave with that stuff, but I do have a great end game plan: trolling the internet for old weavers with left over stashes. 

I got a box today from Maine, from a retiring weaver (but younger than I!) who used to bring home car loads of cotton thread from the great New England mills. She sold for a hundred and fifty percent mark up, and I can live with $5 a pound thread. But not a penny more!

When all the thread is gone, I’ll retire for good.



The box from Maine. See that cone of  Delft blue, up in the left corner.Using my best flashlight illumination technique, I took a picture of the label.

The Cleveland Yarn Company, Thompsonville, North Carolina. I'll bet this cone is thirty years old. Cleveland Yarn is no more.

Does anyone remember having a Delft blue cotton sweater? This stuff is soft as a baby's butt.








23 comments:

  1. So many companies and jobs gone away. We've priced ourselves out of the market in so many areas.

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  2. Hari OM
    I can identify with what you are saying here Joanne, the same has happened here in Scotland with the wool mills... I used to drive down to the Borders and go to several mill shops for the 'off runs' - whole cones of various weights of pure wool for a quid or three.... hey ho..... It's a "gone are the days" moment... YAM xx

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  3. I think it's the same all round the world, everything is done in the asian countries now so much cheaper, and all our clothes are throw away these days, pity but thats how it is
    Merle..........

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  4. Oh, the times they are a changing. It is almost impossible to find any clothes with a "Made in America" tag.

    The threads are lovely. Delft blue? What a lovely sound.

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  5. Interesting, and more than a little sad.

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  6. Retail today is in a very bad way, Joanne. I can speak for sure here in Canada, as many clothing stores are closing down. They say one of the main reasons is that many people are doing their shopping online these days and just not bothering to take all the time to shop in stores. And with Amazon here in Canada offering free shipping for orders of $25 or more, this really encourages people to just buy from them! Some neighbours of mine order many things, and sometimes a couple of times a week, from Amazon, and they always order more than $25 of goods because of the free shipping. It's hard to resist, really. Looks like you got a decent deal and I hope you enjoy your time using it.

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  7. By the way, Joanne, your header is absolutely gorgeous!!! :)

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  8. That delft blue is glorious. Blue is not usually a colour I lean towards, but the exception proves the rule.
    I wish that the fading away of raw materials wasn't true here too - but it is. Cheap seems to be the new god. And lasting no longer important.

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  9. Can;t wait to see what you make out of that beautiful Delft blue.

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  10. It is sad when our products and supplies to make such products go to other countries, especially when there could be a potential need for them here in the States. You certainly are creative in your ways to track dawn the thread needed.

    betty

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  11. I think you've mentioned going to the Yarn Barn in Canton, GA in an earlier post? (If that wasn't you, I can't imagine where I read that mention.) Anyway, that's my home territory, and I used to go there often. As a knitter, I had no idea who could ever use those boxes and boxes of fine yarn, cotton and other fibers, too, wound on cones. I probably still have a little of that cotton (natural) around. The Yarn Barn closed years ago, but you've brought back the memory.

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    1. Yes, that was one of our earliest finds. All the way from Ohio!

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  12. Many people do not realize what creative people like you go through just to get quality inexpensive materials. After you put in your talent and labor to make something beautiful we get to see a work of art.

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  13. So sad to know how everything in the country is changing! And change is not always better. But it is necessary, I guess!

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  14. The delft blue is a beautiful shade! I'm kind of sad that finding good thread within your budget is so hard now. Too many things have been outsourced to overseas companies for whatever reason and what comes back is just not the same quality as in the past.

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  15. The Delft blue is gorgeous but it was the splendid teal which truly captured my eye. I'll be sad when the supplies price you out of weaving. =(

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  16. For the past 25 years or so, we have seen all our manufacturing disappear. I have often thought that a country that makes little and must import most of their goods is at risk.

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  17. oh, that blue is gorgeous. so sad that so much of our industry has left for other countries. no one ohas pride in anything now. now it's all about the money.

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  18. What a shame it is so hard to get the 'good stuff'. I hope there are lots of retired weavers out there so you can keep on keeping on.

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  19. I expect it is much the same here in the UK Joanne. All, or almost all, of the mills around our mill towns in West Yorkshire have closed and stand in ruins - their trade all gone abroad to cheaper imports.

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  20. I'm with Delores - I hope you can keep finding old stock for awhile yet. Or have you thought about planting cotton or raising sheep and spinning your own cotton and wool? Just kidding!

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  21. Dear Joanne, thank you for this informative and fascinating post! I LOVE the Delft blue (what did you weave out of it - I'll flip to Facebook to have a look). In England we visited old mills (huge plants) that now are art galleries and so on - I will write a post about Saltaire with you in mind. And I hope that you find many, many more threads!

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  22. I used to buy asst. clothing from a weaver. She always talked about mill ends.That was 30 years ago. What have we done to our country -- we outsource everything it seems. -- barbara

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