Spinning Machine


A visit to the Cushendale Woollen Mills is a wonderful experience you feel like you’ve gone back in time.


Such Beautiful Wheels Everywhere


The only things missing would be the clip clop of horses going up the hill outside;

St Bridget's Cross Protects from Fire & Evil



and the smell of turf or wood smoke that would have hung in the air on this chilly April day down in the Barrow River Valley Village of Graig-na-managh, (The Monks Village) in County Kilkenny.


Spinning Machine & Floor Wheels & Track it Rolls out On


In 1204 the Cistercian Monks discovered the pure water quality of the River Duiske, a tributary to the River Barrow, and built their Monastery & Mills. The small village grew up around the Abby thanks the prosperity of the wool industry.


Spinning Counter Weight & Wheel


In the 1600’s immigrant weavers brought with them the Flemish traditions of woollen fabric production to the area


A Woven Fabric Being Brushed


The Millers Assistant "Pip"


Philip Cushen’s family have been milling wool in the area since at least the 1800’s, purchasing one of the original Abbey Mills in 1925.

Philip Cushen at One of the Looms


Checking a Thread


Thus gaining access to the River Duiske and her pure water which improved the washing and dyeing processes


Philip Cushen Spun Yarn Dyeing Preparation


Spun Yarn Dripping




James Lifting the Lid on a Dyeing Vat


Steam Billowing Out


Impressive Pink!


So when the Zwartbles wool that I will be collecting in May from the breeders around Ireland is brought into the mill, it will be cleaned getting Irish field dirt, grass and straw out from its fibres. It then has a day of rest after which its hand fed into what I would call a fluffing machine (not the official name I’m sure.)


Wheels of the Fluffing Machine

 Afterwards it’s moved through a corridor to another room were it is hand fed into the carding Machine.

The Carding Machine


After carding it is brought up to the spinning loft on long bobbins which are then threaded to the spindles of the spinning machine.

The Carded Bobbins on Top with Partly Filled Spindles Below


 This wonderful spinning machine then trundles back and forth across the old wooden floors filling the spools with spun yarn.

The Long Room with Spinning Machines


Once the wool has been spun it must rest for a few months before knitting or weaving, this conditions the spun yarn and helps improve its quality like a fine wine.

The Millers Assistant 'Pip' Controlling the Jumbo Hank Carrier.


Before weaving the different colored spools of yarn are threaded through this narrow slotted reed in its pattern for weaving, it’s then wrapped around a huge reel.

Different Colored Spun Yarn Are Fed through Narrow Slotted Reed

Huge pre Weaving Reel


Once again the yarn is moved, this time lowered through a trap door in the floor into the weaving room below. There are quite a few looms working away, weaving rapiers flying creating wonderfully colorful fabrics.


Strung Warps Hanging on the Walls


Various Colored Yarn at Hand for Repairs


The Many Tools of a Weaver


Wonderful Wheels Hanging Everywhere


There are some modern machines in use but most of all one is left with the sounds of clanking, clicking, banging, rumbling and the swish of the flying rapiers. I hope you have enjoyed my tour in the Cushedale Woollen Mills and now know where the Zwartbles wool you are waiting for will be process in preparation for your felting, spinning, and knitting. We shall also be producing a limited number of pure Zwartbles wool blankets.


Hand Carding Tools


 Visit the  Cushedale Woolen Mills  website



6 Responses to A Visit to Cushendale Woollen Mills

  1. Dawn Edwards says:

    Oh Suzanna, what a wonderful tour of Cushendale’s…Thank you so much. When Nicola, Kirsten and I went, neither Philip nor the darling ‘assistant’ were there. So nice to have the complete picture…Thanks so much for sharing. Will there also be cleaned, but uncarded Zwartbles wool that will be available to be shipped to the U.S.? I love it in its more natural state, too, for felting;-))) It is a fantastic wool…Thanks so much for introducing me to this most amazing and beautiful wool…I love it!!!!

    • suzanna says:

      Due to the Schmallenberg Virus which has hit sheep flocks across Europe Defra has banned the export of raw sheep materials to the USA. This virus has yet to make it to Ireland and we are holding our collective breath hoping it will not make an appearance. This does not prevent the shipment of cleaned fleeces which is what we will be doing with our wool at Cushedale. So you could say it will be the next best thing to raw, no chemicals will have been used in the cleaning just good clean water. It will also have gone through a bit of the carding process which makes it into easily feltable strips. When the ban has been lifted and they have figure out how the Schmallenberg Virus is transferred we will once again be able to ship a more raw fleece.

  2. Dee Sewell says:

    Delighted to hear your wool will be going there! I bought some recently from them for a jumper (am stuck, need a more patient head on before I pick it up again!). Your pictures just gave me a lovely tour of the backrooms that you dont get to see from the shop.

  3. Kirsten Lund says:

    Thanks for those wonderfull pictures. It was so lovely to visit. I love the machinery, and that they are still working after 100 years.
    We felt so velcome, and their products are amazing.

  4. Nicola says:

    Cushendale’s just one of my favourite places to visit, can’t wait until your gorgeous fleece finally gets prepared and carded!!!

  5. Thanks for those wonderful picture

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