Monday, November 22, 2010

First Lines (History of the Mill part 2)

Harlan Brown had a herd of sheep on his hands, thousands of pounds of wool, and a dream of mountains of yarn. Through the grapevine, Harlan heard that a wool mill in South Carolina was selling some of their equipment. The price was right, so in the spring of 1980, Harlan and his wife Janet hopped in the tractor-trailer used by the farm and headed South to retrieve the equipment.

They returned with a pindrafter
and a spinning frame.
The pindrafter and spinning frame pictured above are the ones in use now--yes, the operation has grown!

Harlan spent the first six months of the year learning how to use his new toys. On July 4th, he had the first ball of yarn in his hand. For those of you who are familiar with Brown Sheep Company, you know that we have multiple lines of yarn. This was the first. What Harlan perfected over the first year was the line of yarn that is still known as Top of the Lamb. This product is a single-ply, 100% wool yarn that is still loved today.

Confidant that this was an excellent product, and unique for its time, the Browns packed the trunk of their Ford with as much yarn as it would hold and hit the road. They spent several weeks marketing their new product and establishing their customer base. Many people turned them down, but when they hit Omaha, Nebraska, they found one buyer who cleared out their stash. That emptied their trunk, so they headed back to western Nebraska to make more. Their second outing was to the Navajo reservation in New Mexico. More on this trip in a later post!

A note on Top of the Lamb:

This is still a popular seller 30 years later. It comes in 35 colors, and is used for industrial production of things like blankets, rugs, and other sturdy manufactured products. If you need a tough, made in the USA yarn, this one is for you!

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