Trip to the Oriole Mill

September 15, 2011

A small group of fiber artists, farmers and entrepreneurs have been meeting at HandMade in America this year, as part of a Fiber Group, to discuss how to grow the interest and market for local fiber in Western North Carolina.  Last week, we took a field trip to Hendersonville to tour The Oriole Mill, a boutique weaving mill that produces custom fabrics for artists and an in-house line of heirloom home furnishings.

They use only top-quality, natural and manmade fibers and weave fabric on 9 Jacquard looms. These mechanical looms use sophisticated computer systems to create fabrics with complex patterns, although the preparation and finishing steps are very handmade-intensive.

As we saw the textiles being produced, I fell in love with the Matelass√© Coverlets (above). Bethanne Knudson, the Design Director at Oriole Mill and Director of the Jacquard Center explained that they are woven from Egyptian Cotton on both sides of the material and New Zealand Wool is woven between the layers. It provides the warmth of wool, with the feel of cotton. Looking at the coverlet, it appears to be quilted but don’t be fooled– they are completely woven!

Bethanne was enthusiastic as she talked to us about the designs she has been working on. Using their state-of-the-art equipment and design software, she is able to create interesting textiles that are often reversible and have depth when held to the light.

Bethanne Knudson discussing designs

During our tour, we had a front-row seat of the Jacquard loom at work and walked through each department at the mill. Their emphasis on quality is demonstrated throughout the facility and in the dedicated staff who work in each area. Every employee is an expert in their department and are cross trained to ensure the quality of every material produced.

The Oriole Mill is unlike any mill I have ever seen or heard of. Nestled in Western North Carolina is a one of a kind operation that offers a unique experience for designers to learn and create their own textile with industrial equipment. If you are a weaver, seamstress or have any interest in textiles, the mill is worth checking out!

–Jamie

Research and Communications Assistant

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Find more about the Oriole Mill here.

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