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Bendigo Woollen Mills Tour

My third and final story to wrap up the Evolving Aveline Sweater CAL is about the day I went to Bendigo Woollen Mills.  Bendigo Woollen Mills make such beautiful yarns.  Here is an example of an Evolving Aveline Sweater that Julie made to test my pattern using Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 5 ply wool in Teal 649 and Magnolia 659. 


woman wearing a teal and white crocheted sweater

Julie also did a fabulous job in making the short sleeve version using Bendigo Woollen Mills Cotton 4ply in Latte 887 and Pretty Pink 873.

 

woman wearing short sleeved crochet top

 

Bendigo Woollen Mills is the largest Australian manufacturer of handknitting yarn, and I had wanted to go to visit Bendigo Woollen Mills for years.  Like, yeeeeaarrrs…!

 

My grandmother used Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 5ply wool for her crocheted blankets, my mother used Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 8 ply for her knitted jumpers and cardis and I used Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 4 ply & 8 ply for my first foray into crochet design.   There will certainly be many Australian families where a series of generations looked to this iconic Australian yarn company for their quality merino! 

 

SO, I was pretty excited (understatement) when my friend Shelley Husband connected me with Kris Govett who is the Creative Director of Bendigo Woollen Mills, Kris told me she loved my work and invited me for a private tour!

 

Happy days!  I took a heap of photos so you can tag along!  (And after the tour I have amazing news about how to win free yarn from Bendigo Woollen Mills!!!)

 

 

Here we go…

 

Bendigo is approximately a 2 hour drive (or a 2 hour 40 minute train ride and then a 7 minute Uber) from Melbourne.  As an historic gold mining town, it’s a really pretty part of the world and tucked away near the rail line (at 4 Lansell St) is Bendigo Woollen Mills.


photo of Bendigo Woollen Mills red brick factory building

Inside here is where the magic happens, which we will get to, but when I first arrived on site, I popped into the factory shop across from the mill for a bit of a perusal while I waited for Kris.  All very rustic and industrial on the outside, sitting in stark but beautiful contrast to that clear blue sky.


2 sheds with a blue sky behind

Things quickly get a bit soft and cosy though.  The seat out front is a lovely spot to sit and get some cool breeze if you are waiting for a friend to finish their yarn shopping.


bench seat with cushions under a porch

Let’s head in…

 

The first impression upon walking through that door is how BIG the factory shop is.  There’s a front room whose fully stocked walls wrap around a centre sales counter.  This is the area stocked full of current products, then a second equally vast room is at the back where there are run-out yarns, previous season garments where it’s more of a bargain-fossic area.

 

This pic featuring Bendigo Woollen Mills Cotton 4 ply in violet gives you a sense of the floor space of the shop (and the inspiring vibrant colour range too).


basket of purple yarn sitting on floor in front of wall of yarn

Rich, lustrous and deep colours are what you can expect from BWM products, and they have quite a range of traditional printed patterns in the shop.  Their website has links to a number of digital patterns too though – they cater to all customers!


wall of yarn and pattern books

As we catch a few more glimpses around the front room of the shop you can see machine knit wool and cotton garments along with a more walls packed with glorious yarn and handy knitted swatches.  SO much stock!


knitted clothes on a rack surrounded by walls of yarn

And the generous stock levels don’t stop with just the yarn either – check out this wall of knitting and crochet tools.  I couldn’t get the whole lot in one shot; it actually extends quite a way either side of this image!


walls of knitting tools

Swinging back around to the counter I see Shelley’s book, Granny Square Academy 2 available for sale and on display…  Brilliant book to upskill your crochet btw…. by making Shelley’s beautiful squares. 


crochet book on a stand at a sales counter

Right next to this is something that immediately caught my eye – skeins of undyed merino sock yarn (80% merino, 20% nylon).  Dyeing yarn can be such fun and it can really personalise a project.  I already have too many hobbies, so I did not get any for myself, but maybe one day…. (so tempting!)


2 bowls of yarn, one is undyed

I had just enough time to grab these pics and drool over the Luxury Merino 4ply balls before meeting Creative Director Kris Govett.  Here’s a photo of Kris in her office (which is tucked up high above the mill itself – such a lovely sunny room with natural light).


Kris is a delight!  SO friendly and approachable, whilst also exceptionally knowledgeable and creatively in charge of the largest yarn manufacturing company in Australia. I am so grateful to have met and spent time with such strong female leaders in the yarn industry through all my yarn travels.  Sometimes I pinch myself… anyway, say hello to Kris!


professional woman sitting in her office

Kris and I had a wonderful chat about crochet and knit design, and then she took me walking through the mill itself stepping me through the manufacturing process which was really cool.  Let’s do it!

 

 

Bendigo Woollen Mills from sheep to shop

Bendigo Woollen Mills source Australian-grown wool from sheep in Victoria and Central New South Wales.  The raw fleece is cleaned (scoured and carded) and arrives at the Bendigo factory in large bales. At this stage, the wool is referred to as ‘tops’.


wool tops on a factory floor

Blending & Drawing

Tops are loosely packed fibres which be dyed or remain undyed, but they need to be thinned out and properly aligned as parallel to be able to be spun into yarn.  To achieve this, they are fed through something called a gilling machine, “drawing” the fibres through a series of rollers. 

 

The gilling machine can also be used to blend 2 different fibres (or colours) together.  For example, the gilling machine is used to blend different dyed tops together creating a heathered effect for shades like Aegean Mix, Charcoal, Mineral Mix, Midnight Mix and Silver.

 


Spinning

Next comes spinning the drawn and blended tops into very thin strands called “singles”.  Spun onto bobbins, singles are very fragile but will be combined, twisted with other singles to form strong yarns. 


Here’s a bunch of tops being pulled slowly up out of their tubs into the spinning machine above.  They made me think of hurricanes curling up to the sky (but in very slow motion - lol).


wool tops being lifted out of tubs

And here’s a pic of some spinning happening on the output side of the machine, and a stack of undyed singles bobbins.


singles of spun yarn on spools

Winding

Next comes winding the singles on to large cones so they can be ready to twist with other singles to form yarn.  Here is a close up of singles wound on to a cone – check out the static fuzz going on, because once the yarn is spun its movement is not slow motion anymore!


singles of spun yarn with static fuzz

 

Twisting

Now it’s time to construct a specified yarn by twisting the singles together in various ways.  As some examples, 8 Ply Classic yarn is made of six singles. Two singles are twisted together in one direction and then three of these pairs are twisted together in the other (crepe construction).  8 Ply Luxury has three singles twisted together in the same direction (fingering construction).

 

As I wandered through, I caught a glimpse of this Calypso 8 ply.


large cones of undyed yarn

 

Dyeing

The yarn must be loose for dyes to penetrate the fibres, so other machines reel the yarn from the cone into large 2kg looped hanks like you can see in the pic below.  The ties do not absorb dye and are loosely applied to avoid blocking dye penetration and banding the yarn.


hanging hankd of yarn ready for dyeing

There are several dye vats of varying sizes.  There is this baby one (relatively speaking – it still looks pretty big huh!?)…. This vat holds 60kg of yarn and is dedicated to dyeing tops so Bendigo Woollen Mills can create those heathered effects I mentioned above.


a large metal dyeing vat with red protective gloves resting on edge

And then this monster!  Kris was very kind to hold my bag while I snapped this pic, and her presence really gives you a sense of scale!  This is their largest vat which takes up to 288kg (1440 balls) of finished yarn!  That’s a BIG dye lot population. 


a very large dyeing vault with a person next to it for scale

Drying

The dyed yarn now needs to be spun out of excess water and then put through the dryer.  At this point, the colour and feel of the yarn is pretty much like you buy as the finished item, though some products need steaming to bulk the thread and make the “handle” of the yarn smoother.

 

Balling

Lastly, the yarn needs to be repacked into the finished selling units – balls or skeins.  The dried hanks get reeled back onto a cone to then put through the balling machine.  The balling machine also adds the label, ready for the warehouse or for sale in the front shop (see, there’s a reason it’s so well stocked!)


Bendigo Woollen Mills also produces yarn for the Australian Yarn Company (among others) with different ball sizes to suit. Here are some 50g balls of 8ply being bagged up for them. There are many machines to manufacture yarn on a large scale but the human hand is ever-present to operate them and nurture the journey from tops to the end product.


hands bagging yarn balls

Warehouse

A fair sign that it’s the end of the day – a hi vis jacket hung up at the end of a well stacked warehouse corridor. 


a corridor of stacked boxes in a warehouse

Picking & Shipping

The warehouse is where the yarn is stored until it’s picked by the warehouse team according to a shopper’s order, packed, and placed in a large crate.  From here it’s collected by Australia Post who then ensures it reaches the customer, anywhere across Australia or around the world.  Here’s one afternoon’s worth of packed orders ready for pick up! 


white bags in large metal crates sitting next to a shed

That’s a lot of happy squishy mail that will be joyfully received at its destination, but I kind of feel like it’s looking a little lonely waiting at the bus stop (sort of)…. I think it’s the absence of colour in the photo, particularly knowing colour is trying to burst out from the inside.

 

Part of yarn therapy for me really is the dose of colour it provides, so the last couple of pics I want to share with you are my favourite of the whole Bendigo Woollen Mills tour!  It’s the elaborate and clever arrangement for making the colour cards….  How glorious is this!? 


many cones of yarn with yarn fed into a machine

 

All those cones!  Meticulously set up to produce smooth rainbow band of spun yarn.  This is one of the things I have always loved about being a Bendigo Woollen Mills customer – you regularly receive the colour cards with a short sample of the actual yarn in the mail.  Hard copy.  Actual yarn.  To touch and feel and look directly at the colours and their combinations – none of this estimating from a computer screen!


yarn sample threads pressed into yarn cards

Like previous weeks, I wrote this blog because I wanted to, and I receive no commission for doing so.  Bendigo Woollen Mills have already been generous enough to sponsor Julie’s and my test Evolving Aveline Sweater projects.  Julie’s projects were shown at the beginning of the blog, and I tested my own pattern by making this lovely Size 13 sample using Classic 5 ply in Aztec 609 and Rose Pink 746 seen here.


A woman wearing a crochet jumper

Amazingly, Bendigo Woollen Mills are also generously providing a $200 yarn voucher as a prize draw this week, just as my E. Aveline Sweater CAL wraps up.  That’s huge!

 

Just think what you could make with AUD$200 worth of Bendigo Woollen Mills yarn!!!

 

You could be the winner, and the selection process is described below. I will email them the voucher that they can use online or instore at Bendigo Woollen Mills.  Click here to go their website to start browsing yarn!

 

 

HOW TO ENTER:

To be eligible,

 

Before midnight AEST Thursday 30th May 2024:

 

·       Purchase the Evolving Aveline Sweater pattern from Ravelry. This provides 1 entry (your Ravelry name).

This means anyone who has bought the pattern automatically goes in the draw with 1 entry.  

For an additional 10 entries do all of the following: 

·       post a WIP pic on Instagram &/or Facebook of your Evolving Aveline project

·       include your Ravelry account name (this is needed so I can add 10 more entries to your Ravelry name), and

·       tag & follow Peppergoose on the relevant platform.

OR…

 

For an additional 20 entries you need to be using Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 5 ply wool or Cotton 4 ply for your Evolving Aveline project and do all of the following:

·       post a WIP pic of your Evolving Aveline project on IG &/or FB, 

·       name the yarn you are using, 

·       include your Ravelry account name (this is needed so I can add 20 more entries to your Ravelry name) and

·       tag & follow both Bendigo Woollen Mills and Peppergoose. (If you don't tag Peppergoose then I can't see it, so make sure you do that, or your entry won't count).

 

I will allocate numbers to all your entries via an excel spreadsheet then use a random number generator to select the winner, contact them through their Ravelry email associated with their pattern purchase, then announce on socials.

 

As always, you might want to browse Peppergoose patterns on Ravelry here and maybe subscribe here.  Thank you so much for reading my blog musings.  I feel so fortunate to have been able to work with such great yarn companies and shared the journey with you! 

 

 

Crochet on!

 

Susannah (Peppergoose )


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