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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Many years ago while doing a stent at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN I had some time off from appointments and I decided to go 50miles to my South and visit Winona, MN. This is a college town along the mighty MS and the people there are very friendly. There was a factory there that I'm not able to remember the name of but one of the things they made were sweaters for Pendleton.
I was already a machine knitter but I wanted to see how they were made in a factory. What an education. First off, the knitting machines knitted circular. They would take these giant tubes and throw them in a huge tumble washer. Now I've seen commercial washers at hospitals and all, but these were monsters, and probably older than dirt. The tubes would then be dried and sorted. I never got to see them cut them up but when I did go into the place where the patterns were cut I was really taken back.
Here was a stack of knitted material the size of a bale of hay. They would take a pattern that was made of a piece of plywood, place it onto the pile and then proceed to cut it with what appeared to be a modified jig saw. I asked how on Earth could a blade with teeth go through knitting without snagging the yarn. I was told before the pieces come through it is compacted, very tightly. The blade just whizzes through like it was butter. From there I got to see some sweaters sewn. The ladies were on break but I was the only person on "tour" and it was the middle of Winter. So one of them got up and sewed a few pieces for me to demonstrate. It was just fascinating to see an actual production sweater being made. Granted, she only sewed one piece of a garment and from there someone else would sew on another piece, etc. but taking two pieces from two tubs, sewing them together and then throwing them into another, I don't know how they kept it all straight.

At the end of the "tour" I got to go into their retail shop they had. The prices were quite high, but after seeing all that was involved, I knew they were priced pretty fairly. After all, these were Americans working in an American company.

I'm not even sure if Pendleton even makes sweaters anymore, but one thing for sure, they weren't being made in any fashion we do them at home. It was very interesting. I wish everyone was able to see them being made.

Now they probably have laser's that cut out patterns but back then (this was probably the late 80's early 90's) most procedures were done by hand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I don't watch it regularly but have they ever shown a sweater factory? It would be great to see how things are being done now. I do like that show. Have you ever seen the other show about Mega factories and the cars they make? I think they do a different one every now and then, but I don't think it's a regular show. Wow, the Italian sports cars, their interiors and such...amazing. On those high end cars, things are still done the old fashioned way....by hand. They showed stitching a leather cover onto a steering wheel. I don't think I would have the patience. Of course, not everyone has the patience to hand or machine knit either!
 

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When I was researching into my family tree, I came across the occupation 'Framework knitter'. This is the origin of machine knitting as we know it today. My ancestors came from Leicestershire, England.

Machine knitting was invented in 1589 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

The attached link gives more information about framework knitters and their dreary lives.

http://www.frameworkknittersmuseum.org.uk/knitters.html
 

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I just googled Pendelton. yes, they are still selling sweaters but I'd be willing to guess they are NOT made in the US. One is a lovely V-necked cabled classic in cashmere. Wouldn't I love to get my hands on some of those mill-ends! Joan 8060
 

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That mill was called Winona Woolen Mills, they made some beautiful pieces while there. I don't think they are in business any longer, but I do recall we could buy cone yarn from them along with HK yarn too. They also had some beautiful sweaters for sale. Oh how the good old days come back to mind.
 

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THanks so much for your story. I love hearing about the history lof the crafts I do. My father was in the commercial sewing machine business and he had 2 friends that owned sweater factories. He made the sewing machines for them that put the sweaters together. After hearing you story I wish I had visited the factories.
 

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It is surprising how we think goods are producede and then as you saw it is completely different and you wonder how they manage such lovely garments. It was very interesting to me as a LONG time ago I worked in the sewing industry {hated every minute}and can remember thinking how do all these pieces make a garment, but they did.Thank you for the tour Rene22
 

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Wow, many years ago I worked for a jeans factory in Texas. They did everything the same as you described in their production other than producing and washing the fabric. They cut the the patterns the same, with a huge jigsaw, and piece meal sewed the jeans down a "line".
You really brought back memories!
I think sometimes we don't realize the true cost of what we purchase. Those jeans were not "cheap" to make and they wore up well. The women and some men, who worked there could make a decent living in decent conditions and the hours were such they could be with their children in the evening. It wasn't easy work, it was physical, and occassionaly tiring, but it was decent work. I can't begin to imagine what it must cost to actually make your fabric in order to make the gament.
 

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ValT said:
When I was researching into my family tree, I came across the occupation 'Framework knitter'. This is the origin of machine knitting as we know it today. My ancestors came from Leicestershire, England.

Machine knitting was invented in 1589 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

The attached link gives more information about framework knitters and their dreary lives.

http://www.frameworkknittersmuseum.org.uk/knitters.html
I wrote several articles back in the early 90s after touring this same area and did go into many of the remaining buildings and saw the conditions for the workers, (Huge windows to let in natural light but also much cold air) and sought out some of the single family/piece-work homes with almost no light (glass was expensive!), small-to-large museums converted from the old spinning factories with recovered spinning jennies and mules which produced the threads & yarns for production knitting.

Put away with my souvenirs of our 1989 trip, purchased at one of the small business's museum shops, is a commemorative crib-sized blanket, knit on an old knitting frame, celebrating the birthdates of the two royal Princes, William & Harry. It's cobweb fine yarn; this company has had the Royal license (forgetting the word at the moment) to supply particular members of the Windsor household with its knit needs since the 1800s (?)

Learning first hand about the history of the process of machine (framework) knitting and the meaning of being a Luddite is fascinating; how much of the story about the cleric W. Lee, while for his waiting for his sweetheart while she was busy knitting and thinking of methods to speed up her work remains to be believed or not; I have pictures stored somewhere in my vast supply of images the very brick wall of the outside of the little building in Calverton where it all began.
 

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I worked in two local shoe factories. onee, sorting them before soled, looking like platapus bills. used the long list of numbers inside, to pair them.
A dozen at a time in baskets, so a slow process.
the super wass very unfair to me as she hired me to replace the usual gal who had surgery and recovery time!!!! Let me think it was a full time position.
Lasted 3 weeks and took me from a clerking job at age 16.
the 2nd time , different factory, sorted, mended rips and tears from thne machinery, that was more creative and I actually liked it. Did it till my pregnancy andd princess Kate's problem. Mom had a big group of diners, and did not feel well, so she had ne applyyyyyyy, while I liked my clerk job.
this time frame allowed me to be there to help w/ supper.

Fun to see how things are made.
Saw a car factoryy, Parker pen one and Kohler's porceline pottys, tubs etc and an area where the plant had set aside for artists. really good stuff, all.
thjnx for this message..
 

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Sorry to say, they probably aren't made any more. I have been to the two Pendleton places, one in Pendleton OR the other in WA where they are still making the blankets and it was wonderful to take the tours. I suspect if they have sweaters now it would be from China. I did buy some leftovers of cones, haven't used them yet not really high quality soft wool, probably used for blankets.
Laurelk in S. CA
 

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I worked in a factory that made mens' sports coats and suits. I got a look at the cutting room. Fabric was layered and cut a lot like these descriptions. Plaids had to be laid out carefully to avoid distorting the plaids and attention to numbering the matching pieces to be sure the plaids matched. Stays on my mind because I was one of the ladies sewing coats and matching badly cut plaids are a thing mightmares are made from.

Working in the sewing factory was an education! The ladies often talked about newsmen, politicians, actors etc. on TV who wore badly made coats, whatever price they paid. As they said "It hits you in the eye." And after all these years it still does. It distracts me from whatever the man is saying.

A well made coat has a smooth seam all around the armnole. There should be no puckers! And the top of the sleeve does not have ripples when the the arms are down, plaids must match across the chest and lapels, center back and lower back. The side seams are located more toward the back instead of straight down from the underarm and fabric on the back is eased into the upper part of the front to move the arms without stressing and tearing the fabric so the area at the top of that seam won't have matching plaids but it must match about 6 inches below that. And the lalpel has to lie flat with absolutely no ripples.

So now you, too, will get hit in the eye when you see badly constructed or poorly fitted coats.
 

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I always remember how Mr. Rogers (From Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, on PBS) would take his TV audience on a tours of factories and how things were made. I was fascinated by all those tours and would have loved to see the Pendleton one! Thanks for sharing!
 
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