Industrial revolution spinning technology started in the late 1700’s with the invention of the “Spinning Jenny”, a foot pedaled machine that allowed for many bobbins of yarn to be spun at the same time, rather than one at a time by spinning wheel or drop spindle.  This technology evolved into the “Spinning Jack”, a mechanical machine that could spin over 100 bobbins at a time, but required an operator to hand-crank the yarn onto the bobbins. In the late 1800’s, further modification created the fully mechanical “Spinning Mule”, the mainstay of commercial spinning until the mid 1900’s. 


Custom Woolen Mills is the only mill in Canada that still uses a Spinning Mule for commercial yarn production. Our spinning mule was built in 1910, and is currently set up to spin 192 bobbins at a time. We purchased if from John Moors, in Magrath, Alberta, who worked on Spinning Mules most of his life – starting as a bobbin boy at the age of twelve and continuing to operate them until his retirement at the age 74.


Mule spun yarns have a characteristic all their own. In contrast to worsted yarns, which are spun on spinning frames with a constant tension, making them perfectly uniform and a bit sterile, woolen mule spun yarns are drawn, spun, relaxed, then wound about six feet at a time. This gives them a lively, fluffy quality similar to hand-spun yarns. Many experts consider the mule to make the very highest quality of handwork yarns.


We also spin on a Whitin Long Draft Roving Frame circ. 1945 to make our soft-spun yarns and to ply the mule spun yarns. The “Twister” is based on a continuous motion spinning machine.