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Rastetter Woolen Mill (Closed 2002)

The Rastetter Woolen Mill is owned and operated by Tim and Maureen Rastetter and Tim's sister Ardie Rastetter. The Woolen Mill has been operated by the same family for five generations. The original mill was established in 1840 and was purchased by the Rastetter Family in 1872.

The uniqueness of this woolen mill does not lie in the present building. Presently located between Millersburg and Berlin on S.R. 39, the building was constructed in the early 1940's. What is extraordinary about the Rastetter Woolen Mill is that they run a carding machine that was built in 1862. It is unbelievable but true. The machine is over 130 years old and still functions! You can see the machine function at the mill. Call before you visit so you won't be disappointed because they do not run every day.

The Rastetter Family processes the wool from fleece to woolen bats that are then sold to spinners, or as batting for blankets. In the back room there is a round brick gas-heated washtub where the wool is soaked in soap and hot water for eight hours. It is rinsed and hung outside to dry for several days and is then transferred to the attic where they have a three-week drying system on the rafters in the building.

Much of the wool that the Rastetter's receive is not usable because it is full of dirt, burrs, straw and dung. They select the cleanest wool to begin the process. Once washed and dried it is sorted by color. White wool is most desirable since it can be died. The colors are sorted into piles of gray, brown, black and shades between. The only market that can use the inferior colored wool is the spinning market because they like the natural colored fibers. I found it interesting that the supply of black wool greatly exceeds the demand for it.

After the wool is thoroughly dried, it is placed in an antique picker that cleans out the remaining burrs and dung. Once it is clean, it is processed on the 1862-carding machine. The wool enters the machine through rollers that have coarse teeth that oppose one another. This process straightens the fibers and gets the fibers moving in the same direction. The carding process continues through a series of rollers where each roller has a finer and finer set of teeth so that the fibers are all combed in one direction. The process is amazing. The antique piece of equipment takes a ball of wool, processes and combs it and the end product is this soft, fluffy blanket of wool.

Venessa Rastetter, Tim and Maureen's 16-year old daughter, was operating the carding machine when I toured the facility. Venessa was apt at loading the wool and managing the equipment. Periodically she would spray the wool with a combination of fabric softener and water to control the static electricity. The last roller is about one foot in diameter and it would continuously turn, accepting the processed wool. While I was there Venessa was measuring out one pound of wool to be used in baby blankets. She was amazing! When enough processed wool was on the last roller she stopped the turning cycle, used scissors to cut the wool, and carefully worked the batting off the fine teeth. Each time she would weigh the wool, it was consistently 16 ounces. I was impressed!

The entire Rastetter woolen operation is remarkable. It is one of the most interesting mills in Ohio. Their building also houses rug weaving (a local cottage industry), afghans, braided rugs, coats, sweaters, sheepskin slippers, deerskin gloves, and much more. When in or around Holmes County you must visit the Rastetter Woolen Mill. It is an experience of a lifetime.

DIRECTIONS: Holmes County. Berlin Township. On S.R. 39 & 62 between Berlin and Millersburg. About 2 miles west of Berlin on the south side of the road.
Unfortunately, Rastetter Woolen Mill closed in 2002.

 

Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Business Card.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Wool is cleaned in a gas-heated washtub.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio.  Wool is clean in a gas-heated wash tup.
The heat the wash water with a gas stove. The initial process is to wash the wool in the large tub with very hot water and soap.
Once it is as clean as possible, it goes outside and dries on hangers. Once it is mostly dry it then is set into rafters for complete drying.
Once it is completely dried, the colors are sorted. See below.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Drying wool in rafters.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Sorted wool colors.

Wool is sorted by color. White wool is a premium because it can be dyed.
Black wool is the least inferior quality of wool colors because it cannot be dyed.

Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Wool picker. Cleaned and dried wool is then picked clean.
This picker (wicked looking machine) is the first process to start pulling the wool fibers.
The picker attempts to straighten the wool and starts to fluff out the wool.
It also picks out bits of remaining burrs and waste.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Wool picker. The picker starts the wool to be threaded in one direction.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Carding Machinie. Once picked, the clean wool is then placed into the carding machine where it finely pulls the fibers in the same direction.
Once the wool has been washed, dried and picked it goes through the final process. Here Venessa places the clean wool into the carding machine. As the wool is worked through the carding machine it pulls the fibers into alignment. She places the correct amount of wool into the machine over a specific time period. The rollers pull the wool over and over and it places the wool into the final roller as you see below.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Carding Machine pulls the wool fibers into sheets of wool.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Carding Machine.  The final piece of wool batting is cut to the proper shape for baby blankets and other uses.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Cut piece of batting, ready to fold for a baby blanket.
Venessa Rastetter pulled the wool through the carding machine. As the wool is processed into the batting material you see above, she cuts it precisely to fit a baby blanket. Below you can see the scale where she will weigh each piece exactly for one pound. I was so impressed by her skill.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Folding wool batting.
Rastetter Woolen Mill, Holmes County, Ohio. Exterior of Building.

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