I am a freelance photographer and writer from Port Stephens NSW Australia. Visit my web site at www.philipduncanphotography.com
Published May 20th 2015
Wool and woollen clothing in the old factory
Nundle is a small village not far from Tamworth that had its heyday when gold was found in the area.
If you are travelling the New England Highway near Tamworth, you can make a detour through Nundle or if you happen to be in Tamworth, it's a pleasant round trip through the countyside around the Chaffey dam with plenty of spots to stop and explore on the way.
Nundle Woollen Mill is a must-see destination for lovers of knitting, crochet, felting, textiles, spinning and weaving, handmade crafts, machinery and history.
Despite its vintage appearance, the purpose-built iron, timber and rendered brick building opened its doors on Australia Day, 2001.
Old Wool Press
Nick and Kylie Bradford have owned Nundle Woollen Mill since 2007. Up until then the woollen mill was one of the largest customers for their wool fashion labels Sheer Bliss and Infinite Wool.
In November 2013, Nick and Kylie moved their Sydney-based wool fashion business to Nundle Woollen Mill.
The mill is more popular than ever, attracting 30,000 visitors annually, and achieving record monthly sales.
It is one of Australia's last working woollen mills. Even 50 years ago there were some 200 woollen mills in Australian cities and country towns and many Nundle Woollen Mill customers have memories of growing up near a working woollen mill, or were employees of woollen mills.
Nundle Woollen Mill was borne out of former residents' Peter and Judy Howarth's vision to establish a major tourist attraction and help build the visitor economy and sustainability of Nundle. They purchased 14 truckloads of spinning and weaving machinery, some built in England and Germany as early as 1914, from Carol Olde's boutique mill Fibres and Beyond at Tamworth. Carol had purchased the machinery from JL McGregor Pty Ltd at Geelong.
Nundle Woollen Mill was an early pioneer of online shopping and contributed to the resurgence in popularity of traditional wool crafts of knitting, crochet, and felting in the past decade.
Nick and Kylie continue to build on the Howarth's original foresight and bring their own expertise in wool manufacturing and wool fashion to the future direction of Nundle Woollen Mill. They have a onsite retail shop as well as a extensive online store.
"Nundle Woollen Mill and its machines are very unique from a couple of different perspectives. Firstly, we are the last wool spinning mill of our kind (woollen spinner) still operating in Australia. Secondly, we don't know of another spinning mill in the world that is working in a commercial way with machines aged 50 years and older. Our youngest machine is our ball winder, manufacturered C1963 up to our oldest machine being a beautiful old carding line, manufactured C1914. All our machines work just as well today as they did when they came off their production lines, five or more decades ago!" Source: nundle.com
You can view all the machines from a viewing platform behind their retail shop or if you arrange it beforehand, a guided tour of the Nundle Woollen Mill is a great way to get an understanding of the processes undertaken. The tours need a minimum 8 people and take 45 minutes or for 10 or more a morning\afternoon tea or lunch tour can be arranged.
The park near the mill
Although the machines are old, the process is not that much different to a modern day textile mill. You will be fascinated to see the number of steps required to transform the raw material into a ball of yarn ready for knitting.
The building that houses the historic machines was purpose built for visitors to get the perfect view of the machines in action. The building is all on one level, so it caters well for young children to the elderly and has excellent wheelchair access. Toilets are also available on site, which again is on the same level.
Outdoor Art Nundle Woollen Mill
While you are there, check out their outdoor art on the side of the building as you make you way to the park for the kids to run wild or there is a nice little cafe next door to the park as well.