Harrisville Designs: a yarn company with heart

One of the days of the photoshoot for my upcoming book, the team went to Harrisville Designs in Harrisville, NH. We wanted to get some shots outside the studio that also included some of the yarn and tools that I use in my work and teaching. Since Harrisville is only about two hours from North Adams, MA, it was a feasible day trip. Nick Colony and Sasha DuVerlie were fantastic hosts and we were able to take photographs in many areas of the Harrisville campus including the store, classroom, workshop, and mill. I am sure some of the marvelous photos Mars, the Storey photographer, took will end up in the book.

The photos below are ones that I took. Enjoy a photographic visit to Harrisville Designs.

Yarn drying before being skeined at Harrisville Designs.

Harrisville Designs is a company that is invested in their community, the sourcing of their materials, and the good of the world in general. One example of this is Peace Fleece. HD recently purchased this company from Peter Hagerty and Marty Tracy who started the yarn company as a way of building relations with Russian sheep farmers. They imported fleece from Russia beginning in the 1980s and eventually added wool from a few other countries. This wool was mixed with wool from the American west to become Peace Fleece. In 2008 the company refocused on wool from the USA and began working with shepherds on the Navajo and Cheyenne reservations. The company was recently purchased by Harrisville Designs and they continue to source Navajo Rambouillet fleece to mix with domestic fine wool. “Wool with a purpose.”

Peace Fleece, now made by Harrisville Designs, is designed to bring communities together.

I love hearing the stories of the yarns that Harrisville makes. Of course their mill makes yarns for other people. Some of the popular yarn lines you purchase may well be made at Harrisville. But they have many of their own yarns as well. One of their newer lines is Nightshades, a yarn I fell in love with when I heard about Nick Colony’s idea over a year ago on my last visit. The yarn is now in full production and is selling fast. They mix black Cormo fleece with a small amount of 10 other colors to make these beautifully shaded black yarns. I tried hard to use it for tapestry, but it is too perfect for sweaters to be a good tapestry yarn. I talk about that experience more in THIS blog post.

Nightshades yarn by Harrisville Designs

We had a great time poking around the various parts of their buildings.

Harrisville Designs yarns being dried, skeined, labeled, and boxed.

Harrisville Designs yarns drying before being twisted, labeled, and boxed.

They were building a Harrisville rug loom while we were there. It was fun to see my favorite loom being built. Such gorgeous craftsmanship. Some lucky weaver is going to get this loom very soon.

Harrisville rug loom being assembled.

Harrisville rug loom almost finished.

Loom parts awaiting assembly in the Harrisville Designs woodshop.

Harrisville Designs is a company that works hard to revitalize the community in which it is situated. It is worth a visit there just to hear the story of the town, the mill, and the long history of the area’s textiles. HD has just returned to using hydroelectric for some of its power.

This was my fourth visit to the mill I believe. I felt we were fortunate that the mill wasn’t running. I’d never been there when it was so quiet inside and as a result, I was able to hear Nick’s stories and explanations about the equipment. On my first visit to the mill I made a video about how the mill works. Each tour I’ve had has been with a different person and I’ve gotten different details on each visit. The first tour was from Babs who you see in that linked video, then one from John Colony, HD’s owner, then Sarah who took over when Babs retired after many decades (4+?) of being mill manager, and this last tour with Nick Colony. Below are some photos of the mill on this visit in a gallery (click for larger versions, hover for captions).

I have a bad habit of interrupting other instructor’s classes. I feel like every time I visit Harrisville this happens and this trip was no exception. I’m not sure how I could have avoided it as we were shooting photos in this room, but I do apologize to Barbara Teller Ornelas and Lynda Teller Pete for causing a commotion during one day of their workshop.

These two amazing teachers and artists were teaching the first of three workshops at Harrisville on Navajo weaving and spinning. It was wonderful to see them so far from home and to eavesdrop a little bit on their teaching and wisdom. I wished that I could stay for Barbara’s spinning class the next day.

Barbara Teller Ornelas, Rebecca Mezoff, Lynda Teller Pete at Harrisville Designs, September 2019.

You have to be in balance. You have to be at peace to be a weaver.
— Barbara Teller Ornelas speaking in the Craft in America PBS show, Season 8, Ep 1

We did take these photos in the workshop room at lunch time, but the students were still busy weaving.

The gallery below has more photos of our visit. The focus at Harrisville is of course on yarn and weaving tools, but it is hard to resist taking a few photos of the marvelous buildings also. The leaves were just starting to change as I stopped back there on my way to the airport more than a week later to return some tools Sasha allowed us to borrow for the photoshoot.

Rebecca Mezoff, tapestry. Sample woven for the book and photographed at Harrisville Designs (because, my goodness do old mills have beautiful surfaces and light).