Theres a new lady in town, but she’s certainly not what you might expect! Weighing in at two tonnes, and over 100 years old, the historical Birkeland carding machine is one of the many reasons that makes Birkeland Bros. Wool in Abbotsford just too darn cool! Not only have they established themselves as the go-to place for specialty dyed wool, felt and yarn, their in-house carding machine produces quality batting just like the good ol’ days, right in front of your eyes.
Originally based in Vancouver, Birkeland Bros. Wool has always been a family run business. Brothers Olaf & Mike Birkeland officially opened shop in 1939 after travelling to Vancouver from Norway. Now, after 73 years and 3 generations in the Birkeland family, the time had come for Cara Birkeland to close down the shop, with the option to sell if the right person came along.
Karyn Waters, a long-time Birkeland customer from Abbotsford, happened to be that special person! With an appreciation for fine, dyed fibres she regularly made the trek into Vancouver to stock up. She had no idea that her last visit to Birkeland would end up being the beginning of an exciting new business venture. A few months later, after many hours of late night and weekend moving, Birkeland Bros Wool opened in their brand new location in downtown Abbotsford!
The carding machine itself, which had to be taken apart and reassembled piece by piece during the move, is a vintage machine used to align the fibers of a fleece. Once this is done, the batting can be used as filling for quilts, spun into wool, used for felting projects and much more! Lovingly referred to as the “Old Lady,” the carding machine now sits in the middle of the store and can also be seen through the large bay windows from Montrose Street. Although still in the testing stages since the move, Karyn anticipates the Old Lady will be running regularly in a month or two. Once fully operational, the schedule will be posted on their website and shoppers and non-shoppers alike are encouraged to come and check it out!
As well as making their own batting, Birkeland also stocks products from sought after Canadian brands such as Hand Maiden (from Nova Scotia) and Indigo Dragonfly (from Ontario). In fact, these products are so sought after that they commonly have visitors from Vancouver Island and the Interior popping in, because they are one of the few places that carry them. Sounds like a long way to drive, but once you see how incredible these colour combinations are, you’ll appreciate how amazingly vibrant they are. Good wool is hard to find!
So, what if looking at these colourful yarns and wool fibres gets you all excited but you have absolutely no idea what to do with them? Attend one of their classes! Class sizes are commonly 5-7 people and can be customized if students in the class are hoping to learn something specific. With beginner classes for crocheting, felting, knitting and spinning – there are a whole lot of opportunities here to learn something new! Plus, long time wool crafters will be happy to know they also offer a great selection of advanced classes too. You’ll always come out of them with a finished product (providing you do your homework of course). Check out their classes & group schedule to find the class just right for you! Looking for something easy and relaxing? Karyn recommends checking out the spinning classes. You can even rent out the spinners for a nominal fee to work on your projects at home.
Another thing that makes Birkeland Bros. so unique is their “customer boutique”, found in the bright windowed corner at the store’s entrance. Customers are able to bring in their homemade wares and list them for sale within the shop. The best part? Sellers do not get charged commission, so they can keep their prices lower and make a few dollars to put back into their hobby! This is a great place to visit if you want to give a handmade gift, but don’t have enough time to whip one up yourself.
We loved learning about the wool and yarn industry and can’t wait to get back in for a beginners knitting class! It has certainly made us think twice when selecting materials for our fibre projects. How wonderful to know of such beautiful, vibrant, hand dyed yarns available right here in the Fraser Valley!
Karyn and her team have graciously donated a lifetime membership to their Knit & Purl Group, as well as a gift basket of wool goodies! Their group meets every Monday night from 7PM – 9PM and is a great way to meet and relax with other Fraser Valley knitters!
Please leave a comment below to be entered to win. Winner will be chosen at random and contacted on November 20, 2012.
Update: Congratulations to our winner. This contest is now closed.
Birkeland Bros. Wool
33739 Essendene Avenue, Abbotsford