by Dennis Page, Contributor
A 19th century antique carding machine is the centrepiece of one of the newest businesses in historic downtown Abbotsford.
On display at Birkeland Brothers Wool, at the corner of Essendene and Montrose, is “The Old Lady” – built in England and originally used for wool production in a Norwegian factory.
The Birkeland brothers, Olaf and Michael, bought the machine and had it shipped to Canada shortly before the Second World War.
“To me, she is priceless because of the history behind her,” said store owner Karyn Waters. “She supported the war, and the Birkeland brothers made no money during World War Two because of that.” The carding machine produced wool used for blankets for Canada’s armed forces.
The old machine collects wool clippings and presses them into sheets called batts, which are then used to spin wool yarn and other related products.
Waters, whose family also farms sheep, began her ties to the Birkeland family business as a customer, being a crafter herself, creating dolls, knitting and doing crochet, all of which can be learned in classes offered at her establishment.
Waters, who bought the business earlier this year and relocated to Abbotsford after the Birkelands had operated for 70 years on Vancouver’s Main Street, is determined to keep the business family-run and to help support local artists.
Birkleland Brothers Wool stocks products from local artisans like SweetGeorgia Yarns and Canadian brands such as Nova Scotia’s Fleece Artist. The shop also provides window display space for local artists.