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Minnesota mill becoming 2nd largest maker of woolen yarn in U.S.

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Maybe someday they'll be spinning yarns about the early days at Northern Woolen Mills. But for now the folks in Fosston are too busy with the expansion that will make the company America's second largest maker of woolen yarn.

The Grand Forks Herald reports the northwestern Minnesota city provided owner Stephanie Anderson with a free site and a low-interest loan of $100,000 to build the new plant that should open in a couple of weeks.

Some observers of the industry tell the Herald the expansion is well-timed because the demand for natural fibers and for American-made textiles is growing. One of those observers is Bill Batchelder, the president of Bemidji Woolen Mills, which plans to buy its yarn from Anderson's company.

The Northern Woolen Mills website says the company was started after Anderson heard from yarn companies who said the cost of sending raw wool to Canadian mills for processing was too high. The Herald reports the plant in Fosston will get its wool from sheep ranches in northwestern Minnesota and a bison producer in North Dakota.

Boston Magazine reported last week on the growing movement among knitters to know where their yarn comes from. The blogger writes that in New England the "knit local" movement touted by author Tanis Gray in a 2011 book has even spawned a program allowing knitters to meet the sheep that provides their wool.

Globally, China is the biggest engine in the growing demand for wool. Australia remains the biggest supplier but an ag journal in that country reported last week that production is down this year, partly because of ongoing drought.

The woolen yarn industry may also face competition from those who make yarn out of cotton. Just Style reported this month on a surge of investment in the cotton yarn industry.

And if you've ever wondered just how yarn is made, there's a lot more on that here.

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