The joy of teaching knitters and other crafters
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A tour of Bergere de France

As part of my trip to Reims in France as a knitting expert with Arena Holidays, I had a chance to tour the Bergere de France yarn factory.

At this site, which employs more than 300 people, they take in raw fibre - wool, acrylic, cotton, linen, etc - at one end and ship finished yarns to shops and individual consumers at the other. They produce 15 million balls per year across 40-plus yarn lines in a total of some 600 colourways, so I was intrigued to see it was done.

Because I have had lots of contact with indie dyers, the sequence of yarn production in my head was spinning first, dying later, so I was surprised to discover it works the other way round at Bergere.

Fibres are dyed separately in giant baskets pretty much as tall as me for up to 8 hours at temperatures of 98C. The hot water is then used to heat the factory offices - part of the company's green effort.

Dye room CollageBaskets of undyed yarn are lowered into the stainless steel vats in the floor

After the dye stage the acrylic fibres need to be stretched and broken so they can be worked into yarn, which means you see long streamers of fibre passing over head before being piled into baskets.

Acrylic collageBreaking the acrylic fibres

In fact before you reach the spinning room there are so many giant baskets and cages filled with dyed fibre that you are hard pushed not to dive in.

Fibre party  CollageComplying with the no touching rule is difficult

In the first stages of spinning, fibres are still kept separate, all going through a two stage spinning process first into fine threads and then thicker strands on machines that take up to 8 hours to prepare.

Spin CollageSpinning is complex to set up and a critical process

It is only at this stage that the fibres are combined. Threads are wound together in the correct proportions for the final yarn - so for a 60% wool 40% acrylic, strands of the correct thickness would be wound onto bobbins together in a 6 to 4 ratio. These are then spun to create the final yarn.

These yarns are wound into balls on industrial ball spinners that finish by puffing a little steam into each to puff up the yarns and popping a ball band on.

Balls CollageThe final product

It is a fascinating and exciting process as we as being a remarkably dust and fluff free one and I really enjoyed the visit and learning about industrial yarn production.

Plus it was followed by a trip to Bergere's factory shop where you can find packs of yarn sufficient for a woman's jumper for Euro10 or less. Heaven!

The whole group enjoyed the visit and Arena is already planning a similar trip next year - watch this space.

Update we will be repeating the trip in April 2016 - check out the Arena website for details