Faribault Woolen Mill

My first visit to Faribault Woolen Mill was a little over seven years ago. As part of an intro-to-production training, I ventured to the mill with around twenty of my peers, eagerly anticipating what the day-to-day in a factory would be like.

faribault-mill-woolRaw white and black wool is processed and spun to create grey yarn.

If I recall correctly, we, the business-analysts-in-training, outnumbered the team working at the mill that day and the mill was producing only a handful of different blankets. It felt slow, almost as if everything had stopped just for us, although I know now that that wasn’t the case. Nonetheless, we were given an entirely thorough tour – the team proudly explained how they turned raw wool into yarn and then wove said yarn into blankets, and thoughtfully answered our questions about production, lead times, and the like.

faribault-woolCombing the white & black wool.

I left thinking I knew how a factory worked. I also remember thinking that it was ironic that a company that we would never work with was taking the time to teach us – the people who would soon be importing products from everywhere in the world except from this mill in Minnesota- about production.

faribault-factoryThe mill is fully integrated, which means it can accomplish all production steps, from raw wool to finished goods. It is the only mill of it’s kind left in the United States… pretty incredible, right?

Since then, I’ve visited factories all over the world but the simple pride displayed during my first visit to Faribault has always stuck with me. I became accustomed to factory tours where the teams would boast about the state-of-the-art equipment or the multiple production shifts ensuring product flow was consistent, but I never again saw a factory where the team was solely focused on – and proud of – preserving their craft and working with what they had. I knew they existed, but I wasn’t lucky enough to work with them.

faribault-mill-machineryMost of the machines are from the 1940s-1960s and many are no longer produced, so the teams conduct proactive maintenance to ensure they remain viable. 

It felt like I’d come full circle when I visited Faribault again a few weeks back.  I first visited to learn about production, to utilize the knowledge I gained to import product. Now I was there as a friend, with a goal of sharing the experience with you and celebrating the brand that Faribault has become. I’m a factory nerd at heart – the daughter of an engineer and a scientist/maker, I love to see how things are made. But to say that my most recent visit to Faribault was powerful is not quite enough.


Faribault is more than a mill; it is an incredible, proud community. That pride and sense of community is why I was given such an outstanding tour years ago, even though my work was indirectly responsible for the change in consumer behavior that had put the mill in danger of closing. And that proud community, combined with hard work, calculated risks, and a belief in heritage values and production, is why Faribault is what it is today.

faribault-yarn-spoolsYarn is spun onto spools for use on the looms. 

It wasn’t easy. The mill, which had been open since 1865, closed in the middle of the workday in 2009 – the middle of the day! Can you imagine?  The machines were tagged for sale to a company in Pakistan, and the building sat unused for two years, managed by a devoted caretaker who remains integral to Faribault operations today. In 2012, the mill was purchased by Chuck and Paul Mooty, local businessmen who believed in the brand and the value of made-in-America  products and who understood that the rising price of wool overseas could make domestic production advantageous again.

faribault-factory-millYarn storage in the mill. 

The mill had flooded while closed, and no one could be sure the machines were still operable, but the Mooty’s took on reparations, updating the building, servicing the machinery, and adding new machines to modernize the process as needed. But they did not do this alone – when the plan to reopen the mill was announced, the craftspeople began to return. After the mill shut down, some employees had taken early retirement and others began new careers – many ended their retirements in order to return to Faribault, and one woman who was a few degrees short of completing a nursing degree even chose to forego the degree in order to return to the mill! The mill had been, and continues to be, a multigenerational family operation, and the employees were committed to it’s revival. They returned to rebuild the mill and the brand and to establish processes to ensure Faribault would be successful going forward. 

faribault-typewriterThis early 20th century typewriter is used to transmit patterns to the looms.

And it has been. The timing was apt, of course, given the resurgence of the made-in-American movement and of conscious consumerism, but most importantly, the new team behind Faribault stayed true to their heritage and continued to put out incredible, classic products. Today, we see Faribault at Steven Alan, at West Elm, at all of our favorite boutiques and in GQ and Martha Stewart… which means that the once quiet mill now employs almost 100 people and runs production lines each day.


faribault-mill-design-boardSometimes, I wonder if this site is worth it. I worry that, at the end of the day, TAE is still just pushing latent consumerism and can do little to change consumer behavior. This trip to Faribault was so powerful and reaffirming because I remembered (again) that it’s not about buying stuff. It’s not about having all the things. It’s about community, and family, and heritage, and following through on your beliefs and values. It’s because the why and the how are just as important as the what.

Without the Mooty’s belief in Faribault, and without the craftspeople and brilliant strategists who returned to rebuild the business, and without the retailers who believed in the brand and the consumers who chose to buy this incredible product, we wouldn’t have a story. But because of all of these people, because of this community, we do. And that is what makes it worth it.


The factory store

 Original photography for The American Edit by Ashley Sullivan. Follow Ashley on Instagram!

Thank you to Bruce Bildsten and Jana Woodside for sharing the Faribault Mill story and taking us on the tour. Follow Faribault:


One of my favorite parts of studio & shop visits are the inspiration and gallery walls… I love a chance to see what inspires each creative and how they choose to display these inspirations. I dream of making a version of this wall, or the Clare V. NYC wall, in our house… but the plaster walls make that a little difficult!

Some pieces I’d love to add to my collection…

garance-dore-oliver-jeffers-artLine Drawings : Garance Dore | Oliver Jeffers

color-photography-printsColorful Photography : Grey Malin | Print Club Boston | Max Wanger

framed-artFramed Pieces :Rebecca Atwood | Best Made Co. | Siri Knutson – The Foundry Home Goods 

black-and-white-artBlack & White: Carly Martin | Social Proper | Note to Self 

People that do things.

Me too, Amy, me too.

Some of the best things I read this week…

The standing invitation to lose faith in yourself

I didn’t realize it until I read it, but somewhere along the way, I lost faith in myself. I’m spending all of my time focusing on the things I didn’t do well or don’t know how to do rather than focusing on the fact that I’m trying, and that I’m doing my best. And that I can always ask for help. I’ll be reading and re-reading this going forward…

Women vs. Women – A little thing called Self Respect

Kate Arends on friendship and support among women. Kate was one of the very first bloggers I met (rather awkwardly, in typical Rita form) and she is incredibly supportive. I’m proud to know her.

Ladies against Humanity

Surprisingly, my most proper friend introduced this game into our lives, and I have laughed so hard I cried many times while playing – often at the look on her face when reading a card. These female-oriented options are hysterical.

CFDA Reveals New Strategy

Thrilled to see New York Manufacturing become a strategic initiative for the CFDA! I personally think it should be American manufacturing, but I’ll take what I can get!

The Art of New Beginnings

Sometimes it feels incredibly, painstakingly difficult to start over. But this article (about Miley Cyrus, with references to Kim K., Victoria Beckham and Kate Upton) makes me realize it can be slightly formulaic – and that millions of people have done it, so I can too.

SMP LIVING – Behind the Blog with Reading My Tea Leaves

I loved this interview with Erin and this advice is particularly fantastic: Spend less time doubting yourself and more time proving to yourself how great you are.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

The Intro : Storq, Hunters Alley & TRNK New York

The beauty of the internet is that everything has a place… literally anyone can create something and find a home for it online. We’re all inundated with launches and updates through all of our social media channels and too often, it seems like it’s all just noise. But every once in a while something comes along that feels different – maybe it’s entirely novel, or maybe just a little bit better or a little bit more fun – but these are the things that make me happy to be a part of this digital world.

My internet karma must be high, because yesterday THREE incredible sites launched that I’m excited about… I think you will be, too!


New Body. New Rules. You don’t need a whole new wardrobe, just the basics.

Storq solves this an issue I’ve seen the pregnant women in my life face – what do you wear? What can you use on your skin? What makes you feel good but also is good for the baby? Storq has done the research for you, and sells American-made wardrobe staples (sold individually or in a package) and beauty products that are safe and comfortable for use during and after pregnancy. I’ll be interviewing founder Courtney Klein for an upcoming TAE feature and can’t wait to learn more about her inspirations behind the line!

hunters-alleyA new kind of marketplace created just for design lovers, Hunters Alley connects shoppers and sellers, and makes it fun to track down the kinds of pieces that start conversations.

Hunters Alley is brought to us by founders of One Kings Lane, my personal favorite online marketplace/dream-store. The highly curated marketplace will allow you to buy and sell your favorite vintage, antique, or handcrafted pieces – and from what I’ve seen around the web, it looks like some of my favorite American makers will be starting to sell their products here soon!
I’ve been searching the site and saving my favorites… there are still a few glitches, but it’s fun to look at all of the different products, sellers, and shoppers – follow me because I’d love to see your favorites as well!  


We celebrate evolved notions of male domesticity, and offer a curated destination for masculine design – redefining how men think about and shop for the home.

TRNK-NYC is technically for men… but I tend to believe that great style is genderless. And I live with a dude who has much, much better taste and style than me (which is equally awesome and annoying) but who has far less patience to scour the interwebs for home decor. It looks like TRNK may be just what we needed… and like-minded, judging by the factory tours and American-made items I’ve seen throughout the site!

In terms of the internet, this was basically Christmas…. check ’em out and let me know what you think!

[images via respective sites]