Friday, July 10, 2009

Stephan Michelson and Bethanne Knudson open The Oriole Mill, a jacquard mill in Henderson NC

Stephan Michelson with students at the Oriole MillI've known Stephan Michelson since I lived down the street from him on Rindge Avenue in North Cambridge. I never really understood his "day job" but he loved music - he had many vintage guitars on his walls, was bass guitarist for Red Shadow, the world's premiere "Economics Rock and Roll Band" (still available at, supported blues musicians, and had a quixotic love of Balkan music, especially as performed by our peculiar ensemble, Laduvane. He produced two albums for us.

Later he moved to the Washington DC area where Bob Vasile and I, the newly recreated Celtic music duo the Pratie Heads, were doing some gigs up there and looked him up. Then we lost touch.

Recently Bob found him again, and this is Stephen's most recent quixotic venture: he's opened a mill in western North Carolina, a state where mills have been closing by the hundreds.

If you are a weaver, you can take a class at the mill via his partner's Jacquard Center. If you are a weaving teacher, you can bring your students.

And - if you are a interior designer or furniture maker or upholsterer or just an interested patron of the arts, and you have a design you'd like a smallish run of, you can have the Oriole Mill weave it for you. Like POD ("print on demand") for cloth. Cool, huh?

Custom Mill Opens, Bucking U.S. Trend
by Pauline Verbeek-Cowart

A new mill has opened in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Considering that more than a million U.S. textile-industry jobs have been replaced by imports in the twenty-first century, the opening of a mill in this country is newsworthy.

The Oriole Mill, which occupies 72,000 square feet on more than 4 acres, is the brainchild of Bethanne Knudson and Stephan Michelson. It is located three miles from the Jacquard Center, where Knudson has been offering intensive, live-in training on Jacquard weaving software.

Knudson and Michelson's venture was not meant to be the last of a dying breed, but one of the first of the rebirth of weaving in the United States. Their vision of a custom mill, servicing designers, grew out of rebellion against the norm - the norm being speed and uniformity in production with quantity, not quality, as the focus.

Upon entering their spacious, clean, and light-filled facility, you indeed realize you have just set foot into an entirely new breed of mills (call it the Magical Kingdom for Jacquard Junies).

Everything you see is clearly the result of purposeful decision-making. From the renovation and conversion of a former freezer building to the selection and installation of equipment, the entent has been to create an environment where ideas in cloth can be realized.

Oriole's inventory currently includes nine Jacquard looms, each with a different setup, as well as six automated electronic dobby looms, a warping facility, and winding rooms.

So far, Knudson and Michelson have created designs on order and are developing their own catalog of designs.

The main purpose of the mill will be custom weaving for established entrepreneurs - be they clothing or furniture designers, room designers, or artists - who want unique, high-end cloth in smaller runs than is usually possible in industry (under 100 yards).

Oriole is a combination design and production hosue where the finest materials and greatest care will result in stunning design and quality woven products. See and

Here are a couple more pictures Stephan sent me:



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