Some things in life are certain; in addition to death and taxes, add changing economies and the passing of old technology.

Ann Poole and her husband, Dirk, are in the business of preserving a small piece of the past. They repurpose the wooden bobbins once used in New England’s textile mills. At their antique store in Newcastle, they sell candle lamps made out of bobbins, jump ropes with bobbin handles, and even a kaleidoscope inserted into a bobbin.

“We like to think we’ve kept textile history alive a little bit by making bobbins available to the public,” Poole said.

The business, founded as “Ma’s Bobbin Works,” was originally a wholesale operation owned by Dirk Poole’s parents and was based in Massachusetts. Their son and daughter-in-law purchased the business in 1992 and moved the business to Maine. A couple of years ago, they added the retail component and changed the name to Milling Around. Since the mid-1970s, in travels all over the country, the Poole family has collected enough bobbins to fill two chicken barns, they say.

“They’re much harder to find than they used to be,” Ann Poole said. “They’ve really become like collectibles, and some could probably be considered antiques because of their age.”

When mills started closing in New England in the early 20th century, Poole explained, many of them moved to the South and began using newer technology. The old bobbins often got dumped into landfills.

Poole said they have enough bobbins in storage to last at least a few more years. They sell them to antique and gift shops, department stores, and museum shops. (Australia, for some reason, is a recent frequent customer.) Meanwhile, they’ve seen similar businesses close. “We believe that we are the last surviving bobbin company in the U.S.,” Poole said.

Milling Around does not sell bobbins on its website, so to buy one of their creations you’ll have to travel to Newcastle. The jump ropes cost $7-$9. and the candle lamps go for $16-$20.

 

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