Vitale Barberis Canonico
Established in 1663, Vitale Barberis Canonico has remained a family owned business for 15 generations and is the oldest woolen mill in the world. For over 3 and a half centuries, VBC has been in continuous operation, never shutting its doors throughout that time. Headquartered in Northern Italy, VBC does all operations in-house, from the procurement of raw wool, through the many stages of production that lead to the finished product.
The process starts with the selection of merino wool from Australia, which is subjected to a powerful wash followed by carding and combing. This results in what is called top, which are re-combed to discard any unwanted fibers. Spinning is the next stage, where the top is drawn and twisted into yarn, preparing it for dyeing. Yarn can be top-dyed (the most common option), yarn dyed (typically done for small or urgent jobs), or piece dyed. Next it goes to warping, which these days is done at VBC by the most modern technology available. Warping sets the vertical threads, and weaving adds the horizontal threads which pass over and under the verticals, depending on the desired weave and decoration of the cloth. Any defects that may have occurred to this point are corrected during the mending stage, with each imperfection being corrected by hand. Lastly the cloth goes to finishing, where the surface of the cloth is defined in terms of its sheen and nap. Summer and perennial cloths retain their sheen while winter cloths are washed and milled.
VBC has been creating great cloth for several centuries, resulting in many awards for excellence along the way. They make cloth not only for their own branded cloth, but also for other mills and merchants that market the cloth under other names, making Vitale Barberis Canonico perhaps the most important player in the industry.