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Up close and personal with an old teaser

Local historian, Jai Paterson – pictured here with an old wool teasing machine – is researching the Museum’s collection of textile machinery.

Did you know that in the old days workers referred to wool teasing machines like this one, as ‘the devil’?

The wool was hand fed into this machine to remove all the knots and to soften it up for the next part of the process, which was carding. It used to operate at the Waverley Woollen Mills, Launceston’s premier blanket producer for over 140 years. Waverley has been making blankets for longer than any other mill in Australia.

For most the 20th century the textile industry was the biggest employer of women in Northern Tasmania. The industry employed around 10% of the Tasmanian workforce and brought millions of dollars into the local economy. Those days might be over, but many of the old machines were saved by the Museum. We have examples from Waverley, Coats Patons, James Nelson, and the Tamar Knitting Mills.

Launceston’s industrial history is one of Jai’s particular interests, so she is understandably rapt to be spending her days in the old railway sheds among pallet loads of machines and boxes of parts. She is also looking forward to making contact with as many people as possible who used to work with and service these machines. Jai wants to collect their stories so that in the future the Museum has the information it needs to work out the best ways to show off this collection to its visitors.