Spinning Vancouver History

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I stopped in to visit this shop while strolling down Main Street. Little did I know just how much history I was entering.

When Olaf Birkeland and his brother Mike arrived in Vancouver from Norway in 1939 and set up their wool processing business on Main Street, they never imagined that the company would be going strong 68 years later as the result of the energy of three generations of Birkelands. Norm’s grandfather in Norway was the head carder and dyer in a wool plant who taught his sons the wool trade. Two decades and some new Birkelands later, Norm began working under his father Olaf in the 1950s and became the head wool carder in the family business. Norm is now teaching the business and the skills of wool carding to his daughter, 30-something, Cara who is the 4th generation Birkeland to run the carding machine! The Birkeland business originally emphasized wool processing and batting with the one ton, 100 year old belt-driven carding machine. The carding machine almost didn t make it to Main street when a dispute over import duties irritated Olaf. Canada Customs wanted him to pay duty on the machine and, ever the negotiator, he told Customs to dump it into the ocean, he wasn t going to pay. Eventually, Customs backed down and the machine has been supporting the family for more than six decades! The business now stocks a wide variety of yarns for knitters and crocheters as well as supplies for spinners, weavers and felters. In 1999, Birkeland Bros. Wool jumped into the 21st century by becoming the first BC wool store to go online with a website, email and international ordering and shipping! Working closely with her father on the retail side, Cara likes to say that she has been working at Birkeland Bros. Wool since before her birth and that wool is in her genes!

Courtesy Birkeland Bros

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Ever wonder how they get wool into bats. Here is Cara explaining the process in a Living in Vancouver film vignette.

With all their history and knowledge of wool I wonder if they can answer a Vancouver question meant to pull the wool over your eyes.

Why don’t sheep shrink when it rains?

Do you know?

Got a Vancouver Real Estate question? I’ll do my best to answer it. Call or send me an email. Larry

About Larry Yatkowsky

Larry is a recognized real estate expert. A veteran professional, his experienced counsel leads Vancouverites in his west side community to place their trust in a man passionate about his work. Uncompromising ethics bring a balanced approach to realizing your real estate dreams.

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*Disclaimer: Statistics Courtesy REBGV. While believed to be accurate they are not guaranteed.
**Numbers provided may vary as they are dynamically posted by the REBGV.

Reader Comments:

Sarah Says:
May 26th, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Hi, I like your photo of Birkeland Bros. I am the web designer for the new Birkeland Bros. website. We’re wondering if you’d let us put a copy of that photo on our site under More Pictures? We would give credit and link back to this page if you’re interested.

Thanks,
Sarah

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