Archival Field Trip: Centralia Knitting Mills

During the early days of Archival Clothing, I posted photos from my 2007 trip to Centralia Knitting Mills. I was in pursuit of the Skookum “award” sweater which I first saw in the Japanese web shop Explorer (a personal favorite).

Skookum Award sweater in multiweave (Japan)

Last week, Tom and I returned to Centralia to make plans for an Archival Knitwear project. We’re picking up where we left off last Spring when we first proposed to manufacturer an all wool, shawl collar sweater based on historical photographs and patterns. Our meeting was a total success and we’ll update you shortly on what we have in store. One interesting detail: nearly 50% of Centralia’s products are now made for Japanese retailers including Nepenthes, Engineered Garments and a fascinating entity known as Red Gingham.

Most of the knitting machines used by Centralia are nearly eighty years old. Working with Centralia gives Archival Clothing the rare opportunity to produce knitwear as it was made in the past. We plan to take this opportunity to release a number of garments which we could once only order from the pages of our beloved 1947 Montgomery Wards catalog.

Here are some updated photos of the knitting mills with annotations by Tom.

Centralia employee Tom (not the Archival Clothing staffer), mans the lone computer.

Third-generation knit producer.

Vortex of worsted wool.

Trim coming off of the knitting machine.
This employee was using a sixty year old button sewing machine. Ran like a top.

A device that Randy invented in his teens for stripping out selvage threads between knit segments.

Our kind of filing system.

Random weave example – one of our favorites.

Randy’s dad invented the random weave for a Halloween costume.
Swiss knit trim – extra stout and stretchy.

A candy-stripe knit originally done for WWM.

US map of Centralia stockists.

It’ll be close to this….

15 thoughts on “Archival Field Trip: Centralia Knitting Mills”

  1. Tom is the best. He was really accommodating when I ordered like a dozen different jackets last year. Looking forward to seeing how your piece turns out–CKM is ACE.

  2. This is great. I have a vintage sweater that I picked up in Seattle about ten years ago and looks much like cut of the Skookum model; solid maroon with contrasting gold lining in the pockets. For years, I’ve been hoping to come across another that nice. Does Centralia sell any finished sweaters retail? Any stockists in the area? I’ll be in Seattle in couple weeks. Great post and great news about your upcoming sweater.

  3. We’ll be placing our first order for sweaters shortly. The great thing about Centralia is that they offer sizing from child’s size 8 to adult xxl. During our tour we saw a number of sweaters being produced for Japanese clients in child sizes 14 and 16 (I tried on the 14). We intend to offer a spectrum of sizes so slim women to standard size gents can wear our knitwear.

  4. Read my post again, and I’m afraid it may have come off as me trying to poach a sweater sale based on your hard work. I apologize as that was not my intention. I’m looking to try on sweaters to check the size and materials. Being quality wool, I’m sure the sweater won’t be inexpensive. Hope to order one of the Archival Clothing variety in the future; so long as it can be had without the letter.


  5. Here’s a link to our swatch sample chart.


    Let me know what folks like in the way of possible shawl collar color options. We’re leaning towards a multiweave grey and a solid navy. We’re taking suggestions for other wants or future knitwear desires. We do intend to offer a cardigan and pullover/crew in the future.

    I know it’s late June but sweaters will not be available until October. So–cast your mind ahead to cooler times when contemplating your wishlist.


    You can totally drop by and visit Centralia. They do have a now-closed showroom where you can try on different sizes (they’ll let you in with a key). It would be great to get reader feedback on dominant sizes we should consider offering.


    Email me with your wishlist (sweater style, color, sizing, future wants, etc).


  6. With or without the chest patch? It sounds like you two have another hit on your hands. I can’t wait to see how these turn out.

  7. great….. I would however vote to keep the arm stripes off (not sure if that was planned) as it sort of preps it up too much. The baseball player versions from your previous post are killer. Looking forward to the results!

  8. I’d love to see a shawl collar that’s large enough to actually flip up and cover the neck, like in those archival photos. A narrow shawl collar sort of defeats the purpose in my opinion. Looking forward to these cardigans!

  9. Dear Leslie L.,
    I’ve pondered for years the long- underwear my pioneering great-grandfather sold and tailored to the miners of Timmins, Ontario, Canada.
    I’ve been guessing since the mid-1990s’ that they were probably the Black Underwear sold from the catalog-retailer David Morgan; The davidmorgan.com web site states those woolen underwear originated from Nova Scotia Textiles.
    I can’t pinpoint the date my mother’s grandfather arrived in Canada. She left Canada about 1942.
    Yours truly, Glenn S.

  10. Hello! would you be so kindly and tell me what is the machine exactly you’re using? it would mean a world to me. I am looking for that kind of machine for so long, but all i find is giant new German and Chinese monsters with like a million functions and no sole, while I desperately need a vintage one, which work depends on human heart, not some computer programme!

    1. It’s from an old knitting mill in Washington state. It still functions and is in active used by the current mill. Good luck!

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