Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The birth of the Sifton Spinning Wheel

Sifton Spinning Wheel

The community of Sifton, Manitoba was the centre of an active wool milling and related manufacturing industry between 1930 and the 1950s.

John Weslowski, a blacksmith, first made these wheels in the early 1930s, based on a wheel he imported from the Ukraine. The blacksmith shop became the Spin-Well Manufacturing Company, run by John and his brother George. By 1938 they were producing 20 wheels a day. The local railway station agent, Willard McPhedrain, was the main organizer of an expanded company, Spin-Well Woollen Mill.

The Spin-Well Manufacturing Company was purchased in 1946 by Metro Lozinski, who continued to produce "Spin-Well" wheels and hand and drum carders under the name of Made-Well Manufacturing Co.

Craftsperson: Spin-Well Mfg. Co. or Made-Well Mfg. Co.
Materials: wood, metal fittings
Date: 1930s-1946

Mary Maxim’s roots can be traced back to Manitoba, Canada where Willard and Olive McPhedrain, began manufacturing and selling spinning wheels. Willard soon began a mail order company titled “Sifton Products.” In 1954 Willard began to search for new locations for his business and ended up in Paris, Ontario. [2] The name was changed to Mary Maxim, after a store employee: Mary Maximchuk. Willard decided to take Betty Crocker's example by naming the company after a girl who helped around the household. Mary's name was shortened and the store name: Mary Maxim, was born. [3] In 1956 after recognizing the customer potential in the United States, Willard’s son Larry established an office in Port Huron, Michigan.
Mary Maxim was first recognized for their quality knitting yarns. In the late 1950’s they became increasingly popular for their bulky, knit sweaters with designs influenced by North American Wildlife. The first sweater pattern was designed in 1951 by Stella Sawchyn. [4]

 Celebrity attention

  • Bob Hope was photographed wearing a Mary Maxim totem pole design sweater in 1953 while visiting Canada. [5]
  • The Barenaked Ladies wore Mary Maxim Sweaters on their 2004 holiday album. [6]
  • Miss Outdoors 1957 was photographed wearing a Mary Maxim sweater. [7]

 Mary Maxim today

Currently, Mary Maxim employs over 120 people in the Port Huron area and 60 people in Paris, Ontario. Ontario accounts for 15 % sales from retail stores and 85% from the catalog division. [8]
Mary Maxim has looked to the internet to increase profits. They can attribute 25% of their sales to internet selling. [9]
Mary Maxim is now owned by the third generation of McPhedrains: Rusty and Jane. Rusty became vice president of operations in 1987 and president in 1995. [10] Mary Maxim celebrated their 50th anniversary in June 2006.
And the patterns!
Many of the immigrants to the praires were not able to read the pattern books
During one of his trips to department stores to sell his products, Willard was struck with the idea of the potential in the hand knitting market. His enquiring mind realized the potential and saw a business opportunity. His designers took their inspiration from the motifs of the Cowichan Indians of the west coast. This was the beginning of Mary Maxim's famous "graph style pattern." The first pattern was #400; the Reindeer. Mary Maxim still sells this sweater kit to this day. It was also made famous by the Olympic Games in Vancouver

The demand for yarn and patterns grew so quickly that it might have overwhelmed a less determined businessman, but Willard never faltered. He moved his company to Paris in 1954 to be closer to the larger Ontario market and his fibre supplier, Spinrite Yarns in Listowel. Mary Maxim's first home in town was the "old town hall". From there we had a couple of other homes, but completed our journey at 75 Scott Ave, where we are today. Willard and Olive resided in Paris for the rest of their lives. They are both missed by employees and town people who knew them. Their Grandson Rusty is now the Companies’ owner. Rusty and his family reside in Port Huron, Michigan. Today we mail over 3 million catalogues to the homes of our Canadian customers.
In September of 2006 they opened a second location. There is now a Mary Maxim store in Toronto at the Yonge Eglinton Centre, 2300 Yonge Street.

1 comment:

patty-anne said...

All Canadian... what a nice piece of history.