The sample machine stops suddenly, but the job isn't done. He knows the cause immediately. A broken string. With a quick glance he sees the pattern and knows where the break happened. Counting off as he flicks through each silk thread he finds the broken end. Using a bull knot he binds them, hits a switch and less than 60 seconds after the machine stopped it is running again. This is Keith Graf, and he is Dressing Supervisor here at American Woolen.
What's your background? Where did you grow up?
I was born one town over from Stafford Springs in Tolland. I grew up there my whole life. At the time it was a real small town. After I graduated high school, I moved out for a while into Rockfall and rented an apartment while I was going to Hartford Tech Institute to be a machinist . I was young and inexperienced. I found myself in a lot of repetitious work with drill presses, and being young, I went a little crazy. I hopped a round to a couple of different jobs until I got here, and I’ve been here for 27 years now.
What is the most challenging part of the job?
The most challenging part of the job is just keeping things organized. Right now you might look at a couple of pieces of yarn that look exactly the same. Visually you could not identify them as different. But, if you put it under a microscope you could see the fibers might be different. Right now everything’s flying around left and right, and the most difficult thing is organization and keeping everyone informed.
What’s the most rewarding part?
Seeing a job come out as the final product. It’s just phenomenal. Just to put your hands on some of the cloth we make. You know you see the yarn come in at its first stage, and it’s rough and there’s really…I mean you look at it, and it’s just string. You don’t think anything of it, but when it goes out the door and it’s some of the finest cloth in the world, that’s a great feeling right there.
What does the revival of the Made in America movement mean to you?
It’s important for several different reasons for me. The main one I guess is a little bit selfish. I want to make a good living. I’ve worked hard my whole life, and I want a good future.
But also bringing pride back to the States and knowing that we’re creating something that’s the best. The United States used to have that in manufacturing. We lost it I think, but it’s coming back, and it’s great to a be a part of it.