• Operator of Custom Woolen Mills
  • Graduated from Verge PDC in 2013
  • Expertise: Manufacturing, Wholesale, Retail, Agribusiness


Maddy Purves-Smith grew up in rural Carstairs, Alberta, where her family owns and operates Custom Woolen Mills. The Mill was founded by her parents, Fen Roessingh and Bill Purves-Smith, out of a shared passion for textile arts and an interest in the social experiment of running a labour-intensive, turn-of-the-century mill within a modern economy. As with many small businesses, everyone in the family participated, and Maddy’s upbringing was steeped in a deep appreciation for hard work, rural community, and fibre arts and craft.

After high school, Maddy studied muscle physiology, obtaining a Bachelors and M.Sc. in Kinesiology from the University of Calgary before pursuing a Ph.D. at McGill University, where her research focused on the natural and disease processes of human aging. In 2012, Maddy returned to the Mill, more convinced than ever that happy and healthy aging is founded on lifelong physical activity, a strong sense of community, and an opportunity for individual expression. She now enjoys the daily practice of running the Mill with her mother, and her sister, Lorelee. Maddy is particularly interested in the ideas of permaculture and how they can be applied to further her parents’ vision: To nurture local communities of fibre artists and craftspeople while providing discerning consumers with a transparent and sustainable alternative to the globalized textile industry.



Custom Woolen Mills is an antique textile mill located approximately 45 minutes northeast of Calgary. Using wool sourced from farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and BC, it produces heritage quality woolen goods such as yarn, socks, and 100% wool bedding. As one of very few remaining vertical woolen mills in North America, Custom Woolen Mills does all the processing on site, including washing raw wool, dyeing, carding and spinning, knitting, and quilting. It also practices minimal processing, washing the raw wool with a mild, plant-based, biodegradable detergent and rinsing with water instead of using harsh chemicals.

Since its founding in 1977, Custom Woolen Mills has strived towards more environmentally and socially sustainable operations. Inspired by permaculture principles, the Mill has recently been developing a natural-dye-plant combined food-forest, an annual dye-plant garden, and a wool composting system. While in their infancies, the Mill hopes these projects will one day contribute to the realization of a true local “fibreshed”, inclusive of raw fibre, locally harvested natural dyes, and finished textiles.

Custom Woolen Mills continues to seek ways to strengthen the local artisan economy through collaboration and mutual support. In its small retail location, the Mill showcases the work of local knitters, weavers, woodworkers, and ceramicists. Excitingly, this year marked the first run of a textile artist residency called the Custom Woolen Mills Millstay, hosting artist Megan Samms – a dyer and weaver – as she explores the heritage of Canadian weaving tradition.

Want to know more about Custom Woolen Mills? Contact Maddy:


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