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The Wool Wire | January 24, 2024

British goes bespoke, pellets get a push, helping the unhoused and the underfed, and Mini Mills moves on.

Clara Parkes
Clara Parkes
5 min read
The Wool Wire | January 24, 2024
Friends. // Photo by Zosia Szopka / Unsplash

News snippets from the wool world

Hello, my friends!

I come bearing a new basket of wooly morsels for you.

We begin with a story about how five British luxury brands are sourcing local wool, hiring local knitters, and offering bespoke sweaters to people who (presumably) can't or don't want to knit their own.

Then we take another look at wool pellets, see how college students are using wool socks to help people experiencing homelessness in Spokane, how repurposed wool sweaters are helping feed people in Wisconsin, and how two sisters have passed the baton of their beloved mill equipment business to the next generation.

Let's go!

How much for that sweater in the window?

This one's for all those knitters who are tired of people casually suggesting we knit them a sweater and then balking when we tell them just how much this hypothetical sweater would cost.

The world of knitted wool sweaters hangs between two extremes.

On one end, we have the $30 wool sweaters from Uniqlo—a godsend if that's all your budget will allow, and a helpful gateway into the world of wool if you've never worn it before. But these sweaters become more problematic if they lead you to believe that $30 is all a wool sweater should cost.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have things like this $2,900 cardigan from Gucci that isn't even 100% wool.

And yet on both sides of the spectrum, suggests Amanda Mull in The Atlantic, many of these sweaters are garbage.

What to do?

Obviously, the easiest route is to take up knitting.

But I was encouraged by this article profiling five British luxury brands that have begun offering bespoke handknit wool sweaters. All the sweaters are knit in Britain, and most of the brands source all their wool from British farms and breeds. One even offers repair service.

Meet the British brands offering bespoke clothes in local wool
A flock of British companies are transforming local fibres into sweaters that are made to measure. Jessica Salter reports on the ultimate bespoke knitwear

The prices for these sweaters are still far beyond the reach of most consumers. But compared to that Gucci cardigan, they're a bargain.

And it's encouraging to know that not one, not two, but five British luxury brands are heading in this direction. I see it as a sign that fast fashion hasn't managed to kill our appetite for a good old-fashioned handknit wool sweater.


Don't call it waste wool!

I know we've talked about wool pellets before, but it's always refreshing to read another well-written article on the subject.

This one comes from Modern Farmer. It offers insight from Lone Sequoia Ranch in British Columbia, Peggy Hart of Bedfellows Blankets, Western Mass Fibershed, and Kimberley Hagen, former grazing specialist at the University of Vermont, who has spent years running trials to get solid data about how pellets perform in an agricultural setting.

‘Waste Wool’ is a Burden for Farmers. What if it Could be a Solution Instead? - Modern Farmer
When Leanna Maksymiuk started keeping sheep at Lone Sequoia Ranch, her business in British Columbia, she did it with a direct interest in fiber art.

Taking socks to the streets

Anyone looking for a way to help their community during the exceptionally cold spells this winter, check out this story. A group of college students has been raising funds to create and distribute care packages for Spokane's unhoused community. Naturally, my eye caught this note about a key item that goes in the kits:

“We know through experience that one of the most requested items is just a warm pair of wool socks for people who are unhoused, so targeting wool socks helps us make that impact,” Leroy said.

Never doubt the mighty power of mittens

Here's another example of people using wool for good. This story comes out of Wisconsin, where ReMitts volunteers have been transforming old wool sweaters into mittens and selling them in local shops in November and December. Since 2009, the group has raised almost $750,000.

Dane Co. non-profit gives wool sweaters a second life, donates funds to food pantries
ReMitts is also asking if you have any 100% wool sweaters sitting in your closet, to donate them to be turned into mittens!

Belfast Mini Mills stays in the family

If you've ever enjoyed a skein of small-batch farm yarn, chances are it was spun on a Belfast Mini Mill. It's impossible to overstate the impact that this equipment, made in rural Prince Edward Island, has had on the yarn world. They've shipped their miniature mill equipment to wool processors in more than 50 countries, from Norway to Kuwait and Tajikistan.

And after 30 years, the twin sisters running the company have successfully passed the baton to their sons. I thoroughly enjoyed this profile, which gets bonus points for bringing poisonous spiders, erupting volcanoes, and stormy north seas into the picture.

Rural P.E.I. woollen-mill manufacturer passes business to the next generation | CBC News
The storefront selling yarn and knit goods has closed its doors, but the manufacturing side of things is ramping up.

On that note, I'll let you go!

Thanks, as always, for your readership and your support.

Until next time,

Clara

News

Clara Parkes

Wool is life. I make The Wool Channel go.

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