Jen Hunter  -  Modern wool processing

Company of Merchants of the Staple of England

Andy Wear, our two boys and myself manage our farming world of livestock and visitors throughtout the farming and event calendar year. The farm is 160 acres grasslands, woodland, orchard and kitchen garden. We rent a further 500+ acres to rotationally graze 2000 sheep, 40 Angus sucklers and together with pigs, chickens, dogs and children we fill our lives with special characters and sell produce commercially to local markets and, preferably as tasty meals to visitors with zero food miles and complete traceability.

Grade II converted stone barns provide accommodation with camping and festival diversification, and with the HLS educational grant scheme we offer day visits, therapeutic residentals,wool workshops and weekend celebrations to 10,000 visitors annually.

Our farm has been re-established as an eco-farm and I wish to incorporate fresh ideas for working with wool that will make full use of all our wool grades, eco-installation facitilies, Andy's shearing demonstrations and encourage craft therapy with a hope of discovering inspiration for a one-stop wool shop.

It's with immense thanks to the Nuffield Scholarship Trust for enabling me to release this idea to others, make time to discover how wool is processed to suit todays environmental concerns, compare natural and synthetic fibres and allow consumers to make informed decisions about ethical and ecological production techniques.

Ultimate goal is for finished wool products, that are as carbon neutral as the fleece itself, manufactured as a natural, long-life textile and that its new owner appreciates what a truly versatile, protective and comforting, renewable and biodegradable by-product wool has always, and will always be.    

  • Project Details

The Nuffield scholarship Modern wool processing - Farm to Yarn is aiming to investigate and fully understand the procedures that take place after the fleece is shorn, graded, and sold into various markets;  Wool Marketing Boards, Independent processors, Artisan Craft & Hand Spinners, and Export.

My first goal is to track and record details of these movements and determine what happens next, who and what makes the decisions as to its final outcome and what relationship exists between end product and how the raw fleece is then cleaned, spun, dyed and presented for sale. I also wish to discover what determines this final product in relation to sheep breed, quality of fleece and various grades apparent throughout individual fleeces, and the subsequent blending and use of other natural (or synthetic) fibers’ across all levels of processing and manufacturing.

My farming lifestyle means that I have had very little exposure to any of the above specifications and therefore to start with the UK industry is a must before I begin my travels to Australia in February 2014.  I’m currently outlining ideas of who, where and why I should visit specific continents, countries, regions, businesses and individuals who are key to my scholarship. This is developing along the way and I very much welcome any contacts, references and any other relevant information that is related to wool processing in the UK and around the world. 

I am confident that this is the right time to begin this research as Fernhill Farm (FHF) has recently joined in partnership with Working Wool (WW), who in-turn is affiliated with Dash & Miller (D&M), weavers from Bristol with an aspiration to create carbon neutral fabrics.  All 3 enterprises have received Scholarships to study the UK wool industry and thus WW will generate a collective voice from British sheep farmers, textile designers and manufacturers. D&M are researching every aspect of the UK manufacturing industry, collating a comprehensive database and establishing textile links, with a collective view to establishing ecologically sound processing and manufacturing facilities.

It also transpires through my continued research that the International Wool Textile Association has been leading the ecological way with Wool Life Cycle Assessments (LCA) and the formation of the LCA Technical Advisory Groups (TAG) in April 2013 outlines the important areas that the 3 enterprise Scholarships are all striving to achieve - to grow, manufacture and promote natural low carbon, regionally recognized products.  

I'm obviously keen to find a solution to the current issues that affect the sale of our own wool crop, and to investigate appropriate uses for the variable qualities of wool that the sheep presents to us. My research is also aimed at bringing fresh ideas from other countries leading the way with natural fibre innovations, environmentally sound processing practices and to bring to the surface the actual costs of manufacturing textiles that surround our world. I’m also hoping to develop a true reflection on;

        I.            Sheep breeds, subsequent grades of wool and market destinations

      II.            Can UK farmers & sheep breeds be rewarded for their specific wool crops?

    III.            Wool processing and the textile industry maximizing ecological processing techniques

    IV.            Creating awareness about wool products available as wholesale, retail and as finished products.

In short, my original and ultimate goal is to ‘find a solution’ to selling our annual wool crop, investigate finished products that are as carbon neutral as the fleece itself, manufactured as a natural, long-life textile and that its new owner appreciates what a truly versatile, protective and comforting, renewable and biodegradable by-product wool has always, and will always be.    “Wool is the modern Fibre