You may know that October 2010 hosted the “British Wool Week”. Initiated by HRH Prince Charles, the week-long focus on wool was a major event in The Campaign for Wool. The initiative has been convened to encourage people and businesses to use wool – to recognise and utilise the superior benefits of this natural fibre. We’re not just talking knitting, or even fashion here – wool is a fantastic insulator, as well as a very hardy material for furnishings and interior decoration among many other things. It’s pretty cool that the future King of England is so committed to the future of wool.
I’ve talked about my disappointment about the seeming lack of support for/cohesiveness in the wool industry in New Zealand in previous posts. Recently, I discovered that the closure of the Lincoln mill (part of Agresearch’s facility) came about because farmers had voted to cease paying a levy which was used to fund research in and the promotion of New Zealand wool. This is also why “Meat & Wool New Zealand” is now called “Beef + Lamb New Zealand“.
But that’s thankfully not the end of wool. In July 2010 the responsibility for marketing wool was given to a newly formed cross-industry Wool Group. There are 18 founding members from across the industry.
It focuses primarily on the marketing of coarse (strong) wool, and is supported by one of New Zealand’s major wool exporters – Wool Partners International, the body formed a couple of years ago to try to give coarse wool the same international success that the New Zealand merino industry has been able to achieve.
So far, I haven’t been able to find out much more about the Wool Group. It looks like this organisation is still in its birthing stages. It doesn’t even appear to have a website yet.
All this is great, but it does make me feel a little like the poor old fine to mid-micron market is missing out rather. And that’s mostly where hand-knitting yarn falls. (Merino stands alone in the fine micron market with its own industry marketing machine – New Zealand Merino).
I read recently that the British knitting wool industry had mostly become a cottage industry. And I’m guessing that this is pretty much where the New Zealand knitting yarn industry is. Which is a shame, because our wool is pretty darned good.
But I guess, it’s not surprising. Although the dollar amounts involved continue to make it possible to viably grow wool for yarn, globalisation and access to cheap manufacturing means that we’ll never again see knitting as a necessary function in every household. It will continue to be a craft, valued and cherished by those who see its merits.
Wool does have a place in our future as a sustainable fibre and healthy choice – for both the planet and ourselves – in clothing, building materials, furnishings, interior decoration and many other ways. Let’s hope that the Wool Group gets it right for New Zealand this time around in this latest incarnation. Before farmers decide to stop breeding sheep that need shearing and we’re all reduced to wearing icky acrylic!
I found myself with a wry smile to see that New Zealand Wool was one of the funding partners for the British Wool Week. Incidentally, New Zealand Wool is the National Council of New Zealand Wool Interests, incorporated to represent most sectors of the New Zealand Wool Industry – yet another body devoted to marketing New Zealand wool! How many marketing bodies does this small nation need..!?