I'm diving into a new adventure!
How it started_
Already for a long time I wanted to do something with dutch local wool but I just didn't know where to start. I don't have the knowledge to process raw wool into yarn and I didn't really know where to get it from. Until I met Iris Veentjer, we met each other through the Fibershed Netherlands network.
We are both advocates and believers in our own way that the textile sector must be organized differently for a better and more sustainable future in the clothing and textile industry.
During this Fibershed meeting we started talking and sharing our ideas when
I told Iris that I would like to work with local wool, to see what the possibilities of these types of wool are and whether they can be just as fine and soft as what I am used to working with so far. For all my collections I worked with carefully selected Italians yarn suppliers who process the raw wool into yarn at their own plant in Italy. They buy the wool in New Zealand or Mongolia (for the cashmere) and every step is in regular control during the entire production process. They are able to control directly its entire supply chain: the greasy wool is purchased directly at source and combed, dyed and spun in Italy. Origin, traceability and compliance to the standards of Textiles & Health and TF are certified and guaranteed.
Until now my idea of local wool was that it is harsh and pricky.
Already for a long time I'm looking into ways to reduce my footprint and make use of what is available locally. But where to start? Iris told me that she enjoys processing wool, but didn't really know what could be made from it.
And so the idea for a collaboration was born!
A little bit of background information_
For this project we start an experiment to gain insight into the processes required to process local wool into a well thought out and durable design. This is to promote the use, deployability, generating scale, applicability and accessibility of local wool for designers within the textile and fashion industry. In order to offer a sustainable and traceable alternative that is available within the
national borders for imported and abroad processed wool whose traceability is not clear.
It is also an experiment to map the craft and the work process. Establish the production of a wool knit garment and further explain the differences between three local wool types.
From our network we know that there is a lot of wool available in the Netherlands
The only thing is that this is very undervalued. So we sat down for a brainstorm and decided to combine our expertise to gain insight into the value of local craft and how we can use this to create and generate more value to local wool.
In the Netherlands, approximately 1.5 million kilos of wool are thrown away. So there is no shortage of wool, you would say. Yet it is very difficult for designers to obtain this raw material. The production chain hardly exists locally anymore. Transporting local wool for processing abroad is expensive. Importing ready made wool is then easier, cheaper and faster.
Sheep in the Netherlands are often kept for grazing, meat, milk and often only afterwards for wool. Due to the absence of this production chain, farmers now have to pay to dispose of their wool. This means that wool has come to be seen as a waste product. This is a shame. Fortunately, in recent years we have seen more and more attention paid to the processing of local wool, from various parties such as designers, suppliers and consumers.
Yet it is difficult to get this production going. This has to do with the lack of knowledge to process it, both in yarn making and in application.
On top of that many Dutch varieties have a too high micron to be soft enough for use in clothing. Nowadays we are spoiled and all we want is a soft sweater.
Texel sheep is the breed that has been known as a Dutch breed throughout the centuries and used for textiles. With the emergence of a local chain, we see more and more sheep in the Netherlands that are suitable for processing into textiles. For example, 'exotics' come to the Netherlands and find their way here (again). The Merino sheep has recently been officially qualified as a Dutch breed. And because of their beloved character, we see more and more Alpacas appearing in the Netherlands. Both very suitable for processing their wool into clothing because of their softness.
Yet as a designer it is still difficult to obtain these three local wools. Let alone being able to process these into garments. Fortunately, several parties are working to get local production going.
And we would like to contribute to this with the experiment.
For this experiment we focus on three local wool types: Dutch merino, Alpaca and Texelaar. We choose these three different wool types because they all have their own unique and different characteristics. Dutch Merino is the most fine yarn of these three, it has a micron of 19.5. Texelaar is the most course with a micron of 28 and the Alpaca is somewhere in between with a micron of 19-23.
We believe in craft, skill and choosing the right basic material with the right processing technique can contribute to a good and sustainable design. That is exactly what we want to explore further in this experiment.
We ask ourselves the question: Can we make the same garment in three different local wool qualities and what is the outcome? Are all three garments equally wearable?
The premise is that all three types of wool are processed in exactly the same way. So the preparation of the raw wool, the spinning of the wool into thread, knitting the same garment in exactly the same number of stitches and in the same technical settings (the garments are machine knitted on a hand-controlled knitting machine). We hope that this will allow us to clearly see the differences between the yarns and show how much time and knowledge is (still) needed to further develop the garment to achieve an optimal wearable result.
A beautiful product is more than just a good design. It is a
coherence of various factors, the origin of the wool, the processing of the wool up to and including the technical implementation of the design. Through this experiment we want to provide insight into the process and at the same time we can discover whether it is already possible to locally facilitate a complete production process from wool processing to the end product and/or what steps need to be taken in the near future to facilitate this.
For now a whole new world opens up for me. Since the start I learn more about the different breeds, the types of hair and wool, how to clean and spin wool.... It is really hands on from the very start and I love it!