A look by Anita Yarn. Photo courtesy of Anita Grahn.

Sweden’s untapped wool reserves

Knitting designer Anita Grahn predicts an uprising to remedy the wool waste in Sweden, where very little of the wool grown comes to use today. She wishes for a future where local breeders come together as a marketplace that can deliver amounts of wool large enough to tickle the interest of industrial manufacturers, or wool unique enough to draw the attention of influential designers.

The charming sight of these grazing animals is typical across Sweden. There are a lot of small-scale sheep farmers in our country, many of whom keep sheep mainly for affection or to keep a nearby pasture open. Lately there has been media attention directed at the amount of wool wasted in Sweden – and quite rightly. The landrace breeds of sheep in Sweden all produce wool with specific characteristics that meets the highest international standards, so it’s a shame not to use this wonderful resource. Most flocks are smaller than 30 ewes though, therefore the challenge lies in the logistics of shearing and collecting the wool.

Working in knitting design, I like to think global–act local when having my hand-knitting yarns produced. That is, I use wool from small local farms, pick out the best fleeces and have them spun at small mills in Sweden to make an environmentally-friendly, as well as completely unique hand-knitting yarn each time. Every batch is limited, and the next season I will make a different yarn from the best fibres available at that time.

Even a small flock of only a few animals can be a splendid wool resource if one keeps but a few things in mind: Stick to pure breed within the flock. Let the shearer know how you wish to use the wool, so britch, tail and belly wool can be put aside. Keep the shearing area clean–no straw! Mixing with straw and dirt will not only render a lower price for the wool, but will make the whole process too expensive due to the working hours it would demand picking the weeds out of the fleece once it has been sheared. Shear your sheep twice per year. It is the fall shearing that produces the best wool for spinning, but even the less high quality wool can be used as insulation or perhaps for felting.

« There are engaged people forming a kind of uprising against wool waste »

I am glad to experience that there are clusters of engaged people forming a kind of uprising against wool waste. In Uppland, Sweden, there is a newly-formed network Ull i Uppland, dedicated to enhance awareness and appreciation for wool among the public, at the same time educating and enabling local sheep farmers and entrepreneurs to make a living from refining their excellent resource of wool. Perhaps in the near future local breeders can come together to deliver amounts of wool large enough to tickle the interest of industrial manufacturers or wool unique enough to draw the attention of talented designers? Perhaps the planning and logistics could be supported within a network like Ull i Uppland? I sure hope so!

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