THE HERD WOOL FACTS & FIGURES
Is the only guaranteed pure 100% Bluefaced Leicester machine knitting yarn available on the market
Is fully traceable to the farms that raised the sheep
Is of a quality to rival any soft wool from anywhere in the world, with a micron of 25, and an incomparable lustre and drape
Locally sourced natural fibres significantly help reduce the environmental impact of garment production
Our philosophy is aligned with holistic and regenerative farming methods
Has not been processed with any toxic chemicals - just water and organic detergents
Is a circular material
Profoundly inspired by the Fibreshed model, grown and produced locally – field-to-fibre within 150 miles of source
This yarn champions the two and a half centuries of connection between England’s farming community, their sheep and their land
HERD Wool draws on the rich resource of scouring, dyeing and spinning expertise in the heartland of wool, NW England
A woolly fate
We’ve lived with sheep on this island for over two and a half millennia, and these dear friends have provided us with meat and wool, food and warmth, friendship and fierce companionship throughout many cold winters and global shifts. They have impacted our landscape, our cities and our economy more than any other animal, and by the 1500s England was largely a nation of sheep farmers and wool manufacturers with major towns Bradford, Leeds and Halifax built on the wealth of wool.
The most profound shift of all for our woolly friends was the introduction of synthetic fibres in the 1960s, innovative new fibres made from oil called polyester, nylon and acrylic which dried quickly, had no texture and - mostly importantly - were very cheap (on the purse, much less so on the environment). Combined with the free market approach pricing low cost over ethics or environment the bottom fell out of our wool market in one generation. Hundreds of mills closed and farmers had to diversify quickly. And now the wool we wear comes from Australia, New Zealand or China, and the 22,000 tons of British Wool that is shorn every year is sold for pennies and goes into carpets, insulation or filling for futons.
There is one breed however, that is bucking the trend. The Bluefaced Leicester was bred into existence in the Eighteenth Century in England. It yields the finest fleeces of any British breed, and has survived the transition from wool to meat farming over the decades due to its impressive siring abilities. A Bluefaced Leicester ram fathers fat, healthy lambs and so in certain regions there are noble-nosed sheep kept, bred and prized in every flock.
Herd Wool comes directly from a co-operative of farmers in Lancashire and Yorkshire, the stronghold of this fortuitous breed, so that the farmers are able to benefit directly from maintaining the pedigree of these lustrous fleeces.
The handful of commercial scouring facilities and spinning mills that remain in the UK are a melodious balance of artisan attention to detail and understanding of the fleece to fibre process with automated huge iron machinery that speaks of an industrial age long since offshored.
HERD fleeces are first sifted of soil and organic matter collected by the sheep in the fields. Then they are deep cleaned with organic detergent, supersize tumbled and dried, carded, prepared, combed for worsted spinning and bundled up as tops.
At spinners the process is gilling up to eight times to blend to the right mix of colour - our loam colour is a blend of mostly brown fleeces with a dash of ecru - then roving and spinning onto cone.
The result is an exceptionally soft, worsted yarn with texture and drape.
Wool is completely natural, self-renewing, absorbing of moisture but also breathable and temperature regulating. It requires minimal water input (just rain for the grass), no toxic chemicals, no fossil fuels and no deforestation. It holds its shape, it lasts for generations if well cared for, and will biodegrade naturally and beneficially for the soil if buried at the end of its useful life.
Herd Wool is of this earth and this soil and this place. It is farmed by multi-generation sheep farmers who are hefted to the land they were born on and raise their children to inherit.
Herd Wool has minimal transportation in its supply chain, being grown, processed and made within two counties in NW England.
All waste is recycled - the water is cleaned on site and reused, the grease from the fleeces is carefully separated off and sold into the cosmetics industry for lanolin balms and other beauty products. The kemp and bristly wool is used in fertilisers as it’s so rich in potassium. The noil - the fluffy by-product of combing - is used for stuffing teddy bears and soaked in resin to make moulded furniture.
Herd was made to build value back into a beleaguered and undervalued English industry, to show there is an alternative to the supply chains that have become so commonplace in fashion and to bring a real appreciation of sheep back into the hearts and minds of everyone, whether you see them every day from your window or if the closest you’ve gotten to one in your life is walking on a wool carpet.
We believe in business for the long term benefit of all stakeholders, including the sheep (of course, we may have mentioned them already!), the earth, the people who make things and you, who read and understand and join the journey.
We have an inkling that it is via our forgotten heritage, our precious natural resources and our closest allies and front line fighters, our farmers, that we might make a difference in the reversal of climate change.
Laxtons Specialist Yarns
Lancastrian Sheep Farmer