A Cornish yarn producer is set to expand into new markets following a number of major new orders and the installation of a specialist dyeing plant at its organically accredited wool mill in Launceston.
The Natural Fibre Company, which spins knitting and weaving yarns, has installed the £100,000 machinery so it can add more colour to its products, giving its expanding customer base greater variety and choice.
The move will add a significant new dimension to a business that is recognised by farmers, small holders and breeders for the unique fact that it actively seeks naturally coloured wool, which would otherwise be considered virtually worthless by the Wool Board.
The Wool Board takes all but specialist types of the country’s wool for use mainly in the carpet industry. “During the last couple of years we have created a relatively small-scale commercial operation by adding value to wool from rare breeds and small flocks of coloured sheep which there was little market for in the past,” explained Sue Blacker, a sheep breeder and former investment analyst, who purchased and began managing the business three years ago.
She added, “As long as outlets like small independent shops or a craft associations are in place, our customers now have a way of making money from what is essentially, a great sustainable product. Although the natural colours of much of our yarn are so appealing, the new dyeing plant will increase the opportunities available to our customers and open up new markets for them also.
“The machinery will enable us to lift and complement the original colours, which in turn, gives the user greater variety and of course, greater choice.”
By identifying a significant gap in the market, other wool producers and businesses are now approaching The Natural Fibre Company to blend specific materials to produce distinctive new yarns that can attract a premium price.
“We recently secured two major orders that enabled us to create a number of additional jobs within the company. One of which is from a Yorkshire based textile company that wants us to blend alpaca from the UK with wool from the Falkland Islands and spin it into specialist yarn mainly for the US market. The other is a French owned cloth company that is set to commission us to develop a new high quality yarn using organic kid mohair,” added Sue.
The company’s growth plans were realised earlier in the year when the company secured a six-figure investment package involving Finance Cornwall, the South West Angel and Investor Network (SWAIN) and private shareholders. The dyeing plant, which can also use a full range of organic dyes, was purchased following investment from the South West Investment Group (SWIG).