I have a passion for the properties of natural fibres, in particular, wool. During my time in industry, I have worked with many mills, mostly from Italy. Whilst they produce beautiful quality yarns, from my experience it was always a struggle to accurately trace the source of the wool content. Concerns over animal welfare, particularly with fibres such as merino, have over the last years driven me to research in more depth the wool available from within the UK. There are more breeds of sheep in Britain than any other country in the world (more than 60 breeds, 25 of which are considered rare breeds) and producing almost 22,000 tonnes of wool a year, Britain is one of the largest wool producers in the world.
Last year, I first travelled to West Yorkshire to visit Laxtons, a wool spinners founded in 1907. Having temporarily moved their spinning to Spain and Romania, Laxtons made the decision within the last 20 years to re-shore all of their manufacturing back to the UK, to their mill in Guiseley. Laxtons buy only wool of true British origin from auction in Bradford, from which they spin wool to order, mostly for weaving and hand-knitting for customers such as Rowan, Abraham Moon and John Lewis.
As well as producing 100% British wool yarns, Laxtons also occasionally blend with mohair, alpaca, silk, linen and flax depending on the requirements of the customer. They can produce very chunky to mid gauge counts, worsted spun, and fancy yarns including boucle. A typical minimum order quantity for custom spun yarns is 50kg, with a lead-time of between 6-10 weeks and an average price of £40-£50 per kg (dependant on fibre content.)
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