A NEW project is underway in South West Scotland to raise the profile and value of the local wool.
The Wool Gathering was launched by the UNESCO Biosphere Galloway and Southern Ayrshire to unite farmers and herd owners with the makers and creators who use the wool they produce.
The depreciation of wool has been a cause for concern in recent months and, having been viewed as a useful and marketable resource a generation or two ago, wool is increasingly a low-value by-product of sheep farming and a significant portion of it is disposed of as waste.
But the Biosphere team, which leads sustainability initiatives in three local governments and is part of the region’s drive to meet ambitious net-zero targets, believes that the versatility of wool has “green potential” that has yet to be fully explored .
They want to explore ideas from carbon-storing carpets and clothing to new uses by enterprising creatives, and preliminary research by The Wool Gathering has already revealed a company that uses Scottish wool to make yoga mats.
The Wool Gathering has attracted the interest of partners from multiple sectors, including NFUS, South of Scotland Enterprise and the local arts and crafts development organization Upland.
The group will focus on “biosphere wool,” including blackface sheep, which are so closely associated with the hills of south west Scotland. While their wool has historically been viewed as unsuitable for garments, the biosphere is keen to explore its potential for knitted outdoor apparel, and the breed could enjoy a renaming if the project’s ambitions are met.
In addition, The Wool Gathering is currently in discussions with the British Wool Marketing Board on how to preserve the farmed origin of blackface wool from sheep to finished product and has launched two surveys to seek the opinions and expertise of those who already produce or work with wool in East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway.
Dr. Joan Mitchell, Chair of Biosphere’s Partnership Board and founding member of The Wool Gathering, said, “Our goal is to add value to local wool for the benefit of everyone in the supply chain.
“The wool industry is an important part of the natural and cultural heritage of south west Scotland and it needs to be celebrated.
“We are confident that we can work with the British Wool Marketing Board, local sheep farmers and wool processors to restore the links in the supply chain. We can build on this and improve it for the benefit of the local economy and future generations of farmers. “
New members are welcome and can find the group on Facebook.