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Journal

The versatility of wool – a chat with the manufacturer

As part of our series around wool and the textile industry we focus on the design and manufacturing of woollen products providing an insight into how this amazing raw fibre is converted into highly acquired woollen fabrics for home décor and the interior design industry.

Today we talk to one of New Zealand’s biggest design and manufacturing companies, Inter-weave, who has had a long history in the creation of woollen products for both the local market and internationally.

Owner of Inter-weave, Tracy March answers a few questions around the business and how it works alongside the textiles industry.

JD

Tell us about your business and how you work with the textile industry.

TM

Inter-weave is the only commercial wool weaver within New Zealand. We produce wool upholstery which we sell via our wholesale customers and our ‘Twill ‘ throws are sold online at www.twillthrows.com. We supply fabrics all over the world, and we are also heavily invested in our local economy, by supporting farmers and wholesale customers alike.

JD

How does a customer work with Inter-weave – can you explain the process?

TM

We work on new designs both proactively and reactively. Prior to COVID19 we would travel extensively throughout the world to promote our wool textile designs and qualities, these are then custom coloured to our client’s requirements.

Alternatively, we are approached by many sorts of clients, such as farmers that may have wool fibre to be converted into an end product. We ask the client to consider the type of aesthetic they want to achieve, and then for a small design fee, we will create CAD drawings and offer sampling where available. Once colour, quality and construction are approved, we launch into the manufacturing process.

JD

Can you give us an overview of how the raw product is processed and then made into the various products you manufacture? 

TM

The wool clip (total yield of wool shorn during one season from the sheep) is sent to the scourers where the wool is washed and dried, and from there to Woolyarns, a woollen spinner based in Lower Hutt where the fibre is spun into yarn.

The yarn is then freighted up to Inter-weave in Auckland. There are many different processes involved. The yarn is wound onto dye cones and dyed to the required colours. Next the yarn is warped onto beams. These warp beams are then threaded through the looms so that the weft yarn can run across the warp to create a woven fabric.  

The fabric is then inspected and then washed and dried. The beauty of working with wool is that it is not only sustainable and biodegradable, but very few chemicals are used in the processing, just generally water and heat!

Inter-weave’s 100% wool throws are woven using twill construction which makes them more durable.

JD

What types of wool are you working with?  Where is it sourced etc?

TM

We generally work with microns under 32 micron.  A micron is the measurement used to describe the diameter of a wool fibre. The finer the fibre the lower the micron value. It generally determines value and end use – 32 microns is medium weight (for example Merino is 14-25 micron).

All of our woollen spun yarn is sourced from New Zealand, particularly the East of the North Island. Our farmers are lucky enough to be able to offer total traceability to their throws.  Traceability is important to consumers who have both social and environmental issues on their minds and these beliefs are intertwined with how they shop. Brands which aren’t transparent, that fail to offer traceability within the supply chain or which don’t have an environmentally focused narrative will fail to capture perhaps the most influential group of consumers.

JD

What makes NZ wool superior to other wools? 

TM

NZ wool tends to be whiter with less contaminants than other wools, but the true beauty of the wool is that it is grown locally, and we are able to support farmers that are struggling to add value to their fleece. 

JD

How has wool in the textile industry changed over the last 10 years?   

TM

There has definitely been a groundswell towards people using natural fibres, particularly wool over the last couple of years. I believe that consumers are finally reading between the lines of the ‘green washing’ of recycled polyesters, which are after all just imported plastics that end up in our landfill, or even worse, our oceans.  Science is yet to produce a fibre that matches wool’s distinctive properties.

JD

What are your most popular woollen products that you manufacture?

TM

Our throws are running out of the door, and we are also seeing heavy demand for the beautiful chunky wool boucle’s that we produce…. The fabric almost looks like the sheep it originated from!

JD

What do you use as inspiration for your designs? 

TM

Imagination, textile technologies and nature! Works perfectly when working with a 100% natural fibre.

To find out more about Inter-weave click here.

For other articles on our Wool series visit our Journal here.

Born into a family with artistic and creative talents, it was only natural that Auckland, New Zealand based Donna White developed a passion for design from a very early age. We caught up with Donna who shared with us her professional journey, views on interior design and some of her favourite projects.