Wovember

At long, long last, a woolly package arrived from Cheshire, containing 100% wool!

Black Welsh, huzzah!

My own Wovember plug will consist in a gripe about two inexplicably inconsistent facts:

  1. Australia is the world’s largest wool producer, specialising in merino wool[1]
  2. It is very difficult to come by anything other than ghastly novelty knitting yarn in Australia.

In fact, until recently, for convenience I had relied on imported Italian merino wool stocked by Lincraft, who have since discontinued the line. Frustrated, I went to an independent store in Brisbane’s south, whose severely limited range was restricted to gaudy primary colours or multi-coloured chunky skeins. I had visited them but a week after they had ordered a bunch of stock from Europe. After I refused to purchase some stock they couldn’t shift that was wholly unsuited to my purposes (and the wrong colour), they proceeded to say snarky things like, ‘you should have come last week, then we could have ordered it. Now you’ll have to wait months.’ Rather than pointing out the obvious, which is that I am perfectly capable of ordering things online and having them delivered to my door, rather than theirs, I responded equally snarkily, ‘Oh, I suppose I should have just picked it up in Edinburgh when I was living there.’

Snarky Sherwood wool shops and their poor customer assistance aside, why the hell is it nigh impossible to purchase Australian wool in Australia?

I emailed my nanna who gave me some second-hand farmer’s advice. My nanna’s sister lived until quite recently on a farm in western New South Wales. She used to supply my nanna with fleeces to spin. I have since inherited the spinning wheel in question, and some leftover fleece. However, as my current skill level produces ‘rustic multi-ply,’ this is not a very sustainable source of wool, not to mention I’m not wholly certain of where to obtain more fleece when I have spun it all.

My great-aunt, however, recommends Bendigo Woollen Mills. They spin, they dye, they ship it to you in 200g balls, the equivalent of four regular balls, and at a greatly reduced price. And they offer colours other than Candy-Cane Red, Electric Blue and Tangerine. In fact, they offer a delightful shade of Koala:

Source: Bendigo Woollen Mills

Further research reveals more wool mills near Nimbin, which is likely to have more eye-raping rainbow specimens. However, perhaps I am onto something here. Perhaps, rather than visiting Goulburn’s Big Merino, one ought to take leisurely drives through various hinterlands to buy directly from the source: mills.

A quick search on buying fleeces in Australia led to a short list which suggested just that. Worryingly, while number two on the list was ‘visit your local spinners and weavers guild,’ number three was ‘try farming sheep.’ Um, it just seems that several of my compatriots are already doing a perfectly good job of that.

I have not high hopes for the Brisbane spinners and weavers guild, whose volunteer-run shop seems to specialise in blight-of-the-earth felted atrocities, however, clearly I have several leads to follow. Let the Great Australian Wool Search begin.

Happy Wovember!

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2 thoughts on “Wovember

  1. I totally agree!! I’ve been searching high and low for merino wool, since Lincraft discontinued its line. Yes, I tried the Bendigo Mills but they have run out of merino wool online. I have found merino wool at craft fairs at the Convention Centre but they are very expensive and more nimbin-style. Aargh! It’s crazy… Wasn’t this the sheep breed that Australia built itself on???

    Let me know if you have any luck…

    M

    • I just discovered Morris & Sons in Melbourne, they have a cute shop on Collins Street. I took home some 100g balls of their ‘Norway’ wool, which is quite scratchy and course, and not merino, but was cheaper than the merino they had on offer. They had a lovely wool and silk blend I drooled over a little, but at $11 or so per 50g ball, I couldn’t afford to make the smallish item I have in mind! Their website is http://www.morrisyarns.com anyhow, if you want to have a look. I’m starting to think that I’ll look towards New Zealand–at least it won’t have to travel so far as British or Scottish wool! x

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