Sheep & Wool Clip
Wool grown in the Outer Hebrides and the UK is wonderful resource that often gets classed as being too coarse for any purpose other than carpet manufacture. Although this is an important industry we believe that some native wool could have another life. With skilled grading at source our staff can select fleece that shows the right characteristics for creating desirable knitting and weaving yarns that use the qualities of the sheep breed in a positive way – celebrate the variety of native wool in the UK and use a naturally sustainable resource that has true value and genuine provenance.
One of the main motivations for establishing Uist Wool was to create a use for local wool and give crofters a better price for their fleece. The majority of wool clip is sent to the mainland via the long-established scheme run by the British Wool Marketing Board. As Uist Wool is classed as an artisan Mill there is an exemption allowed for us to purchase wool directly from the crofter or wool grower. We are looking for top grade fleece to process at the Mill and are happy to discuss new sources for wool clip or pass on our knowledge of grading fleece to people wanting to learn more about the potential of their wool.
The main sheep breeds in the area are Cheviot, Texel, Blackface, Suffolk, Hebridean plus smaller flocks of Lleyn, Zwartbles and Shetland. All native wool is full of character and liveliness that we work hard to retain in a finished yarn. A method of grading fleece has been developed in-house to separate softer fibre for knitting and crisper wool for weaving. This allows us to design yarn that uses the full potential of the fleece and showcase the individual characteristics of the sheep breed.
Uist Wool has a dedicated space for sorting, grading and storing fleece. The Wool Shed is a classic half moon Nissan hut that fits snuggly into the hillside above the Mill. It also provides a home for our ‘miniature’ Fearnaught built in the 1930’s, refurbished and adapted in 2015 by Mill trainees and now regularly working hard to open up unwashed fleece prior to washing. For our production methods this really helps to loosen the wool and remove a good portion of unwanted organic matter from the fibre.
A rebuilt stone byre neighbours the Wool Shed and serves as a practical work-space for two Belfast Mini-mill wool washing machines. With the addition of a bio-degradable washing detergent ‘Bio-D’ the fleece receives a pre-soak then full wash and fast centrifugal spin to shed as much water as possible before the clean wool is carefully laid out on racks to dry. Uist Wool has developed an efficient method of passive air-drying using a low ambient heat and dehumidifiers to extract moisture from the atmosphere. We believe that this gentle practice allows the wool time to retain its natural vitality and bounce before moving on, once fully dry, to the main production process in the Mill.