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Paddock to Ply

August 29, 2015

Thank you for engaging with my last post Barcodes and Ball Bands. The discussion has been really interesting. To keep the discussion going, I have replied to comments in the blog, rather than personal email as I normally do. If you have not subscribed to comments for that post, you might like to have a quick peek back at the comments to see what other readers have contributed.

I have often bemoaned the demise of local processing and milling in Australia on this blog, especially for small farmers. Whilst several micro mills have opened in recent years, these have focused on alpaca and mohair fibres and have been unable to accommodate the additional processing of greasy sheep fleeces. Recently, Kylie Gusset from Ton of Wool has written critically of the wool industry and government barriers to small scale wool product in Australia.

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And yet fibre crafters want local product. They want to support farmers. They want a product that respects the earth, animals and workers. You can see this desire in the excitement engendered by Scottish knitting designer Kate Davies announcement of her new yarn Buachaille. Davies has developed this yarn out of her own frustration over a lack of local product. With access to nearby processing in Yorkshire,  she is about to release a yarn ‘… truly raised in Scotland… part of the work of this landscape’.

Well…drum roll please…the wind is shifting in Australia and change may be possible.

Suzette Sayer, is a entrepreneur in Queensland who has a plan to build the Paddock to Ply Fibre Mill, a state-of-the-art facility to process and mill greasy fleece for small to medium customers. She has modeled her business on the Fibershed concept in California which considers the whole cycle of land stewardship and animal raising to fibre production as a whole, sustainable system.

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According to Sayer, the Paddock to Ply Fibre Mill is about five things:

  • Producing high quality, limited edition, luxury natural fibres for use in the home as well as by the fashion and textile industries,
  • Supporting local farmers in a way that allows them to stay on the land, principally by building a supportive community around them,
  • Building a socially responsible, sustainable, and transparent supply chain; a knowledge of who, what, when, where, how, and why,
  • Building an environmentally sustainable closed-loop mill designed to utilise renewable energy, water recycling, and composting systems that result in a net carbon benefit. The mill will be a living wage certified animal fibre processing facility providing full processing capabilities from washing fiber to making yarns, and
  • Developing public education programs and that provide experimental learning opportunities in developing new fiber and natural dye related skills.

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Sayer has a detailed business plan, she has done a ton of research and now she is looking for a show of interest from all of us. If you are an Australian knitting designer looking to design from a local product, a knitter looking for a local yarn or a farmer looking for a place to process your fleece into yarn, then now is the time to make contact with Paddock to Ply. Talk to Suzette Sayer. Find out more about the project. Tell her what you want from a new mill in Australia. Tell other folks to make contact with her. Change will not come from government or industry bodies that only represent big business, it will come from us.

You can find Paddock to Ply Fibre Mill on their website or email direct to suzette@paddocktoply.com.au. If you are a small farmer, Sayer has a short survey you can fill out about your processing preferences.

Disclaimer: I was approached by Suzette after she read the What is a Local Yarn? post. She thought I might be interested in hearing about the Paddock to Ply project. I offered to share the information with you. I have no financial or other interest in this project, neither am I qualified to vouch for the business credentials of the project. I am a knitter and as a knitter, an Australian mill for small scale wool sounds like a wonderful idea.

 

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  1. This is a wonderful idea that’s been a long time coming!!
    Being able to keep your fleeces at home instead of traveling the world is truly exciting. I wish Paddock to Ply all the best.
    At this point it’s all about advertising an marketing.

  2. Very exciting and I am not even IN Australia! I can say from all I have read that it is about time for such a big country as yours. My little mill here in ID is swamped with fleeces (wool and alpaca) to be processed, 2 of which are mine 🙂 I always process all of mine but once in a while I loose my ‘focus’ with these 8-10 pounders so I wash them, take them in and Karen will pick and put them into ‘bumps’/batts AKA known as BIG Balls of fluffy stuff ready to be spun. She does roving, pin drafted roving and spinning. I do hope Suzette can make a go of it and is WELL SUPPORTED!!!

  3. A very heartening post, Rebecca. Speaking from the UK, I find it hard to believe that a country like Australia – famed for its sheep – does not have a complete woollen industry. No wonder you Aussie knitters are frustrated with this situation! The very best of luck to Suzette Sayer and her Paddock to Ply project!

  4. Encouraging news indeed, Rebecca. I will definitely be following this enterprise with great interest…. sadly, I do not have a flock of Australian sheep outside my window, but I would like to support farmers and yarn processors right here in this vast country where I now live. I am starting to visualise the yarn between my fingers already! Thank you for all the great information…..

  5. Such an exciting concept, I am also a Queenslander and in communication with Suzette. I’m really looking forward to the mill coming to fruition, Australian grown and processed fleeces, fibres and yarns. Love it. Encouragement for our farmers to continue to produce amazing wool. The philosophy behind my business, Wool & Cotton Road, is to 1. purchase Australian woollen yarns and rovings that have been grown, processed and milled in Australia and 2. purchase Certified Organic & Fair Trade cotton. To achieve this I purchase the wool from the farmers – I then know, without doubt, where the wool has travelled. It is staggering to think that Australian wool can be sent off shore for processing cheaper than we can do it here. Surely their is a way around this. I am also concerned at the number of substantial Australian mills converting to washable wool – might as well buy acrylic. I encourage everyone to get behind Suzette and her dream, lets support Australian farmers and the wool industry.

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