Q&A with British Wool

20 September 2021

How much do you know about the wool industry and British wool?

We bring you a fascinating insight into the role of British Wool and more about this unique fibre...

Tell us about British Wool the organisation.

We are a farmers co-operative representing 35,000 sheep farmers across the UK. We were set up 1950 by an act of parliament, to secure a collective selling system for UK sheep farmers wool. Today we organise shearing training, wool collection, grading and auctioning of British wool.

How much wool do we produce in the UK?

The annual wool clip collected by British Wool is approximately 27 million kilos. This sounds a lot, but actually, it is only 1.4 % of the wool produced in the world.  Owning a product made from premium quality British wool is very special.

What happens to the wool after the sheep has been shorn?

British wool is collected through a network of sites across the country and delivered to our grading depots. There, every fleece will be hand graded for quality.

Our wool graders, who will have done a 3 -5 year apprenticeship to become fully qualified will look at each fleece and assess its it for length, strength, and colour. They will also check how unified the fleece is - this means checking that all the wool across the fleece is of the same quality and length.

Wool then gets baled up in large 8 tons lots of the same quality and sold every 2-3 weeks at a British Wool auction.

How many different types of wool are there?

Many -  in our grading depots we produce over 120 different quality grades of British wool. The simplest way to look at it is to take the 6 main types that we produce: Fine, Medium, Lustre, Cross, Hill and Mountain.

What type of wool makes the best carpet?

Great question!  The best carpet is made from mule, hill and mountain wool. These sheep produce extremely strong and resilient wool ensuring a hard-wearing performance from the carpet and also maintaining  softness and warmth, the natural attributes of wool, often lacking in synthetic fibres.

Why is British wool a good fibre to use?

As well as having a soft but strong quality, ideal for the manufacture of carpet, British wool has obviously travelled less far than imported wool.  Wool is a natural fibre from sheep that roam freely in the fields and hills of the UK. Sheep re-grow their fleece every year, making wool one of the most sustainable fibres available. Farmers also help to manage the UK countryside, as grazing sheep helps to maintains the land.

As long as there is grass for sheep to eat, wool can be produced, in contrast to synthetic fibres which are a non-renewable resource.

British wool, is a truly versatile and dynamic fibre, used to create a broad range of beautiful and durable products, including carpet.

Why is British wool especially good for the manufacture of carpet?

The floor is usually the hardest working surface in any home, so British wool which is hard wearing and durable yet luxurious and soft to touch, is a great choice.

A British wool carpet will bounce back quickly and keep its shape for longer than other carpet. Wool has inherent spring and resilience, which means it recovers quickly from pressure making it an ideal choice for busy areas in your home.

Wool is also naturally stain resistant, so wool carpets are easy to clean. Flame resistant and non-combustible, wool is a safe choice too.

Anything else we should know?

Yes - buying British wool products means you are supporting local sheep farmers and their traditional ways of hill and mountain farming. Our farms in the UK are relatively small and it is important our farmers get a good return for their wool. Consumer support for British wool plays an important part in farming by ensuring increased demand for British wool products. Look for the Shepherd's Crook emblem on wool products.

What does the Shepherd's Crook emblem found on the labels of Brockway ‘Rare Breeds ‘ and ‘Lakeland Herdwick’ ranges mean?

This means that British Wool have checked the wool in the yarn in these carpet ranges at every stage of the supply chain and verified that this is genuine and traceable  back to our British sheep farmers. The ‘Shepherd's Crook Mark’ is the approved mark of genuine British wool products.

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