Australian Wool Market 2017

If you are interested in the Australian Wool market, here are some interesting current facts from the AWI (Australian Wool Innovation) and The WoolMark Company.

The previous 25 years has witnessed a radical shift in the make-up of Australia’s wool clip, particularly the increasing percentage of wool produced that is less than 19.5 microns. The proportion of fine and super fine Merino wool that is less than 19.5 micron has moved from representing 11% of the clip in 1991/92 to 42% in the last complete season of 2016/17. Of most significance though, is Australia now produces an extra 53,047 tonnes of Merino wool finer than 19.5 micron compared to the season 1991/92. AWTA key test data reveals that historically in 1991/92, 817 million kgs of Australian wool was tested in total, with just 97 million Kgs of that being Merino wool finer than 19.5 micron. In 2016/17, total wool tested dropped to 357 million kilograms, but Merino wool finer than 19.5 micron has actually risen to 150 million kgs in the same period. So, although the total clip volume has reduced over the 25 years, fine wool production has seen a roughly 50% increase in volume. Today’s situation within the Australian wool markets is thankfully a positive one, as wool growers are enjoying receiving some of the best clip returns they have had in decades.

Recent developments in next to skin garments have opened new markets for fine wool. This is particularly pertinent to cater for the upsurge of Merino wool demand used in the athletic, leisure and outdoor garment markets. Not too long ago, wool was sold at auction and it was often not known to the grower where that wool went and for what purpose. The industry today is in a somewhat tailored position to take advantage of the current consumer trends and meet the growing demand for next to skin products like never before. The situation in 2017/18 is far different and should breathe optimism into industry, as consumer markets and therefore demand aligns with the unique properties of wool and its provenance.  (excerpts from AWI Market Intelligence Nov 2017).

Merino Wool’s Benefit for Eczema Sufferers

Medical studies reveal superfine Merino wool is therapeutic for the skin

16 OCTOBER 2017, The WoolMark Company

In positive news for eczema sufferers, recently published research funded by The Woolmark Company has demonstrated that wearing superfine Merino wool next to the skin is therapeutic for those suffering from the chronic skin condition. This adds to a growing number of research findings supporting the health and wellbeing benefits of wool products.

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, now affects 20% to 30% of children; its prevalence amongst adults and children varies geographically and is increasing in many countries, with sufferers having dysfunctional skin that dries out and can lead to cracked skin, bacterial infection, redness, scratching and itching.

However, dermatology trials have shown that adult and infant eczema sufferers have reduced symptoms when wearing superfine Merino wool garments next to the skin.

When worn next to skin, superfine Merino wool works as a dynamic buffer, helping maintain a more stable humidity and temperature in the micro-climate between the fabric and the skin. Wool garments are the most breathable of the common apparel types, absorbing and releasing twice as much moisture vapour as cotton and thirty times as much as polyester. It appears superfine Merino wool acts like a second skin for these people whose ‘first’ skin is too dry.

The theory that wool’s unique moisture management could benefit eczema sufferers was put to the test in a twelve-week clinical trial, which confirmed the beneficial findings of wearing superfine Merino wool garments with a mean fibre diameter less than or equal to 17.5 micron.

The Woolmark Company has also created a video explaining the therapeutic benefits of superfine Merino wool. Click here for link.

A study of approximately 40 babies and young children under 3 years old, at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (MCRI) in Melbourne, showed significant advantages of superfine Merino wool base-layers rather than cotton in improving the symptoms of eczema.

Published in the British Journal of Dermatology in July, the study challenges generalisations that wool is to be avoided by children with eczema. The study concluded that traditional management guidelines classing all wool-based clothing as irritants should be modified to include superfine Merino wool as a recommended clothing choice in childhood atopic dermatitis.

In fact, a highly esteemed group of medical professionals from across the world has reviewed research papers published during the past 100 years to critically assess scientific studies that claimed wool causes allergy. The group has now published a paper “Debunking the Myth of Wool Allergy” with the primary conclusion there is no credible evidence wool is an allergen. It found that if a fabric does cause sensations of itch and prickle on the skin then it is because of the large diameter of the fibres and not due to the fibre type being wool.



Wool4School Design Competition 2018

Registrations are now open for Wool4School 2018 with amazing opportunities and prize-money for both teachers and students to win.

All teachers who register their class will receive a free resource pack for the classroom filled with fabric and yarn samples, technical information to learn about wool and other helpful resources to help your students. Teachers also have the chance to go in the running to win $1000, a Bernina sewing machine and a workshop for your students with a professional wool expert.

Lesson plans are also available online, aligned to the national curriculum, to help easily implement Wool4School into your classroom.

In 2018 students are invited to design an innovative, creative and multi-functional outfit, containing a minimum 80% Merino wool. Students are advised to think outside the box by injecting new concepts and imaginative uses into their designs, such as transforming a skirt into handbag or sweater into skirt. The outfits must contain a minimum of one piece with a maximum of four pieces. While students do not have to make their designs, they must illustrate and carefully describe the textiles used in their work.

First launched in 2012, Wool4School has involved more than 65,000 students nationwide, not only learning the fundamentals of fashion design but also exploring the benefits and versatility of wool and the fabric it creates. The 2017 competition expanded to include Year 12 students, making the competition available to high school students from years 7 to 12.

Full details, resources and lesson plans can be found on, along with details of the amazing prizes on offer for students and teachers.

My Stripe Library 30-Day Challenge!

My Challenge: I here by declare that for the next 30 days I am setting myself the goal of designing a 50cm x 50cm felted stripe sampler. My aim is to create a Library of stripe designs which explores the language of how stripes and colour interact in felt (plus I would love the bliss of being creative everyday!) Nancy Ballesteros

If you would like to look at the blog and samples I created through this challenge please click here.

Have You Fulled Your Felt Enough?

Have you FULLED your felt enough?? One of the most common mistakes is to not fully felt your felt (Figure 8). These samples are from the same piece of Nuno felted Silk Mesh (Snowy Owl colourway) and superfine Merino tops (Black Pearl). Sample on the left has NOT been fulled enough – it will eventually pill and loose shape. Sample on the right has been fulled twice to reach the best results. Shrinkage was almost 50% , 10 -15 grams (.35 -.53 ounce) of wool was used per 1 metre square (40 inches square) of Silk Mesh fabric to created a lightweight nuno felted cloth. click here for more information (go to our article on Felting Instructions – Fully Felted Felt – Final Considerations).

Meditative Adornment – Bali 2019

We are taking expressions of interest for a new Meditative Adornment Felting Workshop in Bali – May 2019! Back by popular demand, Nicole and I are putting together another Bali workshop. We felt, we stitch, we learn from local craftsmen how to indigo dye, silversmithing, traditional offering weaving and participate in the rich local culture. Email us your expression of interest and we will make sure you receive all the details. or for more details click here.

Increasing Wool Prices

The price of wool in Australian dollars has been increasing since 2014.  According to Dr. Caroline Gunning-Trant, senior ABARES Economist.  The expectation is now for strong continued demand for Australia wool exports and strengthening of prices for producers.

“In the two years since early January 2015, prices have risen by about 35 per cent,” Dr Gunning-Trant said.  In the past five years the AWEX monthly Eastern Market Indicator has never been higher. Continue reading

Debbie Leung’s ‘Little Ones’ Project

In 2015-16 I started to investigate the possibility of using wool felt to make a cheongsam (the body-hugging one-piece Chinese dress).  I have been trained with the traditional technique in making cheongsam.  This is a very special set of skills to make bespoke 3D tight fitted dress.  The technique, concept and aesthetics are quite different from our modern day garment making.  As a keen promoter of Chinese cultural dress (there is a lot of social and political history about cheongsam), I would like to merge cheongsam making and felt since I am very fond of both. Continue reading

The Yarn Podcast

The Yarn is a AWI’s (Australian Wool Innovation) fortnightly audio podcast designed to be listened to on a smartphone. It’s main aim is to principally inform Australian woolgrowers about the latest wool research, development and marketing strategies. The AWI has staff and networks around Australia and various locations around the world.  Reports cover a broad scope: from the paddocks and shearing sheds on Australian farms to wool processing facilities, design studios and catwalks in the main consumer markets around the world.  To turn in click here.

Why Wool Felts?

Recently I have been thinking a lot about this question. Why exactly does wool felt? Must be my science background coming out in me again… I’ve taken to researching this topic and recently gave a lecture to the Victorian Feltmakers association about the subject. I would like to share with you a few thoughts on the matter.

Researchers as earlier as the 1930’s have been interesting in understanding Why Wool Felts. Much of their interest in understanding the felting properties of wool was focused on the potential economic benefits that would be gained by keeping wool in garments from felting.  Their early research paved the way in the development of new wool technologies like Super Wash Wool (machine washable wool).

Some of the factors the scientists were researching about wool involved issues dealing with fibre diameter, fibre length, crimp, scaliness of the wool fibre, scale height, its differential frictional coefficient, the ease of the fibres deformation and recovery, moisture, soaps (lubricants) and pH.  Each of these factors  play an important role in the complex story of the felting process. In subsequent newsletters we will exploring more about the actual mechanism of felting.