FOUR years into the collaboration, the Australian Superfine Wool Growers Association (ASWGA) and Australian Country Spinners (ACS) have developed a global craft following.
Driven by the need to diversify their markets, ACS launched the exclusive line of Australian Superfine Merino by Cleckheaton last year to 7000 knitters in Times Square, New York, as part of Vogue Knitting LIVE.
“Superfine woolgrowers needed an export income, with new markets and new end-users for superfine wool, and the Wangaratta Woollen Mill needed an export income,” ACS chief executive Brenda McGahan said during the recent ASWGA conference in Hamilton.
The move to market superfine Merino as a hand-knitting yarn, with assistance from Australian Wool Innovation, ignited an export market to Northern America which shifted 10 tonnes of superfine Merino in the past year.
“It is now a key yarn for many of our local yarn stores in the space of a couple of years...,” Ms McGahan said.
“The wool business is a winter enterprise for many knitters so we needed to keep our mill busy at the back end of the year, which lines up with the northern winter.”
The connection to the woolgrowers, which feature ASWGA members from Glen Stuart, Winton and Avington, is an important aspect of the provenance of the product which helped secure a retail contract in America to sell Cleckheaton in 180 stores.
Provenance is a major driver in opening Northern European markets, resulting in a collaboration with knitting superstars, Arne Nerjordet and Carlos Zachrison who will be in Australia promoting their inaugural Cleckheaton Superfine Merino Collection in July.
“Just as you are stewards of the land, we are stewards of the brand,” she said.