Where do I start to write about White Gum Wool and Salamanca Wool Shop. I guess from the start of our involvement as a stockist.
Nan popped into the shop to show us her wool with the query, did we want to stock it? At the time, based on the sample we were shown, we had concerns about the wearability of the wool and its leaning towards felting. We indicated that we were interested and would like to see the commercial product and then make our decision. The two aspects that interested us at the time were Tasmanian grown wool, and that the initial colour range was being developed by Wendy Koolhof. Wendy was already a supplier of ours with her marvellous recycled garments.
Some time passed and then Nan was back with the commercial product, spun in New Zealand, but that was Nan's best option. No option for Australian production.
We loved the feel, the knit and the story. We have stocked it ever since. Expanding the range as Nan creates new products.
To compliment the commercially dyed White Gum I commissioned Wendy to create a hand dyed variegated colour palette to work with the White Gum colours. This resulted in the birth, after dyeing, of our five colourways - Salamanca, Bay of Fires, Mount Wellington, Lake St Clair and Birchs Bay. We also have hand dyed sock yarn as well.
Now to the bit about the yarn
White Gum Wool sheep are a strain of merinos known as Saxon Merinos, renowned for their soft, fine wool. They originated in Saxony, and were brought to Tasmania in the early 1800s by a remarkable woman named Eliza Forlonge. Nan's sheep are descended from Eliza’s through the Winton stud via well-known fine wool producers Allan and Carol Phillips of Glen Stuart in northern Tasmania.
White Gum Wool sheep are raised on a single farm, in the high midlands of Tasmania. They graze in mostly native pastures where they can find the plants they need to keep healthy.
White Gum Wool sheep have never been mulesed, and now they also wag their (undocked) tails behind them.
Mamas teach their babies how to forage in this landscape, hanging out in family groups of grandmas, mamas and lambkins. Sheep are highly social animals, and keeping families together means the sheep are just plain happier.
The abundant, diverse landscapes are healthy, too—they are real ecosystems doing what ecosystems do best—turning sunlight and water into energy through a squillion different animal and plant pathways.
No herbicides, fertilisers, pesticides or fungicides are used in growing White Gum Wool.
Nan shepherds her sheep to ensure they have access to nutritional choice and the serenity of a cohesive social structure in the flock. The social cohesion of the flock reduces stress and improves their health, presumably through the same mechanism as in humans—a stronger immune system.
This ensures the sheep have the best opportunity to create the characteristics to make beautiful yarn. White Gum Wool is long in the staple, dense, with high tensile strength and a high comfort factor.
Nan produces between 1800 and 3000 kg of greasy wool each year, which turns into about 900 to 1500 kg of finished yarn.
In general, the finer the fibre diameter, the softer and more comfortable the garment made from it will be. White Gum Wool averages 17 microns in diameter, in the middle of the “superfine” range—16 to 18 microns. A micron is a millionth of a meter. Human hair ranges from 30 to 200 microns. The wool that goes into carpets and upholstery and rougher fabric like tweed is about 35-50 microns.
Any wool that is to be worn next to human skin needs to be finer than about 21 microns to avoid that itchy feeling that is often associated with wool. Most knitted next-to-skin garments are made from 19 to 21 micron wool. In contrast, most of the superfine wool has traditionally been used to make the world’s finest men’s suits, by companies like Ermenegildo Zegna.
It is only very recently that knitting yarn made from these beautifully soft superfine fibres have become available. White Gum Wool is one of the first, and one of the finest.
Turning fibre into ready to use yarn
White Gum Wool is made into yarn by Design Spun in New Zealand, having first been scoured by Canterbury Wool Scourers. NewMerino ® Chain of Custody certifies the sustainability and traceability of the yarn.
So, when you buy White Gum Wool, you are making a choice that honours the landscape, animals and people who make it possible.
To read more about White Gum Wool or to subscribe to Nan's newsletter visit White Gum Wool