This week I went on a most excellent adventure with some of my Spinzilla 2015 team-mates to the Haworth Scouring Company in Bradford, the largest commission wool scouring company in the Northern Hemisphere.
This was a proper treat for all of us, and as Curtis Wool Direct were our team sponsor, we got a personal tour by none other than Martin Curtis himself.
Scouring is the process by which raw sheep's wool is cleansed to prepare it for a wide range of textile uses, and the plant in Bradford takes it through every stage, with the utmost care and attention. Not only to the wool itself, but they also care greatly about their impact on the environment, as this plant has the capacity to process up to 1 million tonnes of wool per week. Every stage is monitored, and most of the by-products are reused which in turn reduces the
amount of waste that needs to be dealt with.
This conveyor belt is where the wool starts its journey onto the scouring line, it's separated and fed into it's first bath. The water temperature, pH and detergent levels in these baths are constantly monitored...
They have a team of scientists on site that keep them in line :P
Look how dirty the water is after it's first dunking !!
Bubbles! This is the water after it's last wash...
.... much better :)
After it's last wash, it's fed through the dryer (where the temperature is closely regulated) and then the wool is hand sorted, to check for all kinds of impurities.
You should have seen the big pile of metal (barbed wire etc) that had been
pulled out at this stage!
This stage in the tour was *extremely* dusty, and Martin showed us a room that was set aside just to collect this extracted dust, which is then being sold on to be spread on the local fields... nothing is wasted!
They re-purpose the suint too... some going to cosmetic companies, even some to feed prawns :D
A Woolly Storm!!
These blending bins fill up with the scoured, blended and dried wool, which is fed through pipes and then through a rotary spreader which fills the bin evenly and helps to evenly distribute the fibres...
These fibres then go on to be packed into 330 kg bales, marking the end of the line for some of the wool, as these bales will then go on to their new homes :)
Bales and the machine that makes them
These bales then get sorted into orders and covered in different final layers of packaging as per the customers preferences...
These then get shipped out to customers who have their own carding facilities.
After our tour of the scouring plant, we moved onto the carding plant, and to be honest this is where it all gets a bit haaaazy for me, as I was mostly off with the fibre faeries, being seduced by all the beautiful mountains of floof :D
This is the first carder... huge, noisy and A M A Z i N G
The fibre sliver that comes off this carder is worsted, and this then gets transferred to other machines that keep refining and combing until it's all processed into the type of combed tops you can get from the various fibre merchants we all know, and love :)
A 10kg bump being made...
We were treated to a fabulous lunch and Martins son, Adam, transformed a little corner of the conference centre into a little shop for us.
It was a truly awesome day, and I cannot thank Martin, Adam and all the people involved, that made us all feel so welcome at Haworth Scouring, and a special shout goes out to all the very conscientious forklift drivers, hehehe :)
We all learned so much, and it was really something else to feel the heat and smell the smells of it all. It's so important that this manufacturing process continues to thrive and succeed, and I for one will continue to support UK wool manufacturing in any way I can.
Yes, you may pay a little more for it, but by buying British you are supporting a proud textile heritage and also a hardworking bunch of people; from the farmers who keep the flocks, to the awesome chap who picks the barbed wire out of the freshly scoured fleece to stop it jamming the rest of the production line :)
Martin Curtis (far left) and a few of the members of Team Handspinning News UK