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Wonderwool, an annual gathering of wool-enthusiasts to the Royal Welsh Showground, has put Wales firmly on the map of British wool events. This year’s tenth birthday, on 25/26 April, is the perfect occasion Cambrian Mountains Wool to share its plans to put Welsh wool firmly at the centre of British wool lovers’ affections – and to offer festival-goers a chance to get their hands, needles and hooks into some unique wool from the sheep-farming heart of Wales.

The five woman team – a knitter, a stitcher, a felter, a wool shop proprietor and a sheep farmer – are united in their commitment to champion the value of Welsh wool and make it more commercially available. They combine their passion for Welsh wool with a depth of understanding, from their various business perspectives, all of which have proven necessary to understanding the complexities of the wool industry and overcoming the obstacles to bringing wool with genuine Welsh provenance to the market.

The Group’s ambitions have challenged the wool industry to do things differently. Group member and sheep farmer, Juliet Morris, explains: “Wales produces thousands of tonnes of fleece every year but it’s no mean feat buying wool from Wales. The huge scale and nature of the global market makes it extremely difficult for manufacturers and businesses to source Welsh wool in the volume and quality they need. There’s a fantastic artisan sector of small producers and makers but, on a more commercial level, a disappointingly small amount of yarns and wool textiles that are made in Wales are actually made from Welsh-farmed wool.”

Supported by the Cambrian Mountains Initiative, the women have been working with the British Wool Marketing Board and buyers, Curtis Wool, and succeeded in creating a yarn which not only has genuine regional provenance but is also of exceptional quality. The Group is now challenging wool aficionados at Wonderwool to raise their expectations and think differently about Welsh wool.

Knitters and crocheters are invited to join the team’s hand-knit and crochet enthusiast, Jude Howard, at the Cambrian Wool table where there will be pattern cards, needles, hooks and the all important yarn to put to the test. Their finished sample squares will be added to the Cambrian Mountains display stand, tangible evidence of the wool’s versatility and quality.

Members of the team will be on hand to talk to textiles professionals about sourcing local wool and applying to the Cambrian Mountains quality mark. Wonderwool visitors will also get chance to learn about the 2015 International Design-Make Challenge Competition, which invited ideas from designer-makers around the world for using the Cambrian Mountains wool. The chosen designers are busy completing their contributions to the Challenge Collection, ready for its launch in May at the Hay Festival of Literature and Culture.

Gwlân Mynyddoedd Cambrian Mountains WoolKnitwear designer, Sue James of Llynfi Textiles sums up the Wool Group’s experience: “The market interest and demand for wool textiles with provenance, made in Wales from Welsh farmed wool, was always clear. Less certain was the quality of ‘really Welsh wool’ and its suitability to the range of purposes we want – from clothing to flooring. The end-results have exceeded all our expectations. The locally farmed Welsh mule hogg fleece has become a beautifully soft, worsted yarn and fabric, and is now being transformed into an inspirational collection of exquisitely made pieces. The yarn and the Challenge Collection are a real tribute to one of Wales’ most iconic and enduring treasures: its wool.”