Declining thread

A Merino ram

It is in the excellent carpets, it is in Harris Tweed, and now you’ll even find it in top-of-the-range beds; but at £1 a kilo, UK nap hasn’t been this inexpensive in 7 years.

Only 14 months ago, it was worth 30% more. So given is nap coming down in cost and how come the cost of that soothing woollen jumper isn’t coming down as well?

According to Jo Dawson, who has spent 20 years in the nap trade, there are a series of reasons which have total over time. Since sheep make nap come what may, if nap direct drops, prices can humour fast if fleeces go unsold.

Chinese demand

Yet what competence put intolerable aria on any other industry, forcing producers out of business and lifting prices, is docile in British sheep farming.

That’s given UK sheep are mostly reared for beef – nap is now deliberate a by-product. Mr Dawson says that’s a shame given it can conduct moisture, shuns odours, resists fire and grows every year.

“If a scientist came to us now and pronounced I’ve invented this mint product called nap then they’d accept a Nobel Prize, given it is such an implausible fibre,” he says.

“However we’ve grown up with it for so prolonged that many people have eventually lost about it and not realised that this is something utterly special.”

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Image caption

In China, the finish of a conform for knitted fabrics meant a dump in direct for UK wool

Demand is the concern, says Mr Dawson, who is arch executive of H Dawson, a Bradford-based nap businessman set up by his great-grandfather in 1888.

Recently, direct from China declined after a trend for women’s knitted nap coats fizzled out, and given the Chinese marketplace is so outrageous it has had a poignant effect.

But Mr Dawson is upbeat about the element given new uses are emerging.

Your nap jumper, however, is substantially finished from the fleece of Merino sheep, which may good come from Australia. And while the coarser British grades have forsaken in price, merino nap has been spiking. A Merino’s nap is much finer than UK breeds, making for garments that are comfy as good as warm.

Fine wool

Still, for Lesley Prior, this means good business. Her Merino group is a monument in the UK.

“We used to grow Merinos in this country 200 years ago,” she says at her plantation nearby Tiverton in Devon.

“But given we had an early industrial revolution, we indispensable beef for the townspeople and the Merinos that existed then were not beef animals. They were slow-growing and tiny. So the farmers fell back on customary British normal beef breeds.”

“At the same time we were building the new cluster of Australia and they desperately indispensable a product to trade back to the UK and make some money. So we offloaded the excellent nap prolongation to Australia,” she adds, “And that, basically, has continued to this day.”

Image caption

Lesley Prior’s superfine merino nap can be finished into suits and garments worn next to the skin

Which begs the question, with prices moving as they are, given aren’t some-more UK farmers reversing the trend?

“I consider there’s positively potential,” says Ms Prior, noting, however, that nap and beef any need a lot of skill. Merinos are generally smaller than other breeds and don’t have as many lambs, definition reduction meat.

For Mr Dawson the nap merchant, a different UK group and tougher, thicker wool, can offer opportunities.

Traditional uses

“Many of the breeds of sheep have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years and they’ve grown to be the way they are now now as a outcome of that, and then turn resistant to certain diseases,” he says, definition a change divided from that is “something that should be really deliberate very heavily.”

For him, normal uses such as building coverings – he is also authority of the 262-year-old organisation Axminster carpets – and newer opportunities offer the key.

Wool now goes into products as different as the automatic gears for breeze turbines, bicycle seats and the backing for ties.

Image caption

Solidwool mixes the twine with creosote to make a fibreglass-like element which can be created into products such as chairs

He has also grown an insulation element to rival down plume fillings for outside coats, using his wool, which is biodegradable in a way synthetic fibres are mostly not.

Wool seats

Meanwhile, in the ancient woollen city of Buckfastleigh, Hannah and Justin Floyd have grown something altogether singular among these alternatives – Solidwool.

“It started with us wanting to find new jobs for ourselves, wanting to stay in Devon. So we looked to the city for inspiration,” says Ms Floyd, at Solidwool’s factory.

“We were both personification with nap and were trying to use it in a new way, and Lesley Prior actually challenged us and pronounced if you wish to start a business using nap and create some jobs, you are going to have to do something that has not been finished before.”

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‘Beautiful resource’

Their product is a fibreglass-like material, using nap as the fibre. It looks like marble and feels like a tough composite.

The couple are using it to make chairs and tables but other products may be possible, they say. Car interiors and orator cabinets have been mooted.

They are using nap from Herdwick sheep, now the lowest value British nap at 30-40p a kilogramme.

“It seems crazy that it’s something that once had value,” says Ms Floyd, “and it’s now a by-product or a rubbish product from farming,”

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