Here is the wonderful view of some of the extinct volcanos in the Auvergne, seen from an excellent French motorway service area, called the Aire des Volcans, usefully! It’s pretty close to Clermont Ferrand (famous for Michelin tyres, and maps and guides of course) and rugby.
In early November, we went to a conference held by ATELIER, the network of European wool producers, on the subject of wool scouring and its future. There will be a report in due course, as scouring is a complex and much regulated process and we all discovered how many and varied are the regulations on it! There were 125 participants from 15 countries, so it was a great networking opportunity and ideal for learning, especially learning French!! Should anyone wish to have a copy of a bi-lingual French and English presentation on wool scouring (lavage de laine) by The Natural Fibre Company, just contact us to request it!
We also had a small display of yarns from different British breeds and a display stand showing our main processes.
Large-scale wool scouring can usually afford the continuing investment needed to comply with increasingly demanding environmental regulations, and very small-scale operations generally do very little harm. It is the medium-sized operations which need to manage very carefully to ensure that they can continue to operate legally and sustainably. At The Natural Fibre Company we dispose of our scour effluent via a licensed contractor, who spreads it on the land. In Yorkshire, one of the scouring plants also sends the separated solid and semi solid waste to the land (for rhubarb cultivation) and the big plants also extract water from rivers and then return it after cleaning it. However, we discovered that the rules in Germany are incredibly strict, while in Sweden they seem quite relaxed. We are hoping to achieve some consistency and also to increase the opportunities for everyone to scour wool locally.
There was also a great deal of interest in helping farmers to improve the quality of their wool – many now see it as a useful crop, but have not the expertise and knowledge to harvest it with good quality – not realising that dirty, straw-filled fleeces are basically compost! They tend to over-estimate the technical capabilities of the processors, while under-estimating the costs! Rather reminiscent of the old fairy tale of spinning straw into gold …
The local sheep are the Blancs du Massif Central, which are generally reared for meat, having short and sparce fleeces. They are born outdoors, but then generally reared or fattened indoors for early marketing. We went to the market to see them being sold, which was pretty interesting and efficient, and somewhat different to markets in other places, very crowded and very quick!
There are some black sheep too …