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The Natural Fibre
The Natural Fibre

Making more with your wool

The spinning mill which helps you add value to wool, mohair and alpaca

We are thrilled to launch NFC Dyers, a new joint venture with dye expert, Anthony Green.  Anthony brings a wealth of industry knowledge and expertise with him, having gained 20 years of yarn dyeing experience in Lancashire. Now based in the South West of England, he will be working on site at our mill in Launceston, providing a range of dyeing services including in-house colour matching. This exciting joint venture will enable us to further reduce our carbon footprint by offering a fully vertical service from scouring to the finished product, all under one roof. The streamlining of our processes will mean more flexibility, greater quality control and even better customer service. 

The future certainly looks bright and colourful, and we look forward to working with Anthony.

   

We are in the early stages of planning an Open Day in the new year, the date will be announced soon.

The plan is to open our doors for the general public, existing and new customers to have the opportunity to visit us and see the mill in action. In the meantime we welcome enquiries from demonstrators such as weavers and hand spinners interested in taking part.

Please email us if you would like to be involved and for further information.  

We've been shortlisted for yet another award. This time it's the Cornwall Manufacturing Group and we're in the Small/Medium Manufacturer of the Year category. We're thrilled of course! 

The awards ceremony will take place at the Eden Project on the evening of 4th November and we can't wait to celebrate alongside other members of the CMG and those from the manufacturing industry. Keep your fingers crossed for us and we hope to have more news on the outcome soon. 

The CMG has existed since 2012 with members from different sectors of local manufacturing from agricultural machinery to medical and engineering. Membership is on an invitation basis , and the purpose of the group is to provide a means of exchange of knowledge with information relating to manufacturing in Cornwall.

You can find out more about them by visiting their website here.

  

 

 

We are thrilled to have been awarded Highly Commended in the Manufacturing Matters category of the Make UK Manufacturing Awards 2021, announced at the Regional Dinner held in Swindon in October.

MAKE UK, the Manufacturers' Organisation champions and stimulates success for British manufacturing businesses and inspires the next generation of manufacturers. You can find out more here.

We were delighted that UKFT, the largest network for fashion and textiles companies in the UK recently chose our carding engineer, James Mcqueen for their monthly Manufacturing Hero feature recently.  James oversees the production process in our mill and has gained vast experience and knowledge since joining the textile industry at the age of 17. You can read the full article and find out more about James here.  

 

 

 

We're celebrating the recent news that we have been shortlisted as a south-west finalist for the Made in the UK Award category, as part of the 2021 Great British Entrepreneur Awards.

Founded in 2013, the Great British Entrepreneur Awards acknowledge the work and inspiring stories of businesses and entrepreneurs in the UK, with many award winners going on to become household names. This year a record 4,800 entries were received from across eight regions.  

Operations Director, Colin Spencer Halsey said: We are delighted to have been shortlisted for this prestigious award and to be joining a supportive community of entrepreneurs. Becoming a finalist recognises the hard work and dedication of our highly skilled team and our role in keeping a traditional manufacturing industry alive, through our innovative approach and business strategy.”

Founder of the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, Francesca James, said: We have seen some incredible finalists over the years, and this year is no exception. It really is one of the strongest shortlists we’ve ever had, and the fact that so many exceptional people have applied during such a tough year is a testament to the resolve and entrepreneurial talent that exists across the UK. Creating the shortlist out of so many wonderful applications was incredibly tough, so I don’t envy the judges who will now decide the regional winners. Everyone who has been shortlisted should be incredibly proud and we’re thrilled to be able to showcase their achievements.”

The regional finals are due to take place, subject to COVID restrictions, in-person in September and further announcements are due to follow soon.  To find out more about the awards visit: https://www.greatbritishentrepreneurawards.com

We are inviting expressions of interest from individuals, students; academia, commercial organisations and small enterprises wishing to scale up, to hire and operate the dye plant facility at our Launceston Mill.

The dye plant has its own dedicated area with scope to expand. The current equipment list includes – dye vats; water tanks; hoist; boiler; scales; sink; drying racks; test equipment.

We welcome enquiries from dyers and colourist technicians to operate the dye plant as an independent/sublet business entity with the added benefit of existing contract work flowing from our core business.

For further information about this opportunity, please email us at enquiries@thenaturalfibre.co.uk 

 

 

It is with much sadness that we heard recently of the passing of Sue Blacker, the previous owner and managing director of The Natural Fibre Company and Blacker Yarns. Sue died on 5th April 2021, a few days before her 70th birthday. Our thoughts, as work colleagues and friends, are with Sues husband, Douglas and their family at this difficult time.

Born in Cornwall, Sue graduated from University of Cambridge in 1971 with a Master of Arts (MA) and returned to her studies in 1998-99 to attain a Master of Business Studies (MBA).

She was the first female graduate recruited by the merchant bank Rothschilds and one of the first women to become a member of the London Stock Exchange. Although she moved on to broaden her experience, she returned to the City as an investment analyst specialising in electronics stocks. When the City was deregulated in 1986, she was the leading electronics analyst for the US bank Shearson Lehmann. After a stint with the French bank Paribas, she returned to her native Cornwall and worked on economic development specialising in agriculture, fishing and tourism before running two environmental charities.

Sue was also a farmer, managing a breeding flock of pedigree Gotland sheep, which she kept on land near Lostwithiel, Cornwall.  She served on the local health authority and ambulance trusts later becoming a trustee of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and chair of the British Gotland Sheep Society.

In 2004 an opportunity arose for Sue to take ownership of The Natural Fibre Company, then based in Lampeter in Mid Wales. Following Myra Mortlock, the previous owners retirement, and the successful approval of a business plan for EU Objective 1 Funding, the business changed hands and Blacker Sheep Limited trading as The Natural Fibre Company was formed in the spring of 2005, relocating to its current site in Launceston, Cornwall. 

From its original small-scale operation, spinning wool largely for smallholders, produced in the traditional way, Sue introduced a range of innovative ideas and specialist services for fibre producers and farmers including scouring; blending; mohair and alpaca fleece processing; worsted and semi worsted spinning. She also installed a dye plant and began operating an organic processing run after attaining a licence from the Soil Association.

In 2008 an online shop trading as Blacker Yarn was created selling limited edition, rare and breed specific knitting yarns and the Blacker Swan partnership was formed bringing Falkland Islands wool to the UK. 

Following the transfer of ownership of the business in 2019 to Colin Spencer Halsey and Graham Higgins, Sue remained involved as a business support consultant providing her valuable, industry specific expertise during the transition period. She later became director of Par Track Limited, a Charitable Community Benefit Society, but in March moved with her husband, Douglas to Norfolk.

Today, as a direct result of Sues hard work, dedication and passion for sustainability and long-life products and services for the farming and textile industry, The Natural Fibre Company and Blacker Yarns have gained a reputation as a specialist, vertically integrated woollen mill, the only one of its kind in the UK, attracting customers from all over the world.

We have cherished reading the kind messages and comments that we have received following Sue's passing and we are currently compiling them to send on to Sue's family.⁠ If you would like to send us a message, please email it to: enquiries@thenaturalfibre.co.uk.

Sue's family have set up a JustGiving page to support the work of the Palliative Care Department at Priscilla Bacon Hospice. If you would like to make a donation you can find out more here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/inmemoryofsueblacker ⁠

 

 

As the appetite to shop locally and support local businesses grows, The Natural Fibre Company and Blacker Yarns, based in Cornwall, are taking part in the first-ever Made in UK Day on Tuesday 9 March 2021.

The Made in UK Day campaign has been created to celebrate 10 years since ex-retail buyer Kate Hills started the Make it British blog to champion all the wonderful products that are made in the UK.  Since its launch 10 years ago, the Make it British site has been visited by more than 6.5 million people looking to buy UK-made products and search for UK manufacturers.  This year alone has seen a 68% increase in enquiries since the UK left the EU’s single market and customs union.  

Colin Spencer Halsey, Operations Director at The Natural Fibre Company said: “As a Cornwall based manufacturer of high quality, breed-specific yarns, made exclusively from British sheep, we are delighted to support the first Made in UK Day campaign which promotes UK makers and craftmanship”.

Kate Hills, the founder of Make it British, said “It has never been more important to buy products that are made in the UK and support local manufacturing. By pledging to buy products that are made in the UK you are lowering your carbon footprint, saving essential skills, helping local economies and creating job opportunities.

We want everyone to get behind Made in UK Day to celebrate the wonderful makers that we have in the UK.”

UK manufacturing is currently worth £192 billion to the UK economy and employs 2.7 million people. More than 65 million people live in the UK and if everyone bought just one item made in the UK worth £20 on Made in UK Day it would be worth £1.3billion.

Consumers can get involved in the campaign by pledging to buy something that is made in the UK on 9 March and asking their favourite brands and retailers what, if anything, that they sell is made in the UK. They are also being encouraged to share pictures of products that they have bought, or own, that are made in the UK on social media using the hashtag #madeinukday

To find out more about the campaign visit www.madeinukday.co.uk   

 

Operations Director Colin Spencer Halsey and Commercial Director Graham Higgins of the Natural Fibre Company

The new owners of The Natural Fibre Company and Blacker Yarns are celebrating a successful first year, despite the challenges of trading during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been business as usual for this Cornish based company which was bought by Westcountry based businessmen, Colin Spencer Halsey and Graham Higgins in December 2019. The partners bring more than 40 years of business expertise with them and hold an impressive track record of strategic mentoring and turning around a range of businesses with their management, manufacturing  and accounting knowhow. 

Following the smooth transition of ownership in 2019, The Natural Fibre Company and sister company, Blacker Yarns continue to go from strength to strength - providing job security for the 20 strong, highly skilled, local workforce.

Operations Director, Colin has attained many prestigious industry accolades and awards during his career including business listings in The Manufacturer’s Top 100 businesses and South West Fast Growth 75. Colin says:

‘The potential to support and make an impact on a traditional British manufacturing company really appealed to me. There is no doubt that COVID-19 has brought unforeseen challenges this year, but we have a clear strategy going forward to strengthen our position by implementing new structures, as well as investing in our amazing people, systems and processes. We also aim to automate some of our manual processes, further develop our research and development work in textiles with partners and overall to continue to increase productivity. We’ll also be looking to expand our workforce further and to place traction behind the business’.

As a leading natural fibre specialist providing support to local farmers and yarn producers, The Natural Fibre Company maintains its reputation for adding value to fleece by blending high quality regional and rare wool, mohair and alpaca with natural fibres such as silk and linen.  Whilst the sister company, Blacker Yarns produces a range of contemporary, high-quality, breed-specific yarns in a large variety of colour palettes, made exclusively from British sheep and demonstrating provenance to the ethical consumer.

Commercial Director, Graham adds:

‘We believe in the social values of our organic processing accreditation and the importance of the British manufacturing industry and our role supporting farming, the countryside and the environment. It’s a very exciting time’.