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 Sue’s 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 owner’s 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 Sue’s 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.