Overseas buyers intrigued by the yarn behind Blacker's wool
German knitters are warming up to British rare breeds wool, with yarn spun at a Launceston mill.
Blacker Yarns has begun exporting its products to four stockists in Germany, after exhibiting at a major trade show earlier in the year, where it also signed up two Japanese retail clients.
The yarn business, established in 2008, is a spin-out of Sue Blacker's Natural Fibre Company, which buys fleeces from small-scale owners of rare-breed sheep and scours, spins and dyes the product into knitting wool.
Former investment analyst Ms Blacker acquired the spinning business in 2005 and has developed it since then to increase the output of its added-value fleece products.
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Blacker Yarns' new German and Japanese clients each run their own independent outlet selling balls of wool to home-based hobby knitters.
"Our yarns are all about pure British wool, specific breeds and blends in natural and dyed colours," says Sue Blacker. "German knitters are increasingly looking for these and are prepared to pay the premium they carry over synthetic products."
Customers are attracted not just by the quality of the wool, but of the sheep-to-shelf story behind the brand: "In Germany, they only have around four breeds– they don't have 60 like us, so the names are very attractive," says Sue.
Last year the Cornish company exported 20% of its yarn sales to 20 countries, nearly half of the total going to the United States.
The Natural Fibre Company, processes fleeces both for its own and client products.
Its visit to Germany earlier in the year also secured a contract to spin south American grown Merino fleeces into yarn on behalf of Munich-based Rosy Green Wool.
The Cornish company also sources wool from around 300 individual growers or groups of smallholders.
It uses the wool both in the production of its own yarns and in the manufacture of the client's own brands. A further spin-out, The Natural Yarn Company, was established as a one-stop-shop to retail balls of wool made on behalf of individual clients from their rare-breed sheep.
The retail range also includes Blacker Swan, a brand made and launched by Sue in a joint venture with two farmers based in the Falklands. And Blacker Designs sells products including its own wool garden twine, hats and scarves.