Be the change: an early intro to Wovember 2016

The hand of Oliver Henry - "the wool man" at Shetland Wool Brokers

Dear Wovemberists

Do not adjust your sets – it is not quite Wovember yet.

As you will see there are a few changes going on around here; we are preparing for November. We hadn’t planned such an early post, so do bear with us while we move the furniture around a bit. (Coincidentally, if you are looking for older Wovember posts you will find them here.)

We are super excited to announce that the theme for this year’s annual celebration is ‘The Politics of Wool’. When we had our first team meeting this year, we knew we wanted to take Wovember back to its activist roots. A spirit of activism has underpinned all our posts that recognise wool as a premium textile and which highlight and publicise the work that makes wool special; however this year we want to be more explicit about wool’s connections to wider socio-political contexts – which brings us to the reason for this early Wovember post.

Tomorrow, on the 9th September 2016, a Wool Conference organised by The Campaign for Wool is taking place at Dumfries House, Ayrshire. The event is supported by High Street chain Marks and Spencer and the Campiagn for Wool patron, HRH, The Prince of Wales, has called it – with no trace of irony – “The Davos* of Wool”. Described as “the largest and most prestigious international gathering of wool experts ever held in the United Kingdom”, the conference – apparently not open public delegate applications – will feature spokespersons largely from luxury fashion brands, furnishings, and upholstery. Together they will discuss the future of the wool industry and animal welfare. You can read the official press release here.

Without mention are any representatives from the small-business sector, from the craft sector, or from any of the grassroots organisations who work each day with wool.

Tomorrow we are publishing an open letter to the Campaign for Wool on this website, asking why this community is not being represented at the conference. Furthermore, we shall ask the Campaign for Wool to take steps to lessen the problematic gap between the luxury brand-focused activities of their campaign and those of the inspiring wool-workers of this country who actually work with, and celebrate wool in their everyday lives and businesses.

From years of writing here and reading your comments, we feel that our amazing Wovember readership is most likely as outraged as we are by the prospect of a Conference on Wool at which small wool businesses and independent wool workers are not represented. So we’re asking you to join us in a celebratory social media protest.

Be the change!

Tomorrow the Campaign for Wool intend to share key themes from their conference on social media using the hashtag #woolworks. We would like to encourage you to join their discussion by also using that hashtag. Our aim is to collectively demonstrate the diversity and richness of the wool industry and for our helpful social media contributions to broaden the discussion taking place in Dumfries House tomorrow. Use the hashtag #woolworks to add your voice to this event; to celebrate what you love about wool; and – above all – to give a massive shout out to those hard-working hand-dyers, weavers, spinners, wool workers, designers, crafters and such whose expertise and passion deserves praise and recognition.

Our aim here is to publicly celebrate how highly we regard wool and all the people who work with it.

Remember: to participate, upload photos of wool work to Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #woolworks.

See you online tomorrow?
YOURS IN WOOLWORK,

FELIX & LOUISE

* For those of you confused, as we were, by the meaning of “Davos”, we believe that HRH was comparing this event to the Swiss municipality of the same name at which political and business elites meet annually for the World Economic Forum. In the context of this wool conference that description is both fitting and depressing.

Featured Image: The hands of the “wool man” Oliver Smith at Jamieson and Smith, Lerwick, Shetland. (c) Jeni Reid

15 thoughts on “Be the change: an early intro to Wovember 2016

  1. I kept reading Davos as Davros, and was confused as to whether or not this made HRH the creator of some anti-wool Daleks.

    I’m sharing with all the knitters I know, we’ll be tagging #woolweek tomorrow!

  2. Pleased to read your thoughts on smaller producers being forgotten / excluded from the big debate on wool. I will be sharing on facebook and twitter. From a small business wool weaver, and for fun… spinner, natural dyer and knitter.

  3. So typical of the so-called ‘élite’ to omit and ignore the people who work so hard to promote their interest. Do they want to take the Campaign for wool forward or not?

  4. Maybe, (I so hope!) there will be discussions about animal welfare and particularly sheep welfare…… for what not all people know is that there is still a vast majority of sheep owners in this world that take it for granted that ‘mulesing’ sheep is inevitable in some countries. By law of those countries it is not forbidden, whereas in other countries restrictions and regulations from governments are very clear that these ‘habits’ are inhumane and can be avoided by other means of fighting against Myiasis!
    Mulesing has been the last resort for over 100 years, whilst solutions for those problems with fly-strike already have been dealt with in countries where people see that sheep are abused in a very rude and brutal manner – and to be precise: it is a matter of money for most of the people that are doing it to their animals.
    Addressing this, making it part of discussion ánd talk about it in the media will help, I am sure! Cutting skin away, cutting tails away, removing male parts – all that without anesthetic help… just to get more fibers per square cm of sheep…. what are they thinking?

  5. Use of wool needs money behind it to promote. There are incredibly interesting things bubbling up from the grass roots. However if M&S or one of the global brands can be convinced to include wool in their collections and sheep farmers can be convinced that this makes it worth focusing on wool, then that is very valuable to all of us SMEs.

    1. I agree… but only if M&S etc. Are honest about the wool in their products, i.e. They truthfully and clearly state the percentage of wool in the garment/product and don’t call it a wool product t if it’s got polyester or other fibres in it. However, omitting all the smaller and medium-sized businesses, as well as all those who work with 100% wool smacks of too much profit for the large companies.

  6. In 2001 we brought HRH’s attention to the plight of the businesses that use British wool that were also affected by the foot and mouth disease outbreak that year. Some years later Campaign for Wool was launched but as you’ve pointed out in your article not one mention to it’s members, SMEs, or the wider public about attending this important discussion. They need to listen to all of us, both large and small, so will also be tagging woolweek

  7. The real change comes from the masses, the aim should be on introducing and internalising wool use among the people. On that point – The Campaign for Wool states in a caption on Instagram* that M&S use three and a half tonnes of wool every year. I would be intrigued to read how much of their annual fibre consumption does that make (it sounds appallingly little) and how does that compare to the output of some independent businesses or fibre mills?

    *https://www.instagram.com/p/BKIJjHTgNhI/

  8. I was at the Dumfries House Campaign for Wool event and it was a fascinating and extremely interesting conference… I took extensive notes and hope to write up some key points and share them shortly … I left feeling an even greater sense of commitment to sharing the story of wool and to encouraging folk to wear it, walk on it, sleep on it, sit on it and as always to knit with it. I was thrilled to be in the company of some brilliant Wool folk, including Sue Blacker and James Laxton, representing two of the best British Spinning Mills. I also met Bowmont breeder Lesley Prior, who was on the panel. Lesley is a passionate advocate of good husbandry! There was a clear will to work with all wool producers and everyone involved in the industry to address not only the falling use of wool in every day but also to address the massive increase in ‘plastic’ clothing and ‘fast fashion’ with an impassioned plea to wear wool “wool works”. I am sure The Campaign for Wool will be thrilled by Wovember’s response and commitment to support them. A dialogue is essential and I believe already happening. Looking forward to change….

  9. I have shared this with the members of Norfolk Countryside Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers, all of whom share the sentiments. We have a craft fair at the end of October which is usually very well attended – will you be producing a poster or leaflet with details that we can use to publicise?

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