Good evening! We want to update you on a few things.

The Wovember Petition

First and foremost, we have begun a process for officially submitting the Wovember petition to the European Parliament with a supporting paragraph asking that, in light of the 997 signatures we have collected here, we feel that the confusing EU labelling legislation Regulations for textile and fibre names should be revised.

EU labelling legislation

RegNo. 1007/2011
Textile Fibre Names & Related Labelling
Regulation (EU) No 1007/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 September 2011 on textile fibre names and related labelling and marking of the fibre composition of textile products and repealing Council Directive 73/44/EEC and Directives 96/73/EC and 2008/121/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council Text with EEA relevance

Website Link: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32011R1007

In particular, we want the European Parliament to revise this paragraph of the legislation:

(Article 8 and Annex III of the EU Regulation)
“The fibre name ‘wool’ can be used to describe either fibre obtained from sheep’s or lambs’ fleeces or a mixture of such fibres and certain fine animal hairs (viz alpaca, llama, camel, cashmere, mohair, angora, vicuna, yak, guanaco, beaver, otter)”

NOT WOOL!
NOT WOOL!

When we established the Wovember petition in 2011, our idea was to build a case against the mis-description of woollen goods and the misuse of the term wool – exactly as it says – but when John Arbon wrote a piece specifically about EU legislation, we realised that perhaps the best place to take that petition with all your signatures is to the European Parliament.

We await news of whether or not the petition has been accepted, and will keep you updated.

Brexit

One of the things that came up in the course of John Arbon writing that piece is Brexit, and whether the UK leaving the EU will make it easier for the UK wool industry to create clearer legislation for woollen textiles. Wovember wants to know: will there be other benefits to UK farmers and wool workers from exiting the EU? And what will the UK’s exit from the EU mean for wool in other EU countries?

For myself, (Felicity Ford) working on the EU sheep breed series for Wovember this year has consolidated my personal opinion that we are better off in the EU than out of it. Some of the most heartening things I have found are reports about cross-border and cross-cultural projects and EU-funded initiatives to save rare sheep breeds. Reading about the sheep and wool country in each EU country has inspired me deeply in thinking about how we can correspond in wool across cultures; learn from one another; share skills and develop new projects together. However, I understand that I do not bring a farming or industry perspective to Brexit and that many of my fellow countryfolk do not share my personal views.

Indeed, several months before the momentous referendum, I wrote to a company in the North of England to request some samples of their woollen fabrics. The samples arrived in the post in an envelope with a sticker on it:

The sticker on the envelope…

I have thought a lot about that sticker. I wrote to enquire about it and still await a response. In the meantime, I wanted to share my email here; to use it to begin a respectful conversation about what Brexit means for wool:

Dear XXX,

Thank you for sending me some samples of your wool fabrics; they are fantastic though sadly not appropriate for my current project. I shall keep them on file for future purposes.

I am writing today about something else.

When your fabric samples arrived with me, there was a political sticker adhered to the envelope saying “It’s time for GREAT BRITAIN to LEAVE the EU”. I have thought a lot about that sticker; I am extremely interested in why that issue matters to you, and would love to hear why your company felt sufficiently strongly to have proselytized this position in the lead up to the EU referendum.

The reason I’m interested is that I co-run a website called WOVEMBER which is all about wool – you can see it at wovember.com and our archives at wovember.wordpress.com.

In our work we aim to educate and inform consumers about textiles and to campaign against misuses of the words ‘wool’ ‘woolly’ and ‘woollen’ in online descriptions of garments that are, in fact, made of acrylic. As well as this campaign work, we aim to celebrate the distinctive qualities of real wool, and the labour that goes into producing it. This year on our website we are focusing on the politics of wool and, this being the year of BREXIT and the US Election, we want to include some content that touches on how these large political shifts will impact the global wool trade.

Would you be willing to explain in an article for our website why, in your opinion, “It’s time for GREAT BRITAIN to LEAVE the EU” and what benefits you see to trade – particularly the wool trade – resulting from our Brexit?

I would love to be able to share such a perspective on our website with other fans of wool as I feel that many, like me, who voted to remain, are looking for the silver lining right now. I’m keen to find ways of moving forward together and of understanding the different motives for a leave vote that I still don’t understand, and every time I look at your envelope containing my very favourite textile – WOOL – I feel that an explanation for your sticker might be a positive place to begin…

I’m very much looking forward to reading your response,

Warm Regards,
Felicity Ford.

Brexit is an emotive and difficult topic with strong feelings on both sides but for this year’s theme – THE POLITICS OF WOOL – it feels impossible to ignore. We’d like to know what you think Brexit means for wool, and will moderate comments carefully, using a policy based on that of The Guardian. We want to hear from all of you but please note: this is not an opportunity to vent in general about Brexit from any perspective, but to collectively explore what Brexit means specifically for wool and for the wool industry. Trolling, hate speech and personal attacks in any form will be deleted. If you are not sure what is/isn’t considered offensive, read this article.

6 thoughts on “Wool and Brexit

  1. I do not even live there any more but I was horrified at the Brexit vote……..Good for you writing to the company %@$#&$%$#!# that will not reply to you and for the letter to the EU…good luck with that one also!
    Your sheepie adventures are awesome……….keep up the good work!

  2. Thanks for this informative mail. I share your fears that Brexit will be a disaster for the UK in many ways…..for us obvious the textile trade takes priority, but there is also a threat to arts funding and to environmental protection.

  3. I want you to stay!

    We have to cooperate and not to separate, and it is stupid to think that Britain’s economy would do better without EU…

    remember Napoleon’s “continental system” ? It was bad for both sides and I think we all should learn from history, not repeat it ;)(

    Cheers, Connie from EU-Germany now in EU-Estonia!

  4. I live in Canada, where the wool industry is largely dominated by American companies, and LYS have a difficult time sourcing decent products at affordable prices. Many of the biggest, most well-known companies don’t even bother to establish a distribution centre here. Small local producers exist but they have to do their own marketing. ( A notable exception to this is Koigu. ) Canada is in the process of creating a trade agreement with the EU, but will that improve our access to European wool? The NAFTA “free” trade agreement in North America has not improved the flow of affordable wool on this continent. I suspect that wool does not figure highly in the sights of the people who draft these agreements. I applaud you for your exceptionally well written letter to that company. I resonated deeply with this sentence from your blog above: “how we can correspond in wool across cultures; learn from one another; share skills and develop new projects together.” What I hear in that is that it’s almost going to take a kind of counter-culture or alternative economy that will function independently from the politics of fear and barriers and exclusion. That’s my take on the politics of wool, that it’s in a realm beyond politics. Keep up the good work!

  5. As a US wool grower and from the view from my pasture, having to develop products on my own, partnering with mills, doing my own marketing…And combining that experience with that of my past….being a yarn shop owner, and then for ten years as hand dyer and owner of a wholesale yarn company….It is all about viability and holding onto the unique qualities and traditions of wool grown different areas of the world. The EU started life as a trade agreement much like NAFTA. The problems arose when too much power was put in the hands of too few and the promise of easier, more prolific trade never materialized. The small grower was hurt the most and national identities and the value of locally grown fiber and traditions suffered also. Everything seemed to get politicized and homogenized into an international Globalist movement and countries lost control of their local governance, with decisions, like tax law, being made countries away. I think if local wool traditions are to survive and be assured, it should not be homogenized or generalized, much like countries. Each has a purpose and a contribution. While I like the idea of countries developing trade agreements and they are necessary for international commerce and to open up markets, each country should not have to sacrifice their national identity and self governance to do so. I love learning about all the European wool traditions you have highlighted here. It is their unique character that is so wonderful and facinating and valuable. If we can find a way as consumers, to keep their traditions alive, I am all for it. Sharing via social media, putting a spot light on them is huge and this grassroots, organic approach can be amazing in preserving these traditions. I just don’t think overreaching globalization is the way to do it.

  6. Hi Kathie! Your comment is really interesting – I do very much agree that we don’t want homogeneity between places (or people). However, I’m not sure that countries are necesssarily the solid things that differentiate that. In Europe, certainly, many country boundaries have fluctuated enormously, and sometimes there are many more differences within countries that between them. The boundaries are political constructs that depend on who has had power, who has won wars – who has married who!
    My observation regarding North America, and indeed the USA is that this might be true too. What are your thoughts?

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