Our journey to find out more about the Swedish wool industry took us on more then 1000 km journey through Sweden, from north to south, and east to west.
We visited spinning mills and sheep farmers. All over the country the same question came up. “Have you spoken to the Wool Guru?”
From all the amazing people we met on our journey, it seemed like Alan was a really important person to talk to in our search to create the perfect material for our base layer clothing.
While Emma was driving us to a knitting factory appointment, I called up Alan to see if it was possible to set up a meeting. He was more than happy to make some time to talk about A New Sweden. Two days later on our way up north, we made a detour to his house in Gnesta, about 70km south of Stockholm.
We were greeted by Alan Waller, the Wool Guru. A lively, bright-eyed gent in his seventies with a wiry beard that looked as soft as a merino's fleece.
Alan came to Sweden from England in his twenties to study, and later worked at a spinning mill in Dala-Floda where he developed a passion for wool fibres. His interest in mathematics and his innate curiosity led him on a lifelong journey to discover why different types of wool reacts differently.
We sit down in a soft sofa and the opposite wall is covered with a over-packed book-shelf. Alan explains to us with sage-like wisdom how sheep foetuses develop hair follicles in three different phases. It's because of this development that the sheep fibre has three different thicknesses.
Elaborating, he explains that while cotton fibre generally has a micron of 12-13, wool fibre can vary greatly.
Even though it is only the edge of the wool fibre that irritates, any material with more than 5 percent of the fibres being 30 micron or higher, will be uncomfortable against the skin.
Alan participated and advised the Jämtlands sheep breeding project. There were initially seven farms involved.
To get the material we envision for our label, it would be an idea to mix wool from Jämtlands sheep with that of alpaca, as their fibre lengths are similar.
We could easily have stayed for an entire week to learn more from Alan about wool properties, but we had other farms and mills to see.
Hopefully there will be more occasions to meet and learn from Swedens' inspiring wool-guru.