Think fibreglass, but with wool
It started with wool, but also with our home town and an old industry in decline. Our small market town - once a thriving part of the woollen industry - had grown quiet as manufacturing had left, taking the heart of the town with it. We had an idea: If we could find a new way of working with wool, then perhaps we could bring some of this industry back.
We learnt that the coarse wool from hill-farmed, upland sheep had dramatically lost its value in recent years. Historically it was used in the UK carpet industry, but demand had declined and the wool was now considered an almost worthless by-product of sheep farming.
So we had a wool. Now we needed to find a use for it - something which would reinvent this wool and give it value once again, take the unwanted and make it beautiful. So we started to play, turning the way we have always worked with wool on its head.
The end result is Solidwool: a strong, beautiful and unique composite material.
Protecting an iconic British breed
We are currently focused on using wool from Herdwick sheep, the iconic breed of the British Lake District. Regarded as the most hardy of all British breeds, they roam the high fells for most of the year, naturally hefting themselves to the land. This sense of place removes the need for walls high on the open fells, with their instinct keeping them rooted to the place they have always lived.
This wool is something special, but along the way something has gone wrong and its perceived value has been lost. It is currently one of the lowest value wools in the UK. Once this wool was a major part of a shepherd's income, but now the wool from one sheep sells for around 40p. The Herdwick flock and their shepherds are custodians of their wild landscape, and we want to help them stay that way.
We see a beauty in this natural material and want to help its value increase. Herdwick wool is wiry, dark and hard, but when used in Solidwool it produces a beautiful dark grey composite with the lighter guard hairs standing out.
A unique manufacturing process
In order to make Solidwool, we combine the wool with bio-resin in a unique manufacturing process we have developed.
The resins we currently use can be classed as bio-resins. They have a roughly 30% bio-based renewable content. Sourced from waste streams of other industrial processes - such as wood pulp and bio-fuels production - our environmentally conscientious resin manufacturer claims a minimum 50% reduction in carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions during manufacture over traditional resins. Plus their green chemistry eliminates those harmful toxins, making it a more pleasant resin for us to work with.
These materials do not compete with food sources or displace food-based agriculture. The resins allow for strong and durable composites with a lower environmental impact. Better still, they are continually improving. Sheep need fuel too, but the fleeces we use are plentiful; wool is a sustainable resource, though not renewable.