Shifting half of New Zealand’s crossbred wool clip to higher value fine wool contracts could boost the economy by about $2 billion, says NZ Merino Company (NZM) chief executive John Brakenridge.
Ege has blended NZ and British wool in the past to provide a higher bulk yarn. PGG Wrightson Wool’s worked with Ege to develop a specific wool blend to meet their requirements, replacing the British component with NZ Perendale wool.
The company also recently joined PGG Wrightson’s Wool Integrity programme, following collaboration by the two companies to develop an optimum quality wool blend for Ege’s carpet printing process.
“Ege have been using our wool for a long time but they have now joined our integrity programme,” says Palle Petersen, general manager of PGG Wrightson Wool’s in-house export and marketing arm Bloch and Behrens Wool (NZ) Ltd.
“Being in the wool integrity programme gives them clearer visibility on where the wool comes from,” he told Rural News.
“They know that the farmers who have signed up to that programme meet certain criteria in animal welfare and that sort of thing.
“Consumers are becoming more concerned about knowing how the product is made, where the raw material came from and how the animal and the environment were treated.
“All of these we can verify; we know which farms we source the wool from so we have full visibility throughout the whole supply chain which you don’t have if you are using part-British wool from their wool marketing board.
“We have a unique ability.”
Farmers in Britain have to sell their wool through their marketing board which is graded according to breed, but does not have the same traceability back to individual farms.
“The Danish company had issues with quality and consistency with British wool whereas we were able to recommend to them we could replace this wool with Perendale which is a higher bulk, higher crimp wool than Romney.”
Replacing with NZ wool “has got to be good because that is a few extra kilos coming from here”.
“They use it in a reasonable volume and have done for a long time. They are committed to wool, have their own spinning mill and have the full process in-house.”
Printing enables much greater detail to be included in the design of a carpet than traditional manufacture, at far lower cost, Petersen says.
“Producing the best quality printed wool carpets requires the whitest wool as raw material.
“NZ wool surpasses all others in its whiteness and capacity to take dye.”
Petersen says their processes, at all points, from the sheep’s back to the scour and beyond, have been refined to ensure that quality.
Ege manufactures wool carpet tiles, wall-to-wall carpet and bespoke rugs for domestic and commercial use, including in high-end hotel chains and luxury cruise liners. It was founded in 1938, is represented in at least 50 countries worldwide and is headquartered in Herning, Denmark.
The writing on the floor
Petersen sees a big future for printed carpet.
The traditional colourful carpet process has been slow and labour intensive and generally the manufacturers preferred large runs.
“In producing a white carpet and putting it through a printer, there are no limitations,” Petersen says.
“It is like putting a piece of paper through your inkjet printer. What you print is only limited to your imagination.
“It is a very cost effective way of achieving a unique one-off pattern. They are very successful worldwide in the commercial sector – hotels, cruise ships, casinos, airports... where people want a unique design that is only theirs.”
However he understands Ege also does some residential work.
“There are people who are prepared to pay to have their own design or it might be to match certain things in their house. They actually can design their own carpets.
“Printing something on a carpet doesn’t require it to mass produced; it can be done as a one-off.”
The technique is 30 years old but Ege would be the leading user of that technique, Petersen says.
“The equipment is expensive so there is a fair bit of investment in it and a lot of old traditional companies have investments in weaves so they are sticking with that.
“People who invest in this new technology are probably future-proofing their business.
“But it does require very good white wool. If you put a dirty piece of paper into your printer and tried to print a photo on top of it you would not get a good result. You have to start off with very white wool. That is where New Zealand wool is better.”
The yarn is also treated with a process during the spinning so the wool takes up the dye more accurately. It needs to penetrate right down to the bottom of the carpet.
“It is not as simple as buying any wool and putting it through. There are some strict quality requirements that need to be met in the wool, the spinning of it and the treatment of the yarn before you make the carpet. That is something Ege has developed very successfully.”