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Celebrating Australian Made – GOR Woollen Mill

Manufacturing News

@AuManufacturing’s Celebrating Australian Made editorial series turns today to a revival of local wool processing and spinning. Peter Roberts talks with Nick Renters of GOR Woollen Mill.

It is hard to remember the days when Australia had a vigorous fibre processing, spinning, weaving and apparel industry – an entire value chain that all but disappeared during the days when China was hoovering up dirty, job creating businesses from developed nations.

But a few hardy souls such as Bendigo Woollen Mills and Waverley Mills in Launceston somehow survived the exodus, and like numerous small but fast-growing newcomers are keeping the dream alive and building on Australia’s strengths in growing fibres.

GOR Woollen Mill, formerly Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill, is one spinning and knitting mill that has grown in only seven years from alpaca farm to producer of the most sustainable, ethical and environmentally friendly yarns in the world, according to founders Isabel and Nick Renters.

The couple began spinning in 2015 when they could find no local factory to take their own alpaca wool.

Since then they have added Australian superfine merino wool, producing a range of yarns for the craft market for knitting and crocheting. They also make knitting yards for their own-brand knitwear label, Zauber.

Nick Renters said: “We had a tree change and we ended up with 20 hectares and some alpacas.

“We started off with a small Belfast knitting machine…and now with a one or two person operation we can easily do five to 10 tonnes a year.”

The company recently bought seven crates of Italian spinning equipment and expanded to a new factory and farm at Burrumbeet near Ballarat in Victoria, taking total investment in machinery to more than $1 million.

GOR Woollen Mill also uses other Australian manufacturers, such as Geelong Dyeing, where possible.

“There are not many mills left in Australia, but at the new site the public will be able to see all the way through the processing from fibre to finished garment all in the one place.

“Unfortunately there has not been any appetite from the Australian fashion houses or Australian Wool Innovation to do much more in Australia.”

Instead Australia’s craft sector and the revival of home crafts brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic are boosting demand for the local product.

Others are expanding on the basis of renewed consumer support including luxury scarf maker Zauber Knitwear and Cashmere Connections, both of Victoria and NSW’s Nundle Woollen Mill.

But when the largest mill in Australia in Bendigo struggles to employ 100, this is a sector where there is still a lot of room for growth.

Picture: GOR Woollen Mill

@AuManufacturing’s editorial series – Celebrating Australian Made – is brought to you with the support of the Australian Made Campaign Ltd, licensor of the Australian Made logo. For more information about using the logo, visit this link.

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