For our Merino this means selecting the very best farmers in New Zealand to supply our extra fine wool. The wool must adhere to strict specifications not only to the quality of the fleece but also the welfare of the sheep, sustainability and protection of the farm land. In terms of the quality of the finished garment the most important specification is the fibre fineness and length. Each fine Merino strand must be between 18-19 microns in diameter. If you compare this with the 90 microns of human hair you can see why Merino is so soft. Each smooth strand of merino ensures it’s soft to the touch and makes a finished garment perfect to wear next to the skin as opposed to other breeds that would have a higher micron count and therefore create a rougher even itchy feeling when worn.
To ensure the finest end product possible the raw material is sourced a year before the garments creation.
Sourcing the fleece is just the beginning of a very long journey, after ensuring the Merino meets our strict list of requirements it will then be washed. This removes the oils and dirt accumulated over the time it’s taken to grow; getting this right means the weight of the fleece is halved. The wool can then be spun into yarn and dyed. We ensure each dye we use conforms to the highest standard and certified free of any harmful chemicals, this involves sending a cutting of every colour for stringent testing. Moisture will then be added back into the yarn and re-wound to ensure there is no distortion when used on the knitting machines.
Our John Smedley’s Sea Island cotton has also been painstakingly sourced, including everything from the climate it’s grown in, its strength, to how fine the finished yarn will be. After being processed and then spun the cotton is dyed in house at our factory. Technicians create a “recipe” for each new shade which as with our Merino dyes will be rigorously tested for chemicals, the effects of washing, perspiration and wear. Only after passing all these tests is the colour approved.
When it comes to our luxury blends our cashmere is sourced from the Alashan Mountains in Mongolia renowned for the highest quality fleece. As with our Merino, superior standards are assured, the animals have an extremely clean, natural environment and receive the highest level of care by their owners. This not only leads to an ultra soft yarn but also a whiteness to the fleece not always found in other cashmeres, lending itself perfectly to the absorption of colour in the dying process. When blended with John Smedley’s Sea Island cotton the super fine cashmere and cotton fibres work perfectly together, “where our cotton is already extremely soft to the touch the added luxury of cashmere is the icing on the cake” says Tim.
After these initial processes it will then take another 35 stages before a fully formed garment emerges. This includes knitting the garment panels and trims, seaming, button sewing, hand finishing, pressing and numerous quality inspections to name just a few. Each stage involves the experienced hands of our talented craftsmen; it’s this human touch at every level that makes our knitwear so good. Creating just a fraction of the amount of garments a year compared to mass producing manufacturers, we make timeless, hand finished styles made with the unwavering support from everyone involved whether they be in New Zealand, Mongolia or here at our Derbyshire factory.