Knitting makes a comeback, Aussie wool sews benefits

About an hour’s drive from Tamworth in NSW, Nundle is a small town with just under 300 inhabitants. But each year, thousands of people flock there to visit Nundle Woollen Mill and witness woollen yarns being made on machines dating back to the early 1900s.

Opened in 2000, it is one of only a few mills left in Australia. Nick and Kylie Bradford bought the enterprise in 2007 and have expanded it into a vibrant manufacturing business and popular tourist destination.

Nundle Woollen Mill is one of only a handful remaining mills in Australia.
Image: Nundle Woollen Hill

“Each year we usually we get 30,000 visitors, but the numbers have grown during the global COVID pandemic to about 40,000 due to domestic tourists heading this way to escape the cities and heavily populated coastal areas,” Nick said.

“While COVID has been challenging for many businesses, our hand knitting yarns have been in high demand, with online sales doubling since 2019. This is partly driven by people increasingly interested in authentic Australian made products, but a large part of the rise in demand is due to people finding a renewed love of the crafts of their grandparents and picking up knitting needles for the first time during lockdown.

The woollen mill has historic tools dating back to the early 1900s
Image: Nundle Woollen Mill

British gold medal Olympic diver Tom Daley, who has gained notoriety across the world by knitting to relax during breaks in competition, exemplifies how a new generation is taking up knitting. Being young, sporty, cool and male, he shows how knitting can be for everyone.

Tasmanian woolgrowers, the Youl family, supply the Bradfords with their wool, which is then scoured at EP Robinson in Geelong. From there, the wool makes its way north to Nundle where it is transformed into an extensive range of contemporary yarns.

Sheep moving through bushland
Image: Nundle Woollen Mill

Having its own dye-house, Nundle Woollen Mill manufactures each of its yarns in about 40 colours, making it one of the best colour selections of dyed yarns in the country.

Did you know?

Knitting is good for relaxing
Knitters have long acknowledged amongst themselves that knitting is an excellent form of therapy – the repetition is meditative and fuses function with therapy, improving the mental health and wellbeing for those who practice this ancient craft. Science backs this up: A study conducted by Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute found that knitting lowers the heart rate, by an average of 11 beats per minute, and induces an ‘enhanced state of calm’.

This article first appeared in the September 2021 edition of AWI’s Beyond the Bale magazine.

Australian Wool Innovation

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