It is not your typical location for a wool mill. Located close to the state’s tourist highway with local fibre becoming of increasing interest to visitors, Nick and Isabel see opportunity in being part of the tourist trail. Indeed, the renowned food credentials of the area prove that the locals are good at bespoke, gourmet products.
The yarn produced at the mill is exactly that. Using only natural colours from selected local farms, Nick and Isabel showcase the best Australian fibre products. They produce a range of yarns in wool and alpaca blends and are famous for their on-trend chunky yarns. Some of their product is hyperlocal, sourced from their own alpaca, farmed on site and available for photo shoots with adoring customers.
We were invited to participate in the making of the mill’s latest yarn collaboration, with local wool farm Tarndwarncoort: ‘The Henry’. This chunky 14ply yarn combines the silkiness of white alpaca with the strength and loftiness of Polwarth wool. We helped out where we could, probably making Nick and Isabel’s job harder! We followed the making of the yarn from cleaning the wool and alpaca, blending, spinning the individual threads and plying into the finished yarn. Here’s a look at what we got up to:
You get the sense that the recently opened mill has begun to find its rhythm. Isabel and Nick have worked hard at fine tuning all of the machinery to produce a premium, unique product. Nick puts this down to a willingness to play and experiment. They are willing to try any fibre combinations that come to hand. This commitment to the machinery is matched by business acumen and a clarity of goals. Isabel’s drawn from her business background and pure grit to see their vision come to light.
The mill is committed to efficiency of resources. Nick and Isabel are “not Greenies” but the lack of access to mains water, sewerage or regular rubbish collection means that every decision weighed against its impact on the land. The farm makes use of low waste, low resource use and positive impact solutions. No dyes or chemicals are used in the mill so waste water can entirely be reused on site. All of the water used on farm and in the mill is collected rainwater. Any fibre waste is resourcefully reused as a felted product or in the garden. Incredibly, their 3kW solar system comfortably covers the farm and mill’s energy needs – this is less energy than the average 2 person family uses!
Nick and Isabel have improved the farmland since its previous use as a horse farm and dairy. The soil was compacted and prone to flood when Nick and Isabel moved in. Their implementation of lower stocking rates, paddock rotation of the alpacas, rest for the soil and planting of native vegetation plots has meant that the pasture is now spongy and soft. The alpaca, both suri and huacaya, were happy to come up to us and show off their lovely locks. Great Ocean Road Mill alpaca are bred for dense (2kg) fleece in a range of colours. Keeping them company are two visiting merino sheep, one black. Historically unwanted, coloured sheep are invaluable to mills working with coloured fibre.
The mill’s standard product is a semi-worsted yarn. They also stock rovings, batts and felt products. Excitingly, they have just finished a trial worsted yarn, using carded and combed fibre from Cashmere Connections.
Great Ocean Road Mill produce their own product and take yarn commissions. You can buy their products online and at select retailers. Catch Isabel and Nick at most of the big fibre markets. The mill is open to visitors and with a little notice and you can organise a tour.
Product – Semi-worsted yarns, rovings, batts and felt
Maximum Capacity – 3,000kg/year
Min Order – 1kg (note that there will be a minimum loss of 65g for each run plus more depending on cleanliness)
Max Order – 120kg (larger orders will be considered on request)
Ideal Order Size – 5-20kg
Staple Lengths – 7-15cm
Lead time Required for Orders – Winter – 4 weeks; Summer – 2 weeks.
Processing Time – 10 hours of machine time
Current Fibre Types Processed – wool, alpaca and mohair.
Prototyping Fibre Types Requests – all natural fibres welcome
Yarn Price – $24-25/kg alpaca and blends
Restrictions – No dyes, natural fibres only
Water Use – all water collected and reused onsite
Waste Water Impacts – all water collected and reused onsite. Improvements made to soil lead to less runoff and greater retention.
Energy Supply: >95% onsite solar, plus gas.
Area – 8 hectares (20 acres)
Stock – 19 alpaca, 2 merino + 3 agistment alpaca
Own hay as feed
Use no chemicals or soil additives
Nick and Isabel
Phone: +61 (0) 458 717 260
Address: 1580 Cobden-Warrnambool Road
Ecklin South, Victoria, 3265