Wool Development Centre creates Merino fabric innovations

8 September 2014

The Wool Development Centre (WDC) set up only 12 months ago in Shandong Provence, China, has already been successful at developing innovative, high-value woven fabrics produced from Australian Merino wool.

The Woolmark Company’s Global Product Development and Commercialisation Manager Jimmy Jackson, woolgrower Penny King from Walcha, and the Nanshan Group's Wang Shen
The Woolmark Company’s Global Product Development and Commercialisation Manager Jimmy Jackson, woolgrower Penny King from Walcha, and the Nanshan Group's Wang Shen during a visit to the Wool Development Centre by a group of about 40 Australian woolgrowers on an Elders-run tour of China. PHOTO: The Land

Co-funded by The Woolmark Company along with one of China’s leading woollen textile enterprises, The Nanshan Group, the WDC also acts as a significant training base to foster professional talent in the wool textile industry.

The Woolmark Company’s technical team, based in Shanghai, has worked alongside The Nanshan Group and used the WDC to undertake numerous trials for fabric development, based on marketing trends. As a result, the trials have been able to successfully produce sample fabrics quickly and affordably, allowing for major breakthroughs in fabric development.

“Since the Wool Development Centre opened last October it has enabled our design and product development team, working closely with The Woolmark Company’s technical team, to not only swap and develop ideas, but to very quickly check them out,” said General Factory Director of Nanshan's Fabric and Garment division Mr Cao Yiru.

“Over the past six months or so, many new innovative wool woven fabrics have been developed, and the best of which we are planning to offer commercially.”

The Woolmark Company Global Product Development and Commercialisation Manager Jimmy Jackson added how The Woolmark Company was pleased with the results from its collaborations with the Nanshan Group at the WDC.

“It is an important R&D and training base for The Woolmark Company,” Mr Jackson said. “With the support of R&D at the WDC and the delivery of innovative Merino wool products, the natural benefits and properties of Merino wool will reach a wider consumer audience.”

New fabric development

OPTIMjam fabrics

OPTIMjam fabric

With special fibre treatment technology, Merino wool fibres are treated to enhance the fibre’s elasticity. After optimising the spinning, weaving and finishing processes, the fabrics made from these elastic wool fibres have enhanced water and wind resistant properties and are also machine washable, without any chemical treatments.

OPTIMjam fabrics were promoted in the Spring/Summer 2015 edition of The Woolmark Company’s The Wool Lab, released in January, and since then Nanshan has received very positive feedback, particularly from the sports/outdoor market, with major brands requesting sample swatches.

Merino Air fabrics

Merino Air fabric

This fabric is made from high-elastic Merino fibres blended with normal Merino wool. During the special finishing treatment, due to the shrinkage of fibres in the yarns, the end product has ultimate bulk and softness, with a luxurious handfeel. The fabric has a unique style which is full of stretch and texture.

The response to Merino Air fabric has been excellent, with customers from China, USA, France, Italy, Germany and Turkey requesting samples, and total sales of the fabric of more than 20,000 metres.

Machine-washable wool shirt fabrics

Machine-washable wool shirt fabric

The fabric is made from yarns which have been blended with a special treatment of Merino wool, mercerised Merino and a new type of cellulose fibre. The colours and patterns are classic British-style Scotland checks. The fabrics are machine washable and have a soft, smooth and fluid handle. Spandex fibres can also be added to enhance the natural elasticity.