Notes on Finnish wool
July 18, 2021
Finnish wool is getting more and more press since a few years. What exactly is Finnish wool and what goes into its processing from fibre to yarn?
Finnish sheep and Finnsheep — what’s the difference?
When talking about Finnish wool it’s easy to get mixed up with terminology: when speaking about Finnsheep and their wool, the wool comes specifically from Finnsheep, which is a distinct breed native to Finland. In addition to Finnsheep, two other Finnish breeds—Kainuu Grey and Åland sheep—are also bred in Finland, along with foreign breeds such as rygja, dorset and texel and mixed breeds.
Often wool yarn spun in Finland includes wool from more than one breed. The term Finnish wool refers to this type of wool (and consequently yarn) in which the wool may be from any of the breeds that are found in Finland.
“Made in Finland”
All wool yarn that is spun in Finland is of course not made with Finnish wool: wool from abroad is also widely used, and its origin can be Norway, Great Britain or New Zealand, to give a few examples.
A yarn that’s made with imported wool may be called “Finnish yarn” when it’s made in Finland and when the domestic content in the product’s production chain reaches a sufficient level: in the case of the Finnish Key Flag logo, for example, the required domestic content is 50%. Domestic content takes the whole production chain into account, not just the raw material, so for example spinning and dyeing increase the domestic content of a yarn when the raw material is imported.
Finnish wool in the press
Finnish wool has gotten a lot of press in the recent years (YLE 3/12/2019 in Finnish only, Iltalehti 11/4/2020 in Finnish only) and attention has been paid to the fact that about half of all Finnish wool is thrown away and not used for yarn or anything else even though the material itself would be good to use. One reason for this is that in past years breeders have been paid amounts for wool that were simply not sufficient, taking into account the fact that the wool needs to be cleaned and sorted by the breeder, therefore making selling wool unprofitable.
The press coverage has contributed to new people discovering Finnish wool, and positive developments regarding the use of Finnish wool can be seen: knitters especially have shown more and more interest towards Finnish wool yarns. At this moment, wool yarn made with Finnish wool are available from many Finnish yarn brands including Tukuwool (Titityy), Vuonue, Tolvilan Kartanon lammastila, Pirtin Kehräämö and Novita.
This interest towards Finnish wool also shows in the industry: in 2021 a well-known and traditional weaving mill called Lapuan Kankurit announced their plans to make use of Finnish wool in industrial production in Lapua, Finland (Suomen Tekstiili ja muoti 16.2.2021, in Finnish only). Until now most yarn spun with Finnish wool have been thicker knitting yarns suitable for hand knitting, and thinner industrial yarns have not been easily available for local textile companies to use.
The good press, stronger demand and ever-growing offering of yarns made with Finnish wool is a very positive thing, and not just for consumers! Using Finnish wool benefits the whole supply chain from breeders to spinning mills, dyers, yarn companies and companies making products with wool.
Ethical and local production
Some years ago merino wool and the mulesing procedure used on merino sheep got a lot of press coverage, making many pay more attention to the kind of wool used in their garments and the wool’s origin. The interest towards Finnish wool is part of this ethical trend (which I hope is not just a trend but a permanent shift in thinking!), and it also adds ecological factors and local production to the matter at hand.
Finnish wool is a great choice for consumers looking for locally produced materials because the production chain can all take place in Northern Europe: Finnish wool has to be washed in the UK as there are no facilities to wash big amounts of wool in Finland, but all other stages of production—spinning, dyeing, packaging etc—can be done in Finland. Finally, if not noticeable before, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed global supply chains and their fragility to consumers and businesses alike, and Finnish wool provides a local alternative to production chains that span continents and that rely on imported wool.