The Wool Library – Designing For Breed: Celebrating British Sheep Wool



Zoe  Fletcher has a background in knitwear design and academic research focussing on knit experimentation using natural fibres.  After completing a PhD focussing on British sheep breed fleece characteristics for knitwear design; including creating a comparable database for designers to use to utilise and celebrate more breed-specific and traceable British wool; she wanted to highlight the positive potential connecting regenerative farmers and traceable fibre flocks with a mindful fashion chain.  Designing for breed enables a more conscious and functional way of working with a distinguishable material to suit complex end needs.  She has teamed up with Maria Benjamin and her partner farmer John Atkinson, regenerative farming champions who run multiple ethical businesses based on their Lake District farm, utilising local commodities and skills – from using their Jersey cows milk in their Soap Dairy products, to off-grid accommodation and their rare-breed sheep wool in Lake District Tweed and Wool Library items.  Together they are working from the ground up, to facilitate an educational journey and see how the needs of each user group can be met and satisfied, valuing their skilled input – from farmers, through to designers, producers and end consumers.




This talk is an opportunity to learn more about British sheep breeds and their different wool qualities – Zoe will have yarn samples, data sheets and microscopic images to look at, alongside showing you the story of her British wool research.  There are 72 different pure-breeds of sheep reared across Britain today, but a lot of their fleece is combined in centralised depots and sold with loss of breed identity.  Zoe’s research looked at an alternative in which designers, informed about the individual characteristics of purebred wool, would be able to design for breed type.  As a practice-led investigation, the research reframed the situation as a design problem, and found a resolution in a practical and digital toolkit that enables designers to navigate their breed selection process, looking at desirable characteristics such as handle, colour, and fineness (micron count), through to the cultural geographical heritage of sheep breeds which are integrated to produce new understandings.  The research findings make use of evidence gathered from farmers, spinners, and manufacturers, current scientific data, and knitwear design experience.  


  • Date and time:  Saturday 9 September, 11am
  • Duration:  45 mins – 1 hour
  • Venue:  The Dewars Centre
  • Cost:  £10.00