Wool aplenty in Hamilton

05 Mar, 2013 03:00 PM
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Jackie O'Brien in the Hamilton wool studio
Jackie O'Brien in the Hamilton wool studio

LOCATED at Hamilton, the heart of the wool growing district, is wool shop Hazel Green run by Jackie O'Brien.

Hazel Green, which can be best described as a design studio with retail space, has been operating for the past 3.5 years providing visitors with the opportunity to learn more about Merino wool and the benefits of working with the fibre.

Ms O'Brien grew up on a property south of Hamilton, where her parents ran sheep and cattle.

She was one of the women of wool in 2012.

Her passion for Merino wool stems from growing up on a farm as well as her grandmother's love for knitting and cross-stitching.

Her passion and love for wool is worn on her sleeve in more ways than one with the Woolmark symbol she has tattooed on her upper arm.

"I started selling my wool products at markets and I had a pop up store which was well received in the community," she said.

"From there I opened Hazel Green where the focus is to encourage people to work with Merino wool.

"I've got some products for sale as well as some samples and I also hold classes where I teach people how to make things."

Merino wool sales at Hazel Green show a positive future for the industry with local regulars as well as shoppers from Melbourne purchasing balls of wool.

Ms O'Brien said nothing beats Merino wool and there will be a shift back to people using more of the fibre.

"Wool is a fibre for the future because it's environmentally friendly, has longevity and is biodegradable," she said.

"When people say wool is itchy that just means it's not Merino wool.

"There will a shift back to using items that the last in the world that we currently live in.

"The consumer does need to be educated more about wool and people need to change their thinking about wool, there's much more to it than just a wooly jumper."

One of Ms O'Brien's ambitions is to impress upon young designers the importance of working with wool.

She spoke last year with the Latrobe University textile students about working with wool as a fibre for the future.

"It's important to get young people to love the fibre," she said.

"There needs to be more focus on wool at the tertiary stage of design.

"We want to impress upon them that the process starts with them otherwise the consumer misses out."

As a means of getting the Merino wool message out there she will continue to increase the talks she give on wool to textile students as well as knitters and spinners.

Ms O'Brien and designer Valerie Little are the conveners of the Australasian Young Designer Wool Awards held at Hamilton Sheepvention.

The pair run and help judge the eight fashion parades and this year the percentage of wool in the garments entered has increased to 80 per cent.

"We want this year's entrants to use wool in an innovative way," she said.

"It's important they think about wool a fibre for the future and as such work with more natural products."

At the Australian Sheep & Wool Show this year, Ms O'Brien will also be judging the commercial knitwear section.

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