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From farm to floor

August 03, 2021

How much do you know about your local wool, and would you use it to make rugs? Denna Jones talks to Carol Sebert, President of Creative Matters, about the benefits of Canadian wool

Creative Matters will exhibit at COVER Connect New York at The Altman Building in Manhattan on 25-27 September 2021. Register to attend.

‘In all honesty, I’d just never thought of using it before.’ The ‘it’ referred to by Carol Sebert, President of Toronto-based rug company Creative Matters is Canadian wool. She sounds surprised, perhaps because as she acknowledges, despite more than thirty years at the helm of Canada’s premier luxury rug company, it’s only in the last year that Canadian wool has come onto her radar. Canadian wool is now a featured Creative Matters material along with New Zealand and Tibetan wools, and is the star of the company’s capsule collection with The Campaign for Wool.

Highland rug, in 100% Canadian wool, Creative Matters

The idea of using Canadian wool was sparked during a 2020 meeting held between Sebert and Matthew Rowe, CEO of The Campaign for Wool Canada, to discuss the annual Canadian Wool Week. Rowe suggested a collaboration to use Canadian wool for a new rug collection. Sebert was ‘instantly attracted to the idea’ and to the opportunity to work with The Campaign—a global intiative of HRH The Prince of Wales. The Campaign promotes wool as a sustainable resource, engages and educates the public about wool, and lobbies for increased uptake of wool across various industries.

Hampton rug, sumac weave in 100% Canadian wool, Creative Matters

The capsule collection of three rugs celebrates the tenth anniversary of The Campaign for Wool. Designed by Sarah Richardson, the collection features rugs made with wool produced by Briggs & Little Woolen Mills Ltd. in the province of New Brunswick. In operation for 164 years, Briggs & Little is one of the few remaining mills in Canada.

Canadian sheep

Sebert made the journey of some 1,000 km from Toronto to see the operation in person. ‘It’s been really interesting. I’ve learned so much about wool in the last year. It was so fun to watch sheep being sheared and learn about grading wool.’

Creative Matters ordered 1,100 pounds of single-ply natural white yarn. There was a period of experimentation with the wool at the Creative Matters ateliers in Nepal and India. ‘The Canadian wool is a thicker denier [than we normally use],’ says Sebert, and required technique modification. The dyers reported that the wool’s absorption was greater than that of other wool fibres, which when combined with its ‘supple’ hand yielded rich colours and luxurious textures. Sebert laughs when told of the comment made by Rachel Atkinson of Daughter Of A Shepherd yarn company that the ‘terroir’ of a great yarn can be sensed in the same way as that of a fine wine. She’s quick to explain her laughter is delight that finally our industry and consumers are coming around to the idea that wool deserves to be evaluated along similar lines, not only to describe wool’s artisanal character but to validate pricing that’s fair to the producer.

Canadian wool in production

Sebert is keen to ensure the point is made that using Canadian wool is not an economic protectionist move. ‘We’re in a global economy; it’s really important to keep all kinds of industries going. People in India and Nepal need the [rugrelated] work and our support.’ Most Canadian wool is exported to China. ‘Our wool is an under-utilised resource,’ she says, ‘[the situation has] demoralised the industry, so we hope this campaign shows off what Canadian wool can do.’ Near future plans include working with a Canadian hand-tufting mill to test whether Canadian wool is suitable for a tufted wool rug collection.

Canadian wool in production

The hoped-for outcome of the Creative Matters and The Campaign for Wool collaboration is recognition of Canadian wool as a global luxury product. A portion of each sale from the collection supports The Canadian Wool Council—the non-profit implementing partner of The Campaign for Wool.

Creative Matters will exhibit at COVER Connect New York at The Altman Building in Manhattan on 25-27 September 2021. Register to attend.

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