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THE KNITTY GRITTY

An integral thread in St. John Knits' allure is a proprietary blend of Australian wool and rayon that the company's employees spin in its Southern California production plants.<P>The company owns almost every aspect of the production process from yarn...

An integral thread in St. John Knits’ allure is a proprietary blend of Australian wool and rayon that the company’s employees spin in its Southern California production plants.

This story first appeared in the June 18, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The company owns almost every aspect of the production process from yarn spinning to knitting. A full-time chemist is on hand to monitor the consistency of dye lots.

Wool is purchased years in advance from a select group of Australian farmers who climate control and monitor their sheep’s eating habits and environment. Over 2 million pounds of yarn are twisted and dyed each year, and only 1 in 100 sheep from Australian farms meet St. John standards for wool.

As a result of “controlled frolicking” and premium grazing, the sheep’s wool is evidently cleaner and more likely to yield predictable colors and weights. The raw wool is sent to North Carolina where it is spun. This is the only aspect of the manufacturing process that is not directly under the control of the Grays.

The spun fiber is twisted into the St. John proprietary blend of wool and rayon. The trademark Santana yarn is twisted in a customized manner that gives it a “memory” insuring it rarely wrinkles. Santana yarn is 80 percent wool; the remaining fiber content is rayon. The process also includes an often-meticulous hand-finishing process.