FLORENCE — Australian wool growers want to prove that wool isn’t so prickly.

As a result of a national research project financed by Australian Wool Innovation, a new woolen yarn called Fine Tip Cashwool is being produced in collaboration with Biellese spinner Zegna Baruffa.

Fine Tip Cashwool, which has a soft hand, uses Western Australian wool that is shorn in March — Australia’s fall and six months ahead of the regular spring shearing season, which typically starts in September. Although shorn earlier, the wool retains its strength and when spun feels more comfortable.

John Stanton, a representative of the Department of Agriculture of Western Australia, said the project had been under way since the late Nineties. It was launched to find a way to produce wool that doesn’t have a scratchy, prickly feel.

“When we spun it up and tested it on consumers, they loved it,” Stanton said. “We are truly adding value to a product by producing it in this way.”

Stanton said if the fiber was successful, it could help repair Australia’s suffering wool industry.

“It’s a logical answer to a lot of problems,” Stanton said. “When we told farmers about it, they were happy. It doesn’t involve the cost of new machinery, just a change in shearing time. One of the farmers said to us, ‘I wish I had known about this last year. I wouldn’t have gone out of [farming] sheep.'”

Massimiliano Zegna Baruffa, chief executive officer of 156-year-old mill Zegna Baruffa, said he was keen to show clients the new fiber.

“It’s something different,” he said. “Our clients will really like the comfort factor, so we don’t think it will be hard to sell.”

This story first appeared in the July 11, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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