With the patterns of consumption that we in western society have become used to, it’s easy to forget all the work and all the people that are involved in making an item of clothing. This is something Woolpower wants to change. We want to highlight the people that have manufactured your very garment. All the production that creates that warm, durable garment, which becomes your loyal companion on different adventures, takes place in our factory in Östersund.
ENTIRE PRODUCTION UNDER ONE ROOF
One of the unique things about Woolpower is that we have an unusually short production chain, with the majority of production taking place under one roof. We actually manufacture our garments, from the yarn to the finished product, at our factory in Östersund in Jämtland, Sweden. We have done this ever since 1969 when the company was founded. In this way, we maintain good control of the entire production and we can ensure that we deliver what we promise.
The entire production is like a chain in which the people are the critical links that hold the chain together — all Woolpower people are equally important. Our knitting operators ensure that the knitting machines work properly and that the knitted material that comes out is of the right quality. The fabric is then sent for preparation where it is washed, shaped and cut into pieces with the right fit and shape. Thereafter, the garments are sewn together and the seamstress checks that each garment has Woolpower’s high standard of quality. Finally, the products are packaged and arrive in our warehouse before being sent to our customers.
Some 200 tonnes of merino wool are used every year to produce our garments. The wool is dyed and spun in Europe before it is delivered to our factory as finished rolls of yarn. Once with us, the first stage is the knitting. Our unique material Ullfrotté Original is knitted in our knitting hall, on specially made knitting machines.
Our special knitting method was developed to enhance the properties of the wool and create highly functional garments. Precision is needed in the machine settings to synchronise the knitting frequency to create Ullfrotté Original. Wool is a living material and getting the fabric completely perfect is no simple task. Sometimes problems arise that need to be dealt with by our technicians and machine operators. This may be something like a worn-down needle that creates lines in the material, or fibres that are too long and stick out from the yarn and get tangled. If either of these happen the material does not get approved, and we cannot use it in our products. But since the material still has its functionality, we sell it by the metre in our factory outlet store so that creative people can sew their own clothes with it.
In order to make the yarn work better in the machines we need more moisture in the air. By adding steam in the roof, we get air moisture of between 53% to 60% which prevents any static arising during the knitting process. Our technicians and machine operators keep an eye on things constantly to check whether any faults need fixing.
Seams are the weakest link in the fabric and that is where there is the greatest risk of the material breaking. Which is why most of our garments are constructed from round-knitted, tube-like material, with no lengthwise seams. Even the sleeve and leg cuffs are knitted as one piece. And the fact that we round-knit the material also means we get less waste material. Additionally, with fewer seams the garments become softer and the risk of chafing is minimised.
Our knitting hall also contains about 35 machines that knit different models of socks around the clock. Our sock machines are able to knit different patterns into the sock. To knit a sock with a certain appearance, our technicians programme how the needles need to move, and which yarn needs to be used for which section.
People often experience that their woollen clothes shrink when washed. We don’t want that to happen when you do your washing, so instead we wash all knitted material in our factory at 60 degrees. Just with normal water, nothing else. The washing shrinks the material by about 20% to 22% and stabilises it. This provides us with a softer, more pliable material that is easier to work with. After washing the material, we tumble dry it and when the pieces have dried, we shape them using heat and steam on metal forms in our moulding machines.
Our moulding machines are called Clara and Calle. Calle shapes all of our torso fabric like a huge mangle, and Clara shapes some 200,000 legs and sleeves per year with the help of different forms. Some of the forms used today were also used when we were called Vinetta and made nylon tights more than 50 years ago.
After the material has been heated up and shaped, it needs to be left for a day before it is time to cut out the pieces that will then be sewn together into garments. We do our best to use as much of the fabric as possible from every tube. The tubes are placed in layers, and the weight of the material determines how many layers can fit in the spreader machine at once. To create as little waste as possible, the length is set based on the size that is to be made. Then each tube is marked up using garment patterns. At this stage, the fabric is checked once again and we mark up any scrap, lines or other defects in the fabric. Once the tube has been laid out it is then moved to the cutting table.
To get even and straight edges throughout the entire tube when using such a soft material as Ullfrotté Original, the whole tube must be cut through in one go. To achieve this, we use cutting moulds and a press. The cutting moulds come in different shapes and sizes, depending on what is being made. The moulds have a sharp jagged edge that lies against the material. They are placed out on the fabric like cake forms and are then pushed into the press. This is repeated until the entire tube has been used and the pieces are ready to be sewn into garments.
Even though we optimise the material so that there is as little wastage as possible, there is always some leftover material. We press this together to make felt. We then make products such as insoles and sitting pads from the felt. Taking advantage of the waste material and creating other usable products is both smart and sustainable. We also sell the felt material that you can buy to make your own products.
Pull-out: Feel free to share the products you create on social media using the hash tag #woolpowerDIY. We think it’s great to see how our material is used and would love you to inspire others to be creative.
We have nine sewing lines in total and our seamstresses are divided into teams that work with different products. Some of them sew jackets and vests, while others sew accessories, long johns or zipped turtlenecks. Nobody is paid per item and quality is always prioritised over quantity. If a seamstress notices any fault in the process, he or she stops production to correct the fault.
In a traditional textile factory, each machine is manned by a seamstress who sews only one kind of seam or detail all the time, and then sends the garment along to the next person who sews a different seam. This often leads to a very monotonous and stressful working environment.
Here at Woolpower we’ve changed all that. The person doing the sewing moves from machine to machine and acts as their own quality controller, with the support of the quality standards we have established in the factory. Moving between the machines also creates a better working environment for the seamstresses as they get a more natural variation in their work.
So, it is the same seamstress that sews your entire garment, from the first to the final seam. Once the entire garment has been sewn, the seamstress checks and approves it by signing the garment with their own name. That’s why the name tag is both a quality seal, as well as way to help our customers understand that behind every garment is a person. A person with a great deal of knowledge about their craft.
If any kind of defect is noticed, the seamstress simply cuts off their name tag and the garment is sold at a reduced price, as an imperfect product in our factory outlet store. It all helps to prevent throwing away material unnecessarily.
When the garments have been sewn and are ready they go to the packing department. That’s where the clothes are packed into their boxes and marked with the right labels before being sent to warehousing.
Finally, the clothes arrive at the warehouse, from where products are sent to customers around the world.