Speaker – Dr Zoe Fletcher of The Woolist

Zoe has always loved wool, knitting and anything crafty! After graduating with a First Class Honours from Manchester School of Art in Textiles Design for Fashion, she went on to specialise in knitwear for an MA in ‘Fashion and the Environment’ at London College of Fashion. After graduating with Distinction, she worked at People Tree and House of Fraser, before moving back up North to work with an alpaca cooperative in Yorkshire, where we blended alpaca and Bluefaced Leicester for yarn and womenswear collections. Zoe gained her PhD from Manchester School of Art in 2018, specialising in British sheep and fibre qualities for knitwear design. Zoe is the founder of The Woolist, an online (and pop-up event) space, which showcases research into British sheep and wool, connects producers, manufacturers and makers, as well as selling products made from breed specific fibres. 

Zoe guest lectures in knit at Manchester School of Art, as well as tutoring postgraduates and undergraduates at MMU and the University of Bolton.

There are 72 different pure-breeds of sheep reared across Britain today, all with unique fleece characteristics, rich heritages, and strong local connections, but a lot of their fleece is combined in centralised depots and sold with loss of breed identity. My research looked at an alternative in which designers, informed about the individual characteristics of purebred wool, would be able to design for breed type. As a practice-led investigation, the research reframed the situation as a design problem, and found a resolution in a practical and digital toolkit that enables designers to navigate their breed selection process, looking at desirable characteristics such as handle, colour, and fineness (micron count), through to the cultural geographical heritage of sheep breeds which are integrated to produce new understandings. The research findings make use of evidence gathered from farmers, spinners, and manufacturers, current scientific data, and knitwear design experience.

Understanding the differences between wools from individual fibre breeds can aid knitwear designers, to heighten garment functionality and aesthetics, and satisfy consumer demand for more authentic, locally traceable garments.

You can find out more about my research at: http://www.thewoolist.co.uk