Interview with Lucinda Bird from Benridge Woolworks
Following our series of meet the producer, we spoke to Lucinda Bird from Benridge Woolworks. Based in County Durham, they sell wholesale specially selected wool and bespoke, handmade needle felts. They support British farmers by buying wool at a fair price, which we can then spin knowing we are supporting something good.
We use her fibre on our Worsted, Woollen and Longdraw Spinning Workshop. People are always fascinated by different sheep breeds and how the different fibres affect how you spin and what you can produce. We love small producers so we are very interested to hear her thoughts.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Have you always been a farmer?
I’m a British farmer based in County Durham but I’ve got a passion for all rural business and I like setting up enterprises from scratch.
So you started Benridge Woodwork’s in 2020, what led you to set up your own mill?
The pandemic stopped my equestrian business and I could not bear the thought of locking down without progression and enterprise so I processed my first fleece and needle felted a few first animals. I was hooked from there and really saw potential in the product.
How did the pandemic affect your fledgling business?
With everyone and everything locked down it was the prime opportunity to set this enterprise up. I doubt I’ll see one like this again. It gave me time to focus on getting there a lot faster than I would have before. Also many people took up woolcraft as something to do during lockdown.
In recent times farmers have been led to think of their sheets fibre as worthless, with so little paid for it. Do you think that’s starting to change?
No I don’t think it is started to change no matter how much you prove. If you’re not large enough to go into the political side or be a massive player in the wool world getting millions of fleeces through your hands a national change is difficult. That is reality. However, my dream is to change it. Ive managed to change it on a local level. If I can expand so much on a fair-trade way, work with many other fair-trade enterprises to bring back the market and seek a way to create a voice in politics regarding the green policies, yes, it can all come back very quickly.
I’m a spinner who doesn’t have the time or space to process fleeces but wants to make informed choices about the fibre I buy, what advice could you give me and others like me?
My advice to you if that even if you did have the time to process your fleece it takes a very long time. There is a lot of wool in a fleece and the hand carders painstakingly process them lock for lock. For the investment to purchase processed wool not only can you spin more and save a lot of time, you can buy a lot more which means that you are really helping the situation. When a lot of spinners can do this there will be a huge shift and progression in the market.
How can we as spinners support your work?
Share our social media, purchase from us where you can because we are British and fair-trade to farmers. However, we also need to support you so send us your work so we create more social media and positivity. We need to showcase all the finished products, then the public will understand a handspun knitted jumper far more than they will showcasing a carded wool batt.
To order fibre from small producers and local farmers, contact Lucinda at https://www.benridgewoolworks.co.uk
A big thanks to Lucinda for talking to us about her work and were looking forward to seeing what she does next!
For those interested in learning to spin, check out our beginners spinning classes -