Image: Blankets: Duetto (blue-beige), Jakala (white-grey), and Sointu (blue-brown). Courtesy of Lapuan Kankurit.
In Lapua, Finland, a tradition that began in 1917 is finding a new expression for a new future. Lapuan Kankurit (which translates as Weavers of Lapua) is aiming for an entirely vertically integrated production line, all the way from fibre collection to finished products.
Image: Classic pocket shawl. Courtesy of Lapuan Kankurit.
Last year, this family business, now in its fourth generation, acquired spinning machines from the shutdown Suupohjan Kehruutehdas factory, expanding the mill in Lapua to house this equipment. Thanks to this, Lapuan Kankurit have been able to begin a completely revolutionary and comprehensive kind of product development with Finnish sheep’s wool.
Image: Finnsheep. Courtesy of Lapuan Kankurit.
Their instinct towards more local production, and to “use the raw material available to us in a responsible and efficient manner,” could not have been more timely. “When we started building a finishing plant and a spinning mill, in 2021, we had no idea of the value they would gain in such a short amount of time. The horrible war that took Europe by surprise has reshaped our field of business once again, as raw materials and energy have become increasingly more expensive and harder to get. The shadow the war has cast has brought to light the vitality of security of supply and the significance of owned production, even more so than the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Image: Installing the newly acquired equipment at the Lapua site. Courtesy of Lapuan Kankurit.
“So far, we have collected the wool from farms ourselves, approximately within 200km radius around Lapua. On top of that, we are currently expanding our wool supply network. We are constantly searching for new farms that can provide us with the wool of either Finnsheep or Kainuu Greys,” they explain.
They have been busy developing their gathering and sorting systems for the Finnsheep wool, working together with the farmers, and ProAgria. Using an ERP system, they are able to monitor the fibres of the incoming wool batches closely, keeping track of their farm of origin.
Image: Developing the Finnsheep project at Lapuan Kankurit. Courtesy of Lapuan Kankurit.
Wool that was previously washed in the UK is now able to be washed on site, and they now have “so much washed wool in our storage that we have been able to begin working on our production trial batches.”
Together with the University of Helsinki’s BioColour project, the team have also been researching the possibilities of using plant dyes on their Finnsheep wool: “At the moment we are testing onions, woad, and willow.”
Image: Grey, white blanket. Courtesy of Lapuan Kankurit.
But, they caution, the project still has some way to go. Lapuan Kankurit are not yet producing single items from Finnsheep wool: ”building an industrial scale production line sets its own demands for the consistent quality of the wool fibre. For us, this means plenty more tests and experiments until the process is fully finished.”
In the meantime, Lapuan Kankurit continues to manufacture fine products from mixed wools, but their Finnsheep project is certainly a space to watch.