Help us build our social enterprise and turn Merrick Scottish Blackface Knitwear into a brand that supports farmers, communities and rural businesses in southwest Scotland.
Where It All Began
In autumn 2021 the Galloway & Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere launched its Blackface wool pilot project, aiming to explore new uses for wool from an iconic Scottish breed at a time when the market value of Blackface fleece had reached historic lows.
Our project began as a conversation about what could be done to support local hill farmers and rural heritage while raising awareness of how versatile Blackface wool can be; it quickly developed into something with the potential to support Scotland’s circular economy and Sustainable Development Goals.
Within six months the project won funding from the Blackface Breeders’ Association who were enthusiastic about the potential for increasing and diversifying the use of Blackface fleece. British Wool helped the project source 1,000kg of finest grade fleece produced within the Biosphere region. We created and tested a 100% Blackface yarn, then designed a range of prototype knitted garments.
We brought in cross-sector expertise, including British Wool, Stoll GB’s Knit Design Centre, and brand innovation hub Knitlab North. These collaborations produced a knitted gilet, jumper, cardigan, and coat, all beautifully hand linked and finished, all made from 100% Scottish Blackface wool. The undyed examples show the natural colour of the wool – a warm, creamy beige – and others are dyed a rich, sooty black.
One of the UK’s leading knitwear designers, Jo Storie, worked with the Biosphere team to transform our ideas into this new high-end range of knitted outerwear garments. Speaking about the potential of Blackface wool, Jo said:
“Blackface sheep are the most numerous pure breeds in Britain, with the vast majority being found in Scotland. They are known for being a hardy breed, able to withstand the elements, which is clearly a selling point for the end use of their fleece. They produce a fibre that is not only renewable and sustainable, but also strong and durable, so stitches and structures are clean and well defined - this opens a lot of possibilities in terms of design. The wool is also thermoregulating, insulating and naturally biodegradable, so it’s an obvious choice for clothing and outerwear.”
British Wool invited the Blackface wool project to join their Scottish Showcase at the Royal Highland Show 2023 where our first prototype garments appeared alongside luxury brands in the inaugural Flock to Fashion Show. Shepherd Kyle Thomson was one of the models. Kyle said:
“It is brilliant to see a product that was previously seen as little to no value being turned into comfortable high-end clothing.
“Not only does the wool create incredibly stylish clothes, but it has a low environmental impact due to the way Blackface sheep are traditionally farmed. It is eco-friendly as it is a natural fibre with a plentiful supply in Scotland.”
Next Steps - from prototype to market
We want to combine our robust business plan with the passion of partners and supporters who have been following the Blackface wool pilot through its two-year development. A social enterprise will take our garments to market via a model which re-invests profits from sales into projects which benefit people and nature in southwest Scotland.
Our Crowdfunder campaign will help us create our first collection for general sale, with an aspirational stretch target to extend the range.
We created the brand name Merrick – Scottish Blackface Knitwear which reflects the breed and our rugged landscape; Merrick is the highest mountain in south Scotland and Blackface sheep have roamed our hills for centuries.
Four designs will be available in 4 sizes (S, M, L, and XL).
To Fit Chest
Small UK 34-36 / 86-91cm
Medium UK 36-38 / 91-96cm
Large UK 38-40 / 96-102cm
X- Large UK 42-44 / 106-112cm
They will be available to purchase online and can be sent to customers worldwide. All products are guaranteed 100% Blackface wool sourced from farms located in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere. The first production run of 12 of each garment will be offered exclusively as rewards through our Crowdfunder campaign. As with our initial purchase of fleece we are proud to be able to offer a higher price per kilo of fleece, meaning that local farmers will again see a higher return for their wonderful product.
Why support this Crowdfunder campaign?
Your contribution will help us achieve our campaign target of £12.5K which will take our garments from production to sales, a process that includes:
- Professional photography for our marketing campaigns and website
- 6 months of social media, marketing and promotional support
- Branded Printing/Artwork for packaging
- Creation of a market sample garment set for trade shows and exhibitions
- Programming days for factory and micro-production
Everyone supporting the campaign in amounts large or small is also contributing to
- Increased profitability for local farmers - the Biosphere pays above market value for the fleece we buy, money which goes direct to the farmers
- A social enterprise model through which 100% of profits are reinvested into projects which support communities, conservation, education and climate action
- Changing perspectives on the value and uses of Scottish Blackface wool and the place of textiles in the circular economy
The first to order Merrick 100% Blackface wool garments - 12 of each are available will get an exclusive early bird special price.
100% Blackface Sheep yarn (25g x 2 skeins) which have been produced exclusively for the campaign and will not be on general sale.
An exclusive Bleat, Blether and Brunch (only 10 tickets available) with guest speaker at multi award-winning Nithbank Country Estate in January 2024.
A one-of-a-kind black jumper (size M), one of Merrick's original prototype garments not for general sale and a huge part of our origin story, with an Argyle-inspired pattern. Includes a certificate of authentication.
A one-day guided walk for 4 people up Merrick, the highest summit in southern Scotland, led by Biosphere Guide Christy Miles (Way of the Wild).
Our Social Side
Our project has engaged small flock owners and those working in the creative arts through The Wool Gathering, a platform which builds social connections through a shared love of Scottish wool. Membership of our public Facebook group passed 400 in summer 2023, with local Wool Gatherers attending regular ‘Bleat n’ Blether’ events to catch up with progress in the Blackface wool pilot and chat about their own creative undertakings. These gatherings have the added benefit of building connections and helping reduce the isolation that so often comes with living and working rurally.
Whether or not you’re able to donate to our Crowdfunder campaign we’d welcome you to join us at The Wool Gathering on Facebook, and please follow #gsabiosphere and #merrickscotland on social media to follow the project through the exciting months ahead.
We hope you have enjoyed the story of our Blackface wool pilot so far, and that you will help us reach the next chapter by supporting this Crowdfunder campaign. As a regional organisation with international reach, the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere is well placed to share these themes of rural culture, environmental balance, and how imagination and collaboration can contribute to a better economic future for all.
Thank you in advance to anyone who is able to support, share, or donate.
For any questions about our Crowdfunder or Merrick - Scottish Blackface Knitwear please get in touch with project lead Marie: [email protected]