Wangaratta Woollen Mills, on the site that it is today, was officially opened in August 1923 producing high quality worsted yarns and was soon acknowledged to be the most progressive spinner of high quality knitting yarns, growing to become Australia's largest mainland mill. Since that date, many key changes have taken place which in 1991, resulted in the formation of Australian Country Spinners (ACS) through the merger of Wangaratta Woollen Mills, Cleckheaton and Panda Yarns. In 1998 ACS experienced further growth with the acquisition of Yarra Falls and in 2000 ACS acquired Patons Australia and Shepherd of New Zealand.
Industrial Yarn Division
Australian Country Spinners is the largest worsted spinner in Australia producing a wide range of industrial yarn qualities in natural or dyed form for machine knitting and weaving. Using premium quality Australian merino and crossbred wools, the modern manufacturing facility creates a range of single and two-fold yarn counts from 9Nm to 30 Nm for use by Australian and international clients.
Yarra Falls Spinning was acquired in 1998 to add further strength to the industrial yarn division of ACS. Both Yarra Falls and Wangaratta Woollen Mills shared a similar history and have been major contributors to the Australian wool textile industry. They were created in the early 1900's as major worsted and woollen yarn spinners to meet the growing demand of the nation for high quality knitwear and weaving yarns.
Yarra Falls was a public company listed on the stock exchange until the 1970's when it was taken over by W R Carpenter and Co, and then in the 1980's by the Griffin group. Both companies continued to invest heavily in modern automated equipment to ensure they remained competitive in the market. The 1990's saw significant rationalization of the total textile industry in Australia and other developed countries, and the acquisition of Yarra Falls by ACS in 1998 was a necessary and important development to ensure the continuation of a large, modern, efficient mill to meet the yarn requirements of local and international clients.
Hand Knitting Yarn Division
Cleckheaton began its Australian history in 1948, when an Australian knitwear manufacturer Mr. Fred James, travelled to Yorkshire, England to purchase fine, pure wool worsted yarn, which had been in continual short supply in Australia. He bought the yarn and much more: the entire worsted spinning mill, Cleckheaton (Yorkshire) Ltd. A year later, the plant, together with managers and mill hands, was transported 20,000 kilometres to Shepparton, Victoria. Success followed. With further acquisitions, the company grew and in 1980 merged with Wangaratta Woollen Mills.
For the past two decades Cleckheaton has justly earned the status and position of a premium quality brand that has established a loyal following not only in Australia and New Zealand but in markets all over the world.
Panda Yarns began in 1963 as an importer of fashion hand-knitting yarns but gradually shifted emphasis to supplying high-volume markets with basic synthetic yarns. By the late 1980’s Panda had grown to be the largest supplier of hand-knitting yarn in Australia, concentrating mainly on locally-produced yarns.
Today, Panda has a range of yarns from basic to fancy, that offer quality at a good price with a vast choice of colour, texture and fibres to meet the changing needs of knitters, charity and craft workers.
Panda's current range of qualities and pattern designs are distributed widely throughout Australia and New Zealand.
Patons established itself in Australia with its first mill built in Tasmania in 1923. For decades, Patons was the leading hand knitting yarn brand but due to the market conditions in the mid 1980's, Patons felt the decline and eventually amalgamated with Alliance Textiles, New Zealand in 1996. Patons Australia was acquired by Australian Country Spinners in 2000 where this icon brand found a new and exciting home to move forward into the new millennium and once again emerge to be the fashion leader of hand knitting yarn in the region.
Since its incorporation into Australian Country Spinners in 2000, it has grown in status in Australia and in a number of our export markets. Prior to 2000 Shepherd yarns were produced by Alliance Textiles in New Zealand. The Shepherd brand has a proud history going back forty years of supplying high quality yarns in New Zealand and abroad. The Shepherd range of yarns and design publications focus on the 0 – 12 year olds with a strong emphasis on natural fibre.