Radford Yarn Technologies

October 2012

Felted wool yarn production for high-end rugs

Radford Yarn Technologies was founded in 1992 by director-shareholders, Woody and Jack Radford. It was initially set up as a manufacturer of apparel and other novel and exotic yarn and has grown to become a highly-respected producer of felted wool yarns which are sold to high-end rug and carpet makers around the world. Radford Yarn Technologies’ 3,000 square metre plant now turns out 30 tonnes of felted yarn a month. It has around 33 employees.

These days it is 75% owned by New Zealand listed company Cavalier Corporation.

Felted yarn differs from the spun wool traditionally used in carpeting because in the felting process the wool fibres shrink, improving the strength and durability of the yarn. Because of that and the innovative colours and effects the carpet sits at the very top 5 per cent of the rug market.

Radford Yarn was one of the first companies in the world to commercialise what they call continuous felting technology.

Felting is achieved by subjecting woollen “slivers to axial forces” as they are drawn through temperature-controlled felting liquor. This apparently allows for a wide range of yarn styles and types to be produced that cannot be replicated using conventional yarn spinning methods.

By felting wool instead of spinning it, Radfords can incorporate coloured effects into the yarn itself, which makes it especially good for bold or intricate designs.

In 2009, Radford Yarns was accorded the Best Technical Yarn Award at Domotex Hanover, Europe’s main flooring trade show, and they continue to lead the world in felted yarn technology – all from an earthquake prone factory at the bottom of the world !

With 80% of their market offshore, Radfords have sensibly been proactive about what their customers might expect of them as environmental citizens. They say environmental considerations have moved from a “nice to have” to a “must have”. Initially the concept was just to push the sustainability of wool as a natural fibre. Now they’re expected to cover all the environmental bases.

They aim to have their business designed to ensure that the products support New Zealand’s “clean, green” international reputation and to reduce their carbon footprint.

They use dyes and chemicals which meet European standards, they’ve converted to electric forklifts and are now using a wood-pellet fuelled boiler in their processing. The boiler is used to supply hot water for felting and to dry the yarn afterwards.

As Radford Yarn grew, their old electric boiler became too costly and struggled to provide the energy required. The new boiler not only complemented Radford’s environmental philosophy but it cut electricity usage in half, slashed the energy bill by 25% and reduced the time needed to dry consignments of yarn.

Heat exchangers draw heat from the tank, which provides hot water for the felting process and hot air for yarn drying. The use of a buffer tank improves the boiler efficiency by minimising start-ups and allowing the boiler to run at full capacity while it is running.

The ready heat from the tanks has improved drier performance resulting in a greater ratio of heat input to dried yarn output. This results in a lower overall energy use per kilogram of yarn produced.

This initiative won them the 2009 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Award (EECA).

They are also part of the emissions trading system, which requires businesses to pay for the emissions that they use in their business through carbon credits.

On 6 April 2011, listed company Cavalier Corporation finalised its purchase of a 75% stake in Radford Yarn Technologies.

Their press release states that the move is a strategic one from Cavalier Corporation, designed to underpin the growth of a range of felted broadloom carpets with a distinct design difference in the premium end of the market – mostly under its designer Bremworth Collection brand which is part of carpet maker Cavalier Bremworth.