Ended on December 19th 2022
Cashmere Connections was initially founded, in 2003, to meet a need in the Australian Cashmere Industry; that was, the lack of a cashmere dehairing facility in Australia. The dehaired Australian cashmere can now be sold into the international market.
Over time the business has evolved to meet the needs of other Australian animal fibre sectors also. That is why when the last Australian scour available for the scouring of cashmere, mohair, alpaca, coloured and specialty wools closed, Charles designed and began building a scour to service the needs of these sectors, making sure to include innovative technologies that will ensure that the scour is environmentally as well as economically sustainable.
Charles & Trisha Esson are the owners of Cashmere Connections Pty Ltd. We have been involved in the Cashmere Industry for 35 years and textile processing for almost 20 years.
Charles is a Senior Electrical Engineer experienced in High Voltage electricity (amongst other things) and currently working on solutions for electric car charging in domestic settings. Charles spent many years heading up R & D in the development of world leading fruit and vegetable sorting systems for packhouses. Trisha grew up in rural Victoria on sheep & cattle properties; more interested in helping her Dad with the livestock, than learning how to make sponges with her Mum. She developed an appreciation of fibre when learning how to assess and class the fleeces of her cashmere goats.
For those of you unfamiliar with textile processing, scouring is the first stage in the processing of animal fibres. Scouring involves the washing of the raw fleece to remove grease, dirt and suint (dried sweat).
A traditional wool scour consists of a series of bowls filled with water. Mechanical rakes move the fibre through the wash bowls to the rinse bowls. These machines are quite long ( even small scale scours) and take up a lot of floor space. They use a lot of water and energy to heat all the water to the high temperatures required to clean the fibre.
2. Carding Willow to thoroughly open fibre.
3. Fans blow opened fibre from the Carding Willow to the hopper of the scour.
4. Installing a cyclone into the hopper of the scour. This is part of the infrastructure, along with sensors which regulates a constant and steady flow of fibre into the scour.
5. The scour build.
6. Fibre being taken into the scour on the first conveyor.
7. Scoured Alpaca coming out of the scour. At this stage it is being collected into a wire stillage, but ultimately should continue into a drier from the scour.
8. The DAF Units. This is all part of the water treatment and water recycling plant.
9. The Flocculant Mixer.
Imagine that you take your clothes out of the washing machine, fold them neatly and squeeze them into a small suitcase. The suitcase you then store to deal with at a later date, perhaps in a month’s time. You can imagine the state of your clothes when you come back to open the suitcase. They would no doubt be very smelly and probably beginning to decompose.
For convenience sake, fibre is usually scoured in batches of similar fibre types and baled ( compressed tightly into wool bales) and stored to be processed at a later date. It is important that the fibre is dried properly after scouring so that the clean fibre is not damaged in any way.
During the scour development we concluded that the fibre must be well opened so added an opening line that included a willowing card. This added to the time and cost of the project.
To date we have funded the project from business cash flow or by putting more money into the business. This has affected the build rate, as we have done things when we can afford to do them.
We now find ourselves in the position where we have commissioned the scour and it is working well, but we now need to build the dryer. For the sake of Cashmere Connections and the many producers in the Australian Cashmere, Alpaca, Coloured Wool and Mohair Industries this needs to occur quickly.
The dryer design and technology is fairly simple as it is following tried and true drying techniques already used in many industries. The dryer does need to fit to the scour, so therefore does need to be customised but should be a fairly quick to build and commission. We will begin building the dryer once funds begin to flow in.
Become a backer and we will share with you the development of our drier and its integration with our innovative vertical scour. No doubt there will be ups and downs, as there always are when one is involved with Research and Development or learning how to use new technology. Share the journey with us.
You will be helping to bridge a supply chain gap for the Australian Cashmere, Alpaca, Mohair, Coloured Wool and Rare Wool sectors.
Should we pass our fundraising target we will outsource much of the work to local fabrication businesses in order to speed up the building of the dryer. This will mean that we will be able to offer scouring services to the those in the local Australian Alpaca, Cashmere, Mohair and Wool sectors sooner.
We have tried to include a variety of rewards from which backers may choose.
You can counter your carbon emissions and help create wildlife habitat . We’ll plant your trees along our fenced creek line to create a wildlife corridor.
We have already planted hundreds of native trees along most of our creeks but have one small section to plant down in order to complete the corridor. The trees planted will be a range of small and large local native trees selected to create food and shelter for the local wildlife. We will plant them late in Autumn of 2023 in order to give the trees the best chance of survival.
This cashgora fibre has been dehaired then processed through our topmaking line in order to turn it into combed top. The silver is a very light colour having only scattered black fibres. The dark grey is a pewter colour; more of a blue grey than a brown grey as depicted in the photo. Both are quite lustrous and really rather special.
Suri Alpaca is difficult to process, so these are the only Australian Suri throws available and few in number, therefore quite unique.
Our throws have been created from specially selected, naturally coloured Suri Alpaca Tops manufactured by Cashmere Connections and then spun into yarn & woven by Waverley Woollen Mills, the oldest working woollen mill in Australia.
Suri Alpaca fibre is a warm, lustrous, soft, durable, luxurious and silky natural fibre. While similar to sheep’s wool, Alpaca is warmer, lighter, softer and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Alpaca is naturally water-repellent and fire resistant.
Have your fibre scoured, dried and rebaled using our new innovative and sustainable scouring service once the dryer is built and commissioned. Should you wish, we will further process your fibre after scouring. However, we are also happy to facilitate delivery of the scoured fibre to another destination of your choice. The usual minimum processing size lots and fibre processing length requirements will apply. Please contact Trisha to ask any questions you may have about this option.
Well, here we are at the end of our campaign, being the last day! Although we didn’t meet our projected target, we have reached the 55% mark which is fabulous as it has enabled us to make a very good start in the building of the dryer. The funds raised so far have enabled us to buy the steel required to build the heat exchange and frame of the dryer. We have been able to pay for laser cutting of steel and to have the rollers fabricated. We are well on the way! We will keep our supporters advised as to our progress so they can continue the journey with us.
We are very appreciative all who have helped us with our ReadyFundGo campaign, not just those who have contributed for rewards, but also those who have remained behind the scenes, helping in various other ways. To everyone we say a very heartfelt Thank You!
Thanks to all who have contributed to our campaign to date. The building of the dryer is coming along nicely. Charles has made good progress in building the frame for the dryer itself. There has been a lot of measuring, cutting, bending and welding of steel; some bits which are quite heavy!
This is a photo of Charles welding part of the frame after we checked and double checked that everything was square.
This is a photo of the frame to date. It is lying down so still has to be lifted upright.
Our campaign initially progressed well but has slowed somewhat recently. We are now just over halfway towards our $50,000 target. We have decided to extend the campaign an additional couple of weeks. It will now be ending on the 19th of December, just before Christmas. A contribution to our campaign and one of our rewards could be a fabulous and unique gift for the fibre-loving person in your life! Please contact us if you need help making a gift contribution.
We are also adding a new reward at the $50 level. I discovered a small bale of our “EasySpin” cashmere that I hadn’t realized that we have in stock, so am adding 250 gram lots of this product, postage included for $50.
Please share our campaign widely with friends and especially your fibre arts and yarny friends. Spread the word amongst the guilds and fibre arts groups. Some of them may even like to get together and make a joint contribution.
Thank you again for your ongoing support.
Charles has accomplished quite a lot over the past week or so, though to look at the “metal box” that is the Heat Exchange unit, you wouldn’t think it! All the many components are now hidden within. I thought when I helped Charles lift the “lid” in place on the top of the box that it was finished, but no; there is more to be done! Insulation panels have to be affixed to several of the outside panels and the another layer of steel needs to go over the insulation.
Here are some progress photos.
We have also collected the laser cut steel from Ballarat Pressings in readiness to commence building the main frame of the dryer.
Once again thanks to all of you, our supporters, for helping to make this progress possible. Thank you!
It has been an eventful week!
Charles and I spent our Melbourne Cup 4-day long weekend working to save our dam wall from breaking. There was not a mini excavator in Ballarat or surrounds available for hire. Everyone is experiencing water problems! So, all digging was done with shovels (in the rain!). We managed to lower the level of the dam by a couple of feet by deepening and widening the overflow channel. It is better have a little less water in the dam when full than lose all the water. We also opened out old wool packs and laid them on the dam wall where it was beginning to erode to stop further erosion with heavy rain.
Charles has begun building the heat transfer unit for the dryer with help from his metal work assistant for the cutting and bending of the larger steel sheets and sections.
We have been advised that the laser cutting of parts for the dryer will be completed today so we intend to take a trailer to Ballarat and collect them tomorrow. The dryer build is moving along nicely.
Earlier today Charles began building the baffles that will go inside the dryer. We used the guillotine to cut the steel sheet to size after Charles had carefully measured the steel to make sure it matched his design drawings. Tomorrow we will start bending the steel on the pan brake press. I will once again be working as an apprentice Sheetmetal worker!
Thanks to all our wonderful supporters. Many of you have received your rewards and posted lovely comments on social media about the product which you received. We thank you for being so supportive of us.
Like many parts of Victoria, we've received plenty of rain at the farm over the past week.
Fortunately our property is undulating and no one paddock has no high ground so all of our Cashmeres and sheep are safe. We have 2 creeks that enter our property from different directions and join in the centre of our property. All of the creek line area has been fenced off from livestock, so even though the creeks flooded our animals were safe.
We have a centre lane way and have built a creek crossing across one of the creeks in the laneway. The fences across the creek crossing didn't hold up to the flooding water and all the debris that washed down the creek. Debris washed down the creek became lodged in and blocked the big cement pipe through which the creek water flows. Fortunately the fence end assemblies were still standing as they should be, because Charles got sick of replacing the whole fence including the end assemblies last time the creek flooded. He put in some seriously strong end assembles that were dug down DEEP into the ground. The water pipe carrying water pumped from our big dam to water troughs in each of the paddocks was broken by the flooding water and debris, so no water was flowing in water troughs in the front section of the property.
As more heavy rainfalls have been forecast for this week and the coming weeks, we decided not to replace the fence at this stage. We really only need the fence across the lane way to move stock up the lane way to a paddock on the other side of the creek or to bring them into the yards. We reasoned that if we replaced the fence we would probably have to do it again very soon. The water pipe had to be rejoined so that the stock water could flow to the water troughs in the front section of the property so that was done. The debris was removed from the cement pipe and the area around the entrance to the pipe ,so that the creek water could flow freely. Debris was cleared enough that we could drive across the creek crossing to check on the animals and fences on the other side of the creek.
No doubt we will have to go through this routine every time we have the creeks come up, but hopefully that will be the extent of the damage we will see. We will do our big clean up when things dry out and we can get the front end loader down to the creek to aid us in the removal of debris.
We are so very fortunate that our flood damage is a very minor inconvenience, in comparison to the many farmers in parts of Victoria who have lost livestock, crops and machinery to flooding.
It would seem that we have all been busy over the past week. You, our supporters have been busy making pledges of all types for which we are very grateful. I've been busy packing product and making my way to the local Post Office to lodge parcels. A number of you have already received your parcels and we have been delighted by those of you who have contacted us with positive feedback. We thankyou for going to the trouble of doing so.
Charles has been busy doing manual labour! He has had concrete delivered and set the centrifuge stand into solid footings and bolted it down. The safety ladder and cage were then modified and attached to the stand. Finally the centrifuge was very carefully lifted into place and positioned. I took a few photos of Charles at work accomplishing all of this.
Thankyou everyone for your interest and support.
Your money has started to enter our bank account, so Charles has ordered the laser cutting of the steel parts for the dryer.
Thankyou to everyone who has made this possible!
We are overwhelmed by the support that everyone has given us so far. Thankyou.
I have lodged the first batch of rewards at our local Post Office this afternoon. I hope that you like your rewards!
Whilst I have been packing fluff, Charles has been digging the last of the BIG holes for the footings of the rather large stand that will hold the centrifuge. He is a bit tired tonight!....which disappointed Tramp, as we had to keep waiting for Charles to catch up with us when we took our nightly walk tonight.
This is Tramp, who is our Rescue Dog. Would you believe that he was skin and bones when we got him!!?