1:00 AM 9th December 2023
A Day In The Life: The UK’s First Female Wool Grader
With a rich history dating back over 70 years, British Wool prides itself in supporting farming and agricultural as well as providing local jobs throughout the UK.
The body, which represents 35,0000 sheep farmers in the UK, has recently employed its first ever female Wool Grader, based at its HQ in Bradford.
Amy-Jo Barton, 22 years-old, born and raised in Bradford, is also British Wool’s youngest grader. With no farming or agricultural background, Amy started working for British Wool as a trainee Wool Grader in the summer of 2022.
I love telling my friends I’m a Wool Grader, a lot of them have no idea what that actually means and look a bit puzzled!
Having worked in logistics since leaving school, Amy was looking for a new challenge in a new industry which came with a qualification.
As a Grader, you also need to be able to do other tasks in the warehouse, such as gaining a forklift licence, packing and other opportunities that arise.
The job of a Wool Grader is to categorise different types of wool, to be then used for apparel, insulation, carpets, homeware and much more – there’s lots of uses for it I never knew about before I joined the business, and that’s what enticed me to become a Grader.
It usually takes three years to become fully qualified as Wool Grader at British Wool, and trainees are tested every six months by the QA Team.
"It’s so enjoyable – it’s very therapeutic. Wool comes in from the farmers and a clip number is issued to the farmers bags, then we hand-grade the fleeces and allocate a grade number to each of the fleeces This also means we can trace the wool back to specific farms long after it has been turned into a jumper or ball of yarn.
“There are 66 breeds of sheep which can also be crossed, so each fleece has its own characteristics. The difference between the wool is incredible; from different textures and very fine fibres to course ones and hollow fibre, similar to hair. We look for all these characteristics within the wool – the breeds can fall under these types, but the breed doesn’t always fit into the category, which is why hand grading is so important.”
British Wool employees 42 Graders, 5 of which are based in Bradford, ten of whom are trainees and their longest-serving grader has been with the body for 45 years.
It’s a very physical job which can be challenging. However, I would recommend the role to anyone looking for a challenge, it’s a great job and a great place to work.