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 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.
In 2012, Saleutions was integrated into ACS offering retailers "retail ready" solutions in hand knitting yarn.
During the 90th birthday celebrations in August 2013, Australian Country Spinners and Australian wool enthusiasts set a new world record for the world's longest Pom Pom Garland for the Guinness Book of Records. The final tally was an incredible 6977 pom poms strung in one continuous garland.
Today, the business employs around 100 people both at the Mill in Wangaratta and in the pattern, design and marketing teams in Melbourne. ACS supports over 1000 retailers across Australia and New Zealand with it's range of hand knitting yarns and patterns across the four brands: Cleckheaton, Panda, Patons and Shepherd.
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 to 12 year olds with a strong emphasis on natural fibre.