The Seljak Sisters Share The Inspiring Story Behind Their Sustainable Blankets

by: Rosie Dalton | 2 years ago | Features

Image: the Seljak sisters.

Samantha and Karina Seljak are the sister duo behind Seljak – our new favourite line of blankets. These aren’t just any blankets; they are crafted using offcuts from the factory floor of Australia’s oldest mill, located in Tasmania. Made from 70% recycled Australia Merino wool, 30% recycled alpaca and mohair, plus some polyester for strength – these blankets are as cosy as they are inspiring. Because for every 10 blankets that Seljak sells, the brand also sends one to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, which helps asylum seekers feel welcome, safe and supported in Australia.

After speaking with the sisters about how the brand began, we were keen to delve even deeper into their closed loop production process and find out just how each of their beautiful blankets is created. We asked them to take you behind the scenes and give us some insight into how each Seljak piece is created — from offcuts on a factory floor, to the comfy blankets that are seeing us through the winter months.

Image: spools of yarn ready to be woven into blankets at the mill.

Rosie Dalton: Can you run us through the production process behind your beautiful blankets?
Karina and Samantha Seljak: Currently our recycled blankets are made at the same mill that the offcuts are produced. Other than our blankets, the mill spins and weaves fine wool blankets for their clients and customers. So as the other blankets are produced, the mill collects offcuts from the production process. This might be from the spinning or weaving stage, and can be from overruns, trimmings and scraps that aren't part of the final product. These offcuts are then shredded in an industrial shredding machine into many small fibres, in preparation for spinning into yarn. The yarn is then spun onto spools, before it is used to weave blankets on large, industrial machine looms operated by highly skilled weavers, who know how to perfect the tension. To introduce colour, blankets are either dyed after they are woven, or beforehand as hanks of yarn from the spools. After the recycled blankets are woven they are finished at the mill with labels and stitching or fringing, and sent to our warehouse for distribution. 

Rosie: And what do your day-to-day schedules look like usually?
Karina: My day in Bondi looks a lot different to Sam's in Malmo, Sweden! While I'm winter, she's summer. So I'll go for walks to the beach for a break, while she'll go to the sauna! 

Samantha: But generally our days involve pinning on Pinterest and playing with paints or Pantone colours. It's phone calls with our mill to ask what's possible on the looms, fulfilling orders (emailing retailers, liaising with our warehouse, checking inventory and accounts). It's meeting businesses that want to create value from their waste — lots of logistics basically, like talking shipping and waste volumes. It's making content that excites and informs our audience (for social media and newsletters, for instance). And it's planning what to create next and how to help others get involved.  

Image: yarn on the loom getting woven into blankets.

Rosie: You are very busy ladies! So can you tell us a bit about why you’re so passionate about closing the loop?
Samantha: Closed loop means that the same resources are cycled through the same process to make products with little to no waste, and of equal or higher value, which reduces — theoretically eliminating, but that's a work in progress for most closed loop systems — extraction, energy use and waste. For us this means that instead of using new wool from a sheep, we'd use wool that had been returned to us in the form of old blankets. And rather than them being thrown away, we use them to make new blankets. As we collect our old blankets to use, we are re-manufacturing offcuts from blanket production, which is a loop too.

Karina: We're passionate about closing the loop because, as a designer who wants to create beautiful and useful things, I feel we must respond to the circumstances of the day. Sam is community-minded and galvanises the troops — things are impactful with the support of people. Today the challenges we’re facing are overconsumption, climate change, and inequality. We are extracting and wasting resources at unsustainable rates and hurting people and the planet in the process. So let's design a new model that addresses some of these facts, and design products that people need and love to help them participate in a new social-economic model. 

Shop our sustainable Seljak blankets over here.

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