Wool has always been in my life in a big way. On my families croft clipping the sheep every year was a team effort. We had to round the sheep up, get them organised, one of the stronger member of the team would get them in position and clip the wool, while the rest of us kept the areas tidy, packed the wool into bags ready to go off to the brokers, and would go and fill the kitchen table at lunch time for everyone coming in for something to eat.
At my Granny Wilma's house we'd go out to the workshop and look among all the cones of yarn, claiming a few as our favourites, watching people come along, dropping off knitting they'd done for my grandmother or tourists and visitors looking through to find their favourite designs.
At school we had knitting lessons once a week as part of the curriculum. To start off with the yarn we used was cheap but colourful. I didn't like how it squeaked on my needles though and I was releived when I could get onto using what I loved to play with at grannys - Shetland Wool!
After a few short years of training and working in other jobs, I started my knit design business just before I turned 22, and quickly confirmed that I specialise in 100% Wool. Shetland wool as often as possible, and living here in Shetland gives me pretty good chances!
Making clothes as well as shopping for clothes as a 20 something has made me realise that most of what I have bought doesn't last long, but what I have made is still being worn years later.
Even when I started buying my own furnishings for my house I noticed that wool is an extremely underrated option. People just don't know what it can do!
That's when I knew I needed to do this project, I need to spread the word about what wool can really do! As a visual person myself I knew it had to be appealing to the eye, so I asked my friend, and fellow Shetlander, Julie Dennison to work with me. I have always admired her upbeat and often humorous illustrations and wanted to see more of them myself. She agreed to join me in this project, and I know I couldn't have done it without her!
Together we have created 12 reasons to love wool, and now I'm spreading the word.
I've found some more detail on each point for you to read below, there has been so much research been done on wool and it's crazy to me that we don't speak about it more often.
I have started to curate products for followers to help spread the word, I've found high quality pieces printed with Julies illustrations.
So join us, speak about wool with your friends and family, let them know about this project and the illustrations they can see on social media or on my website, or incorporate some of these products as gifts and keepsakes!
If you have a shop and would like to stock some of these products, please get in touch, I'd love to hear from you!
What Are The Amazing Benefits of Wool?
Supports Local Crofters
Farming is a very unpredictable and difficult lifestyle. No matter what you produce there is some risk, whether that’s the weather, seed quality, demand fluctuations, trends or pests. Selling wool is no different.
The price crofters and farmers can sell their wool can depend on demand, quality, how the fleece is packed, the colour of the fleece, and even the weather when the sheep is clipped. A completely dry fleece can be hard to achieve during a sometimes wet summer.
Clipping is a huge operation, it usually means all hands on deck to gather the animals and set up a streamlined way of organising, clipping, rolling and packing the fleece, as well as keeping the area clean and everyone fed!
It is important to note that small farms (or Croft) are usually run by people who have other jobs and commitments, they often need to work elsewhere to provide for their families. Despite all of their hard work and long hours there is often not enough security in farming.
If we can increase the demand for wool the price for farmers and crofters will go up. We can help make wool production more worthwhile, especially for smaller, family run businesses.
Naturally Water Resistant
Wool is a common choice for fishermen, farmers, and explorers, It is extremely durable in wet conditions and protects the wearer, even when the fabric is damp!
Wool has a natural coating which protects the sheep who live in their cold and wet environments. Because wool is an active fibre this coating is still protecting us when the wool has been made into clothing.
First it encourages droplets to bead up and slip off, with only the first layer or fibres getting wet.
If there is more rain and it starts to get into the mid layer of fibres, wool absorbs it and can hold water for much longer than other fabrics. It doesn’t become clingy and the fibres nearest your skin wick moisture away, stopping the cold, wet fabric from resting on your skin.
Wool also activates when wet and somehow becomes even warmer, making sure that you are warm and comfortable no matter how wet you are! Amazing!
Clipping Is Good For The Sheep
Some information for you:
Sheep need their wool removed in summer to allow them to regulate their body temperature. Without shearing they could sadly overheat and die.
Urine, faeces and other materials can get caught in the long wool, this can attract flies, maggots and other pests and could lead to infection and irritation.
If wool is left on the sheep it becomes increasingly difficult to move around, they could find it difficult to get around obstacles and in some places they can be more susceptible to predators
Clipping time is also a great time to check up on the general health of the sheep, having a good look around the animals is important for flagging up anything else that might need attention.
A clipped sheep is a happy sheep!
Wool Is Wrinkle Resistant
Wool is so easy to keep, the natural crimp and springiness of the fabric means it easily keeps its shape.
When I researched the details on woollen garments being wrinkle resistant, most of the articles were from travel companies suggesting wool for easy packing!
This is something I know all too well, I’ve travelled over the past 3 years with woollen products, materials for classes, and outfits for me to wear at festivals. If I’m travelling alone I even vacuum pack these and they turn out just fine!
Keeps Air Cleaner
This one is not commonly known, but very interesting!
Science has proven that wool inside the home significantly improves air quality by rapidly absorbing the common pollutants such as formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. These can be released from
Many common household cleaners, disinfectants, air fresheners, printers, and even furnishings.
Wool neutralises these contaminants quicker and more thoroughly than other fabric options, plus it also doesn’t release them again!
So whether you’re picking out carpets, couches, cushions, rugs or blankets, remember wool is a great choice for air quality.
Wool Can Be Sourced Locally
Most climates where wool is worn, also has sheep and producers locally. We’re so lucky that this resource is so available, we just need to remember to choose and use it.
Shopping locally is a great way to support your community and the economy. Encouraging small businesses with big ideas really will make someone’s day!
In the UK we are known for our sheep and wool, so why are so many crofters still struggling to sell the wool from their sheep? In many cases the demand is not high enough, the vast majority of clothes sold are synthetic, designed to be cheap rather than effective.
I know I also have some work to do when it comes to investing in the materials I wear rather than being drawn in by a good deal. By choosing natural fibres I know I will have a wardrobe which is full of sustainable, good quality, long lasting clothes which were made with love and care
Wool Is Breathable
what does it REALLY mean?
Wool is an active fibre, which means that it reacts to your body temperature.
When you sweat while wearing wool, it absorbs the moisture and allows it to evaporate. The result is that your woollen garment will be more comfortable and won’t start to become clingy with sweat.
It is also resistant to odour, so no need to worry about wearing your wool when you are planning to be active!
How does it work?? The natural crimp in wool fibres traps pockets of air, insulating your skin (just like it does for the sheep!), it then traps moisture to maintain a dry ‘microclimate’ next to the skin, keeping you comfortable.
Wool Has Balanced Thermal Properties
We have touched on this in a few of the previous points but there’s so much more to know!
Not only does wool keep you warm in winter, it also keeps you cool in summer. It’s perfect for a varied day or changeable weather!
The natural crimp and curl creates air pockets in the fabric which absorbs moisture and transports it away from the body maintaining a consistent and comfortable temperature, just as it would for the sheep.
You also have increased protection from UV radiation which means not only will your wool curtains keep the cold out at night, it will also protect you when the sun comes out in the morning! It does this my absorbing the UV and breaking it down.
Properties in Wool Cannot Be Replicated In Synthetics.
Synthetics are a cheaper fabric alternative made from plastics, since these are man made the producer has complete control over availability.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT - The textile industry causes more harm to the environment than any other industry.
- Reports have shown these statistics:
textiles is responsible for a 10% of global carbon emissions
- and clothing accounts for 20% of industrial water pollution in the world
Our industry is dominated by polyester, nylon, rayon and acrylic and this is damaging our environment.
Polyester and Nylon are particularly harmful. The production of nylon emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas which is 300x more dangerous to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide. While polyester contaminates huge amounts of water which are usually flushed back into our systems.
Wildlife are commonly found to have died from ingesting synthetics they are not able to digest, because they thought it was food!
Factory workers are especially at risk during the toxic processes.
WHAT ARE SYNTHETICS MADE OF? - Petroleum is common, as well as plastics and various chemicals. These have to be coated or treated in some way, extending the production process, and can often contain silver to help fight bacteria build up.
Wool Is Flame Retardant
In order for wool to ignite the temperature must be extremely high at 570-600°C
Wool cannot support a flame well. Because of its high nitrogen and water content it requires huge amounts of oxygen in order to burn and will usually self extinguish quite quickly.
If wool does smoulder it doesn’t release very much heat at all.
The insulating properties in wool work to prevent the spread of flames, they can even dampen down flame that have taken hold of other materials
If Wool does manage to reach high temperatures, it doesn’t drip, melt or stick, adding extra safety if the worst was to happen!
Wool Is Sustainable, Eco Friendly and Biodegradable
Sheep produce a new fleece of wool every singe year, all we need to make that happen is for the grass to grow!
At the end of its life wool can be returned to the soil, where it releases nutrients such as sulphur and magnesium to enrich the land and helps to nourish plants and animals.
Wool can biodegrade in as little as 3-4 months! This rate can vary with types of soil, but that’s a quick turn around!
On the other hand, as long as woollen garments are kept in a dry environment, their condition will not change and can be kept for generations.
Wool Moulds To Your Shape When Worn
The loop structure in knitted fabrics in particular creates flexibility to mould around your body shape, it will become comfier with every wear!
To reset the shape of a garment all you have to do is wash it then leave it to dry in the shape you want. This also gives you a lovely new feel!
Moulding to your shape is not the only great reason to wear wool, the structure also means that the fabric is easy to wash. The fibres encourage dirt to stay on the outer surface and should come off easily.