WHY WOOL ?
WHY WOOL you might ask …
This month, October 2019, Campaign for Wool is highlighting the benefits of wool to us.
Make A Difference – Choose Wool. Every year sheep produce a new fleece; making wool a natural, renewable fibre source. Wool has inherent natural biodegradable properties in the land and ocean to benefit the planet which is choking from waste plastic, man-made and micro-fibres. We can all make a difference by choosing wool to help safeguard the planet for future generations.
Domesticated sheep have been an integral part of our lives and development since 6000 BC. Their meat was eaten, their bones were used to make tools, and their skins were used for warmth. Over time Sheep were bred to encourage ‘woolier’ wool – initially it was not what we see today, but closer to that of a deer’s fur. Initially ‘rouxing’ the sheep (pulling the wool by hand) but then shearing sheep, people began to turn this wool into clothing, rugs, blankets and the myriad of wool products we see today. There are currently 31,500 sheep farmers in Ireland with a breeding ewe flock of 2.4 million ewes (Teagasc). So how has wool become such an important product?
Wool is environmentally friendly. It grows naturally on sheep and so is a sustainable resource. Keeping sheep is extremely beneficial for the soil and pasture – their hooves do little damage to the ground and their manure feeds the soil and enriches its structure. Sheep are able to eat a wide range of plants and are great for keeping down weeds, brush and unwanted cereal plants. These means they can live in an ecologically diverse area which in turn benefits biodiversity in terms of plant and animal life. Turning wool into material is also much more environmentally friendly than the production of synthetic fibres. Once your wool is no longer useable, it is biodegradeable, can be composted and again adds to the soil’s fertility and structure through its release of much needed nitrogen and amino acids.
Wool is warm and water resistant due to its natural lanolin. The natural crimps in the fibre and barbs on its surface lock together trapping in air and therefore heat. For this reason, knitted wool garments such as Aran jumpers were prized by fisherman to keep them warm and dry. Wool can also soak up to a third of its own weight in moisture before feeling damp. And even if it gets wet, its insulating properties mean that if it’s next to your skin it still feels – and keeps you – warm which is why it’s the favourite material for walking socks.
There are many different types of wool – some is soft and long (eg Merino wool) which is perfect for making fine, soft clothing to go next to your skin; other wool is strong and resilient and perfect for making products that take a lot of wear such as carpets. Its elasticity means it can stretch again and again without losing its shape and its strength means that it can literally last a lifetime if looked after properly. Its look and feel can also be radically changed by agitation and water to produce felt. The different properties of different types of wool mean that there is a huge range of uses for such a generically named product.
Wool is Fire Retardant. Not only is it difficult to set light to, but it burns extremely slowly with much less harmful emissions, and the carbonated areas prevent fire from spreading further. This makes it perfect for specialist clothing for people working in high risk areas (eg firemen) as well as for carpets and insulation in buildings.
Wool is hypoallergenic. It’s soft enough that it doesn’t irritate sensitive skin, it absorbs pollutants such as VOCs and dust mites hate it, so it’s perfect for bedding and clothing. It is also breathable which means it can regulate your temperature whether it’s warm or cold, and it wicks moisture away, meaning that however hot you get you don’t feel uncomfortable and damp.
Finally – wool holds bright colours far better than many natural products, providing lots of choice in terms of fabrics for clothing and decoration.
In recent years with the rise in interest in the environment and fears about the effects of synthetic clothing on our water resources, people are looking at wool again and expanding our understanding of its uses. Long used in carpets and furnishings, we are now using wool in insulation products both for sound and heat insulation. Designers are also looking at how wool can be used with new technologies to create natural materials that can compete with synthetic materials. The 1970s saw the creation of Superwash wool which could be machine washed and tumble dried, but in 2007 the Japanese created a wool suit that could be washed in the shower and would drip dry in 6 hours – far quicker than taking it to a dry cleaner. In Australia they have created a new spinning method (OptimTM) that turns Merino wool into a completely wind and water resistent material.
The campaign will continue its consumer education program to highlight wool as a planet friendly fibre, and to ensure consumers are aware of its natural fibre attributes, benefits and biodegradable properties in the ocean and the land. The focus, through the POS messaging, will be to invite consumers to ‘Make A Difference – Choose Wool’ or to ‘Check it’s Wool’ by the choices they make. We can all make a small difference and accumulatively this can only help the plastic issue we are facing globally:
Choose WOOL, Champion Wool
#ChampionWool - Tom's Story
https://youtu.be/eFHKp-TkoTU Yorkshire Wool farmer Tom Carlisle talking about his herd and his farm