Market research on the global wool market has predicted that it is likely to increase significantly in the next few years. Manufacturers are likely to follow the smaller producers in sourcing raw material directly from known farms. There are good examples of this already with Brooklyn Tweed using breed specific yarn from one ranch in California. Some independent dyers are keeping their customers informed with blogs around the source and provenance of their wool. Eden Cottage yarns, an independent dyer in Yorkshire answered many questions from customers on the source of their baby alpaca yarns.
Wool clothing has had a massive increase in the outdoor activities market. ‘Smartwool’ products are now the norm for socks, base layers (vests) as well as fleeces and hats. They are made using wool from Merino sheep. There has historically been an ethical issue with merino sheep from Australia where there was a tradition of mulesing sheep. This is a process of preventing flystrike on the very wrinkly part around a sheep’s tail by simply cutting the skin away. This is not a pleasant or painless process and is roundly condemned. It is worth checking that your supplier only buys merino from accredited wholesalers who only use fleeces from non-mulesed sheep. New Merino is an independent Australian organisation that enables any retailer to track yarn and is from responsibly managed farms meeting internationally recognized standards. This is another example of accountability, ethical production and sustainability.
Wool is an ideal substance for garments in that it provides natural temperature control. It is warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. It is naturally ‘hygroscopic’ in that it absorbs moisture and transports it away from the body making the wearer feel much more comfortable. It is often reported as being anti-bacterial, but as most of the lanolin in the wool is removed by processing it is this ability to remove moisture that stops the build up of any unpleasant body smell.
Despite propaganda from anti-fur campaigners in the UK, wool production is not cruel or unethical. Sheep need to be sheared and it is an ungainly but painless procedure, akin to having your hair or nails cut. It really can be described as a wonder product. You can now buy wool based compost for your garden.