Today wool enthusiasts Amanda, a.k.a. AmandaSainsbury, and Ann from TheTeaCosyShop bring the challenges facing British and international farmers to our attention and encourage us to give fleece a chance.
The Campaign for Wool was launched earlier this year by HRH The Prince of Wales in order to highlight the advantages of using wool in fashion, interiors and construction. The campaign aims to present wool as a fashionable, eco-friendly and durable alternative to synthetic fibres. Today marks the start of the first ever National Wool Week.
The event hopes to highlight the plight of sheep farmers around the world and in Britain, where the cost to shear a sheep now outweighs any profits from selling the fleece. Certain fleeces can be worth as little as £1, resulting in a great number of farmers loosing money. Today’s leading producers of wool are Australia and New Zealand where prices are at a 50-year low. This price collapse in wool production began in 1966 and has continued in a downward trend since, sadly forcing many of the world’s sheep farmers out of business.
Wool isn’t just for Christmas sweaters!
Far from it, wool and woollen textiles are increasingly seen by designers and makers the world over as one of the most luxurious and stylish fabrics.
Most hand-knitted yarn comes from the Australian and New Zealand merinos and cross-breeds, whereas wool from commercial breeds in the UK has traditionally been used in weaving, upholstery and carpets. However, there are now large and small scale manufacturers who are transforming British wool into beautiful home-grown yarn.
From piano hammers to nappies and duvets, wool has hundreds of applications that are diverse as the sheep themselves. Pure wool garments are highly absorbent and hard-wearing, becoming the ideal protective wear for fishermen, hill-walkers, fire and rescue crews, and workers in chemical production facilities. Wool does not burn like synthetics and is specified for use in aeroplane upholstery and carpets. Perhaps best of all, wool is warm and soft, and it doesn’t do that weird static thing with your hair.
As naturally grown fibre, the eco-credentials of wool are immense. It generally lasts longer than artificial materials and can be grown with minimal use of pesticides and fertilisers, unlike many other natural fibres. Wool can be produced on a small scale within small holdings and even in back yards. It can be reused and recycled easily and is a great insulator for the home and the body.
The disposal of synthetics can cause huge problems, whereas a natural wool fibre only takes a few years to fully decompose. Most synthetics are extremely slow in this process which has helped increase man-made textiles in UK landfill to more than one million tonnes in recent years. By comparison, wool decomposes so quickly and safely that you can even pop it in your compost bin.
Wool in the Designer/Maker Communities
Independent makers and designers have been at the forefront of new design for generations, and with a renewed incentive for keeping traditional crafts alive, crafters and artisans have a huge part to play in the revival of wool. The tailors of Savile Row are also making an immense effort to keep the trade of this luxurious textile from collapsing.
We can all do our bit! From the smallholders raising traditional native sheep breeds to the spinners and dyers providing amazing alternatives to mass-produced yarns, UK-based Etsians are finding new and gorgeous ways of using wool in just about every way imaginable.
Wool Week runs from October 11 – 17, and to kick off the event, Savile Row has been closed, greened over and made into a temporary home for Exmoor Horn and Bowmont breeds of sheep — be sure to drop by for this amazing sight!
The Covent Garden Piazza will also be holding The Sheep Parade hosted by Lyle and Scott tomorrow (October 12). Look out for more promotions and events from world famous brands who aim is to make wool something desirable to own and use. Let’s pull together and shout about an incredibly valuable crafting industry this week. Viva wool!
About the authors: Amanda, a.k.a. AmandaSainsbury, became interested in both machine and hand-knitting while at university. She has only recently begun using natural fibres, specifically cashmere wool. The natural softness, she feels, is the ideal yarn to use for cosy winter scarves and she now wonders why it took her so long to use them!
Ann from TheTeaCosyShop has been knitting, crocheting and sewing since she was 8 years old. Now living on a mini-holding in the Scottish countryside just a few miles from the Victorian mills at New Lanark where she sources all the wool she uses in the cosies. Ann also makes a range of other eco-friendly treasures which she sells in her other Etsy Shop, SnowdropsAndDaisies.
Many thanks to Amanda and Ann for putting this together for us!
Check out their wonderfully woolly wares in the Related Items below.