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Wool is a breathable fibre that provides instant warmth unlike synthetic materials. It regulates itself to individual body temperature and really is warm in winter whilst cool in summer. It is also a great buffer against rain, wind and snow. The scientific reasons for these ‘miraculous’ properties are that, in cold temperatures, wool removes (wicks) moisture from the skin whilst at the same time its insulating qualities trap dry air and warmth. In warm temperatures, wool’s breathable qualities draws in air which removes excess heat and moisture from the body, helping the wearer stay cool. To add to that, wool is naturally water-resistant, repelling moisture vapour through its fibres and making it resistant to rot, mould and mildew. The body stays warm even when it's wet so if you’re wearing wooly socks and get water in your wellies, your feet will feel much less cold or damp. Added to that, wool’s unique structure means that it won’t allow the build-up of body odours so you can keep wearing those same socks for days on end. Last century George Mallory climbed Mount Everest in a woolen tweed jacket and, today, participants in extreme sports as well as fishermen, sailors, mountaineers and ski-ers all swear by their wool gear because of its warmth, flexibility and strength. People are rediscovering that wool competes very successfully with high tech manmade fibres in sports wear. In fact merino wool is generally accepted as the "Rolls Royce" option for high performance base layer clothing.
Wool is hard to challenge for its sustainability (sheep are not intensively reared). It grows as hair on goats, sheep, llamas and rabbits, occurs naturally and is renewable i.e it quickly grows back. At the end of its life, wool is bio-degradable in soil, releasing important nutrients. However, if you invest in a decent wool blanket, you will never throw it away and it will last for generations. Wool is a valuable bi-product of the meat market but is also used by vegetarians and particularly favoured when the flock is reared for shearing only. Goats that are reared for cashmere produce delicious milk as a bi-product and provide hill farmers with an additional income.
Wool is a highly practical fibre. Easy to clean because dirt sits on the surface of the fibre (and so can be wiped off), it needs very little washing or laundry. It dries quickly and is flame-retardant. Naturally anti—allergenic, wool doesn’t collect static which attracts dust and dirt and so those with allergies to house-mites or dust are turning to wool bedding. Many customers who suffer from asthma and / or eczema buy our wool duvets and pillows. The Wool Company products do not contain lanolin unless stated.
Wool accounts for 5-10% of the total value of a ewe. Most British wool is used for coarse fabrics such as carpets, with over 65% of the clip being used in carpet manufacture. Native breeds, such as Scottish Blackface, Herdwick and Cheviot, grow wool which is naturally designed to withstand harsh winds, driving rain and snow. The UK produces 1% of the world’s raw wool, approximately 50,000 tonnes per year (5). The majority are sheared at around 14 months old and then once a year. Lambs of some breeds may be clipped to provide lambs wool. The entire fleece is sheared in one piece. Sheep have been selectively bred to produce a thick fleece and are sheared early summer to prevent heatstroke. Wild sheep do not need to be sheared. Around 1/3 of British wool is from slaughtered sheep, this is referred to as skin wool. Wool accounts for 3% of world fibre production (17).
Australia and New Zealand produce the most raw wool, whilst Belgium and Denmark export the most ‘greasy’ wool, including skin wool and re-exports.