News snippets from the wool world
We had our first snow here in Maine, with more due over the weekend. In the back of our car, we always carry a shovel and a bucket of sand. Last year I added a wool blanket to the winter emergency kit. Very quickly it migrated to the back seat, where it has taken up permanent residence. It enjoys the rides.
We have much to discuss this week, starting with exciting news from the Hudson Valley Textile Project. They are in the final stages of bringing in more scouring capacity for wool producers on the east coast!
After years of patient legwork, building partnerships, and gaining legislative support for the project, they're asking for our help to match grants and pledges they've already received.
To have a new regional standalone scouring facility with energy-efficient equipment would be a boon for wool producers in the northeast. Find out more.
And now, on with the wool news!
A bale of wool is only as valuable as its coarsest fibers, making the art of wool shearing and handling a vital one. Unfortunately, there's a global shortage of both workers. Australia and New Zealand now plan to work together on building training for shearers and wool handlers. Australian woolgrowers will be investing more than $10 million in this over the next three years, so consistency with what’s planned in NZ will be key.
You heard me right! For a while, researchers have been trying to develop artificial "muscles" to improve the movements of robots and ultimately lead to "smart textiles." In a recent development, a team of researchers at Jiangnan University in China have been experimenting with wool yarn. The results are promising.
Here's a fun one. Some questions are specific to New Zealand, but most are generalized wool questions. See what you really know!
How encouraging to see a high-profile magazine (in this case, Town & Country) promote wool to its readers. This listing of peacoats may be relatively short, but the author highlights the fiber content of each coat right up front. No need to click through and hunt it down, you can know right up front if you're looking at the real deal or a mishmash of fibers.
The market for wool packaging material continues to heat up—or cool down, depending on how you use it. I love what the Estonian start-up Woola is doing. While they currently source their wool from the UK, they are working to establish a regional network of suppliers. It's a model we need to look into here in the United States.
"Woola essentially takes the surplus waste of one industry – leftover sheep wool – and uses it to tackle the waste problem of another – online shopping. The wool-based packages can be recycled, repurposed or returned by the consumer, with the key objective of making the service 'closed loop' so nothing goes to waste."
Montana and its 68 million acres of rangeland have long been a vital link in the American wool chain. In 2020, the state produced 1.5 million pounds of wool. Quality wool relies on frequent flock testing. While Montana State University does have a wool lab, the closure of the Yocum-McColl lab in 2020 has put even more pressure on this one, which is in desperate need of upgrading.
"Last year, the Montana State Legislature appropriated $5 million to update the lab, but only if the university could raise $1 million in matching funds by the end of 2022. So far, $425,000 has been raised."
That was in October. If you're interested in helping make sure they meet and possibly even exceed that fundraising goal, you can read more here.
How about a gift for later?
I'm a firm believer in leaving breadcrumbs for our future selves. Toward that end, here's something tempting from Mitchell Wool Co. Made from a vintage wool Hudson Bay blanket, undyed American-sourced leather, and cotton lining, this backpack comes from one of my favorite domestic wool families. If you preorder it now, you'll forget about it over the holiday rush and be delightfully surprised when you receive a gift for yourself early next year.
And for those of you in New Zealand, check out this new shop dedicated to all things wool. You're lucky to be able to order one of these beautiful wool bags without paying a fortune in shipping.
That's it for now!
As we head toward winter solstice, keep that wool handy, enjoy the cozy, and know that light will soon return.
Until next time,