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The Wool Wire | May 1, 2024

Sweaters for sunscreen, wool lipstick, a Midwest wool revival, and a ridiculously expensive bale

Clara Parkes
Clara Parkes
4 min read
The Wool Wire | May 1, 2024
They make that grass look mighty tasty.

News snippets from the wool world

Hello, my wool friends,

It's May! Time to throw open the windows and give your heavy woolens a refresher before safely stowing them away for the season. Here at Wool Channel Global Headquarters I'm in high alert after spotting a dreaded moth on the wall by my stairs. It appeared to be recovering from a night of bachanalia and debauchery—that is, until I dispatched it to the Great Moth Beyond.

🐑 Foundation Flockers, this might be a good time to revisit my three-parter on moths if you want to be sure you're going into summer fully prepared.🐑

Sun Strategies

Now is a fitting time to revisit our sunscreen strategy for the summer months. Sure, there are plenty of lotions and potions we can slather on our skin. But we can also turn to our clothes for help.

Most clothing with a UPF (or Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating is made of petroleum-derived fibers that have been chemically treated. But did you know that wool has its own built-in protection from ultraviolet rays?

Here's my latest Wool Short all about it.

A Midwest wool revival

Last year I shared the sad news that Mid-States Wool Growers Cooperative was closing after more than 100 years. They cited rising costs as the reason, combined with lack of demand for the rougher grade of wool that cooperative members tended to grow.

The sudden closure left thousands of shepherds across the Midwest in the lurch—but Karen Mayhew had already been brainstorming about other markets for her wool. After the cooperative closed, Mayhew joined forces with librarian and environmental science whiz Elaine Becker, and together they launched Woollets.

That's right, another wool pellet story!

I've talked about the soil benefits of pellets before. But this article gives you a glimpse of the economics behind them.

By the time Mid-States closed, they were paying just pennies per pound for waste wool. But by transforming that wool into valuable pellets for the garden, Mayhew and Becker are able to offer local farms $0.50 per pound. And they have big plans.

During a recent Saturday afternoon the pair was busy pelleting their inventory of more than 1,800 pounds of wool ahead of the PBS Wisconsin’s upcoming Garden & Landscape Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.
Now they’ve refined their workflow, Mayhew said they can produce about 50 to 75 pounds of pellets per hour. That’s good enough to crank out a retail lineup of 1-pound bags that sell for $16 apiece and cover 30 square feet. Larger 5-pound packages cover 150 square feet, while 25-pound packages are good for 750-square-foot parcels.

Regionally sourced and manufactured wool pellets are on the rise, and prices are stabilizing. The likelihood is greater than ever that, one day in the not too distant future, wool pellets can be a vital part of every garden.

Pucker up!

If you'd like to take the act of wearing wool to an entirely new level, here's a novel idea. New Zealand beauty entrepreneur Karen Murrell makes a pigmented lip balm whose magic ingredient is none other than powdered keratin derived from New Zealand sheep's wool.

According to the company, the ultra-fine keratin powder is undetectable in the application of the lipstick and is incredibly soft, completely non gritty, and applies "like a very smooth, balm-like lipstick with a deep red colour."

It's called Kera Kisses, if you're curious to give it a try.

Apply liberally and often - Wool Impact
Karen Murrell creates lipstick harnessing ground-breaking keratin-infused technology.

The finest of the fine

Finally, let's tiptoe into a posh London townhouse and spy on a group of very deep-pocketed one-percenters who've gathered to gaze upon a large white object displayed under glass.

Behold, a record-breaking bale of 10.2-micron Merino wool.

The luxury wool that’s finer than silk
Harriet Walker attends the annual competition where Loro Piana sources its record-breaking merino wool

We have farmers struggling to get $0.50 per pound for their waste wool, and we have customers clamoring to buy $35,000 Italian luxury suits made from the finest Merino in the world. And in between lies a very vast chasm indeed.

On that note, I'll let you go.

Thanks, as always, for your readership and your support.

Until next time,



Clara Parkes

Wool is life. I make The Wool Channel go.


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