The Wool Wire | November 30, 2022
Montana's black sheep ranchers & Duckworth, winter wool sweaters and coats, Nome Schoolhouse, icebreaker, Chimney Sweep, wool shoes, research on transforming coarse wool, wool wreaths
News snippets from the wool world
First, I wanted to bring your attention to a program from GreaterGood, a 501(c)3 public charity based in Seattle. Wool blankets are being purchased from Kharkiv, Ukraine, to support suppliers and staff there—and they are being distributed to Ukrainians who need them most. You can find out the details here.
And now, let's take a deeper look at what's happening in our world of wool—starting with the joys of raising black sheep.
Black Sheep and Proud of It
Montana's John and Carol Steitz make an inspiring case for small farms, regenerative ag, and the joys of raising black sheep. They've won both the Black Sheep Cup and the Stanley Cup at the renowned Black Sheep Gathering.
And while we're out in Montana, Duckworth was front and center in this TV spot from Montana news complete with a trip up into the mountains and a compelling pitch for "sheep to shelf" Duckworth wool clothing.
First up, we have this list of five men's wool sweaters from Gear Patrol, a "product journalism" website that's been helping consumers know what to buy since 2007. Just a warning, the author groups all protein fibers together as "wool" and asserts that lambswool is hypoallergenic while mohair is itchy.
While you're checking out your options, how about dumping that puffer jacket for a wool coat? Here're 21 selections from Glamour. While most are blends, there are a few 100% wool coats noted.
Or perhaps you'd like to see Harper's Bazaar's list of their 20 best wool coats? But wait, here comes Elle with their take on the 20 best wool coats this season.
And then we have shoes...
North Dakota's Nome Schoolhouse
TV station KFYR recently interviewed Teresa Perleberg and Chris Armbrust. They are the team behind the brilliantly named YouTube channel, EweTube. The duo offers farm-to-market products, including felting kits, yarn, shoe insoles, and needle-felting cushions. But that's not all. They also run a fiberarts education center and inn.
In their own words:
"We are Chris and Teresa, two shepherds that joined our fiber arts businesses, purchased a 100 year old abandoned school building and poured all of our money, thoughts, energy and love into restoring this beautiful historical structure."
Road trip, anyone?
icebreaker Named in Fast Company's Second Annual List of "Brands That Matter"
Smart marketing is one thing. But for as long as I've been following icebreaker, the company has walked the walk and talked the talk. Which is why I was so pleased to see them make this list.
"Fast Company announced its second annual Brands That Matter list, honoring brands that communicate and demonstrate brand purpose. These companies and nonprofits have achieved relevance through cultural impact and social engagement, and authentically communicated their missions and ideals.
Today, icebreaker uses 70 growers as part of the Long-Term Supply Contract Growers Club. Furthermore, 100% of those members have signed up to the ZQRX program, a regenerative agriculture program that helps growers work with nature to continuously improve human, animal and environmental outcomes.
While icebreaker still uses a small amount of nylon in some of its products, 95% of the icebreaker clothing range is now made either of Merino or plant-based fibers.
Britain's Chimney Sheep celebrates 10 years of steady growth
Here's a wool success story for you. The company that makes the ingenious Chimney Sheep is thriving, winning awards (including a Queen's Award for Enterprise earlier this year), and adding new wool innovations to its offerings.
The company's flagship product, the Chimney Sheep, is basically a dense pad of felted Herdwick wool that you insert into your chimney flue to cut down on heat loss and reduce wind noise. (Picture stuffing a sheep up your chimney, but with less noise or protesting.)
It has a convenient handle with a dangling tag that helps remind you to remove the Chimney Sheep before making a fire. Made in the UK, these come in a multitude of shapes and sizes to fit most chimneys. I've had one for two years now, and it makes the living room a cozy, quiet refuge in the winter. The difference really has been dramatic.
Hi-tech softening enzymes offer hope of revival for Scottish wool industry
As consumers back away from fast fashion, demand sustainability, and focus on using local resources, they are becoming more open to the idea of wool. But they tend to expect only the finest fibers, leaving the world's strong/coarse wool growers in the dark. Research is underway in Scotland to see if enzymes could be used to make other grades of wool fibers "finer" and thus more palatable to consumers.
“People tend to think that British wool is only suitable for carpets and socks, but we have the most diverse wool clip in a world within the shores and it comes down to our unique mix of breeds. We make over 100 quality grades of wool from British wool, and a large proportion of that is fine and medium-type wool very suitable for knitwear apparel.”
And finally, deck the halls with felted wool balls!
I never thought I'd see wool in a grocery store—then again, Trader Joe's is no ordinary grocery store. This holiday season, the company has partnered with a supplier in Nepal to produce colorful felted wool wreaths, garlands, and mini garlands. All are made from New Zealand wool and priced under $20.
Better yet, grab some roving and make your own.
That's it for this week! Thank you as always for your readership and your support.
Keep your wool handy and take good care of yourself,