The Wool Wire | September 21, 2022
Lost flocks and starter sheep, regenerative wool in the US, wool in T-shirts and on TikTok, new Woolmark innovations, a national wool museum, and preserving the native sheep of the North Atlantic.
News snippets from the wool world
I have quite the bounty for you this week. From lost flocks to wooly TikTok laundry trends to thousands of sheep running amok (albeit politely) in Idaho, we go all over the place—starting with quite possibly the greatest sheep story on the Internet right now.
What the Flock?
We begin in central France, where a lone runner was befriended by a flock of lost sheep. Now that's a reason to take up running.
A new partnership brings regenerative ag deeper into the U.S. wool industry
This one needs to be peeled apart like an onion.
We start with Chargeurs, a massive French conglomerate that works in the protective film, museum solutions, fashion technology, and luxury materials industries around the world.
As part of its luxury materials group, Chargeurs operates wool processing plants around the world, including the last commercial topmaking facility in the United States.
Back in 2017, in response to mounting consumer pressure for greater transparency, traceability, and accountability in the wool industry (thanks in part to those PETA campaigns), Chargeurs created a new label called Nativa Precious Fibers. The goal was to provide assurance to manufacturers who wanted to use wool but were wary of invoking consumer backlash. The Nativa label gave companies an independently audited guarantee that they weren't torturing animals or operating sweatshops to get their wool.
Meanwhile, the same year as Nativa launched, Jeanne and Dan Carver created Shaniko Wool Company to help connect American wool growers with a market. The Carvers' Imperial Stock Ranch was the first US ranch to be Responsible Wool Standard certified. (Knitters may also remember Imperial Stock Ranch as the original maker of Imperial Yarn.)
This month, Nativa and Shaniko connected their environmental dots with the U.S. launch of the Nativa Regenerative Agriculture Program, which bills itself as "the first regenerative wool program" in this country. The program is "designed to improve soil and water quality and protect biodiversity while helping brands reduce their carbon footprint and reach their sustainability targets."
I'm not sure how this and Fibershed's Climate-Beneficial Wool program differ, or how both of these programs differ from the Savory Institute's Land to Market program... which is to say there's more than one game in town. But any move toward healthier soil is good. Let's build on that.
Idaho's Trailing of Sheep Festival from October 5 to 9
Mark your calendars, tank up the car, and head to Idaho in time to watch thousands of sheep parade down Main Street in Ketchum. Better yet, arrive a few days early for all the other activities that take place around town. This remarkable event, now in its 26th year, is all about honoring the history and culture of sheep ranching and herding in Idaho and the American west. This year's event will have a special focus on women in ranching.
The Daily Beast gives a rave review for Unbound Merino’s crew neck T-shirt
"... the best features come from the wool itself. The shirt is odor resistant and anti-wrinkle, which is pretty much incredible."
While not as extensive as Wool & Prince, Unbound has a good selection of men's Merino clothing. The company also has a bare-bones women's section that I hope they'll expand, because their long-sleeve Merino crew is lovely.
And speaking of wool clothing...
A good part of Woolmark's mission involves supporting designers and companies that want to use Australian Merino. And by "support" I don't just mean that they stand at the sidelines yelling, "You've got this!" They actually come up with new fabrics for you, like the waterproof wool they developed for raincoats, and the gorgeous wool denim for jeans. Here are two of their latest collaborations.
The only wool that goes into the dryer...
Here's the original video on TikTok.
Sheep starter flocks available for North Dakota youth
Know anyone with kids in North Dakota who are interested in sheep? Be sure to tell them about this new program.
"For the 14th year, North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension and the North Dakota Lamb and Wool Producers Association are offering North Dakota youth an opportunity to become involved in the sheep industry and build their own flock.
Youth chosen for the Starter Flock Discounted Loan Program will receive an interest-free loan to purchase 10 yearling Rambouillet ewes from the association."
What a brilliant idea!
Australia's National Wool Museum
On August 1, 2022, the National Wool Museum in Geelong, Victoria, marked the 150th anniversary of the opening of the wool store that eventually became the museum. It is Australia’s only comprehensive museum of wool. You can browse the collection online through Victoria Collections.
The quest to save the North Atlantic's native sheep
Here's a fascinating article about the North Atlantic Native Sheep and Wool Conference that took place this summer in Narsarsuaq, Greenland.
"The conference has sparked a bigger discussion, about the legacy of some of the world’s oldest sheep breeds, and what can be done to preserve that heritage."
Now that's a conference for the bucket list, eh?
See? I told you I had a bounty for you this week! I hope I've given you a lot to think about.
Thank you as always for your readership and your support.
Until next time,