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The Wool Wire | October 6, 2022

A tale of three blankets, plus hard chairs made of soft wool, NZ leads in educating kids about wool, Canada challenges the PEF, Michigan’s Lake Superior Woolen Company, shepherds in the NYT, and wool harvesting workshop.

Clara Parkes
Clara Parkes
6 min read
The Wool Wire | October 6, 2022
Photo by Andrea Lightfoot / Unsplash

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News snippets from the wool world‌‌

Hello, wool friends!

It's a gorgeous fall day here in Maine. The leaves are reaching those bold autumnal shades I always wish I could re-create in a sweater but never dare try.

We have loads of things to explore this week, from a (literal and figurative) roving classroom in New Zealand to a powerful story in The New York Times about the plight of Latin American shepherds in the United States.

There's also news of a freshly licensed needle-felting kit for fans of the animated short Robin Robin, as well as an update from the founders of Solidwool.

In honor of the return of cool weather, we begin with a tale of two blankets.

Pancho's Blanket

Our first blanket tale is a beautiful one involving a Kansas City startup with deep roots in Mexico.

"The brothers grew up as missionary kids in Tlaxcala, which is about two hours southeast of Mexico City. Garvey’s parents and brother still live there and he spends about half of his time in Kansas City and the other half in Mexico.
But supporting Mexican artisans and stimulating the local economy is only part of the goal for the company. A portion of the proceeds go to Feed a Family — the nonprofit he recently started with his family — which provides food and clothing to families in the Tlaxcala community."
It starts with wool on 125-year-old looms; story of Pancho’s Blanket weaves KC into family mission
Pancho’s Blanket partners with artisans in Tlaxcala, Mexico, to design and make wool jackets, blankets, and sweaters. “We pay the artists well. It’s totally ethical. And it’s unique because you won’t get (these designs anywhere else) in Mexico,” said Jonathan Garvey, a UMKC business school grad. “Yo…

Small-Batch Blankies from Michigan

For those who want to know exactly where the wool in your blanket came from, check out Lake Superior Woolen Company. They raise a flock of 400 Polypay sheep on their farm in northern Michigan. They send the wool to Canada to be scoured, carded, dyed, spun, and woven into blankets. They also have mattress pads. This direct-to-consumer model has helped keep the flock self-supporting, which we know can be a rarity these days. I also love how much this model underlines the seasonal nature of wool. When it's gone, it's gone. We have to wait for the sheep to grow more.


OK, I know I said two blanket tales, but I just got an email from Ibex that their American-made blankets are back in stock. My mom gave me one for Christmas last year and it's wonderful—light yet thick and warm, with a sublime wooly smell.

USA Made Wool Blankets
Looking for the best 100% wool blankets made in the USA? Order our lounge-ready Ibex blankets and experience the merino wool difference! Fast shipping!

Solidwool Remains on Solid Ground

Enough about blankets! Let's have a seat—specifically, on the Hembury chair from Solidwool. It's not puffy or padded at all, and yet the composite material that forms each chair contains the equivalent of one Herdwick sheep's fleece.

In 2020, Solidwool announced that it was ceasing production. One of its founders had a health scare. Roger Oates Design has since become a custodian of the Solidwool brand and has resumed production.  

"Despite its special qualities, Herdwick wool has lost its perceived value over time, and is today considered one of the lowest value wools in the UK. With the ambition of giving this underrated material a new lease of life, Solidwool combines the wool with a bio resin as part of a unique manufacturing process."

Better yet, Solidwool's founders Hannah and Justin Floyd are doing well. They were recently interviewed in the podcast Material Matters with Grant Gibson. I was fascinated to hear how they came to use wool in the first place. Their goal was design innovation and putting people to work—the wool came afterwards. It's worth a listen.


A (Literal) Roving Classroom

Picture this: A truck pulls up at your local elementary school. It's carrying a 20-foot shipping container that has been converted into a mobile classroom. The doors open to reveal a mobile woolshed complete with interactive exhibitions, carding stations, and even a mini loom. New Zealand's Wool in Schools program has two of these mobile classrooms available upon request. As of August, they had welcomed their 25,000th student. Imagine if we could do this around the world.

Wool stations put a new spin on teaching children
A project that educates children about wool will see its 25,000th student pass through its wool sheds this month.

Get Your Felt On

Aardman Studios is legendary for having created characters such as Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep using modeling clay. But in their latest short film Robin Robin, they used felted wool to achieve a softer look. In a move that makes all the sense in the world, the studio has signed an exclusive licensing deal with UK crafting business The Makerss to produce a Robin Robin needle-felting kit so people can re-create the character at home.

Aardman ROBIN Needle Felt Kit
ORDER now! New and exclusive! ROBIN Needle Felt Kit. Introducing a brand new needle felting kit! Make your own Robin, based on the adorable star of Robin Robin, the latest film from award-winning studio Aardman. Skill Level: Beginner Size in cm: approx. 21cm tall Techniques used: Sculpting with wo…

The Shepherds of our Wide Open Spaces

Back in June, I told you about a lawsuit being filed on behalf of Latin American sheepherders here in the United States. It claimed, among other things, that certain western ranches were engaging in cartel-like wage suppression. The New York Times picked up the story and has done a powerful piece that explores the issues deeper.

Alone in a New World With Vast Open Space, and Sheep
Latin American sheepherders, here on work visas, do the same nomadic work that European immigrants did before them. But do they have a shot at the American dream?

Canada’s wool industry joins in the PEF backlash‌‌

The kerfuffle surrounding the European Commission's Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) Methodology continues. Now the Canadian Wool Council has announced its support for Make the Label Count, which challenges the PEF methodology.

"The European Commission’s PEF is placing synthetic fibres and natural fibres on a level playing field by not acknowledging that synthetic fibres are derived from petrochemical, non-renewable, non-biodegradable plastics.
The Canadian Wool Council and others want to ensure fairness in the labelling benefits of all natural fibre producers and help prevent corporate greenwashing."

Finally, here's a great opportunity for any of you who've dreamed of mastering the art of shearing—or, as it's being called now, "wool harvesting." But you'll have to act fast, because the program is next week.

Wool Harvesting School - MSU Extenison Animal and Range Science | Montana State University

That's it for now! But as you know, there's always more when it comes to wool.

Thank you for your readership and your support.

Stay curious and keep the wool handy,

Clara

News

Clara Parkes

Wool is life. I make The Wool Channel go.

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