Wool – Mother Nature’s Miracle Fibre
by Bridgette Kelly
There has never been a more perfect scene than a flock of sheep grazing freely on the open countryside and all over the world, that is exactly what they do. Born free to roam, sheep live on and from the land and in doing so, help to maintain our landscapes and the important eco sub-cultures that many of us do not even realize thrive in the low grass and shrub.
Pastoral management aside, what sheep are best known for is their wool, the fibre which naturally grows—just as your hair does—and provides a fabulous material for the global textile industry. In ancient times, wool was considered to be worth more than gold. The industrial revolution made wool a hugely valuable resource as the world moved on from craft making to volume production. Now, wool is traded across the globe allowing people everywhere to enjoy the beauty, diversity, and truly amazing functionality of this remarkable fibre.
Wool is grown, not manmade, and as a result it has a natural cell structure that under a microscope shows its incredible complexity. Once it is shorn from the sheep—this is done annually—the wool will maintain its inherent working properties throughout the chain of manufacturing and into the finished product, making it truly unique!
So, what exactly can wool do? Wool has the ability to breathe—providing a micro-climate that is adaptable to the wearer or the space. This “smart” characteristic is how the sheep kept itself warm and also cool—the wool simply acclimatized. So, in cold weather the wool maintained heat and in hot weather the wool would simply absorb humidity caused by the temperature and remove it away from the skin (often called wicking) providing a comfortable temperature. This moisture is then released to the atmosphere later when the temperature cools.
Wool coats, suits, clothing will work with your body temperature and adapt accordingly making it perfect for all kinds of clothing including sports and active wear. Similarly, your living space benefits as the wool absorbs the excess humidity, breathing with the room and adapting continuously.
Style wise, we all choose texture to improve aesthetic appearance and wool has a highly individual tactile quality that enhances fashion, fabrics, furnishings, and flooring. Unsurprisingly, no manmade fibre has managed to emulate the natural touch of wool and so choosing wool brings a really authentic quality to your wardrobe and the space you call home.
A home furnished and decorated with wool offers a superior environment; comfortable, quiet and safe. The natural insulation that wool lends to the home adds thermal efficiencies as the fibre’s natural bulk traps air and insulates against heat loss—heating costs and carbon emissions can be reduced—much better for our purse and our planet! Additionally, due to this same insulative capability, wool will also absorb noise from room to room and floor to floor, providing the advantage of peace and quiet, something that is hard to find these days but is vitally important for our well-being. Hotels, commercial buildings, and airplanes all choose wool for this reason.
Safety is another major benefit of wool. It has such a high water and nitrogen content that it will naturally resist flame and largely self extinguish. Neither does it melt, drip, or emit noxious fumes which are the cause of so many casualties during house fires. A recent fire test done in London, England, at the home of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales—the Patron of the Campaign for Wool—showed without doubt that wool is a much safer fibre to wear, furnish, floor, and sleep with.
The ability of wool to absorb invisible compounds in the air—called volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—is perhaps one of the most beneficial in helping us to promote healthy internal air. Wool can absorb the compounds and irritants that float in the air and hold them permanently within its central core. This will filtrate the air and it is a remarkable fact that wool has proven this in formaldehyde-contaminated spaces—cleaning the air within 24 hours to make it safe. This is perfect for allergy sufferers too as wool can trap and hold dust within its top layers until vacuumed away. Despite all of this incredible activity, the wool remains perfectly safe and so do you!
Live Naturally... Choose Wool
The most compelling reason for choosing wool is that its imprint is altogether more natural, sustainable, and less damaging to the planet we want to pass on to future generations. While man-made fibres result from a huge international industry that will drain our earth’s resources of precious oils, sheep quietly grow their wool. When it is shorn, it re-grows and provides a continuous supply of quality fibre. Its natural durability and good appearance gives it a long life and then its natural biodegradability means it will quickly degrade in the earth. All these amazing attributes make it the perfect fibre for a healthy and comfortable lifestyle for you and your loved ones in the future.
Bridgette Kelly is the Director of Interior Textiles for the Campaign for Wool, a global promotion which was initiated by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in 2010. She has been involved in all aspects of the wool industry and now focuses on directing and developing the inspirational and educational programme for the wool interiors, craft, and artisan sectors in the UK and USA. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Entrepreneurs Sheldon and Jennifer Harrison have made wool available at both of their businesses: Nuwest Interiors and Vital Balance Bodyworks in Swift Current, SK. Nuwest Interiors (1080 Chaplin St W) carries fine Godfrey Hirst wool carpet, visit www.nuwestinteriors.com for details, and Vital Balance Bodyworks (8-1081 Central Ave N) has yarn, bedding, and laundry products made of yarn, www.vitalbalancebodyworks.com. Also see the display ad on page 21 of the 20.5 January/February issue of the WHOLifE Journal.