|Image by yr humble author|
Why am I bleating on about wool? Well, it's a natural fibre that man has known and used since the Stone Age. We are yet to develop an artificial replacement that comes close to matching its unique all-weather properties.
It's renewable, of course. To make wool, all you need is grass and a sheep. Every year, said sheep will provide a new harvest. As wool is a fibre that is tied so closely to the natural environment, it behooves everyone involved in its production to safeguard the land on which sheep graze. It's also biodegradable: return wool to the soil and it will break down quickly and easily, with the added benefit of releasing nutrients as it goes.
Wool is a remarkable fibre. Let me drop a little science on you. It's hygroscopic, which means it absorbs and releases moisture in the form of water vapour. Heat generated as it does this makes the fibre a natural insulator. That also means it reacts to changes in body temperature, keeping you comfortable whatever the weather. It can soak up 30% of its own weight in moisture vapour, and it's odour resistant: handy for those long hikes over the hills when you might be getting a sweat on. It's breathable too, as the crimped structure of the fibre traps air pockets in the weave, which again helps to keep wool comfortable next to the skin.
It's easy to look after (the days of hand-wash only for wool items are long gone), keeps its shape for longer and inhibits bacterial growth. It doesn't promote allergies, it's fire-retardent and high in UV resistance. All that off the back of a sheep. This stuff is amazing.
This is before we talk about the multiple uses for wool: from clothing to insulation and soft furnishing, wool is uniquely, naturally versatile.
This Wool Week, retailers, manufacturers, designers and artisans are getting together to help us reconnect with this most extraordinary fibre, a treasure that springs from our beautiful countryside. There are new collections in fashion and interiors, a gathering of knitters and even a bike ride. No, I don't think you can make bicycles out of wool yet. But you know, I wouldn't be surprised if some bright spark found a way.
Wool Week continues for the rest of this week. To find out more, go to www.campaignforwool.org