Ah, wool. We've waxed lyrical on these pages many times about the stuff. It's eminently sustainable, of course: insert grass into sheep, and there it is, every year. The fibres are durable, water-resistant, breathable, anti-bacterial, completely natural and, if you pick the right manufacturer, eminently local. Scottish wool, still a spit and a whistle away from us in the UK in relation to its nearest natural rival, New Zealand, is the best on the planet. It's a no-brainer.
But when we think of wool, we think in terms of chunky sweaters, thick scarfs, heavy socks. Actually, alpaca is best for socks, but I digress. What I'm getting at is that there's a bit of an image problem when it comes to wool. The words sleek, elegant and tailored do not come to mind when we consider the fabric. That's not just a shame–it's completely inaccurate.
Our dapper chums over at The Tweed Pig reported recently on a new organisation seeking to redress the balance. The Noble Wool Club, a collaboration between fabric producer Scabal and Woolmark, aims to highlight the use of superfine fibres and the skills of the farmers and weavers that bring them to market. Scabal, whose Huddersfield mill has been in production since the 1530s, is leading the pack with a 12-micron fibre, perfect for the softest, most luscious suiting fabric. This is not your chunky knit.
But the Club is as much about provenance and sustainability as the quality of the wares. To join, you have to be a producer of superfine fibres working under an exacting range of conditions. Farms must be family-owned, breeding sheep (typically Australian Merinos) based on heritage bloodlines that are fed on granite-based soils typically found 600m above sea level. With a focus as much on the land and the history behind the wool as the production, the Noble Wool Club is taking an approach that you could compare to that of French wine-growers and their terroir.
It's important to shout long and hard about British wool. Its quality is second-to-none. The heritage and history under which it is produced brings us a fabric created with pride and care. Wool's sustainable creds are not in question. It's about time we started looking at how we can use it more, in contexts outside the realm of the thick and itchy Christmas jumper. Our View: The Noble Wool Club is an admirable initiative that should do much to highlight an aspect of a great British fabric that often gets overlooked.