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Why I love wool and especially Merino

It's the New Year and I thought I'd take this opportunity to tell you what is so special about wool and merino in particular. I love to use it, despite the fact that it is imported from Australia and despite the other fact that I live surrounded by Welsh sheep.With thanks to the Woolmark Company, what follows is a longer than normal read, but please stick with it - I hope you'll be converted back to wool - the world's most technically advanced natural fibre.

Along with linen and leather, wool was an important textile in the Roman empire, and this textile became even more central to European life during the Middle Ages. By around 1200 AD, in fact, wool production had become a major component of the Italian economy.

Famous Italian families, such as the Medici, built their entire fortunes from wool production. By the dawning of the Renaissance, wool production had spread through the rest of Europe, but it wasn’t until the Colonial Era that Europeans exported wooly sheep to other continents.

As soon as the British Empire introduced sheep to the Australian continent, the trajectory of the global wool industry changed drastically. With such an immense expanse of ideal grazing land at its disposal, the Australian sheep population exploded within a few decades. Australia remains the wool capital of the world, and New Zealand is another significant wool-producing country.

In 1797, the first Merino sheep, derived from the famed Royal Merino Flocks of Spain, were introduced into Australia. Although these sheep had already evolved a fine fibre, further selective breeding by Australian farmers soon produced the authentic Australian Merino with its even finer wool.

Being highly resilient, wool had predominantly been used in utilitarian garments, particularly military uniforms and work wear. Wool's big fashion break, however, came in the decade following the First World War when Coco Chanel reinvented the fashion rules and produced a dress from fine wool jersey. Since then, wool has always been used in fashion.

Properties of Merino wool

100% natural

Wool is 100% natural grown year-round by Australia’s 68 million sheep, consuming a simple blend of water, air, sunshine and grass.

100% biodegradable

When a wool fibre is disposed of, it will naturally decompose in soil in a matter of years, slowly releasing valuable nutrients back into the earth.

Soft on skin

Merino wool fibres are extremely fine, enabling them to bend far more than traditional, coarser wool fibres. This makes Merino wool feel soft and luxuriously gentle next to your skin.

Stain resistant

Merino wool fibres have a natural protective outer layer that helps prevent stains from being absorbed. And because Merino wool tends not to generate static, it attracts less dust and lint.

100% renewable

Every year Australian sheep produce a new fleece, making wool a completely renewable fibre.

Wrinkle resistant

At microscopic level, each Merino wool fibre is like a coiled spring that returns to its natural shape after being bent. This gives Merino wool garments a natural resistance to wrinkles.

Naturally breathable

Merino wool is one of the most breathable fibres. Wool fibres can absorb large quantities of moisture vapour then move it away to evaporate into the air.

Warm and cool

In contrast to synthetics, Merino wool is an active fibre that reacts to changes in body temperature. So it helps you stay warm when the weather is cold, and cool when the weather is hot.

Odour resistant

In contrast to synthetics, Merino wool can absorb moisture vapour which means less sweat on your body. Merino wool even absorbs the odour molecules from sweat, which are only released upon washing.

So, what's not to like? I use merino for its softness - so important when creating my fabulous felted wraps.  It's not scratchy or itchy and really does repel dust and moisture, therefore requiring less washing than a synthetic material. Being so fine it fuses beautifully with silk to make a complelety new fabric, the basis for my signature throws.

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