Why We Love Wool

Why We Love Wool

Wool is naturally connected to our heritage as British yarn spinners since 1907 and will no doubt play a leading role in our future as we look towards a more responsible use of our planetary resources.

Think of the British countryside and the image conjured in your mind’s eye would no doubt feature the rolling hills of William Blake’s “green and pleasant land” dotted with white fluffy sheep, grazing the same pastures as they have done for thousands of years. But it’s not just a romanticised picture-postcard worthy bucolic landscape. Sheep and specifically the trade of wool has been fundamental to commerce in the UK for centuries. During the 14th century the export of wool from Britain across Europe, was so important that the Lord Speaker sat on a wool bale in Parliament to demonstrate the fibre’s significance to the British economy. To this day the Lord Speaker’s seat in the House of Lords is a large red cushion known as the ‘Woolsack’ and stuffed with British wool (as well as wool from other Commonwealth nations). When cotton from India threatened the monopoly of the British wool trade at the turn of the 18th century, the Calico Acts (1700, 1721) were implemented to ban the import of most cotton textiles into England in order to protect the homegrown wool industry.

Much has changed between then and now and even within the 4 generations of our own history - not least the off-shoring of the majority of textile manufacturing and the invention of cheap synthetic materials derived from petroleum. But by taking the decision to work with sheep farmers and British Wool, we are doing our bit to sustain and support the British textile industry and to promote our favourite fibre.

For us, the provenance of the raw materials that make up our yarns is really important, but some fibres are much more difficult to trace back to their original source than others. One of the best things about working with wool, and specifically British wool is that we can guarantee its authenticity and origin, tracing an individual lot of wool back to the specific sheep farm. Find out more about our Wooltrace yarn and its fully traceable journey from farm to yarn here.

So why has wool stood the test of time and why does it continue to be our first choice for all of the yarns that we produce in our factory, as well as making up 100% of our byLaxtons hand knitting yarns?

Firstly, it is a natural fibre that no synthetic has yet been able to match for its multitude of positive properties. By its very nature, wool is a sustainable fibre – endlessly renewable, it is a resource that literally grows year after year - so long as there is grass to graze, and water to drink, sheep will produce a fleece annually. Once shorn of their heavy fleece, which in turn helps the animal to be more comfortable and mobile during the warmer months, the sheep will produce a new fleece, regrowing their woolly coat ready for the cooler months. In the same way that the wool helps to insulate and regulate the body temperature of the animal, wool works well as an insulator for us too, keeping you cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather, even when wet.

It is water repellent, and UV and stain resistant too. It is moisture-wicking, breathable and antimicrobial meaning that it is naturally odour-resistant and hypoallergenic, resisting the growth of mould and dust mites and actively improving the air quality. If it catches fire, which only happens at extremely high temperatures, then it smoulders and self-extinguishes rather than burning, shrinking, or melting, and produces no toxic fumes (it’s why it has long been used in fire-fighters’ uniforms). With its ‘crimpy’ structure, wool is resilient and resistant to compression meaning it has an elasticity making it durable and offering a flexibility when knitted or woven into a fabric. At the end of its life as a usable textile, wool fibre will biodegrade in the soil within a year, compared to at least 200 years for polyester. In contrast to oil-derived synthetics, wool will add nitrogenous nutrients and carbon back into the soil or water as it decomposes, rather than releasing polluting plastic microfibres.

But don’t just take our word for it. Knit with wool and see the benefits for yourself.

Discover our 100% wool yarns here.