Given a certain animal rights group's campaign against wool these days, I've been thinking a lot about why I love wool.
First lets talk about sheep. My sheep have a really great life. In fact, I think the horses are probably jealous of their nice sturdy, dry, warm barn when the wind is howling and it is below freezing - don't worry, we are working on that. They have food in front of them 24 hours a day and all the fresh water they can drink. They freely roam, choosing whether to be outside or inside. A sturdy fence and (soon) guardian dog protect them from predators so they can sleep, eat, and lamb without stress. When they are sick, they get medicine and care so that they recover from things that would kill them in the wild. Yeah - pretty nice life. My sheep do not fear me. They willingly spend time near me whenever I enter the pasture and they often follow me around as I work.
Some people would have you believe that shearing sheep is cruel. While I will admit it might be a little scary for yearlings the first time they are sheared, the adult sheep really don't seem to mind. In fact, I think they like having all that itchy wool gone. We do everything we can to make it less stressful. Our shearer has been doing this for over 50 years. He cares about the sheep and making sure they are not injured. And let's be real - a wild sheep's life is WAY more stressful on a daily basis. Unless they live in Iceland where there are no predators. Even so, they have to look for food, water, shelter and they have to just live with the weather, no matter what it is.
Ok so back to wool and why I love this fabric.
Wool is magical. It can keep you warm or cool. Wool keeps you dry by wicking moisture away from your skin and can absorb up to 30% of it's own weight before feeling wet. Even when it is wet, wool still keeps you warm. Wool is durable, resists wrinkles, and retains it's shape, making it the perfect fabric for travel clothing. There are many kinds of fiber from all the cool sheep breeds, so wool can be formed into every imaginable application from clothing, to carpet, hats, purses....... Wool is stylish, versatile, and sustainable! Perhaps the coolest thing about wool is that it grows back every year! Sheep turn grass into wool - awesome!
What about the environment? Wool is good for that too! The textile industry is one of the biggest producers of greenhouse gasses in the world. Producing polyester creates more CO2 than any other fabric. In 2015, polyester production for textiles released 706 billion Kg of greenhouse gasses which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 185 coal-fired power plants! Really - this information came from MIT. Cotton might seem to be more environmentally friendly until you take into account the diesel powered tractors required to plant, harvest, and process it. Hemp has a similar challenge. But wool.....nope. Spinning and processing wool commercially does consume a lot of electricity - to be fair. But other fibers also require spinning and processing so that is a carbon cost across the board. Wool doesn't deplete the soil, pollute the water, use excessive water, or pollute the air. Yay wool!
I love to wear wool, I love to make wool fabric, and I love my sheep. It's a win-win!