We love wool - find out why!

We are in the middle of The Campaign For Wool's 7th Wool Week 2016, and there is no better time to appreciate the amazing quality of this natural product.   It was officially inaugurated in October 2010, in recognition of the plight sheep farmers were facing around the world in the face of plummeting wool prices.  Wool is a precious natural, renewable and biodegradable resource that offers many technical and ecological benefits and The Campaign For Wool sought to convene experts from across the agricultural, wool textile and retail sectors to reverse the trend towards petro-chemical fibres.

Determined to make our Hebridean fleeces a viable product at Carry Farm, initially, we had to ensure we had the quantity for a commercial batch to be processed.  This involved storing fleeces shorn each year in the hay shed (perhaps of course it should be renamed the wool shed), until we had around 200 fleeces or approx 200Kg.

The first cog in the wheel of a finished yarn is scouring.  Our Hebridean fleeces were taken to Haworth to be professional cleaned on a large scale and prepared for spinning by combing the fleece ensuring that all the fibres run parallel to each other.  The ‘bats’ of fleece were then sent to New Lanark, a historic mill on the banks of the River Clyde.  Originally, a cotton mill, it survived from 1785 to 1968 and in its time had been among the largest factories in the world, employing nearly 2,500 people.  

Our Hebridean wool was produced using very traditional methods on a 19th century spinning mule, powered by renewable energy from New Lanarks hydro-electricity production.  And for keen enthusiasts, you can visit the main mill floor where the rattle and noise of a 392 spindle, 120ft long, 19th century spinning mule, making 4 passes every minute should not be missed!

At the end of the process, we came home with 100 cones of our distinctive Hebridean yarn.  

So why bother when we can produce synthetic yarn?  Since the Stone Age, wool has been appreciated as one of the most effective forms of all-weather protection known to man.  Technology has come on a fair bit since then, however science is yet to produce a fibre which matches wool’s unique properties.  

As long as there is grass to graze on, every sheep will produce a new fleece annually, making wool a renewable fibre source.  At the end of its useful life, wool can be returned to the soil, where it decomposes, releasing valuable nutrients into the ground.  In comparison, synthetics are slow to degrade.

Wool is a natural insulator and is extremely breathable.  It also has the ability to constantly react to changes in body temperature, maintaining comfort in both cold and warm weather.  A wool vest can make all the difference to your temperature control.

Garments made from wool have the ability to stretch with the wearer, but also to return to their natural shape, making them resistant to sagging. Wool therefore maintains its appearance in the long run, adding value to the product as well as lifespan.

Wool is far more efficient than other textiles at absorbing sweat and releasing it into the air, before bacteria has a chance to develop.  It is not known to cause allergies and has a naturally high level of UV protection - much higher than most synthetics and cotton.

So now you know!  Next time you are thinking of a new purchase - think wool!  Carry Farm has 50 gram balls of Hebridean wool for sale, or if you are thinking of a bigger project, the 1 Kg cones are a cheaper option.  Born and raised on our coastal smallholding, our happy sheep help to produce ethical products!

The Dairy Gallery at Carry Farm has functional textiles made at the Farm from our Hebridean fleece and is open every day for visitors to enjoy.  And of course, you are always welcome to visit the flock of Hebrideans down by the shore.