Wool (noun) '
the fine, soft curly or wavy hair forming the coat of a sheep, goat, or similar animal, especially when shorn and prepared for use in making cloth or yarn.'
Our appreciation for the noble natural fibres we use within our knitwear is drawn from many elements; from the connections we feel when speaking with local farmers here in Cumbria who supply the raw fleeces, the lustrous soft hand feel created by cashmere, the rich heritage of Donegal and other traditional spins, and how all through the year the versatility of wool continually brings us comfort and protection from the elements.
Through all that we design and create, we have often returned to the question ‘Why choose Wool?’ which continually leads us to an answer that goes beyond the benefits of working with natural fibres. Working so closely with wool has encouraged us to explore many different avenues to further our knowledge on transparency and the circularities and capabilities of knitwear design, all whilst linking with similar minded others; which in our eyes is one of the most important parts.
Below we have shared key reasons as to why we continue to choose wool…
1. It allows us to support farmers
For two new styles in 2021, we developed three exclusive un-dyed fleece blends developed yarns in collaboration with Nibthwaite Grange Farm, located only 10 miles down the road from the OUBAS studio, in addition to another very local farmer just outside of Ulverston.
By working in this way, we not only get to monitor the sourcing and processing of the yarns used in our knitwear, we also get to connect with like-minded individuals who are passionate about regenerative agriculture and caring for our natural landscapes.
Wool is still only a small fraction of a farms turnover, but at a time when the value is so low, we want to be raising it's value and choosing to spin using locally grown fibre. There are only a very small percentage of farms who breed for fibre, and most fleeces are from sheep bread predominantly for their meat.
There is such a diverse range of breeds of sheep in the UK, each holding their own innate qualities and hand feel. We feel there are never ending possibilities for blending and spinning, to create interesting new fabrics made using British Wool.
2. Beneficial to people and the planet
Not only is wool completely biodegradable (meaning at the end of its life it can be returned to the soil and will decompose with the dirt and soil) it has been noted that select wool fibres such as Merino can reduce irritations caused by chronic skin conditions. Suitable for washing at low temperatures - all while being antimicrobial so the need for washing is automatically less - pure wool knitwear that has not been blending with synthetic fibres can be labelled as a completely natural item of clothing, in turn avoiding contribution to plastic pollution.
Easily recycled and reusable with a long life span, wool is one of the most durable materials available to create clothing and accessories and is used time and time again by those wanting to create long lasting designs with a certain hand feel and feel against the skin. As a renewable source of textiles, sheep will regrow their coats each year and when it comes to shearing.
3. Carries a rich history
We feel that natural fibres such as cotton, linen and in particular wool conjure strong nostalgia in their hand feel, smell and appearance. Many of us have been knitted a jumper by a relative and will remember the stiffness of the jumper or cardigan, often with its own unique itch if pure raw wool yarn was chosen! Of course the blends that we select don’t share this same finish but they still retain a certain charm and character through their hand feel, weight and even smell. Famous for being worn by fisherman and those in outdoor labor rolls for many years, wool will only begin to feel wet once it has absorbed 30% of its own weight and shouldn’t retain body odour thanks to its natural antimicrobial status.
Easy to repair by recreating the knit pattern using select darning techniques, knitwear is born with its own character but gains even more over time - whether it is in emotive connection, personal patching and mending or simply as a cherished item that becomes a go-to at certain times of the year.
4. An active fibre
Thanks to the versatility of wool, we create collections throughout the year from light and heavy blends that are able to adapt to the body - meaning they will keep you warm when the temperature drops and cool when the heat returns. By simply adding a knitted scarf or wrap to an outfit, we are able to easily cover exposed hands and neck points from both winter chills and the impact of the sun. Favoured by those seeking quality, outdoor enthusiasts and farmers themselves, wool can resist static, dirt and dust and is capable of retaining its shape. Additionally, wool is breathable and static resistant so cashmere blends are a joy to wear against bare skin and won’t cling.
5. Easy to care for
With the right know-how wool is extremely easy to care for and keep in shape for years to come - it’s no wonder that we are able to hold onto our favourite sweater for so long, or you may be passed down a hand knit from a loved one. The processing of the yarns we select doesn’t involve harsh chemicals that can commonly strip the wool fibres of their natural, beneficial properties. Wool fibres have a naturally protective outer layer and careful washing can help to retain these features.
We recommend gently airing out and brushing your knitwear (depending on how much you wear) - just hang in the bathroom to steam for a refresh, or if it needs more, give a with a gentle hand wash, spin and air dry will keep your knits happy and healthy for many years.
Due to the natural oils in wool, the fibre doesn't need washing as regularly as items you wear next to your skin, or which are absorbent. Naturally eco-friendly!
We hope you enjoy caring for your knitwear, and will share our own care tips for each fibre we use soon.