British Wool Clothing
Designed by Nature, made in Britain.
Making knitwear in the UK is great on many levels. At it's heart is a product that is considered to be a waste stream but is naturally renewable, it supports farmers, industry and keeps a rich history and skill alive. Most importantly, it means amazing quality products created with great care from sheep to shop.
British Wool in 10 seconds
Shearing coats is a normal part of taking care of sheep, but despite their being 40'000 sheep farmers in Britain and the biggest variety of breeds in any country on the planet, the low demand and low price means that the coat is considered by most to be a waste product. Britain has an epic national skillsbase in sheep farming, wool spinning and knitwear manufacturing but very little is left now. It's in large part due to cheaper alternatives from foreign countries, which is a shame, as at a minimum, UK animal welfare is much stronger. But British Wool is making a comeback: Shop Men's / Shop Women's
Unlike synthetic fibres, wool is a natural, renewable and breathable insulating fibre that's designed by nature.
Synthetic fibres became super popular in the 60s because they were soft, bright and flexible. Cotton has also become cheaper, with both types of fabric benefitting from the low paid, lower skill and less capital intensive method of sewing up jersey-based garments in overseas countries. The outcome is that modern clothes often are made of materials that degenerate the environment that they're produced in. As production moved overseas to synthetic fibres, it has without question contributed to the fact that most consumers know less about where clothes come from, how they're made, who made them.
Whilst the details are complex, and we don't condone the kind of wool production that you might call 'industrial farming,' there's no question that done right, Wool is a natural, renewable fibre that we are best in the world at making - We can create more intrinsically valuable products that can have a positive effect at increasing quality of life for all involved.
But wool is scratchy and expensive right?
" It's just different. Wool is tough, long lasting, breathable, insulating, natural and renewable."
Men's British Wool BeanieThis men's woolly beanie is very special, made by hand entirely in Britain, from sheep to shop. As a classic beanie knit with a modern shape, behind the natural warmth you can feel years of expert craftsmanship have gone into the knitting techniques that give such epic quality. Keep out the nip this Winter.
Whilst wool is flexible, can be coloured and knitted into loads of everyday garments, like every fabric it is best used for the right purpose. Making underwear from wool would be a bad idea, for example. But for specific applications like beanies and scarves there's no better fabric. British Wool is often considered to be more coarse due to our harsher weather, but that's a generalisation: There are British Sheep like the Blue Faced Leicester that create wool with a lustre and micron count to rival merino. That slight coarseness has a scientific basis: The shape of the scaled fibres has evolved to make it harder for bacteria to grow on sheep's coats, so unlike synthetic wool, which can get a bit smelly, wool lasts for ages. Infact, at the scouring plant, the sorter said he'd worked on coats that were found after being bailed for 50 years. They were as good as new: This stuff is built to last.
Wool is a hygroscopic fibre. As the humidity of the surrounding air rises and falls, the fibre absorbs and releases water vapour. Heat is generated and retained during the absorption phase, which makes wool a natural insulator - trust nature to design a good coat.
At the end of its useful life, wool decomposes, whereas most synthetics are extremely slow to degrade. At Rapanui we will even pay you to return your old products to us. For more, see Backtorapanui.com
The wool Sack
Britain's history owes a lot to wool. After the Black Death, there wasn't a great population left to till the fields and sheep farming became the norm. British spinners learned to spin finer yarns and farmers learned to increase the quality and productivity of their flocks through selective breeding. In time wool became a top export product and financed much of our country's development. At this stage, the most common job in Britain was as a spinner, and the most popular form of education was as a spinner's apprentice. Wool was the face of Britain. In time, spinning technology became automated with machines, sparking the industrial revolution and modern technology. In time, overseas travel and the age of steam allowed merchants to travel further afield for new fabrics, like cotton, and as education, manufacturing jobs and services became more common, wool was forgotten. Yet everything around us is made possible by it. Wool has been so important to building Britain that King Edward III ordered the speaker of the house to sit on The Wool Sack, a tradition in the house of Lords that continues to this day.
Isn't this an animal derived product?
Sort of silly to point out but we have been asked... the sheep does not die to make the wool. The wool is shorn each year and is considered a waste product by all but the most specialist farmers
Some Vegans believe nobody should ever use any animal-derived products. We know and respect that, and whilst we share many of the same values as vegans and even produce vegan-friendly t-shirts, tops and sweats, with British Wool we've made a choice to use British Wool. We're not expecting to change anyone's beliefs.
In every decision we try to make decisions by thinking about the whole system. That's why we don't throw eco-stamps all over our clothes - it trivialises sustainability, the exact problems that our traceability and values stand in contrast to. So when we looked at Wool we knew we had a lot to learn, and had to be cautious, but also open minded. Our first experiments were with British-made foreign wool yarns. But animal welfare standards in other countries got worse the more we looked at them. Mulesing, for example, is where part of the sheeps bum is cut to prevent flies infesting them: It saves the sheep's life, but is not pleasant to watch - awful, we're sure, to experience. British Wool seemed more sensible: In the Dales, where it's windy, you don't need to do that.
" Normally we visit our factories personally. So we wen't and saw some sheep farms, and met some sheep. We expected the animals to be treated like objects, but were genuinely surprised at how passionately the farmers cared for them."
Then we talked to some folks who knew a thing or two about making soft wool from British Sheep. The whole supply chain felt good: Animals that were well cared for, that trusted their owner, and a waste product, the wool, that is no longer of any real value to the farmer. And an industry that's shrivelled and tired but still rich in skill, care and passion for making better products. Wool is a fibre that has been designed by nature to keep things warm in Winter. A natural, renewable source that has the potential to channel money away from synthetic, acrylic, petroleum based fibres that come from drilling for oil, and into the hands of farmers, who spend it on taking care of their animals, and the rural countryside. And it's better than transporting cotton from overseas that requires thousands of litres of water, organic or not, to make one kilo.
In our opinion sheep and sheep farmers can play a vital role in reducing waste, emissions, improving quality of life and making a better product and taking care of our countryside. If we realised that value, perhaps sheep would be kept again just for wool: One shearing a year and rest in pasture.
Design by Nature, Made in BritainOur UK-based online store features a range of award-winning bamboo and Organic cotton clothing. Free returns and exchanges and next day delivery come standard.
Meet Nick, Sheep Farmer.Our beanies and scarves are made with coats from British sheep farmers, purchased from the farmers co-operative, the British Wool Marketing Board. They're spun outside Bradford, knitted in Leicester and shipped from the Isle of Wight.