Do you have a favorite day of school ever? I have a few that I revisit in my mind every once in a while.
One that pops into my head often is Colonial Day in fourth grade. I moved every year or two, often in the middle of the year, but in fourth grade, I stayed put at my elementary school on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. There was really not much to do in the area except play in our massive field of a yard (all of the neighborhoods seemed to be cornfields turned into developments), visit the beach or surrounding major cities such as Annapolis and Baltimore, swim (as always), or explore old colonial-era houses and gardens. I was an unusual child that always wanted to live back in time. I was fascinated by the methods of performing household chores without modern technology. Everything seemed more beautiful, more natural – a slower pace of life with a focus on artisanship. So when the day in fourth grade finally came to have Colonial Day I was ecstatic. I remember everything about that day. I dressed up in colonial garb, made wax candles, tried my hand at hoop training, became a skilled corn husk doll maker, and, finally, I shadowed a wool spinner. I was extremely captivated by the idea of wool. There was the cute sheep, they needed a haircut every so often, so why not turn their hair into usable fabric?! Duh! A light went on for me that never went out.
I watched intensely as the colonial woman took a freshly sheared hunk of wool and smashed it between two brushes. She then wove the wool into a big wheel spinning machine where the thread became smaller and smaller, yet still stayed strong. I couldn’t believe that there was such a benign product that required no agriculture, no crop dusters, no irrigation. Maybe some of these sheep are eventually eaten, that depends, but for the most part, they were just a bunch of pets living a happy life roaming a farm and getting haircuts once a year. I was smitten.
That fascination has never left me, but now more than ever, I can safely say that wool is my favorite fabric. From a crunchy, hippie, non-toxic, whatever-you-want-to-label-it, perspective, wool is a pretty major force to reckon with from a home and clothing safety perspective. Here’s why:
Air out in the sun or use a mild wash = less maintenance!
The fibers can be bent back on themselves 20,000 times before breaking. Cotton breaks after 3,200 bends and rayon fibers after 75!
No pesticides needed
Sheep grow a new coat of wool every year and need to be sheared regardless of intentions to harvest the wool. Shearing does not harm the sheep, it is like getting a haircut.
With proper care, wool products can last for decades, yet is biodegradable if it has reached the end of its life cycle.
Wool is the only material not required, by law, to be treated with flame retardants thereby helping you to avoid chemical additives entirely (even if declared as “safe”) and increasing fire safety in your home. This is MAJOR!! As we spend increasing amounts of time indoors we increase our exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which are chemical substances, often found in our home products that contain synthetics or dyes, that become vapors or gases. Your endocrine system is highly sensitive to VOCs so protect it! Protecting your endocrine system means protecting your fertility, your children’s development, and your body’s inflammatory response!!
Wool does not flame, does not melt like nylon and polyester. It can slow down combustion and flame spread in bed linens and furnishings, even when other fibers are also involved.
Wool makes you cold when you’re hot and vice versa.
Most synthetic fibers actually increase b.o. because they create a breeding ground for bacteria. Are you rethinking your synthetic gym clothes now?
Great for moving spouses and/or co-sleeping!
Commonly Asked Questions/Concerns
Why are we talking about wool?
I am particularly interested in combining my two passions – wellness and interior decorating – to support safer, true to personality lifestyles and environments for fellow women. I tend to talk to women who are battling infertility, hormonal issues, or simply want to make sure that their family’s environment is conducive to living worry-free.
For me, creating a healthy, practical environment is just as important as making it stunning! Wool is an extremely practical and safe material to use in the home. I particularly choose wool when it comes to cushions, upholstery, mattresses, and furniture such as couches. Wool is also amazing for safer nursery designs, which I specialize in!
Isn’t it itchy?
Wool is not itchy if you’re purchasing the right kind! Generally, the larger the diameter of the strands of wool being used, the itchier it will feel. Likewise, the smaller the diameter, the softer it will feel.
Another reason wool may feel rough is the way it was handled after being sheared from the sheep. Wool can feel scratchy if the quality of the wool is poor or the fiber is more processed.
For home products such as mattresses, cushions, pillows, etc. it is also good to remember that you don’t have to even touch the wool if you don’t want to! The outer layer is up to you and can come in organic cotton or linen if you prefer that against a wool outer layer.
Doesn’t wool make you hot?
Contrary to popular belief, wool is a body regulating fabric so it makes you hot when you’re cold and cold when you’re hot! If you insist that it makes you hot, especially when sleeping, try your best to rule out any intruders such as a mixture of synthetic fibers or the weight of the item if it’s a blanket. No matter the fabric, if you are using a heavy duvet comforter in the summertime, you might want to switch to lighter covers.
Isn’t it expensive?
It can be, but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Quality trumps everything in my opinion. I often ask myself (or my husband if he’s giving me a hard time haha!), do you want to pay for something cheap that may be harmful to our health now and replace it a couple of times OR save our money and buy the real deal?
Frankly, there are some much higher priced things like mattresses and couches that are touting themselves as high quality and non-toxic but are using foam and poly fillers which are toxic. I’d rather go the extra step to make sure my product is safe down to the core and get it right the first time so I don’t blow a lot of money on a look alike.
If you need help, I offer interior decorating/decor detox services. I would be delighted to help you choose safer products for your home!!
What are the differences in the types of wool such as Merino Wool?
I’ll let GQ (of all places haha!) take this one away. I couldn’t have said it better myself…
Lambswool can come from any species of sheep, but merino wool is only the wool that comes from a merino sheep. Not all merino is created equal, however. If football is a game of inches, merino is a game of microns, specifically the diameter of the follicle (they have microscopes). The smaller the number, the softer and more expensive the wool. Garden variety merino wool clocks in around 23 microns (human hair is around 40 microns in diameter); fine merino around 18 microns; superfine is 16; and the king of kings, ultrafine, is anything less than 15.5 microns. The uninitiated will tell you that cashmere is the finest textile on the planet. Those who know, know that ultrafine merino is without substitute or equal.1
If pesticides aren’t used then why should I buy organic wool?
There is enough information on this that would constitute an entirely new blog post, but it basically comes down to how the sheep are raised, how it is fed, and how the shearing and washing process is performed. If the sheep are raised humanely, but the sheared wool is dipped in a strong chemical detergent, it negates the whole thing. I personally want chemical-free wool. Additionally, I eat meat but have very high standards for how I expect the animals to be treated and fed. I expect the same high standards as any organization with animals involved. When I buy organic wool, I know that basic rules were followed to be sure the animals are living happily and naturally and the final product is chemical-free.
How do I take care of it?
Home of Wool has a great page on how to take care of wool here.
When it comes to clothing, use a mild detergent meant for wool and never, ever dry it! I have a hilarious story about how I accidentally threw my favorite wool sweater into the dryer with out thinking and my mom tried to help me “pull it back into shape” via a tutorial we found on Google. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work and we peed our pants laughing at the doll-sized sweater.
Won’t the wool get matted if it’s in something I lie on?
One of the reasons I love Home of Wool so much is because their products are extremely high quality and practical (See below!). From my experience, high-quality wool products for the home will likely have a zipper so that you can hand fluff, add more wool, or take some out. This is very handy for pillows! To answer the question, wool will mat over time, however, it does not mat as much as down or feathers and it does not lose its volume or comfiness, it just becomes lived in and a bit firmer.
For some items, such as mattresses, artisans create tufting so that the wool won’t move around or shift.
Does it off-gas?
NOPE!!! That is the whole idea! All you will get is the lovely, pleasant smell of natural lanolin.
Brands I LOVE (and I’m not paid to say so)
Home of Wool – My go-to for everything wool!! They are a great resource for information, have a ton of high-quality home options in neutral colors, make custom orders, and are such a pleasure to work with! I highly, highly recommend. It’s pretty much my favorite store. ever.
Lady Farmer (local!)
Ok, so where do you start?! With anything, I suggest either replacing something you are already in the market for with something wool-based OR starting small.
Ideas for big things:
Couches, mattresses, window treatments
Ideas for small things:
Sponges, dryer balls, pillow inserts, baby clothes
As with all of this blogging stuff, it is an extension of my health coaching business where I specifically work with women to support a natural approach to fertility and hormonal issues and raising their families. I am here as a support system for you, whether you are a client working one on one with me or a reader of my blog! Please reach out to me with any questions you may have!
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