The Versatility of Wool

When the first wool factory was established in England in 50 A.D., it flooded the market with a whole new line of cheap, mass-produced products . Since that time, wool has become a staple in everything from sweaters to blankets to carpets, as it acts as a natural insulator to keep you warm in the coldest winter months. Let’s take a look at the versatility of wool, from its common to more untraditional uses, and where we can expect wool to head in the future.

Wool Regains Its Glory Inside the Home

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Before the rise of cotton and other synthetic textiles, wool and linen (flax) were the dominant fabrics inside the home. Now, we’re starting to see the use of wool come full circle. Wool is being used to manufacture typical household products like pillows, blankets, and duvets, but it’s also being used in some not-so-traditional ways—as lampshades, wallpapers, and wool blinds.

Inside the home, knitting is regaining popularity as a pastime, moving well beyond the hipster circles and out into the mainstream. There could be a few explanations for this. One is that the bleak economy has caused consumers to take up new, cheaper hobbies. A more optimistic explanation is that in an increasingly virtual world , knitting allow s people to feel like they are producing something.

Wool Wear Past and Present

The history of wool dates the whole way back to primitive man, who used sheep skins to clothe himself. Ancient Greek warriors padded their metal helmets with strips of felt, while the uniforms of Roman Legionaries included a tunic, braccae (trousers), and two cloaks made from wool. Another strange use of wool in history is that Victorian-era women used heavy woolen dresses in public bathes to protect their modesty and morality—at the expense of their comfort, of course! Wool reined the textile market until the Industrial Revolution, when it was replaced by cotton, but continued to be a beloved winter staple in everything from coat linings to scarves, hats, and gloves.

In recent years, we’ve seen a rise in wool’s popularity in the fashion world . Pringle of Scotland knitwear at Avenue32 and other designers are popularising wool by making jumpers hip cool again and bringing back wool as a multi-seasonal textile that can be layered with other pieces to suit the changing temperatures.

Wool is the Way of the Future

Wool has made a definite comeback in recent years, thanks in part to the Campaign for Wool, an initiative started by His Royal Highness The Price of Wales in 2010. The Campaign promotes wool as a natural fibre that’s more durable and biodegradable than other fabrics on the market, making it a sustainable choice to use inside and outside the home. Every autumn, the initiative includes Wool Weeks around the world that feature grazing sheep, art installations, and wool products to promote awareness. The biggest producers of wool are Australia, China, the United States, and New Zealand. As the world continues to become more sustainability-minded, expect wool products to continue to play an important role in the environmental revolution.

Michael Edmondstone is a freelance writer and enjoys writing about fashion.

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