What Makes Wool Wonderful?
By Karen Raymer, Healthy Homes Consultant, EcoCustomHomes and SustainATL
I can’t contain the excitement! As I am writing this, I am eagerly anticipating a visit from a dear friend from New Zealand. She will be visiting with our family for two weeks! She is a sheep farmer, and her passion: creating beautiful wool pieces. She and her husband own a company that uses historical techniques to create these pieces, from the pasture to the looms/mill and beyond. The story of such a product represents natural beauty, integrity as well as health.
As Julie Andrews famously sings in her lead role as Maria in the movie The Sound of Music… “These are a few of my favorite things… ”
With my own passion for gathering information about the inherent tendencies of natural fibers, the usage of such fibers can support health, for people as well as the planet… in lifestyle and in buildings. And, yes, one of my favorite fibers is WOOL. Yet here in the U.S., wool seems totally underrated; not nearly as visible in use as it is in other parts of the world. It’s a fiber that “serves” in so many areas of application: fashion, buildings, interiors, crafts/art and floor coverings…
Why wool, besides the natural beauty of the fiber? The benefits of wool fiber include fire safety, humidity control, comfort and natural filtration of indoor air in buildings with contaminants such as formaldehyde. Wool is a natural temperature regulator, wicks water naturally and is mold- and mildew-resistant. What does this mean? It means that this fiber clearly supports comfort and better health for people, for buildings, for the planet… and what a paradox: Such a simple fiber from sheep provides so many environmental benefits.The mass culture of America commonly claims that the usage of wool causes allergic reactions. Do we really have common allergies to wool? Is it really scratchy and uncomfortable to live with? I don’t believe that’s always the case. Sometimes, these stigmas are supported by how the fiber itself is treated for re-use, with chemicals, “cleaning agents,” additives that alter the fiber’s inherent capabilities.
In many countries, wool in its most natural state is the preferred fiber for babies’ blankets and clothing… Boutique hotels prefer it for bedding. It is also common practice in other countries to specify wool in floor coverings and textiles for humidity control of buildings… The applications seem endless…
If you want to learn more about the natural properties and benefits of wool, check out:
- Wool Textiles in New Zealand
- International Wool Textile Organization
- Global Campaign Led By Prince of Wales for Education
- Wool Industry Website for United States
Always wondered about that list of Maria’s “favorite things” and those warm woolen mittens… Not just those warm mittens, but the warm WOOLEN ones…
Check out our story on what to expect from green building in the coming years.