I am passionate about wool, it comes from growing up with some contact with sheep rearing in the Scottish highlands.
British wool has been important since the domestication of sheep, they were introduced to the UK by the Romans and became the backbone of the medieval economy.
The UK wool industry continues today. The British Isles has a diverse landscape with different terrains, uplands and lowland areas. Upland regions tend to support sheep, as they have a food source of grass plus are additionally known for iconic landscapes where tourism is popular. Sheep are important in supporting biodiversity, without them our grasslands and uplands would be overtaken by coarse vegetation. Sheep are hardy animals that can live in climates which are cold or dry, as long as there is a food source. They also do not pull out roots of growing plants, which enables it to regrow again. A characteristic of sheep which also helps the biodiversity is their split hooves, these help break up the soil enabling seeds to implant, grow, gain nutrients and water.
There are approximately 90 breeds and crossbreeds in the UK. They all have different qualities, some renowned for having a wool fleece, which makes soft comfortable and cosy wool. Sheep are also a food source.
Wool is renewable, sheep produce a fleece once a year and shearing takes place in the spring. Wool has unique characteristics, it absorbs moisture and keeps a layer of dry insulating air next to the skin, even if the wool gets wet. Wool also has natural fire resistant properties. Wool garments can resist pilling and snagging and are naturally elastic, so can stretch for different sizes.
Recently there has been lots of media coverage about the impact of plastics and derivatives on our environment. Documentaries like the Blue Planet have raised awareness of the plastics problem and highlighted the lack of safe disposal. It appears that no ecosystem can escape its impact.
Natural wool is a sustainable resource, is renewable, biodegradable and for these reasons alone is kinder to the environment in contrast to other alternative synthetic fibres.
It provides work and livelihoods for people in the British Isles. Since the invention of synthetic fibres, production of meat is more important to UK sheep farming than wool. The UK is home to 25 percent of the European Unions sheep flock and provides one third of the European Unions supply of meat. (2015)
To summarize sheep farming has a multiplier effect, it supports lots of industries and is important to the UK economy. My interest lies in wool, because of its qualities with warmth, durability, comfort and texture. It also scores highly because of its properties in sustainability, as a renewable resource, which degrades and consequently is less harmful to the environment than other synthetic alternatives.
The British Isles has large selection of breeds and cross breeds and it is fascinating learning about wool types from differing sheep. The textures and consistency varies and it is interesting to try different wools and see how they work. Hats were selected as something useful to keep people warm in the colder season.
Look good, keep warm, support sheep farming and be kind to the environment! Wear wool. Start with buying a wool hat or some wrist warmers.
Thank you for reading. :)
(for information -copy and paste web links)
The National Sheep Association. (n d) Sheep Facts
Maryland Ag in the Classroom. Ag in 10 minutes a day. (n d) Sheep.
Historic UK. History of the Wool Trade by Ben Johnson. (n d) Available at:
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