Last September I wrote about a fantastic pair of Walk2012 socks knitted for me by Felix and pictured below:
This month Felix and the legendary Kate (aka Wazz, author many popular knitting patterns, the hugely successful Needled blog and Textisles …and most importantly human companion to Bruce the beautiful black Labrador) have been beavering away on a brilliant campaign / project called WOVEMBER. No, it isn’t encouraging women to grow or even knit moustaches and beards. WOVEMBER is all about showing…
…our collective appreciation of WOOL by wearing as much of this fabulous fibre as possible, and celebrating WOOL and its unique qualities in stories and pictures throughout the month of November. We hope that through our enthusiasm and creativity we can raise awareness of WHAT MAKES WOOL DIFFERENT, and jointly create a force for WOOL APPRECIATION strong enough to effect changes in how garments and textiles are described and marketed.
(taken from the About page of wovember.com)
I am lucky enough to live with an obsessive knitter and stalker of rare breeds of UK sheep, and through osmosis, waterboarding and personal experimentation I have come to appreciate the many properties of wool, particularly in regard to walking.
Hands up who has a wool base layer? You do? Fantastic. I can pretty much guarantee it is made of Merino wool from a New Zealand sheep. Here’s a famous one called Shrek:
So why Merino? Well according to the people at the excellent Chocolate Fish company where I bought my base layer…
New Zealand Merino fibres are long, strong, flexible and extremely fine. It is these distinctive characteristics that make New Zealand Merino so soft and comfortable against the skin. Merino provides insulation, moisture management, breathability, odour-resistance, stain-resistance, anti-static properties, flame resistance, comfort, and a natural degree of sun protection.
Perfect right? Admittedly it sounds a bit like an Andrex advert in parts (soft, strong, long…) but if you could make a tick list of the features for the ideal base layer this would be a good starting point.
Contrast this with the mighty Herdwick, the toughest sheep in the UK. They hang out in the high Lake District fells and endure all kinds of weather. They have a thick grey fleece that dries out quicker than other fleeces. However their wool would scour your skin like a Brillo pad, and so tends to be used for carpet and loft insulation. Pity really because if ever there was a walker’s sheep…
Bowmont are a cross between Saxon merino and Shetland sheep, and very nearly died out as a breed. Fortunately Devon Fine Fibres has been growing their flock and Finisterre has seen the potential in the wool. Recently they have launched their first two products, a hat and scarf. I really hope it is a success and a base layer will be the next product – no offence to New Zealand but I would love to be wearing a base layer from a UK sheep.
Pardon? You don’t have a wool base layer? OMG! Ok, here’s the truth. Wool base layers are really expensive if you think of them as a t-shirt, or if you compare them to the cheaper man-made “technical” base layers. But they are INCREDIBLE. For years I had “technical” base layers which I used when walking or snowboarding. Some of them work well, but all of them smell awful after a day’s hard work. I mean eye-wateringly bad. Do you find you get space to yourself in a crowded bar after a day on the hills? …do people lose their appetite when you take off your coat at a table?
You hate people and don’t care about the smell? Ah, you are an ultralight backpacker!! Well good news – wool is lighter than cotton. And it is *much* better at keeping you warm, even when wet.
Christmas is coming – put a wool base layer on the list. Santa will love you, WOVEMBER will love you, and so will your fellow walkers in 2012! Yes – you spotted the self-interest: hopefully I will be walking with you next year when you join us on Walk2012