10.23.2014

CARING AND WARMING WITH WOOL


Over the weekend the winds picked up out here in Brooklyn, swirling and blowing and dusting out the last of this year's sunny warm weather. Leaves scattered across streets, breezes nipped at the backs of our ears, the skies were cleared of those last humid summer clouds. Temperatures have been hovering below 60 degrees all afternoon, and just like that, it's here, and we're hauling out the sweaters and dusting off our favorite recipes for curry and chili and other hearty soups and stews, buttermilk biscuits and warm apple cider. The radiators in the building kicked on this morning, hissing and cranking to life. It's about time to swap out the blankets for their heftier counterparts, and I can't wait to pack up the window a/c unit for a long winter hibernation and get that eighth of our window view back. :) It's my favorite time of year, it's your favorite time of year, it's your uncle's favorite time of year . . . the air outside has smelled like a fresh campfire for the last week and a half and it couldn't make me any giddier.

The winter before Huck was born I bid on and won this hysterical boys wool sweater off eBay. It was the first thing I ever bought for him, and it was an enormous 4T, a size designation that at the time had meant absolutely nothing to me, but it had fair isle detailing on the sleeves and yoke, and a very goofy brown moose on the back, and Huck desperately needed it, he just really, really needed it. It was the kind of sweater that a lawn gnome might wear. It only barely started to fit Huck near the end of last winter, but at the start of every fall I haul it out anyway and make him wear it once, so excited to try it on him, also sort of bittersweet to see how much closer it came to fitting him every year as he kept on growing and time kept on marching on.

The team at Woolmark reached out to me over the summer about partnering with them on a campaign to raise awareness of all the benefits of natural wool, and you know, I hadn't really thought about it that much, wool, but I realized I hadn't ever owned anything made of wool before that silly moose sweater and I started to wonder why? I suppose it was because I grew up in Arizona + Brandon grew up in Texas, where all you wore was leather and denim and cotton, and/or nothing, and I suppose wool may have seemed . . . old fashioned to me? British? Difficult to care for, maybe? We were living in Idaho at the time of the vintage wool sweater and it was certainly cold enough out there for some heavy duty wool, like, always all of the time, and I was a voracious knitter, too, though I tended to worked in acrylic since it was cheaper and we were on the broker side of poor college students, but I think it was simply that it wasn't until that vintage sweater arrived in the mail that I felt for myself the tactile quality of soft wool under my fingertips, and realized what a worthwhile investment it would be for our family. From there on out, we've been kind of gung ho about wool. We own a lot of wool. I started to keep an eye out for natural wool coats and blankets in the thrift stores around town, scored a few amazing vintage pieces from Brandon's Poppy (who was a sheep farmer in Idaho!), and have since stockpiled a decent collection of sweaters and socks and scarves and blankets for our winters. We maybe own more wool blankets than is strictly necessary for a family of three, but I suppose in case of a winter power outage we will definitely not be freezing to death, and that is worth something anyway. ;) 

I think because of my experience with that first sweater (and because of Ron's Christmas jumpers, you know what I mean), I've always associated wool with a kind of fierce maternal instinct. It makes me think of warm fireplaces. It's kind of a utilitarian fiber, and so hardly removed from its original source that there's almost a spiritual quality to it for me. (Thank you, my llama friends.)

Merino wool is a term you've probably seen around often. It's defined as the textile fiber obtained from Merino sheep, a specific breed bred in Spain and Turkey that is prized for its very soft wool. Unlike hair or fur, wool is crimped and elastic, and grows in "staples," or clumps. The crimping is what makes wool-spun yarn so very bulky and fantastic, and is what creates that nice trap for air, which is how wool comes by its famous heat-retaining qualities. (-source)

Wool is actually rather simple to care for. Most Merino wools are fully machine washable, hey heyyy. (I always use the delicates cycle on our washing machine with cold cold water, then lay flat to dry. Find more information on how to wash your woolens HERE.) Plus, wool has the added benefit of stretching back out if it's accidentally shrunk, something I have done a time or two. ;) It's a really great fiber for babies and children, as it is soft, warm yet entirely breathable, and it ignites at a higher temperature than cotton and with a lower speed of flame spread. Apparently wool forms a char when burned that is insulating and self-extinguishing? That is nuts. (-source)  Also, all those natural wool fibers in a light wool blanket are what give that great stretch necessary for achieving a real good swaddle. As every new mom knows, your swaddle is king.


As part of our partnership with Woolmark, we were sent a few items made with Woolmark Merino wool for Huck to wear and snuggle into. This Merino wool sweater, from il gufo, was perfect for our day at the pumpkin patch. It is lightweight and soft, thin but warm, stretches to fit over a few under layers but then shrinks back down to fit perfectly on its own. (Huck's hat is also made of 100% wool, sent over c/o She Makes Hats)



We were also sent a beautiful merino wool muslin blanket from Aden + Anais, fully machine washable (all A+A products can even be tumble dried), that Huck has been sleeping with at night. It's thick, yet light and stretchy, and has the texture of silk. I wish I'd had something like this when Huck was a baby! It would make an ideal outer layer swaddle, especially on a brisk autumn afternoon walk.


Thank you to Aden + Anais and to il gufo for their sweet wool gifts!

This post was sponsored by Woolmark. I'm so pleased to be working with such a fantastic group. We hope you'll keep an eye out for products made of 100% wool the next time you're in the market for something beautiful and warm. :)

11 comments :

  1. I was looking at your pumpkin patch photos yesterday and thought, 'Damn! That's a nice sweater!' on Huck. I could tell by the neckline that it was good quality. Some of my favorite merino sweaters come from the men's department of J Crew. They're just the perfect bit oversized.

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  2. gorgeous photos!

    www.amoderngypsy.blogspot.com

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  3. I love wool! In addition to all the wonderful qualities you already mentioned, it has antimicrobial properties. I learned all about wool when I cloth diapered. Wool has long been used as a moisture wicking cover over diapers. Wool can actually hold up to 60% of it's weight in water. So it's not actually waterproof, but rather very water resistant while at the same time being breathable. It's actually the oils in the wool from the sheep that give it that amazing quality called lanolin which can also be used as a suave for breastfeeding nipples. Wool is pretty awesome!

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  4. wool is the best..though I've had little need for it since moving to the caribbean, but I can't wait for next fall to really fill out my wool collection. thanks so much for sharing!

    love, arielle
    a simple elegance

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  5. Hi Natalie, I just want to say that I think your blog has been so beautifully on point recently. I am sitting here reading this wearing a wooly jumper myself and contemplating reading your last post 'keep this for a rainy day', for the third time. Have a great weekend. Thank you, :-) Ailish

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    1. this is such a huge compliment, thank you!

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  6. Wool is an extremely important fiber for young children. According to Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy which is the philosophy upon which Waldorf education is based, wool contains important metabolic impulses that help regulate bodily functions. Babies have a suuuuper hard time keeping warm! By dressing little ones in wool garments, or even resting upon a wooly blanket (like those from Ikea, you know the ones), babies are able to direct their life forces towards cognitive and physical development, as opposed to maintaining their body temperature. There are other important anthroposophic and homeopathic remedies which utilize wool as an instrument of healing. You can indeed care and warm with wool. Your post is aptly titled! xx

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    1. this is amazing! thank you so much for this comment, i had no idea, and suddenly feel like an infinitely better parent than i did before i read this, haha :)

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  7. I've never thought much about wool at all. Great post Natalie! -Hanna Lei

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  8. Yes this is a wonderful wool, I use to know very little about wool, but I now work for a publisher of knitting and crochet magazines and in the few months I have been there I have learned a lot. Great post.

    Allie of ALLIE NYC
    allienyc.com

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