Settle under your blanket and grab a cup of tea, this is going to be a long one.
Wool is the material we love the most - every single one of our blankets is woven from this wonderful natural fibre. It's warm, it's beautiful, it's durable. We love wool.
However, there's a real crisis facing British farmers at the moment and the wool they've produced this year is worth less than they have spent shearing their flock. You see, in the UK, we breed our sheep for meat, not for their wool. Because of this trend, over time, the breeds of sheep that are most commonly farmed don't actually produce high quality fleece because the wool is essentially a bi-product. The sheep breeds that produce good meat don't need beautifully soft fleeces, their harsh weatherproof wool serves them just fine as they roam o'er hill and dale.
British wool, aside from a few rare breeds, just isn't soft enough or fine enough for weaving cosy blankets. The fleece we use in our blankets comes from New Zealand and South Africa where the sheep are specially bred to produce fine quality wool. The fleece is dyed, spun and woven here in the British Isles, but the way things are at the moment, we're not able to make British wool blankets that are soft and affordable.
Although not good for soft blankets, coarse British wool does have a useful purpose. It's great as natural insulation for house building and it's perfect for making durable carpets. But, because of the low price of wool this year, it will cost farmers more to shear their sheep and transport the wool than the money they'll earn from its sale. Instead, many will discard it, ploughing this once valuable resource into their fields as fertiliser. What a sad waste.
A petition has been set up to persuade the government to pledge to use British wool as insulation and carpeting in all new government grant supported building projects. Wool is sustainable, fire-retardant, biodegradable, making it a very efficient and safe form of insulation. The Chancellor has earmarked £2bn in grants to help make homes more energy efficient. It's a no brainer, but the farmers need our signatures to help get this off the ground. Please take a moment to sign the petition and make sure it gets in front of parliament.
Meanwhile, we pledge to put our heads together and keep researching new and innovative ways to use and promote British wool. As huge supporters of the British weaving industry, we want to find new ways to support the British wool industry too. If you've come across creative and beautiful uses for wool, or if you know a sheep farmer using wool in innovative ways, please get in touch.