The state of Vermont began to breed Merino sheep in 1812 and by 1837 there were a million Merino sheep in the state, causing the price per pound for wool to drop.
In the late 1840s it dropped to 25 cents a pound, collapsing the sheep raising business in Vermont. However, sheep, particularly Merino sheep, were still a thriving business in the western states.
Today, The Merino is once again in demand for its fine wool and products. Merino sweaters and cashmere sweaters are great values and investments.
Sweaters come in many styles, weaves and patterns. Rib patterns make the sweater thicker and warmer. A woven sweater is less elastic and a bit cooler but they look more professional due to their more delicate look.
Organic wool is quite different from most commercially produced wool. In fact, there are so many differences that once you become familiar with organic versus commercial you may wonder why you ever consider buying non-organic!
Organic wool comes from sheep that are raised and shorn by farmers that adhere to a very strict set of standards in order to maintain their organic certification.
Nothing a sheep eats can be treated with growth hormones or steroids. The grasslands they graze in have to be free of synthetic pesticides for at least three years before they are turned into pasture for the animals. This does not mean that farmers can’t battle pests that could destroy the pasture but only that they must use natural pesticides free of artificial chemicals. Thus, the sheep has nothing artificial in its diet and ingests no chemicals in anything it eats.
This is one reason why organic wool is a bit more costly than regular wool.
The farmer’s herd breeds more slowly than commercial herds and doesn’t grow as much wool because the sheep are allowed to follow their natural cycles.
Commercial sheep are fed hormones and chemicals to stimulate the growth of their wool so that they can be shorn twice a year or more instead of just once. In fact, many commercial sheep die a miserable death from heat exhaustion due to their unnaturally heavy coats in warm weather.
Those that are allergic to synthetic chemical pesticides will find that because of the standards set by organic certification, they won’t react badly to organic wool. Furthermore, organic wool is kept separate from “regular” wool, usually in entirely separate enclosures where contamination is not possible.
The way that the sheep are cared for is also different when they are raised organically.
There are some very cruel practices that organic sheep are not subjected to. Take mulesing, for instance, the practice of removing some skin from the hindquarters to prevent parasitic infection. Many sheep farmer simply cut and strip off the skin without anesthetic; imagine if someone tore off a strip of your skin while holding you immobile. You would certainly have cause for redress in our courts! The sheep have no such recourse and suffer pain for days from the process of mulesing.
Some suffer fatal infections. Organically raised sheep are not subjected to such cruel procedures and inhumane procedures.
Another advantage to organic wool is the cleaning process. In cleaning regularly grown wool after shearing, up to 8,000 chemicals are used to remove vegetable matter and the natural oils in the fleece. Organic cleaning uses only naturally made soap and detergents to clean the fleece. There is nothing used that can trigger an allergic reaction in more people, either in the respiratory tract or on the skin.
Organic wool is transported in separate containers to be turning into yarn and garments so that it is not contaminated in any way by chemicals or other foreign substances. Once it reaches manufacturer it is dyed using plants, roots, bark or other natural substances. It is made into clothing by people and machines that are chemical and pesticide free, making it some of the most hypo-allergenic clothing on the market today.
Because it is not full of chemicals, organic wool lasts longer than regularly manufactured wool. There has been nothing added to degrade the strength of the fibers while it grows on the animal or during the cleaning process. Even people allergic to sheep will rarely suffer reactions because the sheep’s dander has been cleaned naturally from the fleece using entirely natural cleaning methods and materials.
For animal lovers, buying organic wool means that they are able to enjoy quality, natural clothing from animals that are allowed to graze naturally and haven’t been subjected to cruelty. The sheep have not been forced to grow unnaturally, are not kept in small enclosures like sardines packed in a can and are fed wholesome, natural food free of chemicals and growth hormones.
Some people even enjoy making their own clothing from organic wool, carding and spinning it themselves into yarn.
They enjoy gathering the plants, roots and barks that will give them the colors they want; they dye the yarn they’ve made in their own homes. They can say that except for raising the sheep, they have made their own clothing from scratch with their own two hands using only the fruits of the earth.
Organic wool is worth paying a little more for since it lasts longer, is hypo-allergenic and comes from humane farms.