3rd report on POLOLO’s fiber lecture in the Berlin ShowRoom
Wool from animal hair is considered to be the oldest fibre used by humans – already in the Stone Age the fur of farm animals was used, explained guest speaker Heike Hess, managing director of the Association of the International Natural Textile Industry (IVN), in the third part of the fibre lecture in POLOLO’s Berlin ShowRoom. The two previous articles, focusing on leather and cotton, can also be found in our blog. We have also filmed the presentation on wool – you can find it on YouTube at POLOLO: “Wolle – Die ‘Klimaanlage’ unter den Naturfasern” (only German version) (c) POLOLO OHG
Australia as the market leader
Around 12,000 years ago, people began to spin yarns. The first sheep breeding is said to have taken place in Iran. Merino sheep from Spain have enjoyed special esteem since the 14th century, and were exported to Oceania and South America in the 19th century. In the 20th century, wool production was in crisis with the upcoming synthetic fibres.
With about 87 percent (2016) Australia leads the 100 wool producing countries, followed by New Zealand with about five percent and Argentina and South Africa with four percent each. Total annual output is around 100,000 tons – with a slight downward trend.
Criticism of mass livestock farming
Intensive factory farming obviously poses many problems: The routine use of chemical baths (e.g. with arsenic) leads to the accumulation of pesticide residues, i.e. nerve toxins, in the final product. The inappropriate keeping and transport to the slaughterhouse is incompatible with animal welfare – the animals are exposed to hunger and thirst, disease and pain, fear and stress. In addition the controversial Mulesing, i.e. removal of the skin folds around the tail mostly without anaesthetisation and disinfection for the prevention of the infestation with fly maggots, which is unfortunately not forbidden, is used.
In controlled organic animal husbandry the goal is to keep small, robust herds appropriate to the species. Pesticide baths are not used. Each sheep is to be subjected to an individual shearing and Mulesing is – except in Australia – in principle forbidden.
Animal hair wool: natural fibres with many good properties
Wool from animal hair has almost only positive properties. On the one hand it is characterised by its high water absorption capacity, on the other hand it dries faster than cotton or hemp. It has to be washed less frequently anyway. However, it is prone to so-called pilling (formation of nodules or lint) and felting – it must be washed carefully at low temperatures with special detergents and without spinning.
The high breathability as well as the good thermal insulation basically act like an air conditioning system. According to Hess, natural wool has high elasticity, is crease-free and resistant to bacteria as well as flame retardant.
Merino wool felt: breathable, robust, heat-insulating and water-repellent
The POLOLO “Primeros” shown above for the kindergarten are also handmade in our manufactory in Oberreichenbach, Franconia, using the finest Tyrolean Merino wool woven fabric.
This sheep’s wool is felted with the help of clear mountain water from the Tyrolean Alps: It is breathable, robust, thermally insulating and water-repellent – ideal for adventurous children!
The sheep are kept on huge pastures according to the strict guidelines of the IWTO and the controversial mulesing is avoided.