what wool means to me

You may have heard that the month of November has been claimed as the month of ‘Wovember‘ as a celebration of wool.  It’s an idea I can heartily endorse & it inspired me to write a post about wool.

I remember how common wool was when I was young.  Winter sweaters, coats, hats, gloves, blankets – EVERYthing to do with winter was woolen.  Very little of it was scratchy, in my memory.  In my teens, the quality of moderately priced woolens had dropped considerably, so it fell out of favor in my wardrobe.  In the 80’s & 90’s, cashmere ruled, and the humble woolen sweater was rendered obsolete.

I bought a sweater at Saks in the mid 90’s that woke me up.  It was a deep brown Italian merino vest, and the softness, pill resistance & warmth was far superior to the cotton & cashmere that also hung in my closet.  I had forgotten how wonderful wool was to wear.  Lightweight & comforting – more so than static-y acrylic fleece or junky, pill-y department store cashmere.  An old friend to rely on.  I began to take notice of wool garments wherever I found them.

Some years later, I began to knit.  Alpaca was the fiber-darling of the day, and wool yarns were pushed to the lower shelves to make way for all of the cuddly alpaca yarns.  Yes, it was soft.  Yes, it was a pleasure to work with.  But man, did it stretch in the blocking process & pill in use.  I found Karabella Aurora 8 & was immediately smitten with its softness, but I was thrilled with its durability, light weight, ease of washing & wearing.  It was – & still is – far superior to alpaca yarns, in my opinion.  There are other favorite wool yarns in my stash: String Theory Merino DK, Jamieson’s Spindrift, Bartlett Yarns Sport, Sanguine Gryphon TravellerHarrisville ShetlandMadeline Tosh Vintage, and the ever-popular workhorse yarn Cascade 220.  Each one a treasure in its own way.

I later discovered the wonders of Shetland wool.  Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books extolled the virtues of wool over all other fibers, and I wondered if she was raving about yarns that were no longer available, and that I had missed my chance to use such yarns.  I missed the fair isle yokes of my youth & reading Elizabeth’s words made me realize how much I’d like to make one.  The yarn wasn’t carried in any of the LYSs, and I wanted to hear the general consensus amongst knitters before I took the plunge to buy it.  I still laugh when I think back to my early days on Ravelry when I asked for other knitters’ opinions of Shetland yarns.  The Americans that responded said it was quite itchy, but the Brits that responded said it was soft & perfectly suited for baby clothes.  Quite a range of opinions, and not terribly helpful at the time, but now that I have used it for myself, I feel I must side with the Brits.  While it can be a bit rough off the skein, it softens with washing, and softens even more with further use & washing.  It provides greater warmth than other fibers weighing twice as much, making the garments a pleasure to wear.

So what does wool mean to me?  It means warmth.  It means tradition.  It means rain-resistant.  It means practicality.  It means comfort on a level that no other fiber can touch.

What does it mean to you?