Thick thermal fleeces, snug woolly socks, icy fingers made toasty inside soft gloves, tugging down a knitted hat to cover numb ears. Wherever we live in the UK, we are all far too familiar with battling the elements and trying to look stylish in the face of gale force adversity. Fortunately, wool is one of the warmest, most durable (and arguably one of the most wearable) materials available and every winter our high street shops are stocked full of beautiful woollen clothing in every shade, shape and style possible, all ready to wrap around our shivering bodies. So, aside from keeping us toasty all winter, what are some of the other useful ways in which wool is used? The answer is probably more surprising than you might think…
Obviously, we all know that most wool comes from sheep and that wool (or sheep coats, as I prefer to describe it) is used for making clothing, carpets, expensive suits, ornately decorated upholstery and –on occasion – as a super plush mattress filler. Wool is also used to cover tennis balls – wool’s unique blend of natural fibre is, apparently, the ideal cover for tennis balls due to its natural resilience and durability. Obviously it is dyed prior to use but it’s still an interesting concept to think that every player at Wimbledon is only able to play well because of the contribution of a few sheep. I wonder if Andy Murray has ever thanked them?
On a more serious (but undeniably cute) level, woollen jumpers were used to protect wildlife during the aftermath of the 2006 Guimaras oil spill in the Philippines. Such was the scale of the disaster, some 500,000 litres of spilled oil wreaked devastation in the gulf, killing countless numbers of fish, birds and other marine life. Some ever resourceful conservationists (who might have had a grandmother busy at home with knitting needles) quickly equipped the penguins with a bright array of woollen jumpers in order to stop the little creatures from ingesting anymore of the toxic substance whilst maintaining their body temperature and saving their little lives. Genius! And, as I said, undeniably cute:
Another excellent alternative (and eco-friendly) use for wool is in the garden. Not for keeping warm – rather used as mulch to suppress weeds and other nasties lurking under the soil. The wool substance also protects fragile plant roots during winter – fantastic news for the savvy gardener! The best part about using wool based organic mulch in the garden is that it can actually save you time and money – the soil is fertilised by the natural nutrients found in the mulch and the protection offered through the extra woollen layer saves the gardener hours and hours of watering and weeding. Who knew that a woolly garden could be so effective?
Of course, this blog post doesn’t cover all of the alternative uses for wool – and in fact, its natural versatility means entrepreneurs and farmers alike are busy finding new ways to use this wonderful material every day. For now, I will stick to knitting – particularly if I can find the perfect pattern for a small penguin jumper!