Wool – Fact & Fiction

FeaturedWool – Fact & Fiction

A guest blog by Martin Curtis, Chairman of the Wool Carpet Focus Group.  Originally written for the SMG Group, as featured in SMG News – Spring 2018 (issue 187, published 1st March 2018) hosted on ISSUU.com

MMC @ Haworth Scouring
Martin Curtis, Chairman of the Wool Carpet Focus Group

Some people are surprised that I am still involved in the wool industry – some, indeed, might be disappointed that I am!  On the other hand, a lot of people understand my reasons and perhaps appreciate them.

My father married my mother immediately after the Second World War.  She came from Yorkshire and in those days the wool industry was a thriving part of the economy. Bradford, once the capital of the wool world, still had a rich wool heritage and there were many wool merchants, scouring and combing companies and a whole army of linked trades that supported it.

Haworth Scouring Scour
Haworth Scouring Ltd, Bradford

Bradford was blessed with naturally soft water, essential for washing wool and had local manufacturers of textile machinery and customers like spinners, weavers and tailors. Unfortunately, in the 1950’s and 60’s the wool industry met with increasing competition from synthetic fibres and all sorts of petrochemical products were developed and flooded the market.

In actual fact, there was absolutely nothing wrong with wool; it was just a massive advertising campaign by the synthetic fibre conglomerates that overwhelmed it.  We were told that synthetics were the future, oil was plentiful and cheap and in actual fact people exaggerated hugely about the benefits that some synthetic fibres were supposed to have.  I remember being told by a senior manager of one company that they used to heat wool carpet in an oven to dry it to the bone so that it would burn for the demonstration they were giving!

I hate false advertising!  I am not keen on those snake-oil salesmen who come out with false claims like a carpet is bleach cleanable!  Bleach is not a cleaning agent, it is a strong and effective disinfectant.  Its active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, denatures protein in micro-organisms and is therefore effective in killing bacteria, fungus and viruses.  So use it in your lavatories, kitchens and drains but don’t put it on your carpets because if you do and you don’t neutralise it it will stay there and can be harmful to children and pets.  So the next time a salesperson says this carpet is bleach cleanable you should smile and ask them if they pour bleach on their carpets?  In actual fact most carpet people I speak to all prefer wool carpets and they clean very well and very easily!

Drying out wool carpets in an oven to make them burn is quite a hideous thing to do.  Can you imagine?  The fact is that wool needs more oxygen than exists in our atmosphere in order to burn.

Fire 03
Dr Mike Madden of Enco Global Testing Services Ltd, performing a fire test demonstration on a wool carpet

Everything can be made to burn but that is not the point.  Wool will self extinguish itself if a candle, or a match or a cigarette or a burning ember from the fire lands on it.  Perhaps there is an electrical fault?  It will char, singe and it will form a barrier which stops the flame from spreading and from going through the carpet into the underlay.  It can slow the spread of a fire in your home, hotel, block of flats or wherever it is fitted.  I think we all recognise the singeing smell of wool, it isn’t the same as the black acrid toxic fumes that come from oil based synthetics!  Synthetics melt and if you are wearing something plastic and it catches fire heaven help you!  Wool won’t melt and stick to your skin…..

So, put to one side the throw away comments made by the synthetic fibre people, take a closer look and see what other benefits we seem to have forgotten about that wool has in bundles!

We have called these special attributes Woolabilities!  We wanted to be able to describe them in memorable terms and hopefully in a single word with a simple but honest meaning – I confess we did invent one or two of them ourselves!

The first was that wool has Bouncebackability!  Wool has natural crimp, curls along its length just like a spring.  When wool is pressed down it has the ability to bounce back to its original shape.  This leads to the carpet looking better for longer.

We invented the word Unflammability!  Flammable and inflammable mean the same thing which we felt was a little confusing so we made it perfectly clear ~ wool has natural resistance to fire which makes me feel safer for one.

Talking about being safe, I think we are beginning to learn more and more about the air we breath and the environment in which we live.  One of wool’s least know properties is that it is able to filter Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) from the air we breathe and lock them safely and permanently into its core.  We call this Breathability and it also describes how wool actually absorbs and releases moisture which makes it more comfortable to wear, sleep on or under and live with.

Following from the environmental benefits above we have to mention the much underrated sheep itself.  I coined the phrase that sheep are “the original free range animal”.  They are able to graze the hills and dales and keep the countryside neat and tidy.  They fertilise the land, naturally.  They grow a fleece during the spring and summer that protects them from the autumn and winter weather.  They produce lambs, another fleece and the cycle continues.  They provide us with protein and in some countries they are milked.  We really should appreciate these wonderful animals more as we should their wool!  We have called this natural cycle Sustainability.

One leading industry expert has told me that wool carpets actually clean better and look better after cleaning than synthetics and without the use of harmful chemicals.  I have personally seen him demonstrate the removal of a whole spilled glass of red wine from a light beige carpet and it never left a trace.  Without more of a do we call this Cleanability.

If we were to bundle all the benefits of owning and living with a wool carpet or rug we would use the word Wearability.  It says it all.  Wool wears better, it is better for you, it looks better, feels better and by golly it is better!

I have rambled on a bit but I hope some honest truths will get home the message that wool is the best fibre for your carpets and rugs and many many other products too for that matter.  I am delighted to say that Dr Mike Madden of ENco would be happy to discuss all the above with you and verify that there is true science behind the woolly stories.

Perhaps this is what keeps me interested and enthused about this wonderful wool industry and why I am still hanging around….

Martin Curtis

Chairman

Wool Carpet Focus Group

Woolcarpetsnaturally.org

Curtthesheep@gmail.com

 

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‘Know Real Shetland’ by the Real Shetland Company

Featured‘Know Real Shetland’ by the Real Shetland Company

2018 marks the 10th anniversary of The Real Shetland Company and we have come a very long way since we first started trading.

The Real Shetland CompanyThe company was originally formed to create, market and promote a distinguishable brand for wool sourced exclusively from Shetland, Real Shetland Wool (RSW).  At the time, there were many impostor products that used the term ‘Shetland’ in goods that mostly contained cheap foreign wools or synthetic fibres.

 

Over the following 10 years, working closely with our partners on Shetland, Jamieson and Smith (J&S, the home of RSW) and their parent company, Curtis Wool, we succeeded in defining our brand which is now recognised and highly sought after, all over the world.

It is with great sadness that now in 2018, we see a re-emergence of those imposter products, desperate to latch onto the heritage and quality of genuine RSW.

The Shetland ‘Type’

Unbeknown to many, there is a technical loophole that exists from a time when ‘Shetland’ referred to a quality of yarn or finished product.  This term is now outdated and mostly unused bar for a select few manufacturers who seek to exploit it.

Shetland Definition - Trading Standards
Shetland Definition courtesy of Trading Standards (UK)

In our opinion, the correct description of a non-Shetland wool product choosing to use the Shetland name should be clearly marked as ‘Shetland Type’ but for malicious purposes, these ‘type’ products are often simply marketed as ‘Shetland’.

We cannot mention any specific manufacturers, suppliers or retailers but we can inform and educate our customers as to the difference between our products as well as share a little of the Shetland Story behind our brand.

The simple truth is that even these ‘type’ products must properly describe their wool content so we ask that whenever seeking a genuine RSW throw, cushion, carpet or similar, you take a moment to check the wool content.  Most ‘Shetland Type’ goods are made using Australian Merino or NZ lambs wool.

The manufacturers who use this loophole are actively harming the Shetland crofting community who we have tried so hard to support.

The Shetland Story

The heritage of Real Shetland Wool dates back to the Vikings, who are believed to have brought Norwegian sheep to the Islands which were then bred with local sheep.  The Shetland Islands were the ideal landing point for early Viking settlers and a perfect environment for raising sheep, who thrive on the land.

Shetland Sheep
Sheep enjoying the luscious Shetland countryside

With grassy hills, kelp laden beaches and a contrasting climate specific to Shetland, the sheep living here grow a unique fleece, both springy and crinkly.  Today, the eco-system is much the same but the Viking farmers have descended into who we now refer to as crofters.  The Shetland crofting community continue to care for their sheep in much a similar manner but with the added benefit of modern day animal husbandry techniques to maintain their health.

Given the unique characteristics of Real Shetland Wool, demand for the fibre remained constant until imposter products started to flood the market.

Through J&S, Curtis Wool sought to support this important crofting community by offering a stable and generous price for their wool, shortly after, the RSC was formed.

J&S buy the vast majority of all wool grown in Shetland and deal direct with over 700 Shetland crofters, maintaining the commitment to buy wool at a price well above that of their mainland counterparts.

With there only being a relatively small amount of wool produced on Shetland, the balance of the annual Shetland wool clip tends to remain on the Islands.  The RSC and our partners are the only businesses with access to enough RSW with which to offer a diverse range of genuine RSW products.  Buying RSW products, helps our network support the Shetland wool industry.

The Future for Real Shetland Wool

Here at the RSC, we feel that the argument for the ‘Shetland Type’ terminology is a dishonest and misleading tactic that damages the good reputation we have forged for wool sourced from Shetland.  Unfortunately, as long as this loophole exists, there is little we can do about it other than educate the public.

Sadly, even some customers of the manufacturers exploiting this loophole believe their products to be RSW when in fact it is not.  Whether this is them turning a blind eye or that they’ve been purposely mislead by their supplier, we can’t be sure.

We see the future in a positive light, providing we can continue to get this message across.  With there now being a ‘origin’ wool test that can identify the origins of a fibre, we hope that we can challenge the imposters and once again defend RSW.

All we can ask of you is to seek out Real Shetland Wool and enjoy all the benefits of our fibre that these impostors are trying so hard to imitate.  Remember, RSW is easily identified by the Three Sheep logo; if you don’t see the Three Sheep, it probably isn’t Real Shetland Wool.

rsc logo blank
The Three Sheep logo – used by suppliers of genuine RSW

Friends of Real Shetland Wool

The Real Shetland Company is not the only manufacturer of genuine RSW products.  We do have the most varied range of RSW goods, ranging from throws, bedding, carpets and more (now available through www.adamcurtisonline.co.uk) but it would be wrong not to mention some of our fellow supporters and their high-quality products.

Jamieson and Smith are the home of Real Shetland Wool and have a stunning array of hand knitting yarns, wool top, garments and more.  Located in Lerwick, the capital of Shetland, J&S is where Martin Curtis set the foundations for Shetland Wool Week.  We are proud to have worked with them for so many years.

Oliver Henry of Jamieson and Smith during Shetland Wool Week
Oliver Henry at Jamieson and Smith giving one of very popular wool talks about Real Shetland Wool and what he looks for in a good fleece

Vispring are one of the UK’s most prestigious bed manufacturers and huge supporters of the Shetland wool industry.  Their commitment to the RSW brand has been paramount in enabling our partners maintain fair prices for the Shetland wool clip.

Vispring Shetland Superb
Shetland Superb mattress by Vispring – made with Platinum Certified RSW

Dries Van Noten, the acclaimed fashion designer has taken a special interest in RSW and used it alongside the J&S branding in a range of clothing seen on catwalks and in the music world.

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Thank You

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support.  The last 10 years have been filled with ups and downs but we would never have made it this far without our wonderful customers who have helped us conduct our business and develop our brand.  We look forward to serving you and defending RSW long into the future.

ACO Note:

For those of you who are unaware, The Real Shetland Company Ltd and Adam Curtis Online are part of the same family business network.  Together we strive to support British textiles and promote eco-friendly wool products.

ACO 2018

The Real Shetland Company

Real Shetland Wool Duvets & Pillows

Real Shetland Wool Duvets & Pillows

Slumber in Style

 

ACO are proud to launch the latest range of Real Shetland Wool bedding, produced in conjunction with The Real Shetland Company.  Following on from the original RSW duvet collection released in 2015, we have updated our design and fill process to make a lighter, warmer and more effective duvet and pillow range.

The Real Shetland Company pillow and duvet range are available now from the ACO website.

 

British wool bedding
Real Shetland Wool pillows and duvets

 

We regard our duvets to be an all-seasons quality product, filled to 450gsm of Platinum Graded Real Shetland (British) Wool, available in UK Single, Double and King sizes.  With the added benefit of a pure 220 Thread Count cotton outer casing, our duvets offer excellent breathability.  Our pillows are made in soft and firm weights in two sizes, standard UK pillow size (50 x 75cm) and Super King size (50 x 90cm).  The pillows are also 100% RSW filling inside a 220TC cotton outer casing.  The cotton used for all bedding is exactly the same and therefore colour matches.

 

Super King wool pillows
Super King Real Shetland Wool pillows

 

So, why choose wool?  Wool duvets and pillows are becoming very popular as they’re not only animal friendly (wool is a sustainable resource with no harm coming to the sheep when sheared) but an entirely natural product.

Wool is also breathable which means the body can regulate its own temperature during the night promoting deeper, sounder sleep.  Along with this benefit comes wool’s wicking ability; wool actively draws moisture away from the body which then evaporates, again, allowing for a more comfortable sleep.

Wool bedding is also an excellent option for those with allergies or asthma as wool is naturally resistant to dust mites as well as being safe for those who may react badly to down and feather.

The best way to enhance these ‘abilities’ is to hang your duvet to air every so often in order to allow the natural fibre to release any trapped particles.  This has always been the best way to care for non-soiled woollen products.

There are lots of other benefits of wool bedding, most of which have been summed up by the Wool Carpet Focus Group’s ‘Woolabilities’ videos.  You can learn more about these on the WCFG website ‘here’.

 

Our duvets and pillows are made in the UK using Real Shetland Wool, wool that is sourced exclusively from the Shetland Islands.  We make every effort to ensure that our products are as natural as possible so we do not denature our wool or add any nasty chemicals.  As such, please note that there may be a natural wool smell to our duvets and pillows.  A gentle airing will see this smell reduce.  All production is to the highest of standards with our wool being processed in the most Eco-friendly and efficient scouring plant of its type, in the world.

 

Real Shetland Wool 3 Sheep logo

ACO Christmas Gift Guide

ACO Christmas Gift Guide

The festive season is upon us once again and with the clock counting down towards the big day, we thought you may appreciate some Christmas gift ideas for your family and friends.

The following products are available from our website and include free UK P&P.  All our products are made in the UK and we do ship internationally (please contact us for international shipping options).

British Wool Throws and Cushions £50.00 – £90.00

 

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Best of British Collection (£65.00) – The Best of British collection features three undyed, natural coloured designs, made using specially selected British wool.

Real Shetland Heritage Collection (90.00) – The Real Shetland Co. Heritage throws are made using only Real Shetland Wool, wool sourced exclusively from the Shetland Islands.  This range was developed with some of the UK’s top designers and features 16 coloured designs.

Real Shetland Natural Collection (£60.00) – From The Real Shetland Co, this range features undyed pure Real Shetland Wool in all its natural glory.  Striking natural shades in traditional designs, some of which were released by Shetland’s original Tweed manufacturer, T.M.Adie.

Real Shetland Natural Cushion Collection (£50.00) – A long running favourite of The Real Shetland Co.  100% Real Shetland Wool woven outer casing and filling with 100% cotton inner casing.  Perfect for just about any sofa or arm chair.

Wool Rugs and Sheepskins £65.00 – £210.00

 

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Real Shetland Wool Sheepskins (£65.00) – As with all our RSW (Real Shetland Wool), these sheepskins are sourced exclusively from the Shetland Islands.  All a generous size and in natural white, we don’t bleach our sheepskins.  Very soft and hugely popular all year round!  Tanned in the UK to the highest of standards and a perfect addition to all home settings.

British Wool Coloured Sheepskins (£75.00) – Prepared in the UK to the same high standards as our RSW sheepskins, our British Wool sheepskin rugs offer a stunning mix of natural browns that really are unique.  Very soft and generously sized.  Please note, no two natural sheepskins are ever identical so colour and shape do differ slightly between sheepskins.

Real Shetland Floor Rugs (£210.00) – Two stripey styles in the delectable natural RSW colours.  3ft x 5ft in size.  Woven with 100% undyed RSW and a natural jute backing.  The pile weight is 60oz/yd2 which offers a great feel underfoot.

Cashmere Throws, Stoles and Scarves £80.00 – £350.00

 

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Our cashmere products are all made in the UK, developed by some of the UK’s most talented designers.  Attractive styles and various sizes, our cashmere range has something for everyone.  Please see our cashmere page for more information.

Cashmere Scarves £80.00

Cashmere Stoles £156.00

Cashmere Throws £198.00 – £350.00

Real Shetland Sheepskin Beanbags £490.00 – £750.00

 

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Real Shetland Wool Beanbag (£750.00) – Lovingly handmade in the UK using our natural white RSW sheepskins.  Features leather base with zip opening for refilling.  Ridiculously comfortable and amazing to snuggle down into.

Real Shetland Wool Pouf (£490.00) – A scaled down version of the large beanbag, handmade in the UK with the same care and attention to detail and of course, our RSW sheepskins.  An ideal companion to the large beanbag or perfect for children.

Hand Knitting Yarns £3.20 – £7.50

 

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For the discerning hand knitter in your life, we have a lovely selection of very special British Wool and Real Shetland knitting yarns to offer.  All our yarns were made in the UK – spun in Yorkshire.

We offer free shipping on yarn orders over £15.00 – below that and there’s a £3.50 shipping charge to UK addresses.

ACO Real Shetland Wool Shrink-Resist Worsted Aran (£6.50/100g hank) – Originally developed by The Real Shetland Company, this worsted yarn has been specially treated so that it’s machine washable.  Available in natural white (or ‘ecru’), this Aran weight yarn has a wonderful handle and is suitable for hand-dying, taking colour very well.  Available on hank which makes dying much easier.

British Wool Worsted 2-ply (4ply lace weight) £3.20/25g ball

British Wool Worsted Aran £4.00/50g ball

British Wool Worsted Chunky £7.50/100g ball

 

Thank you for reading our 2017 Christmas Gift Guide.  If you have any questions regarding any of our products, please feel free to contact the team either through our WordPress contact form (here) or via the ‘Contact Us’ page on the ACO website (here).

Just to make your Christmas shopping that little bit kinder on the wallet, we’re offering a 10% discount from your first order by signing up to our mailing list (bottom left of the page).

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

ACO

ACOReal Shetland Wool 3 Sheep logo

Best of British Wool Throws

Best of British Wool Throws

Adam Curtis Online are proud to launch our brand-new range of 100% British wool, British made throws… The Best of British Collection.  Now available in three attractive, undyed designs from the Adam Curtis Online website at £65.00 inc. UK P&P.

The Best of British Throw Collection

The Best of British Collection is a collaboration between ourselves and our American sister company, Curtis, Curtis & Sons.  CC&S are British owned and run by our wool specialist, Martin Curtis.  Together, we chose specific British fibres which we combined to produce our new collection, a combination unique to our product range.

The Best of British Throw Collection

The production of our new throw range began at the industry leading Haworth Scouring and Combing facilities in Yorkshire.  As with our other wool throws, the Best of British Collection is Enco Certified, your guarantee that our wool has been handled to the highest quality and cleanliness standards.

The Best of British Throw Collection

Our yarns were spun in Yorkshire and all weaving, finishing and packing of the range were handled with specially selected partners, based in the UK.  We chose only the very best partners to produce the collection, noted for their high standards of quality and loyalty to the industry.

The Best of British Throw Collection

Looking at the finished product, the super-soft loftiness of the yarns and resilient worsted weave result in a throw that is not just attractive but very practical which looks and feels suitable for any occasion or setting.

Best of British Throw Collection

 

Of course, we would shout out praise for our own throws but we believe we have made a collection which truly represents the Best of British textiles.

For more information please feel free to contact us directly, either through the web form on our blog (here) or by the contact details on the ACO website (here).

Alternatively, you may email us direct at adamcurtisonline@gmail.com

 

And the winner is…

And the winner is…

In January 2017 we held a competition for a Real Shetland Company cushion and throw set (worth £150).  The response was excellent with thousands of entries from all over the world.

One lucky winner was selected at random.

And the winner is… Helen Billings, USA.

Helen Billings ACO competition winner

Helen chose our Real Shetland Kingland cushions and throw to make up her set, all of which are currently available to buy from our website.

Adam Curtis Online would like to thank everyone who entered the competition and for signing up to our mailing list.  If you haven’t already signed up for our newsletters, you can do so via our website to receive a 10% discount voucher (redeemable against any website purchase).

More competitions are coming so do keep an eye out for newsletters and announcements on social media.

You may follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

ACO

Real Shetland Wool 3 Sheep logoACO

Unflammability; be safe with Wool!

Unflammability; be safe with Wool!

A guest blog by Martin Curtis, Chairman of the Wool Carpet Focus Group.

I asked Dr Mike Madden to demonstrate the natural Unflammability of wool carpets and rugs in order to explain why all homes, hotels, cruise ships, planes and cars should consider them as the best choice.

We at the Wool Carpet Focus Group are fully aware of the benefits of wool and these can be seen on the woolcarpetsnaturally.org website.  Seeing is believing and we will produce a video of Dr Mike’s demonstration but on a larger scale!

Fire 01
Dr Mike builds a small bonfire on a piece of wool carpet.
Fire 02
You can see that Dr Mike won his bonfire building badge at Scouts!
Fire 03
A simple fire but with sufficient heat and flame 🔥 to cause a nasty fire on the wrong surface!
Fire 04

Well alight, the paper and wood burn at very high temperatures.  Dr Mike is in his laboratory so do not try this at home, you never know you might not have a wool carpet!  Looks carefully, very little smoke, no melting plastic or toxic black fumes.
Fire 05
You can see the singed and charred carpet, with virtually no spread of fire.  This charring protects the lower wool, pile from the flames and also the underlay and floorboards.
Fire 06
Enter a Dr Mike is scraping away the charred part with a coin.
Fire 07
Of course there is a bit of singing but the point is there is no spread of fire and it self-extinguished. Wool doesn’t burn in our normal atmosphere! It is naturally Umflammable.

 

We are not claiming the impossible with wool but just ask you to give it some thought.  If there is an accident in your home we think you would be naturally safer with wool carpets, rugs, bedding and upholstery.

Common sense backed scientifically by Dr Mike of ENco Ltd, Global Testing Servicesmike@encoblobal.com

This message has been approved by the Chairman of the Wool Carpet Focus Group.
wcfg@woolcarpetsnaturally.org