Wool Eases Eczema Symptoms

A new study has confirmed that wearing superfine Merino wool helps ease the symptoms of eczema and improves the wearer’s quality of life.

Professor Joe Fowler at Dermatology Specialists Research in Louisville, Ky., undertook this two-year study assessing the effect of Merino base-layer fabrics on 50 of his patients with mild-to-moderate eczema.

Using a cross-over design, participants were placed in two groups. The first group was dressed in their regular clothing for six weeks and then changed to superfine Merino wool garments. The second group began with the superfine Merino wool for six weeks and then crossed over to their regular clothing for the final six weeks. Each patient undertook an initial visit to establish their baseline condition, followed by regular visits until completion of the study. They were assessed for clinical, physiological and quality of life outcome measures.

Significant decreases in eczema symptoms from Baseline to Week Three were seen in both groups. However, those who switched to Merino wool at Week Six experienced a further significant decrease in symptoms, in contrast to those who switched to regular clothing. Further, “it was only when Merino wool was worn that improved quality of life scores occurred,” Fowler said.

“I still wear the [wool] clothing, even though I’ve finished the study,” one participant said. “I’m super sensitive about clothing and never keep any that are not comfortable.”

Another participant commented, “I could feel it working, my skin got softer and I wear [wool] now when my skin needs help.”

 

Source: ASI Weekly November 9, 2018

Full Article: https://www.iwto.org/news/us-study-confirms-wool-benefits-to-skin

Woolrich to Close Pennsylvania Mill

Woolrich, Inc. has announced that it will be closing the Woolen Mill in Woolrich, Penn. It is anticipated that fabric manufacturing operations will cease by the end of the year and will affect up to 40 employees in the mill.

“The decision to close the mill was made following a comprehensive review of our overall woven fabric business and the considerable capital improvements needed to modernize and maintain viable operations,” said Woolrich President Nick Brayton. “Unfortunately, due to higher manufacturing costs, eroding margins and continued unprofitability within the Mill, it is no longer economically feasible to continue our Pennsylvania based Woolen Mill operation.

Woolrich will provide career transitional services for affected employees. Retirement and pension planning services will also be provided for those employees not seeking re-employment.

“We are eternally grateful to all our employees for their years of dedication and loyalty to the company and our number one priority right now is to help affected employees through this transition,” Brayton said. “While this was a very difficult decision, our strategic approach to align our collections globally remains our primary focus and we are continuing the next stage of the globalization of the Woolrich brand.”

The company plans to maintain its wholesale, retail, and e-commerce apparel businesses.

 

Source: ASI Weekly November 9, 2018

Raw Material Offers One Woman’s View of the American Wool Industry

New book released Oct. 2018….Raw Material – Working Wool in the West

Follow a sweater with an “Italian Merino” label back far enough and chances are its life began not in Milan, but in Montana.

Many people want to look behind the label and know where their clothes come from, but the textile supply chain – one of the most toxic on the planet – remains largely invisible. In Raw Material, Stephany Wilkes tells the story of American wool through her own journey to becoming a certified sheep shearer.

What begins as a search for local yarn becomes a dirty, unlikely and irresistible side job. Wilkes leaves her high-tech job for a way of life considered long dead in the American West. Along the way, she meets ornery sheep that weigh more than she does, carbon-sequestering ranchers, landless grazing operators, rare breed stewards and small-batch yarn makers struggling with drought, unfair trade agreements and faceless bureaucracies as they work to bring eco-friendly fleece to market.

Raw Material demonstrates that the back must break to clothe the body, and that excellence often comes by way of exhaustion.

With humor and humility, Wilkes follows wool from the farm to the factory, through the hands of hardworking Americans trying to change the culture of clothing. Her story will appeal to anyone interested in the fiber arts or the textile industry, and especially to environmentally conscious consumers.

Stehanie’s website:  https://stephanywilkes.com/book

Book also available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Raw-Material-Working-Wool-West/

 

Pics from the 2018 Festival

The 24th annual Sheep & Fiber Festival was held on Saturday and Sunday at the Hunterdon County Fairgrounds in Ringoes.

The festival was presented by the Garden State Sheep Breeders, a non-profit, educational group promoting sheep and wool products in New Jersey.

This year they added two breeds: the Scottish blackface and Valais blacknose, a new breed to the United States, on display courtesy of Stone Manor Farm.

Source and to see the Photo Gallery:

https://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2018/09/for_24_years_nj_sheep_have_had_their_own_day_in_hu.html

 

Livestock Conservancy Introduces New Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em Wool Program

The Livestock Conservancy is hoping to preserve endangered sheep with its Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em program that encourages fiber artists to work with wool from rare sheep breeds.

Leicester Longwool

Genetic diversity is just one reason to preserve heritage sheep. Heritage breeds have survived through the ages because they are naturally hardy. Of particular interest to fiber artists are the different types of wool that each breed produces. Some have a softer wool that’s excellent for garments, while others have wool that’s more suited to making rugs. Some have white wool that takes well to dyes, while others come in a wide variety of natural colors and patterns.

The goal of Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em is to put fiber artists in contact with shepherds who produce wool from sheep on The Livestock Conservancy’s list of endangered livestock. When fiber artists register, they will receive a passport that includes a page of information for each breed. Each page will also include space to put a stamp after they purchase wool from a particular breed. There will be a Facebook group and a Ravelry group where members can share pictures of their projects. As fiber artists work their way through the breeds, they will receive prizes for completing projects and reaching various landmarks.

In addition to encouraging fiber artists to try rare wools, the program will also educate shepherds about how to prepare their wool for sale to fiber artists. By helping shepherds market their wool, they will become more financially stable, which helps ensure the future of the sheep.

When shepherds sell raw fleece from rare breeds directly to consumers, they can earn an average of $16 per pound on Etsy.  Fiber can also be sold to fiber artists at fiber festivals that are held around the country. By turning wool into roving, it can be sold to hand spinners or felters for an average of $44 per pound on Etsy, and if they take the extra step of having it spun into yarn, it averages $80 per pound.

More information about the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em  Challenge or about sheep breeds on the Conservation Priority List are available on the Livestock Conservancy website.

Source: ASI Weekly September 7, 2018

Chef Ian Knauer Will Hold Cooking Demos at The Festival

Once again we’re lucky to have Chef Ian Knauer giving cooking demos at the Festival.  He starts cooking at 10AM on Sunday in the Ramsburg Building.  You can learn more about him and browse recipes on his website: http://ianknauer.com/

 

 

Breed Display Exhibitors Finalized with 2 New Breeds

This year we will have 2 breeds that haven’t been displayed at our Festival in prior years: Scottish Blackface and Valais Blacknose!

The Valais Blacknose is new to the US and the sheep on display (courtesy of Stone Manor Farm) is the 1st in NJ!  Freddie is an F1 wether (50% Scottish Blackface, 50% Valais Blacknose) born this year and part of the Breed Up program in the US.  Scottish Blackface sheep are first preference for use in the program as they were one of the breeds used originally to develop the Valais Blacknose (Leister Longwool and Lincoln are 2nd and 3rd preference breeds for the program).   Since animals can’t be imported to the US, semen from Blacknose sheep in other countries (Europe) is used on US Scottish Blackface ewes to produce a  hybrid.  After 5 generations the resulting sheep are 97% Valais Blacknose.

F1 (50% Valais)
F2 (75% Valais)
F3 (88% Valais)
F4 (94% Valais)
F5 (97% Valais)

 

Valais Blacknose Sheep Introduced in North America 

 

 

Got Fleece?

 

Hey local fiber farmers, let’s make this year’s GSS&F Fleece Show the best ever! Bring your skirted fleeces for either the Show or the Sale, or both. New to fiber farming? Enter your fleeces for the Show to receive helpful insights and feedback from our Fleece Judge or attend the Fleece Skirting Class. Register online at www.njsheep.net/festival/contests/fleece

Montana Researchers Pioneer Using Wool for Erosion Control

The stuff of socks, sweaters and high-tech underwear now has yet another use, according to a Montana State University study: revegetating roadsides to prevent erosion.

At a road cut along Highway 287 near Three Forks, Mont., healthy patches of native grasses are a testament to the lasting benefits of using wool, said Rob Ament, a research scientist at the Western Transportation Institute in MSU’s Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering.

When Ament’s research team began the project four years ago, they suspected that wool might have advantages over the straw and shredded coconut hull used in traditional erosion control blankets, which buffer slopes against sun and rain until seeds germinate and plants take hold. The results of the recently concluded study, however, surprised him.

“We were astonished by the vigorous plant growth,” Ament said during a recent visit to the site.

At the square-meter plots that received erosion blankets made of wool blended with straw, the team observed three to four times more perennial grasses – a result Ament called “stunning.”

Eli Cuelho, a former research engineer at WTI, also contributed to the project, as did Stuart Jennings and Monica Pokorny at KC Harvey Environmental, a Bozeman-based consulting firm specializing in reclamation. Pokorny, who now works as a plant materials specialist at the Bozeman office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, worked with Ament to develop the wool products and conduct the field trials.

Revegetating disturbed ground along roadsides is required by various laws to prevent takeover by noxious weeds and runoff of sediment, which can harm fish and other aquatic life, and it also contributes to the longevity of the roadbed by reducing pooling water, according to Phil Johnson. He oversaw roadside reclamation for the Montana Department of Transportation for 25 years before retiring in 2017. Johnson provided guidance for the project, which received an MDT grant, and was “very pleased,” he said.

Prior to the experiment, MDT had seeded the road cut in a traditional manner with a seed drill. But the plants on the exposed, west-facing slope had difficulty surviving, and the agency recommended the road cut for the experiment, according to Ament.

“We picked a really harsh site,” Ament said. “We didn’t want it to be easy.”

Some erosion-preventing wool products were available internationally, Ament said. But they were prohibitively expensive to ship and weren’t designed specifically for revegetation. “We had to be creative and work with wool producers here in Montana,” he said.

Ament and Pokorny traveled to three Montana mills and worked with them to produce shredded wool, which was then sent to a Minnesota manufacturer with the specialized equipment for blending the wool with straw to produce the erosion blankets. The researchers then seeded the Highway 287 road cut with native grasses and laid down the wool erosion blankets side by side with various other erosion blankets. They observed the site periodically and measured the growth of the grasses during the course of three years.

“We don’t know what mechanisms, exactly, give wool an advantage,” Ament said.

He suspects that the wool holds more moisture for a longer period. And wool, which is about 17 percent nitrogen, likely has a fertilizing effect on the plants as it slowly biodegrades. Ament said that wool also appears to adhere better to soil on steep embankments.

Ament noted that if wool were widely adopted for erosion control, it could support local manufacturing of the blankets as well as create a significant new market for Montana’s wool growers. Low-grade wool that is otherwise discarded could potentially be used.

Source: Montana State University (from ASI Weekly July 13, 2018)