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The Wonders of British Wool

May 1, 2024

Pure wool is an important part of our UK heritage and has been used for centuries in the clothing industry as well as interior design. It also has some incredible credentials that are important not just for interior design, but for our planet and for sustainability too.

Pure wool is a hugely important part of our UK heritage and has been used for centuries in the clothing industry as well as for interior design.

It also has some incredible credentials that are important for our planet and for sustainability. Wool is one of my most favourite fabrics and its versatility in interior design continues to grow. Here are some simple facts about its inherent properties.

The Benefits of Choosing Wool in Interior Design

Did you know that wool is a natural protein fibre? Growing naturally on sheep, wool is made from keratin, like human hair.

Did you know that wool naturally biodegrades and therefore does not add to plastic pollution? Wool decomposes in a matter of months to a couple of years, and releases nutrients back into the soil.

Did you know that wool is naturally fire resistant and does not melt like modern man-made fibres such as polyester and nylon. Wool is high in water and nitrogen content and has a low combustible rate. Because of this, wool requires higher levels of oxygen in the environment to burn. Unlike other upholstery fabrics, wool does not need harmful fire-retardant chemicals applied.

Did you know that wool products have long lifespans, they are worn longer and last longer than most other textile fibres?

Did you know that wool is renewable? By consuming a simple mix of water, air, sunshine and grass, every sheep produces a new fleece each year.

Did you know that wool is recyclable? Wool fibres are high quality and durable and can be reused and recycled. Wool is recycled into woollen spun-knitwear, insulation, and geotextiles.

Did you know that wool is naturally hypoallergenic? Wool is resistant to dust mites and mould mildew. It quickly absorbs and releases moisture and does not allow damp conditions for bacteria and fungus to thrive.

Did you know that wool regulates temperature? Wool has natural insulating and breathable properties, which help to keep us warm or cool, depending upon the season. Wool fibres are naturally breathable, absorbing moisture from the atmosphere, which are then released when the atmosphere is drier.

Throws

Due to the characteristics of wool, it is used in loft insulation, cushion pads and pillows, mattresses, toppers and bedding, carpets, textiles, soft furnishings, and much more, as we discover the incredible versatility of wool. I recently discovered Solidwool, who use wool to make chairs. Solidwool is a composite material made with Herdwick sheep wool from Cumbria, manufactured with bio-resins to create a solid fibre. Think fiberglass but with wool! Take a look at the link above to discover what has been achieved.

From an interior design perspective, I love using wool in curtains, blinds, cushions, and upholstery.  Both Yorkshire and Scotland remain invaluable areas for wool production and manufacture in the UK. Here are my personal favourites for both their heritage and for their incredible fabrics.

Harris Tweed

Harris Tweed is the only cloth in the world that is governed by its own Act of Parliament, and the only cloth produced by traditional methods, even in large commercial quantities. Harris Tweed has character and beauty. The wool is dyed before being spun, allowing colours to be blended into yarn, which creates the cloth’s natural depth and texture.

Harris tweed is only woven by the inhabitants of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The islands of Lewis, Harris, Uist and Barra are recognized for their weaving excellence.  With tweed increasing in popularity, a meeting was held in Stornway in 1906, to decide the steps needed to protect the tweed from imitations and in 1909 The Harris Tweed Association Limited was formed, to register the Orb and Maltese Cross as a trademark. In accordance with the Act, Harris Tweed cloth must be handwoven by the islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides, finished in the Outer Hebrides, and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides.

It is simply a beautiful cloth with the most incredible texture and colours, not just to work with but to include in any interior design project, with a slightly rough texture in comparison to many other wools. The weaving of Harris Tweed is a sustainable industry. It is woven from pure virgin British wool, taken from the Cheviot sheep on the island as well as from mainland Scotland. The quality of the wool is closely monitored, and its journey starts with the crofters at home, who use the raw fleece which has been cleaned. Harris Tweed is a high-performance cloth, durable and requiring little laundering. All Harris Tweed mills comply with UK legislation, using only 100% wool. And due to its unique weaving heritage, woven only in the Outer Hebrides, Harris Tweed sustains specialist weaving and textile skills throughout the rural communities on the Islands. It is a heritage industry.  

The Isle Mill

The Isle Mill stated as a family company in 1783, recognized as a weaver of soft furnishings and upholstery fabrics in Scotland, where the entire manufacturing process remains today, with the design process based in Perth, the fabric is woven in the textile mill in the Scottish Highlands, and finished in the Scottish Borders.

The composition of the fabrics is mainly pure wool, but also some more luxurious blends with linen, silk, mohair and angora. Once warped and woven, all the fabrics are hand inspected and hand mended, before the fabric is finished, a process of dyeing, washing, scouring, pressing or cropping.

Isle Mill fabrics have an incredibly soft and luxurious handle. It is beautiful to feel and work with.  My most favourite collections to use in interior design projects are the Herring bone collection, Craigie Hill, and sheers for soft and drapey window dressings. Yet all their fabrics are exquisite and well worth considering.

Marton Mills

Another of my favourite wool fabrics, Marton Mills is a traditional family-owned weaving mill in West Yorkshire, which for centuries has been the heart of our British textile industry. With a small team of highly skilled craftsmen, many of which have spent their lives in the textile industry.  

Although a much smaller collection of pure wools for interiors, the designs and colors are wonderfully earthy and muted, with a choice of plains and tweeds. I love using these tweeds on my footstools! The colour palette is stunning.  

Abraham Moon

With over 185 years of British manufacturing in our textile industry, Abraham Moon still carry the name of the founder. As experts in the creation of pure wool cloth for apparel and interiors, the company is one of the rare vertical woollen mills in the UK, where all processes were done from one site near Leeds, West Yorkshire.

In 1837, Abraham Moon, a clothier from Guisley near Leeds, supplied local families with yarn to weave on their hand looms at home. Once woven he would collect the cloth, pay the weavers for their work, and then scour (wash) the cloth before hanging it to dry in the local fields. He would then take the cloth by horse and cart, to market in Leeds to sell.

By 1868, Abraham Moon had a three-storey mill built in Guisley, with an abundant source of local spring water available under the mill. The soft water was perfect for scouring and the processes necessary in the woollen industry. That same spring water is still used for scouring today. With the newly built railway to Leeds directly behind the mill, this proved an invaluable source of transport, not only for distributing the cloth across the UK and Europe, but also bringing in valuable coal for power and wool for processing.

The history of this company continues to grow across the decades to follow. Following the death of Abraham Moon, the business passed to his son, and it was in this era that the mill burnt down in 1902, when a new single story mill was built on the same site. From 1902, the mill was sold to the Mill Manager and has continued in his family until today.

The collection of wool has grown into the selection we see today, still manufactured on the same site. The merino wool predominately comes from South Africa and the Shetland wool is from New Zealand. The choice of fabric available is one of the most comprehensive we have, slightly heavier in weight, a huge array of colours, with some very vibrant ones too.

I would really encourage you to have a look at wool as a sustainable fabric choice but equally an amazing design choice, when planning your next interiors project.  It is worth celebrating this wonderful resource while supporting our wool textile industry too. Consider how to bring wool into your home in different ways, carpets, window dressings, cushions, footstools, upholstery items, blankets, bedding… and so much more!

If you would like help in designing your home or are interested in our interior design services in Somerset and the surrounding areas, please do contact me here. I look forward to working with you.