Now, What’s the Big Deal With Wool?
Wool is a highly favored fiber for many reasons. Like silk (see my article on silk here), wool is a proteinous, renewable fiber, and unlike silk, wool is carbon dense. Sheep used for wool production are generally allowed to graze in spacious, open fields and spend their days consuming plant matter. Plants extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their tissue for later use in tissue growth and photosynthesis. As the sheep digest the plant fibers, the carbon is then extracted from the plant and used in the production of wool, where it is then stored. Fifty percent of wools weight is pure carbon. This carbon is stored in the wool for the duration of its life, thus removing it from our atmosphere, and since wool is the most heavily recycled fabric on the planet, that life is very long. Wool is also praised for its ability to clean the air around it by absorbing chemicals from its environment such as formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide which it then locks away like the carbon (5). When wool inevitably reaches the end of its use, it is 100% biodegradable (3,28).
Unlike silk, wool is not a smooth strand but a crimped fiber. This natural crimping prevents the wool fibers from laying side by side, instead forcing the fibers to construct hundreds of tiny air pockets throughout the animals coat. The air trapped in these pockets is then able to be warmed by the body, which is exactly how the sheep insulates its own core.The construction of this fiber also adds bounce, loft and supportive contour which comes into play most readily in our mattresses (1). The quality of wool depends on the animal it comes from, and the manufacturing process by which it goes through. Cashmere, for instance, is a smooth and silk-like thread that is soft to the touch and used in clothes meant for layering or for warmer climates, while the hair from a black sheep is so rough and course that it can’t even be used in clothing manufacturing (Side note, did you know most black sheep are castrated or worse since they are considered to have “bad genes” that are undesirable if spread to the herd, hence the phrase “black sheep of the family?” I’ll never use that phrase lightly again). The thread in which the wool is woven into also makes a difference. Threads such as “worsted thread,” a favorite in men’s suits, is combed over and over and over again to remove as much of the natural crimping as possible, whereas the threads in your favorite scruffy sweater or tweed jacket are left loose and jagged (6).
This leads us into Joma™ wool which is found in a few of the mattresses my company carries. The JomaWoolⓇ company is located in New Zealand and relies on the participation of local New Zealand farmers to acquire their wool. The sheep are all free roaming and their farmers all follow the five freedoms rule (Freedom from hunger and thirst. Freedom from discomfort. Freedom from pain, injury or disease. Freedom to express normal behaviour. Freedom from fear and distress). For more on the ethical practices of the JomaWoolⓇ company, click here. To make Joma™ wool, the raw product is run through a crimping machine with an end result of curly on steroids. This added texture grants hyper focused levels of bounce and support to the fibers. The wool is then pressed and compacted down into its packaging, and if opened, would spring back into its original volume. This is the same premise as our pocketed coils. When a theoretical coil of 8 inches is compressed down into a 6 inch bag, it creates a constant force always pressing upwards, trying to escape. This technology gives the wool push-back and offers a greater level of support and body alignment.
In sum, wool is a carbon dense fiber that removes harmful CO2 from the environment for the duration of its life. Wool is 100% renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable. The wool used in our mattresses is harvested from ethically farmed and cared for sheep. Wool traps in pockets of clean air and allows the body to heat it up preventing those in contact from getting cold. Wool also filters the air around it, removing and trapping harmful chemicals inside its structure thus creating a healthier sleep environment. Wool adds life to a bed and yet again extends the quality you can expect out of your investment. Why wouldn’t you want something healthy and natural in your sleeping environment?