We love wool. It is a high-performance, resilient and naturally renewable material, and with remarkably low maintenance, there’s nothing else like it!
The history of Australian wool
As an ancient fibre, wool has been utilised by humans for millennia. In Australia, Merino sheep were first introduced in 1797 from royal Spanish flocks. However, further selective breeding by farmers produced much finer wool, now associated with authentic Australian Merino. Australian wool has and continues to play a tremendous part in fashion internationally. Australia is one of the world’s largest wool exporters, responsible for producing around 25% of the global market’s greasy wool (the raw unprocessed wool shorn directly off the sheep), with 71.6 million sheep shorn countrywide in 2021 to 2022 alone. Over the past 200 years, Australian woolgrowers have made significant advancements and continue to strive to make wool more sustainable.
Wool wicking, breathability and wrinkle resistance
Unlike synthetic fabrics that are manufactured from petrochemicals, wool, as an active fibre, reacts to changes in your body temperature, keeping you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s chilly, making it an excellent year-round option! The ‘wicking’ ability of wool refers to the merino fibres which are capable of absorbing and evaporating large quantities of moisture, so that it is lightweight and warm, fast drying, breathable, insulating and resistant to odour. The naturally antibacterial quality of wool is due to its natural oils, which also make it difficult to stain. Merino wool’s natural elasticity, which can stretch and return to its natural shape, also makes it less wrinkle-prone than other fabrics, meaning it requires lower maintenance and travels well. Learn how to clean and care for your wool here.
Why wool is UV and fire resistant
Research has revealed that wool, specifically Merino, is a highly effective UV light barrier, outperforming all other fabrics. This is because it can absorb radiation throughout the ultraviolet spectrum, unlike linen, nylon, viscose and cotton which all absorb limited UV wavelengths.
Wool is also flame retardant and a naturally fire-resistant fibre due to the material having less oxygen than fire requires to burn. This means it will not melt or stick to the skin if fire reaches it, making it a common part of a fire safety kit. In 2021, Seljak Brand experimented with creating a wearable fire blanket for Melbourne Design Week and Friends & Associates’ exhibition called A World We Don’t Want. The design reimagined fire Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) by patchworking old blankets in response to Australia’s 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires.
The Playing with Fire Blanket modelled by George Levi and photographed by Sophie Vaughan
Why wool is comfy and hypoallergenic
Merino fleece is the softest wool, with flexible and ultrafine fibres (where a single fibre is about half the diameter of a single human hair). It responds to your body’s natural movements, bending and flowing as it brushes against your skin. More sensitive than other fabrics, Merino doesn’t itch or irritate the skin because its organic hypoallergenic qualities reject bacteria, dust mites and mould. This makes it a good option for those with chronic skin conditions like dermatitis and eczema.
The Seljak Brand Pyramid blanket
Because of wool’s ability to be remade, it has become the most frequently recycled and reused fibre, something we love being a part of. You can read about how Seljak Brand uses recycled wool and other fibres here. As an organic material, wool is biodegradable and through decomposing can return its nutrients to the earth at the end of its life. Wool is being integrated into gardening, agriculture and horticulture by organisations like Wild Valley Farms with applications as fertiliser and soil enricher, that make use of the shorter lengths of wool that are ordinarily discarded.
Seljak Brand endeavoured on composting one of our 100% wool blanket samples, to determine an end-of-life solution for old blankets that are beyond saving and found that 100% wool blankets can be composted within a natural closed-loop system. Read more about our composting findings here.
Seljak Brand wool blanket sample after 6 months in commercial compost (left) and home compost (right)
In 2020, Australian menswear brand M.J. Bale and Kingston Farm's Simon Cameron pioneered the first carbon-neutral wool farm trials, successfully reducing methane emissions from livestock to undetectable levels. As one of the world’s most progressive wool producers, Simon Cameron approaches wool growing through the macro lens of biodiversity conservation with regenerative agriculture practices. These ethics encompass the management of both animals and land.
The partnership ensures Simon can continue his work protecting the future of Kingston and Tasmania’s biodiversity with large-scale initiatives including; tree planting and revegetation, the protection of indigenous grasslands and threatened local flora and fauna by breeding platypus, wedge-tailed eagles, Tasmanian devils and spotted-tailed quolls. Simon has committed to a standard of respect for his animals he deems the ‘Four Freedoms’ which include; “freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; freedom from discomfort, pain, injury and disease; freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour; and freedom from fear and distress.”
M.J Bale’s campaign shot in Kingston
That's why we love wool!
In short, wool really is an unmatched material. It's naturally versatile and high-performing, and being at the forefront of innovation it has an exciting future ahead!
As a low maintenance year-round option that travels well, wool is perfect for using at home on your couch or in bed, or on-the-go for picnicking and camping. If you feel like you’re missing out on some wool in your life and want to invest in a closed-loop, built-to-last blanket, check out our guide to help navigate the different ranges we offer and choose the perfect Seljak Brand blanket.