About

What is WOVEMBER?

The idea is to show our collective appreciation of WOOL by wearing as much of this fabulous fibre as possible, and celebrating WOOL and its unique qualities in stories and pictures throughout the month of November. We hope that through our enthusiasm and creativity we can raise awareness of WHAT MAKES WOOL DIFFERENT, and jointly create a force for WOOL APPRECIATION strong enough to effect changes in how garments and textiles are described and marketed.


(Herdwick ram, photographed by Kate Davies)

The unique properties of WOOL (warmth, wicking, durability) mean that it is a fibre particularly suitable for winter garments. Precisely because of these properties, the terms WOOL, WOOLLY, and WOOLLEN carry a cachet that the fashion industry — particularly in recent cost-cutting years — has been all too-ready to exploit. By describing fabrics and garments as WOOL that contain little or no WOOL AT ALL, the fashion industry has increased consumer ignorance, profiting from the prestige of WOOL, while damaging ACTUAL WOOL and the livelihoods of those who raise, produce and process it. By reconnecting the words WOOLLY, WOOLLEN and WOOL with the noble animals from which that peerless fibre comes, it is hoped that we will be able to end the widespread abuse of these terms in the fashion industry, and their misapplication to garments which bear no connection to actual sheep.

100% WOOL on a Rough Fell Sheep, photographed by Dr Felicity Ford at WOOLFEST, 2009

The word WOOL refers to the fibre, yarn or fabric derived from the fleece of THE SHEEP; it does not refer to the fleece of other animals nor to fibres derived from petrochemicals or plants. The cache value of WOOL is evident through its frequent use in product and garment descriptions in which the word WOOL is used to conjure up an idyllic idea of the country, green fields, sheep, and garments whose principal qualities are warmth and cosiness.

100% WOOL on sheep grazing in Sussex, photographed by Dr Felicity Ford in 2009

However to use the term WOOL to describe products which bear no substantial relationships with either this landscape or these animals is a misleading appropriation of those pleasant associations. Why should it be OK to use the term WOOL when the hard work that really goes into producing WOOL hasn’t been done? We recognise the value of other cache terms such as Champagne – which we expect to refer only to wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France; or Chocolate – which we expect to contain at least some quantity of material found in an actual cocoa bean. So how is it that the term WOOL can be used willy-nilly, as a general descriptor of anything vaguely warm and fuzzy? WOOL is grown over time, through the husbandry, patience and wisdom of farmers and shepherds. Land, diet and a knowledge of different breeds play an important role in the quality and texture of real WOOL. A detailed knowledge of twist, fibre-lengths and spinning processes must also be employed in order to manufacture good quality yarns for knitting and weaving. By allowing the word WOOL to be applied indiscrimately to anything soft, the specific skills, crafts and labour associated with WOOL and its production become devalued.

The end result of such misappropriation is that a search through an online shop for a WOOL jumper leads you to this charming number, which – although described as being “crafted in a fine knitted, angora wool blend” is actually comprised of the following substances: 40% Viscose, 30% Cotton, 20% Polyamide, 5% Wool, 5% Angora wool.

( garment containing 5% wool, found by running a product search on ASOS for “wool jumper”)

Instigated by Drs Kate Davies and Felicity Ford in response to their frustrations at the misuse of the words “WOOL” and “WOOLLEN” in garment descriptions, Wovember aims to reinstate the true value of those terms by linking them with the animals and people who raise, produce and process our WOOL.


Shetland rams, photographed by Kate Davies

WOVEMBER is about:

* recognising that WOOL is a premium textile which comes from an actual sheep, and that – as such – the terms WOOL, WOOLLY and WOOLLEN should only be applied to real WOOL and not, for instance, to polyester or viscose.

* celebrating the important heritage and contemporary value of WOOL through our 100% WOOL stories, blog posts, pictures, textiles, and garments.

* educating and informing the wider public of the wondrous qualities of WOOL.

* creatively pushing the idea that the word WOOL should refer to sheep’s WOOL only.

*reconnecting the idea of WOOL to the animals and people involved in its creation and manufacture.

* campaigning for a clarification of trading standards to prevent further misuse of the term WOOL.

To involve yourself with WOVEMBER, you can:

* endeavour to wear as MUCH WOOL AS POSSIBLE throughout the month of WOVEMBER, and tell everyone about the unique qualities of WOOL.

* sign the WOVEMBER PETITION to support changes to textile trading standards and product descriptions.

* TALK ABOUT WHAT WOOL MEANS TO YOU throughout WOVEMBER on your blogs, sites, facebook pages, twitter feeds, and other social media.

* PUBLICISE WOVEMBER by sharing our button (below) and linking to this site.

* send us WOVEMBER stories about sheep, wool, knitting, weaving or other endeavours which celebrate WOOL in all its sheepy glory!

* Enter the WOVEMBER COMPETITION by sending us a 100% wool photograph for the WOVEMBER gallery. (Fabulous 100% WOOL prizes are on offer!)

* Have fun.

Please download and redistribute this image or contact us at wovember@gmail. com with specific pixel dimensions if you require a different shape or size of image!

Sheep photos in Wovember

Judging the Wovember competition photographs has taken a short while because in deciding which photos should win, several factors emerged. We realised that because WOVEMBER is essentially a campaign site, the winning entries should somehow make WOOL accessible and exciting for new audiences; to speak somehow of the virtues of WOOL in a way which… Continue Reading Sheep photos in Wovember

We have winners!

Grand Prize Winner: sponsored by Jamieson and Smith Deborah Barr, “Encounter on Gamle Strynesfjellsvegen, Norway” Congratulations, Deborah! You win a £100 voucher from Jamieson & Smith! Best sheep photos: sponsored by Blacker Designs Lucy Razzall, “Henry Moore’s Sheep” Helena Callum, “Goldilocks” Amy Karasz, “Neve and Wren” Congratulations Lucy, Helena, and Amy! Amy wins a £20… Continue Reading We have winners!

There is no substitute for WOOL

Wovember — our month-long celebration of WOOL is now drawing to a close. Today, it is very easy to use the internet as a platform for a campaign, but in the 1950s, the Woolmark Company / International Wool Secretariat had a rather different idea to publicise the virtues of wool. They held a competition in… Continue Reading There is no substitute for WOOL

SCAEP & SCEAP, WOLLE & WULL

This evening we have a wonderful guest post from the talented Tom of Holland. I am a huge fan of Tom’s blog, which details such lovely things as visible mending in the immediate environment; (surely an inspiration to any fan of darning?) the differences between Sanquhar and Yorkshire Dale gloves; and adventures in knitting a… Continue Reading SCAEP & SCEAP, WOLLE & WULL

Wool Is . . . a guest post from Ooey Ollie

Today we feel incredibly honoured to feature Oliver Henry on the Wovember blog. Known to Shetland friends and locals as “Ooey Ollie” (ooey = woolly), Oliver has been sorting and grading wool at Jamieson and Smith for almost 45 years. In so many respects, Oliver really is the Shetland Woolbrokers, and what he doesn’t know… Continue Reading Wool Is . . . a guest post from Ooey Ollie

Woolsack and Sue Blacker

One of the companies which I admire very much for its work with British Wool is The Natural Fibre Company, a specialist wool mill at Launceston on the Devon-Cornwall border where wool growers can pay to have their fleeces spun into yarns. As well as offering this service to wool growers, The Natural Fibre Company… Continue Reading Woolsack and Sue Blacker

Introducing Diane, AKA The Spinning Shepherd

I hope you are all enjoying our Wovember guests posts, and that it is proving interesting for you to share our exploration of the many stages which lie between wool growing on the back of a sheep and ending up as wearable clothes. I feel strongly that the more transparent this process is, the harder… Continue Reading Introducing Diane, AKA The Spinning Shepherd

Excelana – from sheep to skein

For this evening’s post we shall get an insight into what happens when you mix an understanding of the specific properties of different sheep breeds’ wool with a creative vision for knitwear and garment design. Because that sentence is a bit of a mouthful, I have condensed it into a handy Wovember equation: Sheep Fleece… Continue Reading Excelana – from sheep to skein

Woolly roundup

It’s time for the WEEKLY, WOOLLY ROUNDUP! Thanks again everyone for all the Wovember work you’re doing to raise the profile of WOOL FOR WHAT IT IS on your own blogs, in your knitting projects, in your felt-making and – yes – in your Christmas plans. I learned this week about Christmas Tree Skirts from… Continue Reading Woolly roundup

Petition

We the undersigned believe that:

1. In the world of contemporary fashion and retail, WOOL, together with the skills, crafts and labour involved in its production, is currently being devalued through widespread misuse of the words and qualities associated with it.

2. Consumers are being misled, and ignorance about WOOL is being promoted, through spurious branding, marketing and product descriptions.

We agree that:

1. A garment should not be described as ‘wool’ or turn up with the search-term ‘wool’ or ‘wool rich’ unless its sheep’s wool content is more than 50%.

2. A garment with a sheep’s wool content of between 20% and 50% should only be described with the term ‘wool mix’ or ‘wool blend’ (ie not ‘wool’ or ‘wool rich’).

3. The word WOOL should refer to sheep’s wool only, and there should be a clarification of trading standards to distinguish between different animal fibres (angora, alpaca, cashmere, and so on) which also possess their own unique properties, qualities and cachet.

4. When a garment’s fabric is composed of mixed fibres with a sheep’s wool content of less than 50%, the word YARN should be used in place of wool when describing its composition.

5. Constituent fibres of a fabric should always be listed in proportionate, descending order on a garment label, and only the first two constituent fibres should be used in the product title, marketing, or description (eg, if a garment is made up of 50% viscose, 30% cotton, 20% polyamide, 5% angora and 5% wool, only viscose and cotton should be used in the product title, marketing, or description.).

To sign the petition, simply leave your name and / or comment in the reply box below.