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!

A smuggling story featuring sacks, cloves and fells.

One of the themes running through these WOVEMBER posts concerns how the word ‘WOOL’ conjures certain imaginative associations. Our imaginative associations are gold dust to advertisers and brand experts, and Kate has written about – amongst other things – the specific lure of the word ‘wool’ and its evocation of ‘cosiness’ when it is addressed… Continue Reading A smuggling story featuring sacks, cloves and fells.

Deb Robson’s take on endangered sheep breeds

We are absolutely delighted this evening to be featuring Deb Robson as our guest blogger. Deb has been extremely supportive of our WOVEMBER aims, emailing us on the very day that we published this site with warm words of encouragement in spite of having a schedule absolutely full of fibre-related and WOOL-centric classes to teach. If… Continue Reading Deb Robson’s take on endangered sheep breeds

An Snag Breac

Following the Prick Your Finger post, we thought it would be interesting to feature work by artists and makers who use WOOL in their practice. It is hoped that this series exploring imaginative uses of WOOL will shed more light on what WOOL means. Today I want to introduce you to Irish artist Caroline Walshe,… Continue Reading An Snag Breac

January 2010 “snowcase” revisited

You are amazing. Thank you for your interest in Wovember, for your thoughtful comments on product descriptions and fibre content, and for publishing your own thoughts on the Wovember issues elsewhere on the Internet. It is really encouraging to see the response to Wovember and a real pleasure to upload your photos whenever we can… Continue Reading January 2010 “snowcase” revisited

The Sheep Yoke

This evening’s sheep-related tale comes from Richard Martin at Filkin’s Mill in the Cotswolds. According to Alan Butler*, “the name Cotswold is a combination of ‘Cot’ from the cots or enclosures where the sheep were kept, and ‘wolds’, which is a descriptive word for open, hilly ground.” In Filkin’s Mill, Richard has collected a vast… Continue Reading The Sheep Yoke

Prick Your Finger

In a world where widespread knowledge of where and how clothes are made exists, it would be unthinkable to describe a pair of viscose shorts as “woollen” because everybody would know at once that this was nonsense. Yet as long as there are enormous gaps between producers and consumers of clothes on the High Street,… Continue Reading Prick Your Finger

On ‘Artificial Wool’

From your wonderful comments on the Wovember petition it is obvious that incorrect and confusing descriptions of textiles are abundant. But how has the confusion surrounding the word “WOOL” arisen? Throughout the month we will explore that question in different ways. This evening we shall hear from Ethel Mairet’s wonderful book published in 1939 and… Continue Reading On ‘Artificial Wool’

Walter’s Crook

Throughout Wovember we shall be sharing blog posts here which gave us extra insight into the history, culture and production of WOOL when we read them. This post was written by Rachael Matthews in 2009, and all the photos were taken by her. It is re-published from the Prick Your Finger blog. We shall be… Continue Reading Walter’s Crook

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.