With winter being the cosiest season of them all you might find yourself desperately gazing at the electric fireplaces and wool socks at the stores. While there is no way to enjoy winter for longer you can still enjoy the cosy season in style. Here you will find some tips on decorating your home for winter to warm up both your body and soul.
With Christmas right around the corner and present search fever giving us a headache the least thing we would like to end up is having no present for that someone special. In order to avoid that we are here to help you out to choose a present even for those who seem too rugged to be given a present in the first place. And since we love making lists here is one that might come in handy.
While flowery perfumes are considered girly there is nothing girly about cologne. Every man enjoys smelling good and will appreciate you giving him his favourite cologne as a present. Besides, that means you like it too which is the best compliment a man can get.
A warm wool throw
Feeling warm and cosy is essential in winter and the perfect item for cuddling up in front of a fireplace is a warm wool throw. With the huge variety to choose from you are guaranteed to find the perfect one for your loved one.
While it does not seem very manly to be wearing slippers it does feel cosy and warm. A pair of cosy and maybe even funny slippers will make sure to keep our loved ones feet warm and put a smile on his face.
A grooming set
Grooming is essential for every man that looks after himself. Without it he might end up looking like a caveman and we are pretty sure no one wants that. A luxurious grooming kit will be a perfect present for every man to make him feel classy and good looking after pampering himself.
A SPA date for the two of you
A present for him does not have to be one that is only for him. Even the most rugged men enjoy spending time with their ladies and what better way to do that rather than spending a day at a SPA pampering yourselves, just the two of you.
If you are doing a pre-Christmas clear out to make room for new lovely gifts, stop for a moment before you throw anything away. It might be that that ancient jersey with a hole in the sleeve, the much-loved wool throw that has become a bit threadbare or those cashmere socks that have shrunk in the wash, could have a whole new life. Here are some thoughts on how and why we should recycle our old wool textiles.
It has been estimated that around 3.3million tonnes of textile waste goes into landfill every year in the USA alone. Whilst wool makes up only a small percentage of this, reusing and recycling 2million tonnes per year of unwanted textiles could reduce carbon emissions by the same amount as taking 1million cars off the road. Pretty mind-blowing, no? Wool is a natural fibre and is the most easily reused of all textile fibres. In fact we have been recycling wool for hundreds of years.
So if you want to know what to do with your old woollies, this is the lowdown.
If you are crafty, or have clever friends, give your old woollen textiles to them. Wool can be felted and made into all sorts of things, or unravelled and re-knitted into something new. Pinterest and Etsy are brilliant for inspiration for up cycling projects – if you’re quick you might even have time to make some decorations or Christmas gifts!
Giving woollen textiles to charity shops and goodwill centres can prolong the item’s life by several years, and avoids filling up landfill. Because of its natural durability wool lasts longer than other fibres, meaning your unwanted things can have long, happy lives elsewhere. You can often donate by filling charity bags for collection.
Wool is perfect for recycling and new technologies have made this process even more efficient. Valuable or top quality woollens are closed-loop recycled, which means they are deconstructed and the fibre is reused as yarn in new items. Poor quality items are open-loop recycled, where they are taken apart and the wool is used in completely different products. Examples of these wool bi-products are fire retardant mattress padding, blankets and car sound insulation. These new uses can increase the lifespan of the wool fibres by up to 10 more years, which is pretty neat.
As a last resort, wool can be discarded into landfill. Thankfully, as all its carbon comes from the plants eaten by sheep it is biodegradable and will fairly quickly decompose. In fact wool actually adds its nutrients back into the soil, making this far less damaging for the environment than throwing out other synthetic materials.
And once you’ve sustainably disposed of your old items and invested in some beautiful new textiles, you can prevent further waste by only washing them when absolutely necessary, buying good quality products that will have a longer lifespan, and then reusing or recycling these at the end of their time with you.
Merino wool is renowned for its softness, elasticity and versatility, making it a popular choice for clothing and home textiles the world over. But as well as snuggly merino throws, cosy base layers and durable winter woolies, merino is at the heart of some brilliant innovative clothing designs. Using ingenuity and creativity, several companies are harnessing the inherent qualities of this fabulous wool fibre and producing clothing that delivers on style, comfort, sustainability and price. Prepare to be amazed.
Allbirds wool running shoes
Allbirds founder Tom Brown grew up in New Zealand – home of the merino sheep. He had a deep understanding of how merino wool could regulate body temperature, wick moisture away from skin and minimise odour. But he couldn’t understand why no-one was making shoes from the stuff. So, along with partner Joey Zwillinger, he set out to do just that. The result of years of research, design and creative thinking is the Allbirds sneaker.
These shoes are made from natural merino wool, with a minimalist un-branded look. They come in sizes from child to adult and in a range of colours, and are fully biodegradable. And they claim to be ‘the world’s most comfortable shoes’. We can well believe it.
Despite being a staple in nearly every wardrobe, denim has its downsides. It can be cold, and once wet takes ages to dry, making it an uncomfortable choice in winter. An initiative by Woolmark blends merino wool with cotton to produce beautiful, functional denim fabric, with all the strength and look of traditional denim but with the benefits of wool. The wool fibres are kept on the inside of the garments, leaving the outward facing side looking just like normal denim. Yet this fabric feels much softer and is comfortable next to your skin, with none of the stiffness of traditional denim.
Wool denim is easy to care for, far warmer and feels drier to the touch, making it a great alternative to your trusty blue jeans on cold, rainy days or when working outdoors. Finisterre make wool denim products with an additional water-repellant finish for extra dryness.
Aromatherapy merino wool clothing
If wellbeing via your clothes sounds like a way-out idea, think again. A new process called microencapsulation coats minute particles of essential oils in order to produce tiny capsules, which are then bound to the merino wool fibres in garments. Throughout the day these slow-release capsules give you your own unique aromatherapy treatment, wherever you are and whatever you are doing.
Natural, safe and harnessing the therapeutic benefits of essential oils, this new technology is perfect for sports and homewear. Depending on which oils you choose, your clothes can now help you relax or re-energise. Merino wool is the perfect partner for this therapy given its super softness and versatility. Imagine lying under a warm wool blanket after a yoga session, with the gentle scent of lavender wafting from your sweater. What bliss!
UV protection merino wool
Clothes offer some protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays, but for greater skin safety why not try out some UV-protection merino? The merino wool fibres of these garments have been treated with a special UV-absorbent finish during the production process, which is then fixed at the highest possible temperature. This ensures the clothes can offer far greater protection from UV rays than normal clothing, making it an ideal choice for everyday wear in hot countries, or for your holiday wardrobe.
Not only does UV protection merino wool shield your skin, the treatment also protects the wool fibres against the bleaching effects of the sun. These clothes are also machine washable and dry cleanable, making them a practical option for any household.
To complement all this state-of-the-art wizardry, let’s not forget the beautiful simplicity of a well-made, top quality merino wool throw, crafted with love and years of expertise. From shoes to sleep, merino has pretty well got it covered.
We all love our woollens, from sweaters to socks, blankets to beanies. So what do we do when they start to look worn, or get damaged? Here are some tips on how to avoid pilling, shrinking and moths eating your beloved wool textiles. It’s important to note that high quality, natural woollens will last longer and look better than cheaper acrylics or synthetic fibres, due to the inherent durability and longer fibres in pure wool. So first things first: invest in decent woollens in the beginning and you’ll get far more use for your money. But if things go wrong, here’s how to solve some of the major problems with wool.
Your wool throw has gone rough and stiff
Imagine this: you bought a beautiful new throw in softest wool and have used it as many times as you can without washing. When you realise it needs a refresh you put it in the washing machine on a low temperature and hope for the best. But it comes out feeling rough or stiff, all the snuggliness has gone. What happened? Well, maybe you shouldn’t have washed it in the machine. Unless otherwise marked on your garment’s care instructions it’s best to wash woollens by hand, in cool water. The other cause could be your detergent. Normal laundry liquids are too harsh for wool, so make sure you use a specially-formulated detergent, like The Laundress Wool and Cashmere, or Ecover Delicate. These contain natural enzymes and no chemicals, and are as good for the planet as they are for your woollies. Make sure you choose a detergent that carries the Woolmark logo, so you know it’s suitable.
If you have already got a less-than soft woolly, try hand washing in cool water with a wool detergent and using a wool fabric softener. Rinse thoroughly and dry outside, away from the sun, and flat. This should revive the fibres and increase the softness, though it may never be quite the same. The key here is prevention.
Your woollen sweater has pilling
Pilling (those annoying little bobbles that appear on woollen items) is caused by the friction of two surfaces rubbing together. It often occurs in areas like armpits or the sides of a sweater where a bag might hang against it. If you see pilling on a woollen garment you can use a lint roller or special pill shaver to remove them. Longer pills can even be carefully snipped off with scissors or a razor. Avoid a recurrence by washing the item inside out and only use a liquid detergent that is specifically for wool. Dry the item naturally. Natural, top grade pure wool will pill less as the fibres are longer and therefore are not as easily forced to the surface when rubbed.
Your woolly socks have shrunk
Oh the horror of removing your much-loved cosy alpaca wool socks from the machine, only to discover they would only just about fit a Barbie doll! Wool doesn’t actually shrink. In fact, wool is a protein, which means when it’s washed too vigorously or in too high temperatures the fibres in the wool stick together, giving the appearance of shrinkage. If the damage has been done you can stretch the garment while still damp, but sadly there is no way to fully reverse this. Make sure it doesn’t happen by following the manufacturer’s care instructions to the letter. Wash only with appropriate detergent, use cool water and the delicate cycle if you are machine washing, and don’t tumble dry.
Moths are eating your woollens
An infestation of moths can be disastrous. They can chomp through woollen clothes and textiles, but also lots of other things too, ruining much-loved belongings. To prevent getting moths in the first place make sure you only store woollens when they are clean. Use zipped bags if you are storing things over the summer months. Make insect-repellant bags filled with dried lavender and cedar wood, then place these in every drawer or hang in your wardrobe. If you have an infestation already, throw out anything that is beyond repair, keeping the rubbish bag tightly sealed and discard immediately. Place the remaining items in sealed plastic bags and put in the freezer to kill any eggs or larvae. Give your wardrobe and drawers a thorough clean out and wash everything else in there. You can get chemical moth repellant products to treat the problem, or call out a pest controller to deal with a really major infestation.
With the weather turning cooler and the nights getting longer, it’s time to turn inwards and focus on ways to make our homes super snug and cozy for Fall. Making a home feel cozy is not just about paying attention to how things look or getting some wool blankets. It’s also about the smells, the tactile fabrics and the light that all contribute to that fuzzy glow. Remember the feeling when you were a child of coming into the house after playing in the snow, or running about outside in the cool air, and walking into a fuggy kitchen, full of the scents of cooking and warmth from the stove? That’s what we are aiming to recapture. A sense of safety and calm, of coming home.
We’ve gathered together a list of our 5 key must-haves for the ultimate in making sure you have a warm and inviting home that feels like a shelter in any storm.
Fire (or candles)
If you are fortunate enough to have an open fire or woodburning stove, now is the time to stack your logs and get the chimney swept. There is nothing that compares to the sight and sounds of a fire blazing in the hearth, and there is something deeply rooted about our wish to gaze into the flickering flames. If you can’t light fires in your home, try lighting a fire in the garden or on the beach if you can, just to connect to this ancient need for heat and light. Candles also bring the same soft light and cozy feel to a room, so stock up on good quality ones and light them as soon as the sun starts disappearing.
Essential for cozying up on the sofa in front of the TV, or slinging over your bed for some extra warmth, wool blankets or throws are great investment. Pure wool will regulate your body temperature and keeps you snug without overheating. Thanks to its anti-bacterial properties it’s easy to care for, and will last for years if looked after properly. In the summer your wool throw can double as a picnic rug, meaning you get maximum use out of it. Choose soft, muted colours for a minimalist look, or go for something bright to add a pop of colour. Go here for more on how to choose a wool throw.
The smell of freshly baked bread is the ultimate in comfort for the senses. If you have time in the evening or over the weekend, make a large batch of dough and divide into smaller portions. Freeze these in bags so you can just defrost it in the morning and throw it in the oven later. Sharing fresh bread with friends and family is one of life’s joys, and will make your home feel magical. If bread isn’t your thing, think about dishes you can bake that are easy and have a satisfying aroma. Even if you only have time to whip up some store-cupboard biscuits, the scents and heat from the oven will warm your soul as well as your house.
In the colder months, more than ever, our bed needs to be just the right temperature – not so hot that we are uncomfortable, but warm enough to let us sleep deeply and peacefully. Investing in some new bedlinen, preferably in a natural material like linen, will help you get a decent night’s sleep on those long winter nights. Opt for rich, deep tones if you want to add some autumnal colour to your bedroom, or keep things simple and calming with neutral shades. Buy top quality bedlinen that will last for years and that is practical (easy to wash and dry), so you can hunker down in a meltingly soft bed and sleep like a (well-behaved) baby.
We’ve looked at different types of wool in previous posts, and this week it’s the turn of mohair. This beautiful wool is known as the ‘Diamond fibre’, due to its high lustre and inherent strength. But what else is special about mohair?
How to distinguish mohair wool?
Well, first it’s important to distinguish it from another type of wool, angora, which comes from the angora rabbit. Mohair wool actually comes from the angora goat, named after Ankara in Turkey where the goats flourished after moving down from the mountains of Tibet centuries ago. See how things get a bit confusing? Just remember: the angora goat is a large, curly-fleeced creature (from which we get mohair wool); the angora rabbit is a super-cute fluffball of far smaller proportions (from which we get angora wool).
Mohair goats are now farmed worldwide, with the main areas of production in South Africa and Texas, USA. They are shorn twice a year, then the fleece is washed, combed and ‘worsted’ spun into yarn. It is sometimes mixed with other fibres, but is fantastic on its own. Mohair wool is used in a huge range of products, from bespoke tailored suits to soft scarves, upholstery to teddy bears. The finer wool from younger goats is usually used to make clothes and wool throws, whilst the thicker wool is used for heavier items.
So why is mohair so popular and revered?
The answer lies in its properties. As the fibres have fewer scales on the external layer than sheep wool, mohair is extremely soft, which makes it perfect for people with sensitive skin or who find sheep wool a bit itchy. It is also insulating, without absorbing heat, so it regulates your body temperature. Unwanted odours are avoided thanks to its natural anti-bacterial properties, and it will wick away moisture from your body to keep you feeling fresh and warm. Elasticity is another brilliant function of mohair, as its fibres can be twisted and shaped without being damaged. Mohair is lightweight and also non-flammable unless exposed to an open flame, which has resulted in it being used in some airline upholstery. But don’t let its light weight fool you – this is one tough yarn, withstanding up to three times the rubbing of sheep wool. It also takes dye remarkably well, making it a great choice for vibrant colours.
Want to see for yourself? Snuggle up with one of our elegant mohair throws and experience the joys of this special wool.
As you know, we love wool for its versatile beauty and its super cosiness, but this magical fabric has also found its way out of people’s homes and into the streets. The phenomena of ‘yarnbombing’ began around 12 years ago in the USA and has spread across the world, so we thought we’d give you the lowdown on this fun craft.
What is yarnbombing?
Yarnbombing takes knitting and crochet from being a hobby or means of decorating your home, and places it in public spaces. Think of it as removable graffiti, but made from wool rather than paint. From a small item like a scarf thrown around a statue’s neck, to an entire bus covered in crochet squares, yarnbombing is a way of brightening up a community and being creative with an urban space. Mundane objects like lampposts, benches and signposts are transformed by colourful knitted pompoms, tubes, squares and other shapes. The aim is to make people smile as they pass by, and to make a harsh city environment feel more welcoming and personal.
Sometimes yarnbombing is used to make a peaceful political statement, for example the covering of a Copenhagen tank in pink yarn as a protest against the war in Iraq. But often it is seen more as an art installation, and increasingly crafters are working alongside local authorities to create temporary displays across towns and cities as part of a specific project. Emma Leith, a knitting and crochet artist and teacher who has worked on projects in Bath, UK (including Bath in Fashion in conjunction with fashion designer Zandra Rhodes), has kindly given us permission to use some of the images from her 2016 project. These will give you a great idea of how playful and fun yarnbombing can be, and how a street can be transformed by such a simple fabric and a bit of imagination (see below).
It is worth noting that successful yarnbombing is done in collaboration with local authorities. This ensures that health and safety requirements are met and that the yarn bombs are not seen purely as graffiti or vandalism and swiftly removed. For example, YBLA, a yarnboming group based in Los Angeles, work on large-scale projects with city governments, museums and art spaces to create accessible, site-specific street art. For more information about yarnbombing, this book is a good start.
So, if you fancy jazzing up your local streets and have a few crafty friends, why not approach your council and ask permission to adorn your town in brilliant yarn? Or if you’d rather just enjoy the pleasures of wool in your own home, bring some summer brightness indoors with one of our sumptuous wool throws.
With the warm, long days of summer many of us love eating outdoors, whether in our own gardens, a local park or out in the wilds. Wherever you choose, we’ve gathered up the 5 essential things you will need for the perfect picnic. To make sure you are comfortable, well fed and fully able to make the most of the glorious weather and scenery, read on.
1.Picnic blanket or rug
Perhaps the most important of all picnic accessories, a good blanket is key. You want something hardwearing yet soft to touch, something that can be cleaned easily and that is light enough to carry. Our wool throws tick all these boxes. Made from merino, alpaca, mohair and cashmere our wool throws come in a wide range of designs so you can pick one that works with your interior as well as being a beautiful picnic accessory. We love this throw in dusky pink – a perfect match for tupperware and picnic plates in fresh summer pastels and ice cream tones. Ideal for stretching out on under a tree, or for sitting all the family around you as you share some food.
2.Durable plates and cups
You needn’t settle for tacky plastic plates and cups, or disposable paper ones. If you want a stylish picnic with sustainably-made dining accessories, choose something like these gorgeous bamboo bowls by Habitat. Mix up different colours for interest, or choose a co-ordinated set if you want a more coherent look.
3. Picnic basket
Go for a traditional wicker picnic basket (this one is cute) or something more contemporary, like this nifty boat-shaped vintage-inspired basket. You need something spacious enough to carry your supplies, but not too unwieldy and bulky. A basket is better than a bag as it gives more structured support for its contents, avoiding crushing and squashing. Once the picnic is over, use the basket to store those annoying bits that are usually lying around the house, like Sellotape and stray batteries, then simply decant these into a tub when you need the basket again.
4. A good knife
A decent, versatile knife is essential to happy picnicking. Choose something with a guard, to prevent you cutting yourself. You want a knife that will be as happy cutting bread as slicing through a watermelon, something you can wipe clean and store safely away once you’ve finished with it. We love these stainless steel knives that can handle anything a picnic might throw at them.
If you want an environmentally-friendly alternative to baby wipes, pack a few linen napkins in your picnic basket. These pure linen napkins are machine washable, meaning you don’t need to worry about stains, and are soft but extremely hardwearing. Their inherent creases are part of their charm, making them an easy go-to for mopping up spills, wiping sticky fingers and dealing with all eventualities.
Just add some deliciously simple food, a flask of tea or cooled bottle of bubbly, and great company for the perfect picnic.
For many of us cashmere wool has become synonymous with status and luxury. From classic wardrobe staples like a cashmere cardigan to wackier incarnations like Narciso Rodriguez’s 1990’s cashmere-covered Birkenstocks and Toast’s cashmere espadrilles, this versatile wool has kept us in style, and cosy, for years. In this post we unpick the story of this fabulous fibre.
History of cashmere
Cashmere originated in the mountains of Inner Mongolia, China, Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan, where the Capra Hircus goats have roamed for centuries. As early as the 14th Century people were using the fleece of these goats to make warm blankets and garments to help them through the punishing Himalayan winters. In the 18th Century, with the growth of the British Empire and the expansion of world trade routes, cashmere was exported across Europe and the Americas. It became very popular with aristocratic women, who loved its softness and warmth and wore cashmere shoulder shawls as the height of fashion and good taste. The Industrial Revolution saw a great expansion in the production of cashmere, with centres of production growing in France, Italy and Scotland. Cashmere’s popularity then dipped until the 1980s when designers began using the wool in exclusive, luxury garments. It became a symbol of wealth and high fashion, but has now found its way onto the high street with stores mixing it with lower quality fibres to keep prices down. The proliferation of cheaper cashmere has meant more people have access to its super soft cosiness, but has also meant quality is not always maintained.
How is cashmere produced?
Domestic goats are shorn or combed to collect the fine fibres, but wild goats are also a valuable source of this wool, leaving clumps to be collected during the moulting season when they rub themselves on trees and rocks to shed their coats for summer. Once the wool has been gathered it is scoured or washed to remove any dirt, dried and then de-haired (separating the main coat from the cashmere hair). Usually only about 20% of what is gathered can be classed as true cashmere. This is then dyed, spun, knitted or woven.
Why is cashmere so expensive?
It’s a simple matter of supply and demand: it can take up to four years for a goat to produce enough cashmere wool to make one sweater. The fact that it is so time-consuming to produce means its value is increased. But it’s not just this that makes cashmere such a pricey fabric. The fibres are longer, finer, stronger and more isothermal than sheep wool, making it an ideal choice for clothes and blankets. Its melting softness adds to its appeal, with people willing to pay more for a garment that will offer them greater comfort.
How to wash cashmere
Always follow the care instructions on your garment, but most good quality cashmere can be washed in cold water (below 30 degrees) on a delicate cycle or by hand. Use a mesh bag to protect the wool if washing in a machine. Lay the item flat on a towel to dry to keep its shape and prevent stretching. Never tumble dry (unless you want your precious cashmere sweater to end up as a tiny doll’s dress!).
With such a prestigious heritage, and being so hard-to-come-by it’s no wonder that cashmere remains a luxury fabric. Our cashmere throws will bring this simple opulence into your home in an understated way, keeping you and your loved ones warm and cosy as well as looking exquisite.