Why Use British Wool?
Posted on 13 December 2019
Our cushions are made with great care and attention to detail in London. We fill them in Sussex with pure sheep's wool from the British Isles, including Orkney.
One of our suppliers is a mill on North Ronaldsay, the most northerly of the Orkney Isles. The sheep on the island are extremely hardy and mainly eat seaweed! Using this wool means we're supporting a long neglected industry of small independent Orkney farmers. It feels good to avoid importing wool unnecessarily.
Until the 1990s it was considered uneconomic to process the clipped fleeces of the sheep on the island. Today The Orkney Sheep Foundation work hard to maintain a small cottage industry in spun wool and byproducts, which are processed by Jane Donnelly at her lighthouse mill.
We also love British wool because it means we can easily avoid chemicals and live-plucked feathers. Making the cushion pads ourselves in Sussex means we know exactly what goes in; clean, natural wool. Synthetic fillers like polyester hollow fibre fillings aren't used in our studio because they're not from a renewable source. Polyester can also be set on fire too easily, and the chemicals in it have been linked to various illnesses. We think that when you're spending your hard earned money on a luxury cushion, it shouldn't be full of polyester! We also use wool for occasional winter scarf collections too.
THE MYTH OF WOOL ALLERGY
About wool sensitivity. Is wool an allergen? It's a really interesting question: wool is actually a hypoallergenic fibre, and here in the UK it is recommended for babies by midwives. I used wool filled mattresses and sheepskin cot liners for my newborns. Wool is not considered an allergen at all in Europe, and never has been. Wool can cause topical skin irritation if the fibres are coarse and scratchy- in the same way that any scratchy fibre can irritate the skin. The wool we use is very soft and fine.
The idea that wool causes widespread skin allergy is a myth, which is more commonly believed in America and Canada. Historically US agricultural lobbies wanted to decrease the importation of wool in favour of cotton and other fibres. It goes back to the days of colonialism and slavery when Britain and America were competing for colonial markets. In more recent times America and Canada have favoured cashmere this is because of the climate, farming conditions and markets. As history teaches us, it's also about defined structures of power.
True wool allergy is extremely rare. In some cases people with eczema and psoriasis can suffer from lanolin allergy. Typically around 1-2% of eczema sufferers have some sensitivity to lanolin. Only 1-3% of adults suffer from eczema and psoriasis, so just 0.001 to 0.003% of people will have lanolin allergy. It's interesting, considering the low instance true of wool allergy, how common the wool allergy myth really is.
We love wool and will always use it for cushion fillings!