Bullet Proof Merino

Bullet Proof WoolWool is awesome.  I’ve professed my love on numerous occasions and am continuing my journey to 100% wool conversion.  I just read some exciting news for those in the law enforcement or military community who share my passion for merino.  New research has shown that a new wool and kevlar blended fabric can help stop bullets 20% more effectively than kevlar alone and is significantly cheaper.  Damn, so now when I walking around town in my new merino wool baselayer, mid-layer, boxer briefs, etc. I can feel confident that if a stray drive by bullet comes my way I’ve got the stopping power of WOOL.  Not really, but still an exciting discovery.  Below is additional information from the article and a link to the original post.

A BULLET-RESISTANT vest containing up to 25 per cent wool, being developed by researchers at RMIT University, is proving more effective than the fully synthetic vests currently on the market.

Testing of the wool-kevlar blend fabric showed it was 20 per cent more effective at slowing a bullet and would also cost less: kevlar costs about $70 a kilogram compared with $12 a kilogram for wool.

Because wool swells when wet, making the weave tighter, the vest is also proving more effective in wet conditions than the fully synthetic alternative.

Step aside kevlar – I’m rockin bullet proof merino!

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Merino Wool Controversy – To Mulesing or not to Mulesing

Below is information regarding a common practice to merino sheep. Merino wool is obviously produced by a living, breathing animal. This idea is often forgotten by those purchasing merino products as it is not quite as obvious as buying a fur coat, or leather products that are more in your face. Whenever a live animal is involved, you can bet that there are organizations out there who look down on the industry. One such group is PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who several years ago began exposing possible inhuman treatment of sheep within the wool industry, focusing efforts specifically on the Australian wool industry which is one of the largest producers of merino wool in the world. The practice that was honed in on was Mulesing.

Mulesing is common practice in Australia as a way to reduce the incidence of flystrike on Merino sheep in regions where flystrike (or Myiasis) is common. Without getting bogged down in too many details, flystrike is basically a maggot infestation around the nether regions of sheep where loose stool collects on the fur. It is a disgusting disease and can cause death if not properly treated. It is estimated that up to 3 million sheep could die a year if nothing was done to prevent flystrike. This is where mulesing comes into play. Mulesing is a skilled surgical task that involves the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech (buttocks) of a sheep to prevent flystrike (myiasis) in regions where it is common.

Mulesing is a controversial practice and is still highly debated among industry insiders and animal rights organizations. In fact, there has been a number of alternative practices that have been developed from chemical removal of hair to better management of insects. To learn more about the practice check out the following websites or do some searches for mulesing and you will come up with an abundant amount of information on both sides of the fence.  Educate yourself on the matter and make your own informed decision.

General Mulesing Info

Mulesing Opposition

Mulesing Proponents

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Merino Wool Babies – Get them started young!

Merino Baby Sleep SackI recently ran into an interesting article and industry trend regarding merino wool. Because of all of the great properties that I have mentioned in the past regarding merino wool, i.e. body temperature regulation, moisture absorption/wicking, odor control, many companies have started marketing merino wool items for babies. Other things that merino baby clothing outlets are touting about merino wool is that:

It improves sleep routines.

It reduces skins irritations and allergies.

It is soft and comfortable next to the skin

One of the interesting ones is a merino wool baby sleep sack. Articles have been posted recently regarding research that has been done to provide more evidence of the superiority of merino wool vs other fabrics used in baby sleep sacks. Below is an outline of the recent research done:

Merino Kids announced that scientists have found that babies sleeping in natural merino wool sleep sacks are less likely to overheat and less likely to become damp or chilled compared with babies sleeping in synthetic ‘polar fleece’ baby sleep sacks. The scientists at New Zealand’s largest Crown Research Institute, AgResearch, compared the Merino Kids merino wool baby sleep sack with the most widely-used polar fleece baby sleep sack and determined that the Merino Kids sleep sack had 80 times higher moisture vapor absorption to help keep a baby dry and comfortable throughout the night.

Sleep sacks keep babies covered and warm and take the place of blankets which can cover a baby’s head. Head covering is identified as a risk factor of SIDS. Overheating an infant may also increase their risk of SIDS and the AgResearch team analyzed baby sleep sack properties that influence the thermophysiological comfort of sleeping infants. In other words, how the sleep sacks would affect the ability of a baby’s body to manage heat and moisture to maintain its normal thermal balance.

The results of the scientific study indicate that the Merino Kids merino sleep sack is likely the best option for maintaining a baby’s thermophysiological comfort and well being in a wide range of conditions.

The merino sleep sack was found to have moisture vapor absorption over 80 times higher than the polar fleece sleep sack. This means that a baby sleeping in the merino sleep sack would be less likely to get damp in areas where moisture vapor transmission is restricted, such as between baby and mattress. Babies often get damp while sleeping, from, for example, condensation of perspiration.

The merino sleep sack was found to have lower air permeability but the same moisture vapor transmission as the polar fleece sleep sack. The lower air permeability means that in a merino sleep sack the baby is better protected from chilling from normal air movement such as drafts or air conditioning.

The Merino Kids sleep sack was found to have lower thermal resistance than the polar fleece equivalent as a result of its different knitted fabric structure rather than the different constituent fiber. This lower thermal resistance means that the baby is less likely to overheat in the merino sleep sack. The high thermal resistance of the polar fleece sleep sack, which means it is warmer in completely still air, would be of value in cold environments without airflow. Any normal airflow in the baby nursery would reduce this thermal resistance because of the polar fleece sleep sack’s lower air resistance. If the room temperature rises, the polar fleece sleep slack might result in the baby becoming uncomfortably hot and damp because of polar fleece’s low moisture vapor absorption.

Dr. Stewart Collie, Senior Scientist at AgResearch, concluded: “Our thermophysiological comfort test results, combined with wool’s natural low flammability, its volatile gas absorption properties and non-irritant properties all indicate that merino wool is the ideal fiber type to use in infant sleep sacks.”

Merino wool is a natural renewable resource, re-growing on the merino sheep after shearing. Polar fleece, also known as ‘microfleece’, is a synthetic material derived from non-renewable petrochemical sources invented to mimic wool.

Evolution has endowed the merino sheep with an amazing fine wool fiber with beneficial properties yet to be replicated by synthetic fabrics. Merino clothing is worn by top athletes and adventure sports enthusiasts due to its remarkable natural ability to regulate body temperature; it readily absorbs and releases moisture to keep the wearer warmer in cold conditions and cooler in hot conditions. Unlike standard wool, merino is lightweight, allergy-safe and won’t itch.

Source: About Merino Kids

So although it is clear that merino wool is growing in popularity among outdoor enthusiasts, the merino wool industry is pushing to dominate the luxury market in all forms, and what better direction than marketing towards children.  Below is a video with additional information regarding the sleep sack or “Go Go Bag”.

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New Base Layer Deal – Kenyon Short Sleeve Merino Wool Shirt

I just got a new base layer shipment in today. I found a great deal at Overstock.com for an Australian merino wool t-shirt. The price was $34.49 plus $2.50 shipping. Not bad for a great performance base layer that is 100% merino wool. It states that is mercerized merino which according to the package makes it “finer and softer than most other wools”.

I am going to do a full on product review after a couple of weeks of wear and let you know how it goes.

Here is the link to the product at Overstock if you are interested.

A couple of interesting things to point out right off the bat, this is approximately half the price of almost any other base layer out there, so I am excited to see how it performs. Also, on the Overstock website it mentions that it is made in the USA but, looking at the tag, it was no surprise that it was made in China.

Does anyone have any experience with this or any of Kenyon’s other products? Check back in a couple of weeks for a full review.

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Merino Wool is Comfortable to Wear in Warm and Cool Temperatures!!!!

Many people make the mistake of thinking wool is only supposed to be worn when it is cold outside. While it is true that standard wool in the form of a thick sweater is ideal for cold weather, Merino wool can be worn anytime regardless of the temperature. Much of the warmth is dependent on the micron size (see What’s in a Micron? for more detail), generally, the larger the micron the warmer the garment.

The reason wool is comfortable to wear in both warm and cool climates is because it is a highly absorbent fiber. When the air is cool and damp, wool absorbs moisture and keeps a layer of dry insulating air next to the skin. When the air is warm, that same absorption capacity funnels away perspiration and keeps insulating dry air next to the skin. This makes the body’s natural cooling system perform at an optimal level.

Moisture Absorption Graph

Image pulled from Wool.com

In fact, the same absorbent properties that help keep you cool in the summer also helps keep you warm in the winter. Merino wool can absorb up to 35% of it’s own weight in moisture which creates lower humidity in the area directly next to the skin making your body better at regulating internal temperature regardless of external temperature changes.
Merino Fibers

I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy a wet cotton t-shirt or any other synthetic material for that matter around my body when I’m perspiring in hot weather. It’s not only uncomfortable, but it leads to chafing and a downright smelly ass shirt.

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Merino Wool vs. Cashmere

I recently had a question come up between the difference of cashmere vs. merino wool. Although I have been a fan of cashmere sweaters for a long time due to their extreme softness, I have been disappointed in the overall longevity of the products. This seems to be more specific to some of the discount cashmere sweaters that are sold at the large department store chains but nonetheless is worthy of discussion. Below is a brief explanation of the differences between merino wool and cashmere.

Cashmere comes from this Kashmir Goat
Cashmere comes from the hair of the Kashmir goat. Native to India, Tibet, Turkistan, Iran, Iraq, and China, the Kashmir goat produces hair with a lofty feel and natural crimp. Cashmere is often far more expensive than merino wool partly because true cashmere is actually the downy type wool that grows closer to the goats body. The cashmere is gatherede by combing the goat rather than clipping which will only produce a small amount per goat. One other important thing to note is that goat hair is a hollow type fiber which aids in creating a warmer garment but does not hold some of the more amazing properties as merino wool.

Merino Wool Sheep

This is were your merino wool sweater comes from.

Merino Wool, as I hope you have gathered from my other posts is gather from the merino sheep which is most often raised in Australia and New Zealand. It is fine, strong, naturally elastic, holds dye well, and its softness resembles the hand of cashmere. Merino wool does not have the itchy feel of some wools, is odor absorbent, and provides high levels of UV protection. One of the most important factors with merino is it’s durability. Merino wool fabric can be transformed into many more versatile materials besides a soft sweater. For example, right now I am wearing merino wool socks, merino wool house slippers, boxer briefs and a merino wool long sleeve shirt. Good luck trying to pull that off with Cashmere!

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Marketing Merino – “No Finer Feeling”

Merino wool is awesome. Plain and simple. But, as mentioned in my previous post The Australian Wool Market it is also big business. Australia is one of the largest producers of merino wool in the world and as such have a large industry organization, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) Limited, whose sole purpose to actively promote all things wool.

In early December 2010, AWI launched a new marketing initiative to push merino wool. The new initiative is entitled, “Merino. No Finer Feeling”. Here is a snippet from the press release:

“Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) today announced the launch of a new global fibre education campaign to inform consumers about the benefits of Merino wool.

The ‘No Finer Feeling’ campaign is the result of extensive consumer research with retail and brand partners and features the iconic Australian Merino sheep acting as a reminder of the natural origin and provenance of wool garments.

Whilst a long term favourite of designers, an era of disposable fashion has meant younger consumers know little about the natural, biodegradable and renewable benefits of Merino wool. The campaign aims to position Merino as the premium, luxury fibre of choice making a connection between how it feels to touch, and how it makes the wearer feel. For a multimedia presentation of the campaign click here.

The three-year global consumer campaign begins in influential magazines such as Vogue, GQ and ELLE, targeting fashion conscious consumers. Initially launching in the UK, Japan and Germany, a wider global program is planned for 2011/2012 to include China, France, USA and Australia, with further supporting trade activities in China, Italy and France.

To support the campaign, AWI will use merino.com, a site providing consumers with information on the attributes and benefits of Merino as well as catwalk and brand information of where to buy Merino garments. This is supported by an i-Phone application providing Merino sourcing information for anywhere in the world.

“The Merino campaign has been created to communicate to a new generation of consumers, who need educating about this versatile and renewable fibre,” Mr Langtry added.

“We really want to bring Merino and wool into the 21st century and position it as a contemporary and fashionable fibre and this campaign clearly communicates that. By using media to ‘wake up’ our consumers and drive them to the internet, show them where to purchase, find out about and how to look after the garments, we will help break down the barriers to purchase at the high end of the market – barriers mostly to do with lack of knowledge of the fibre and its many benefits.”

Australian Merino sheep are renowned for producing the finest, softest and lightest wool in the world, creating a fabric luxurious enough to rival cashmere. This fineness ensures that Merino wool garments have superb drape and natural elasticity, effortlessly following the body’s form, which is why the fabric remains popular with designers across the globe.

As you can see, there is a growing push to promote the luxury component of the product.  I am interested to see how this is going to play out in the US.   Also, I wonder what if any additional push is going to be created for the outdoor recreational garment industry who in the US has been on the forefront of pushing merino in technical outdoor pursuits.   Let me know your thoughts on this new campaign and if it appeals to you as a merino consumer.

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Merino Care

One of the common questions I get about merino wool is, “don’t I have to dry clean that stuff?” To be honest that does depend on the type of wool product that you purchase, but these days, most fine/ultra fine merino wool products, especially those that are designed for athletic pursuits do not need to be dry clean.

Here are a few tips for keeping you coveted merino product lasting longer and looking great. However, always check with your particular garment to make sure there aren’t any other specific guidelines for care.

Where possible it is recommended to turn the garment inside out for laundering and to avoid bleaches and biological detergents, unless they are Woolmark approved. Like colours should be laundered together.

There are generally four laundering options (depending on the care claim in the label):

1. Dry clean only – some Merino wool garments should be taken to a reputable dry cleaner to ensure that the superior quality of this garment is well looked after. This is often more for sweaters and heavy weight wool products.

2. Hand wash – luke warm hand wash, using a gentle wool approved detergent and rinse well. Dry knitwear flat and line dry wovens.

3. Machine washable – ideally wash on a wool or gentle cycle – if this is not available then put on a cold water gentle action wash. There are a number of detergent products that are designed specifically for washing wool, however, I have used cold water type detergents for years with no issues.

4. Total easy care – follow machine washable instructions, some wool garment can then be tumble dried on a low setting or delicate cycle. Although I don’t recommend tumble drying wool regardless of what the label states.


* Hot water or a hot dryer will shrink wool. Even warm is too hot.
* Friction will felt wool. (Meaning it will shrink and turn from a soft, woven, textured quality to a smoother, harder material: felt.) Heat and soap will increase the amount of felting.
* In addition to ruining your wool garment, running wool items through the wash cycle of your machine can also damage the machine as wool fuzz can detach and felt up forming hard clumps inside the pump. If you want to felt something, do it inside a bag if you use the machine, or felt it by hand in the sink, tub, or a bucket.
* Don’t wash dry-clean only wool pants by hand; they will felt, which makes them look like jogging pants

So, although there are some specific instructions to keeping your wool clean and lasting for years. Following the above instructions and those from the manufacturer will allow your prized merino wool apparel looking and feeling great for years to come. Please let me know if you have any questions.

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Merino Time Warp!

When I am not busy scavenging the internet for great Merino deals and working to complete my mission of having every item on my body covered at all times with technical Merino products, I like to have some fun. This is a fun little time killer that fits great with the All Things Merino theme. Enjoy!

Get Adobe Flash player

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What a Merino Deal!!

Hey everyone! I just received a new shipment of Smartwool merino wool socks from Sierra Trading Post. As many of you probably know, Smartwool is one of the best US merino wool manufacturer’s going. I got such an amazing deal I had to share. These were considered irregular and each sock has the markings as such but the price was too good pass up. I’m talking around 70% off retail. So far I have tried three pair and I would be none the wiser that they are irregular. So for a grand total of $37.88, which includes shipping cost, I got 7 pair in various styles of Smartwool socks which comes out to about $5.41 a pair. I had to settle for standard colors, but still, what an amazing deal! I will update everyone on how the “irregulars” hold up, but head on over to Sierra Trading Post to find out if there are any still available. I recommend signing up for their newsletter…. and although they tend to send a ridiculous amount of emails, some of there deals are unbelievable.

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