WeatherWool news and topics of interest.
BLOG entries by Ralph unless otherwise noted. Feedback welcomed!
-- Ralph@WeatherWool.com / 973-943-3110 (mobile)
The Blog for 2021 exceeded the maximum page-size limit, so a "Part Two" was needed. Please click here for 2021-Part Two.
2021-12-05 ... Still No Sales Tax!!
I'm revisiting the Blog of 2012-11-05, just to underscore that orders from our website should not incur sales tax. New Jersey, where we are based, imposes some of the highest taxes in the USA. But Jersey does not tax clothing, as a result of a historical maneuver to attempt to attract shoppers from other States.
Shopify, the platform on which our site is based, notified me they would begin in late November adding sales taxes at our checkout unless we took some special steps to exempt our products from sales tax. I hopefully took the needed steps and so far haven't seen sales taxes added to any orders.
If sales tax ever shows up on an order, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!!
Ralph --- 973-943-3110 --- THANKS!
Someone just wrote asking about our Ushankas ... at first I thought it was a typo. But a 2-second web-search showed that our Mouton Hat would be called a Ushanka in Russian. Really looking forward to making these again. I hope we'll have them for 4th Quarter of 2022.
2021-12-03 ... Customer Shopping Experience ... Knits Playing Out
We are completely sold out of Neck Gaiters, and not many Watch Caps left, either. I still haven't gotten round to recreating the accidentally-deleted Neck Gaiter page (so I won't link it), and there sure isn't any hurry now. Watch Caps will probably be all gone before Christmas. We will make the knits again. We like the products, and it's nice to have something on the website under $100. But we'll need to work with a sharper pencil next time because we wound up losing money on these items due to the yield being far lower than we expected (more yarn used, some yarn poorly colored, some pieces defective/not saleable). A valuable learning experience, tho. And knits are where wool-garment technology is advancing, although knits are still mostly not compatible with our Hardcore Luxury® philosophy. We are OK with making Watch Caps and Neck Gaiters because we don't picture people sticking their heads in thorn bushes. But for Jackets or Pants, knits are still not tough enough for us.
2021-12-02 ... Behind Again/Still! ... MidWeight Drab Available!
I'll be in the office the next couple of days and can hopefully catch up with correspondence, paperwork and some backorders. I'm more than 200 emails behind, plus even a few texts and other messages. Sorry! But I should be able to get back to everyone by the end of the week. We expect to pick up from the tailors about 10 Large All-Around Jackets today and we should be able to get them inspected and shipped by the end of the day. These will be in Black, Drab and Lynx Pattern, and not all of them are "spoken" for. But we won't make them available for live orders until we have inspected them.
Kind of funny ... as mentioned on the Blog of November 22, visitors to the website have alluded to spending time "down the rabbit hole". But it happens to me, also. I sat down at my desk at 4AM to make a quick change on the website and I'm still typing at 5:30 ...
2021-12-01 ... Back in the Office
Just back in the office from about 24 hours on the road with very little sleep. I'm getting too old for this, but it was a great trip! Picked up the MidWeight Lynx Pattern greige-state Fabric at MTL, delivered that to AWC and picked up the finished MidWeight Drab Fabric, which we'll deliver to the Factory8 in NYC's Garment District on Saturday. We'll get working on Anoraks right away.
I expected only about 850 yards of Fabric but was very pleasantly surprised with the yield of 946 yards / 865 meters ... a huge jump! This is how American Woolen labels our Fabric. They added the "MW-DRAB" at the bottom so I wouldn't have to memorize their internal code.
2021-11-30 ... Still Trying to Catch Up ... Road Trip
I'm still about 100 emails behind ... SORRY about that but I will reply to everyone! It has been a really great family and friends week!! And I still haven't fixed the accidentally-deleted Neck Gaiter web-page, either (please see Blog from the 26th). Given that people are ordering the Gaiters anyway, maybe that means I'm putting too much time/effort into the website?!
I'm going to be on the road today and tomorrow. We need to pick up the first 10 pieces (bolts) of loom-state MidWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric at MTL, and deliver them to AWC for finishing. And tomorrow morning, AWC will finish 15 pieces (about 800 yards / 731 meters) of MidWeight Drab Fabric. We will start making MidWeight Drab Anoraks ASAP.
Hopefully by tomorrow night I can at least start some of the emails from the last few days!
2021-11-28 ... Catching Up ... Mentioning Other Brands?
We've had a full house for a week for Thanksgiving, and I've fallen behind on a lot of WeatherWool things. Won't be caught up until Tuesday or Wednesday, probably! Sorry! But it's great to have family and friends here for the Holiday, which is longer and more significant than usual because Hanukkah starts tonight! (Debby is Jewish.) So big doings continue. Plus New Jersey's Muzzleloader Season starts tomorrow.
Picking persimmons is part of the Thanksgiving tradition. Here, my boys are both wearing WeatherWool CPO Shirts.
I just updated the All-Around Jacket Reviews page, and the customer mentioned Filson in his review. I was thinking about redacting the Filson name, but decided to leave it as written by the customer. Any thoughts on this would be welcome!
2021-11-27 ... Google Archive ... Repeat Customers
As described in yesterday's entry, we accidentally deleted our Neck Gaiter web-page, but Steven Martinez, our IT-guy, found a copy from early November in the Google web-archive, which I didn't know existed. So that will save us some time and work restoring the page! THANKS STEVEN!! (And you still owe me the content for your Advisor Page!)
We have many repeat-customers, and we are very thankful for that. It's the most-positive reinforcement possible. I was lately a little surprised to see a second order from a customer in Massachusetts. My first thought was "we filled that order yesterday", but I looked it up. The customer's first piece from us was an All-Around Jacket ordered on a Friday, and then an Anorak ordered Saturday. We had shipped the All-Around Jacket same-day, and UPS had delivered it the next morning. I didn't expect UPS Ground to get it from NJ to MA overnight, or to deliver Saturday morning. But they did. And the customer ordered the Anorak three hours after the AAJ was delivered. That kind of thing really makes us feel we are on the right track.
2021-11-26 ... THANKS ... OOPS! ... And a little history ...
We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! And we are grateful (Thankful!) to all those who sent us greetings!!
It was a busy and wonderful Thanksgiving Day here, with a little too much going on, evidently. We sold out of the Drab and Natural-Undyed Neck Gaiters, and in trying to update the Neck Gaiter web-page, we somehow accidentally deleted it. So one thing we need to do today is re-create that page.
I visited the web archive generally known as "The Wayback Machine", but they had never archived our Gaiters page. But since I was there, I checked their earliest entry of this site -- our Home Page from 2011:
“Best Wool in the Woods!”
Soon to be the home of WeatherWool®, the Best Wool in the Woods.
WeatherWool is a registered trademark of WeatherWool LLC
Copyright 2011, WeatherWool® LLC
The Home Page was actually our entire website 10 years ago.
2021-11-24 ... Picking Persimmons for Thanksgiving
Our Wyoming-son Zack usually comes home to Jersey for Thanksgiving, and picking persimmons with Alex is part of the season. The boys are both wearing CPO Shirts.
What's better than a truly ripe persimmon!
(And what's worse than a not-ripe persimmon?)
2021-11-23 ... Custom Slot Buttons
Speaking of rabbit holes (yesterday's post), we have gone down a bit of a rabbit hole in our quest to make Custom Slot Buttons for our Peacoat and North Maine Double Coat. And so there is a new page on Custom Slot Buttons.
2021-11-22 ... Down the Rabbit Hole
It is a little bit funny that in the last few days two customers phoned and said they'd spent hours "down the rabbit hole" on our website. We take that as a great compliment. But also, we have ourselves used that expression quite a few times in reference to the 12 years we've been working on WeatherWool! I read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland when it was assigned in grade school. Probably I should re-read.
2021-11-20 ... Wish I was a Cartoonist
Yesterday, a customer emailed asking if we could repair a hole chewed in his Anorak by a mouse. Debby and I have reached an age where reading glasses can be quite handy, although they are not always at-hand. In this instance, the funny result was that Debby wondered why a moose would chew an Anorak, and doubted we could repair a moose-hole. And I wish I could draw well-enough to add a cartoon to this post.
2021-11-19 ... Eclipse, NOPE .... YEP!!
Much too overcast here in North Jersey to see the eclipse. But at least I got some work done while hoping for a break in the clouds. Getting some eclipse viewing at 3:10AM! We had about 90 minutes when the skies cleared and the eclipse was really dramatic, particularly with binoculars.
2021-11-18 ... Open Range in Wyoming
Our younger son, Zack, lives in Wyoming, and it's not out of the question we might relocate there, as it is a great place for sheep! And amazingly (to me, anyway), there is still a lot of Open Range. Zack had to wait out a traffic jam today, and he sent us a photo.
A Wyoming Traffic Jam. Tomorrow, we will be in Midtown Manhattan ...
2021-11-17 ... Another Great Note from Alex Javor (on Nat Geo TV)
We've mentioned Alex previously, and have a separate page of his reviews. He just sent me another quick review of the All-Around Jacket ... this review based on his experiences filming Season 4 of National Geographic Life Below Zero Next Generation. We like that Alex referred to his jacket as a "multi-tool", which is pretty similar to calling it an "All-Around Jacket":
Hey Ralph! Not sure if I mentioned it to you yet, but the episodes which will be shown as season 4 of LBZ: Next Generation will show me in the AAJ for all episodes except one I think.
After testing out the jacket in fall time conditions I am really impressed with the range of comfort it offers. I've stayed comfortable wearing the jacket while ice fishing in 20 mile per hour [32 kph] winds at -20 degrees F [-29C]. It is not so cold this time of year but I find fall time to actually be the coldest feeling time of year because it is always a bit damp. As expected though, the AAJ was very nice to wear while fishing, waterfowl hunting, and going for long, long hikes in the mountains.
I don't think there is another piece of clothing I've had that has such a large range of conditions that it can remain viable for. Being a hardcore minimalist, this is really attractive to me - it's like a multi-tool. One jacket that covers almost every season.
Thanks again. I am not sure when these episodes will air but when I find out I'll let you know. -- Alex Javor
Alex will eventually send us some photos. This is a grab of a TV screen
I'm not sure what makes a "Season" of the show. But it's definitely not a calendar year. Sounds like "Season 4" covers the Fall Season in Alaska. And I've learned most TV shows, even the typical prime-time drama series, don't air the episodes in the same sequence they've been filmed.
Here is the text accompanying the post:
In 1965, 95% of the clothing Americans wore was made in the USA. By 1991, only 56.2% of clothing worn by Americans was made in the USA. In 2012, that number dropped to 2.5%. However, in 2020 there has been an increase to 3% of clothing Americans wear that were made domestically. ⠀Credit: David Trumbull, of Agathon Associates and the Fibershed Foundation. #buyamerican⠀
I guess the good news is a 20% increase in the last year or so. In any case, the graph is startling, and, from our perspective at least, depressing. It also shows clearly why our 100% American philosophy can be challenging.
I was 11 in 1965. And until 1965, New Jersey had no sales tax. (I clearly remember being shocked when somehow the cost of a rubber ball increased even though the price did not.) Nor did Jersey have an income tax until 1972. Is there a connection?
I was unable to find any website for the "Fibershed Foundation" but it might well be just Fibershed.
2021-11-14 ... US Marine Corps Scout Snipers
WarriorWool is very important to us, and it's great to hear from the people wearing our Anorak for Active Duty. James in the Scout Snipers just sent us several photos showing an Anorak donated in September by a Vet from Ohio who has donated four Anoraks!! THANKS, James, and All the Very Best to you and the Scout Snipers!!!
2021-11-13 ... Sometimes you just have to laugh
John found us online 3 days ago. We talked for a while on the phone and made plans for him to visit today and pick up an All-Around Jacket. We didn't realize at first, but John had told his friends Damian and Jill about us, and we spoke with them shortly after I spoke with John. Damian ordered an AAJ. John and his wife, Melanie, spent some time with us today. Unfortunately, even in 3X, the AAJ was too short for John. But Melanie and Debby got to talking, and Melanie left with our prototype Ladies Blanket Coat, just to get a sense of it for a while. And then just before I took this photo, Damian texted that he'd received his AAJ and it fit perfectly. Although John came up empty, he was a good sport about it, and we'll find a way to get some wool working for him.
Later in the day, Ben S. stopped by and we had an All-Around Jacket that fit him just right. Ben is an mathematical engineer and physicist who is presently studying the air currents created by helicopter blades, and how knowledge of the behavior of those currents can be used to improve the design of the blades. Some crazy math and computer modeling that is far beyond me, but we had a great visit for a couple of hours!
2021-11-12 ... Carriers are Slammed!
Mostly, we ship via UPS, but we also use USPS sometimes, and DHL and FedEx as well, depending upon the situation. Our DHL guy told me a few months ago he has never been so busy in his 26 years on the job. UPS routinely works until 7PM or later. USPS has been struggling to keep up with the load since the virus set in 18 months ago. Early this week, we dropped off a package at the post office, and when a customer later inquired why it hadn't shipped, we were surprised that after 24 hours, USPS still had not acknowledged receipt. It took USPS over 48 hours just to scan-in the package. Also this week, it took UPS more than a day before one of our packages showed up in their online tracking. That one really had us worried because we've never had that happen with UPS. And it's still two weeks before Thanksgiving ...
2021-11-11 ... VETERANS DAY
Honoring and helping the people who keep our enemies far-away and frightened has always been fundamental for us since we started our company.
2021-11-10 ... USMC ... American Woolen Run
Happy Birthday to the United States Marine Corps and to our many customers and friends who have served in the USMC!
Today I made a run up to American Woolen Company to deliver the bale I picked up at Littlewood Dyers yesterday. And so the last of the "Hurricane Wool" has been retrieved. While at AWC I spoke about the dyeing situation with Giuseppe Monteleone, Plant Manager. Giuseppe gave me more information about the dyeing that had been done at American Woolen until 2010, when the previous owners discontinued dying. Giuseppe showed me the dye house, which is still largely intact. Here's hoping AWC can get their dye house cranking again very soon!
Giuseppe standing in front of a kettle that can dye 500 pounds (227 kg) of wool fiber in a few hours
2021-11-09 ... Philadelphia Run ... NYC Run
This morning I'm headed to Philadelphia to pick up the last bale of our fiber in possession of Littlewood Dyers. This bale was dyed prior to the Hurricane Ida flood, and was on Littlewood's 3rd floor, above the reach of the floodwaters. This bale was intended to be part of Batch 6, but Bob Littlewood didn't like the way the dye had taken on the first run, and didn't ship this bale to AWC along with the rest of Batch 6, which is now being woven at MTL (the MidWeight Lynx) and finished at AWC (the MidWeight Drab). This last Batch 6 bale will probably be folded into Batch 7, which, because of the flood, has already been merged with Batch 8.
Alex picked up All-Around Jackets in Drab and Duff from the tailors in NYC this morning. And we expect the tailors to finish the Black All-Around Jackets soon.
2021-11-08 ... Nice Story ... New Video
On Saturday we got a really nice phone call from a new customer. He had received his first piece from us, an Anorak, a coupe of days earlier, and was calling to give us his thoughts. He had some really wonderful and very specific things to say, and will probably write up his thoughts in an email. He ordered another Anorak for himself and one for his wife, and he told a nice story. He'd been a wool-lover for decades, and already owned many garments from a very well-known maker of woolens. He had been wanting an Anorak, and tried to order one as soon as the company made them available but was very disappointed they had immediately sold out. So he searched for another company that offered Anoraks, found us, and was very thankful that other company had sold out so quickly. Also, as someone with many years in Law Enforcement, he had a lot to say about how the Anorak facilitates concealed carry.
Yesterday, Denali shot a quick video of me talking about the Hood and Waist Adjustments of the Anorak. I added this video to the Al's Anorak More Info page.
2021-11-07 ... Anorak Fail
We've lately shipped a bunch of Anoraks and All-Around Jackets, and we've had a couple of failures. I think I read somewhere that problems are inevitable, and what really counts is how you handle them. How many problems you have also has to count for a lot, though! I view any failure as a something of a disaster, particularly if it's the customer's first order. If someone has been wearing our wool for a few seasons, at least we have a track record. But today, we heard from a customer who had a failure basically as soon as he took his Anorak out of the box. So his almost-instant failure could very understandably have soured his view of us. But he was happy that we got back to him within a minute or two, and addressed the situation. Unfortunately, we didn't have a replacement Anorak to send him, so we'll fix the problem here and return the garment plus a little sweetener. The customer was really happy with the Fabric, at least, and the Anorak itself except for THAT ONE THING.
And actually, the Anorak failed at a place that has been bothering me all along. The Anorak has a waist adjustment with a cord and cord lock at each side. We've been trying to design an adjustment that can be worked with one hand, without removing the Anorak. And the adjustment can be loosened easily enough with one hand. But tightening the waist doesn't work so well. If you're careful, and mindful of the way the cord connects to the anchor point, you can tighten with one hand. But if you just grab and pull, which is fairly natural, there may be a problem. I've never been satisfied with this design, but haven't figured out anything better. At least not yet.
Our garments are a little complicated, and there are many spots where something can fail, for a variety of reasons. Before the tailors deliver garments to us, they check everything. And then we do our own Quality Control before we ship anything. The QC Checklist for the Anorak is here on the website.
The customer with whom we are 0-1 was quite understanding. He loves the Fabric, and was very surprised how comfortable it is without a base layer. We sent a return label, and we'll get the garment back to him right away. He asked us to sew a WeatherWool label along the outside of the bottom sweep. Debby, Alex, Denali and actually the rest of the family have all been telling me we should always do this. And so has Advisor JR Morrissey of Factory8, who has been advising us and managing our cutting and sewing since 2014. This Anorak will be the only WeatherWool garment with an outside label. Funny ending.
2021-11-06 ... Recycled Polyester Fraud?
An email from Apparel Insider (quoting, WITH THANKS!) has me scratching my head:
"Randomly selected garments from a range of high street fashion brands were found to contain zero or very little recycled polyester – despite label claims to the contrary. A patent-pending test method, deemed reliable by a leading German laboratory after blind trials, was used to examine ‘recycled polyester’ lines from several high street fashion brands. The tests revealed that some of the clothing items had zero recycled content, while those that did contain recycled polyester had significantly less than advertised on the label. The findings confirm long-held rumours that virgin polyester is being substituted for its recycled counterpart in fashion supply chains, and on a significant scale." As a wool-guy, this is just weird. I think the polyester folks were getting grief that their garments wind up in landfills where they never decompose, and because polyester garments slowly shed microbits that last forever and get into everything, including the food we eat. And so the poly-folks have been playing up recycled-polyester, which costs MORE than virgin polyester ... and which, predictably, has led to cheating. But also, if recycled is more expensive, that is a very strong indication that it is LESS environmentally friendly in the first place.
2021-11-05 ... Still No Sales Tax
New Jersey, where we are based, imposes some of the highest taxes in the USA. But Jersey does not tax clothing. A significant part of Jersey's economy has historically been based on attracting clothes buyers from New York, and so in 1966 when the sales tax was re-instated (Jersey had a 2% sales tax in 1935, for a few months) at 3%, clothing was exempted. The pols have increased and expanded the sales tax pretty steadily ever since, but clothing remains exempt.
I mention this now because Shopify, the platform on which our site is based, notified me I'll need to do some special steps or they'll begin adding sales taxes to our prices. I took care of that, so there won't be any Jersey taxes added. But the politicians, nationwide, are pushing to make merchants everywhere their tax collectors, and I expect within a few years they will get their way. Applying the different tax rules and rates of all the states, counties and cities across the USA is going to be an amazing mess ... and then reporting and remitting the sales taxes to hundreds or perhaps thousands of different jurisdictions will be another mess. But the politicians will keep pushing, and large companies such as Amazon, already caught up in all this, are in favor of imposing the tax collection duties more widely. Amazon plans to create another business based on handling the sales taxes for everyone else.
2021-11-04 ... Woolmark Learning Centre
Woolmark, the Australian Merino Industry's Marketing and Outreach Organization, is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in wool. They offer an amazing range of information, and we highly recommend their site. We are also in their debt for some of the info presented (with acknowledgement and THANKS) on this website. Today, they announced "a new advanced course on the Woolmark Learning Centre. INTRODUCING WOVEN TEXTILE DESIGN AND PRODUCTION. This is the second course as part of our Fashion and Design Program, rich with in-depth weaving knowledge for you to discover. This advanced course will provide you foundational knowledge of commercial-scale mechanised wool wovenwear, design and manufacture."
I hope I can find the estimated 6 hours to take the free course. Although I have been working with wool for over 20 years, I have no doubt the course would present significant information that will be new and surprising to me.
Another THANK YOU and HOORAY for Woolmark and our friends in Australia!
2021-11-03 ... Backorder-Samples
For quite a while, it has been our practice to send a Sample Pack to people who place a backorder but do not yet have any of our products. But because the majority of backorders have turned out to be "non-serious", and because each Sample Pack represents significant time and expense for us, we have decided to send Samples Packs only upon request.
By "non-serious", I mean the person who placed the backorder does not respond to email, text or telephone notification that the backordered product is becoming available.
The great majority of people requesting Sample Packs seem to be seriously interested, but some people have had us send Sample Packs to fake addresses. What ????
2021-11-02 ... Lending Library
The Lending Library is working pretty well so far, after about six weeks. About half the people have bought the item they checked out. Some people requested an item because it was a convenient was to examine the wool, or to decide whether they preferred FullWeight or MidWeight Fabric. I had not quite anticipated this. Unexpected results are part of the fun of trying out an idea. If you have some WeatherWool that you aren't using, let us know. We'd like to continue to add to the Lending Library.
Also, Shawn Bunge CAN do the Monster Mash (yesterday's Blog), THANKS to his Mom!!
2021-11-01 ... Halloween Anorak
THANKS to Shawn Bunge for this!
2021-10-31 ... Shipping to a Ship
A Canadian customer is a sailor working the Great Lakes. She is having her wool delivered to/by the JW Westcott, a vessel with its own zip code and the only floating US Post Office. Westcott personnel know the schedule of all the ships moving up and down the Detroit River. Zip code 48222 is the Westcott. The rest of the address shows the name of the ship and the name of the sailor. The Westcott delivers the package with both vessels underway, offshore of Detroit's Riverside Park.
2021-10-30 ... "No Problem. We worked for Debby at WeatherWool."
Since way back, whenever we needed work done on the house, I would take the contractor aside and explain that Debby was the customer, she'll spot anything that isn't done really well, and that if you aren't really good, you should forget about working for her. And I'd tell them that although I write the checks, "You don't get paid until Debby's happy." And we've had some real fiascos with guys who were more talk than talent.
We were speaking today with one of our Partners (we are far from the only ones who work weekends) about the potential for growth of American-made textiles. I voiced my opinion that growth will require superior quality and craftsmanship. Our buddy said he'd told potential partners of his own that he needed them to be really on top of their game, and more than one had replied "No problem. We worked for Debby at WeatherWool."
2021-10-29 ... Littlewood Dyers Shuts Its Doors
G.J. Littlewood & Son, established 1869, the dye house which had primary responsibility for dyeing our fiber, today announced it is not possible for them to recover from the floods of Hurricane Ida.
I had a long phone conversation with Bob Littlewood about a year ago, but had not met him in person until September 8, when we visited Littlewood to see with our own eyes the aftermath of the flood, and to determine whether our wool was truly lost.
As it turned out, our wool was not lost, very contrary to reports, but some extraordinary steps were necessary to rescue it. When we arrived at Littlewood, Bob was exhausted physically and mentally from working round the clock for several days straight. We really owe Bob for stopping what he was doing to help us salvage our wool.
2021-10-28 ... Filson Klondike Wool Anorak at $895
A customer mentioned to me last night that Filson has increased pricing lately, and today I took a look at their website. I was surprised to see a wool-cotton blend Anorak at $895. [Filson does not seem to offer this Anorak as of December 2021.] They didn't have much detail about the Anorak, and I did not see anything about the country of origin of the materials or manufacture.
2021-10-27 ... Hours?
Someone asked me earlier today how many hours a week I work. I've sort of had in mind something over 60. But actually thinking on it, I'm sure it's over 80 and sometimes over 100. Which is a lot of hours, but it mostly doesn't seem that way. All the years doing 55 and 60-hour weeks, plus the commuting hours, somehow seemed like more work than now. I really like running WeatherWool ... I like it a lot! ... I've always heard it's important to find work that you like. I always thought that made sense, but until now I never knew how true it really is.
2021-10-26 ... Batch 7 and Batch 6
Yesterday morning I had a short but decisive meeting with Giuseppe Monteleone, Plant Manager at American Woolen. (Giuseppe is pictured in yesterday's Blog entry.) We discussed how to handle the dyeing of our Fiber if we don't have the services of Littlewood Dyers, who have been (temporarily, we hope!) sidelined by the Hurricane Ida Floods in Philadelphia. Giuseppe and I decided to proceed with processing of some Batch 7 fiber because of the nature of the Lynx Pelt itself, which is discussed on our Dyeing page.
Biological processes and materials are complex ... often bewilderingly and almost unbelievably complex. With this close-up photo of a Lynx Pelt, I was trying to show that each individual strand of fur actually has several bands of color at different positions. I guess this means that each strand of fur has discrete bands of color as it grows from the follicle. BUT maybe this is just my simple-minded suggestion. Maybe somehow exposure to the air changes the colors over time. Maybe something else ...
We are now arranging transport of Batch 7 to American Woolen. So, we have all of Batch 6 well on the way to becoming Fabric, and Batch 7, which is now a huge (for us!) batch, will be made, initially, into FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric.
Batch 7 is at Chargeurs in South Carolina, all baled up and ready for further processing into Fabric
2021-10-25 ... Good Day ... Not Over Yet, Either!
We are making MidWeight Fabrics now, and today I needed to complete the delivery of the Yarn for MidWeight Lynx that I began on Friday.
Old-man-sleep-mode can be useful. After 3 hours of shuteye I was wide awake and on the road by 3AM. First stop American Woolen (Stafford Springs, CT), where the crew was ready at 6AM and we got the Yarn loaded onto my little trailer quickly. Then a short meeting with Giuseppe Monteleone (they all get to work early there!), plant manager.
We gave Giuseppe a Black Anorak (he sent the photo around 12 hours later), and we hope he will wear it in all the very variable and often serious weather conditions that occur through a New England winter. We love for our Partners to spend time in our garments so they can better understand what we are doing and help us improve. Giuseppe is a heavy-duty fabrics-guy with around 40 years experience, and he has a lot to say. We'll get Giuseppe on video soon.
By 7AM I was back on the road, hauling the Yarn to MTL in Jessup, Pennsylvania, where it will be woven into "loom-state" Fabric. The loom-state, aka "greige", will be "finished" by AWC (another road trip).
After MTL I made a stop at Gardner's Game Processing, where I had dropped off a deer last week. I really enjoy speaking with and working with people who push the limits of what they do. Giuseppe with making Fabric, Mike at MTL with weaving, and "Moose" Gardner, who is an artiste' with game butchery. Moose (570-507-0857) is in Greenfield Township (Northeastern PA). His large, commercial-quality, dedicated facility is extremely clean and we highly recommend his services. It's a kick to hear Moose talking on how to butcher, prepare and cook game animals. I should have taken a pic with Moose but even after all this time with WeatherWool I still usually forget photos. Anyway, Debby and I just had some great venison/pork sausage for dinner! Tremendous work, Moose!
It was about 550 miles (884 km) on the road today, quite a bit of the time on the phone with customers, which is great. I took a nap when I got home, and was awakened two or three times by the phone. I was tired enough to fall right back asleep, tho ... and I remember dreaming that the phone was ringing, but then realized the phone really was ringing. So ... back at it.
There are still about 250 mails I haven't gotten to from last week (comms down, road trip), plus another 100 mails from today (light day!). When they stop writing and they stop calling, that's when you need to worry.
THANKS for your patience, everyone! It's a real pleasure working with all of you!
When people place orders, I invite them to get set up as SHIP ASAP, meaning we'll hold a credit card on file and charge only when we actually ship. But very few people choose that option, and only the SHIP ASAP orders are truly reserved. So although in most sizes we have more orders than we have Black Anoraks, we will probably end up sending the Anoraks to others because most people who do not set up SHIP ASAP also do not respond when I mail and text them that their backordered garment is available.
Also, after a comms outage, two days on the road and then this weekend filling orders, I'm about 700 emails behind. I'll get through all of them. But today is more-focused on filling orders and tomorrow I'll be on the road again, picking up Yarn for MidWeight Lynx Fabric at AWC, who spun the Yarn, and delivering it to MTL, who will do the weaving. It will be about 550 miles (880 km) and will use up the whole day.
2021-10-23 ... Digging Out (and the Rabbit Hole)
On Tuesday, our communications went down, as described previously. I had left for Pennsylvania before the comms were restored on Thursday afternoon. Also on Thursday, Alex picked up the first few of the new Black Anoraks from Factory8. So today we need to process the Anoraks AND start to dig out from everything that accumulated during the outage and during my 30 hours on the road.
My use of the term "digging out" reminded me of an otherwise unrelated comment a customer made during a recent phone call with Debby. The gent said he'd been spending time on our website, down the "WeatherWool Rabbit Hole".
2021-10-22 ... On the Road (but actually writing this on the 23rd)
Three weeks ago, I had left our trailer in Pennsylvania at Material Technology and Logistics, and arrived there today about 5AM. One of the guys from MTL came out and gave me a hand hooking the trailer to my pickup. Then I caught a little shuteye in the truck until 6AM, when the day-shift arrived.
As usual, MTL owner Mike Hillebrand, who is well into his 70s, was on the loading dock, helping his crew get me going. MTL has always woven our Fabric, and they quickly loaded my little trailer with about 850 yards (775 meters) of greige (loom-state) MidWeight Drab Fabric, and I was on the road by 6:30AM, headed for American Woolen Company.
MTL and AWC are about 220 miles (354 km) apart, with about 210 of those miles on Interstate 84. So the trip was quick and smooth, except for a lot of construction. As usual, again, AWC owner Jacob Long came out to the loading dock with his crew to greet me.
The loading crews at AWC and MTL are both geared to handling true commercial trucking, where a forklift can directly load/unload. But my little trailer can only handle a couple thousand pounds (a metric ton) or so and it needs to be loaded and unloaded manually, and with care. So I really appreciate the good cheer and cooperation from everyone on both docks.
AWC got me unloaded quickly. And then they loaded me up with Yarn for MidWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric, and I was headed back to MTL to drop off.
We'll be making maybe 1600 yards (1450 meters) of MidWeight Lynx, but my trailer can handle only about half that weight. So on Monday I'll be making a 500 mile circuit from WeatherWool to AWC to MTL complete delivery of the MidWeight Lynx Pattern Yarn.
It's great to see progress made on our Fabric!
2021-10-21 ... Still Down
Following from yesterday ... Our office communications are still down. We can do some things, such as the blog, by cellphone. We can also do rush shipping.
Verizon has determined a squirrel chewed the fiber optic cable, so at least now they know the cause and the location of the problem. However, fixing the squirrel bite requires bringing down the neighborhood ... a much bigger outage than the squirrel bite itself, which is only affecting three houses. A bigger outage needs to be scheduled and .... they didn't tell us when it will be scheduled or when it will be completed. I think today though!
Fixed as of 6pm.
I will be on the road until Friday night ... a few hours to hunt whitetail and then transporting loom state fabric and yarn. I'll probably need until Wednesday to catch up with everything piled up since Tuesday plus whatever else comes in tomorrow!
2021-10-20 ... Comms Down
About 6pm yesterday, our office network went down due to the failure of a router. Verizon is scheduled to fix today. Until the network is restored, we can't process orders. This post from my mobile phone. Verizon says will be fixed by 3pm.
4pm and Verizon has determined their initial diagnosis was incorrect. Different technician needed. Ugh-oh ... Verizon FiOS has been extremely reliable. But when there's a problem, there's a real problem.
6pm ...Verizon tells us there is a problem in the fiber optic network somewhere upstream from us. They didn't have time to get to it today and they will work on it tomorrow.
Very sorry (that's what Verizon said to me! Oh boy!!) about shipping delays. If anything needs to reach you in a hurry, we can work around this and we did rush one package out today. Hopefully we are on track tomorrow morning. Thank you!
2021-10-19 ... Nice Instagram Post on Fabric Samples
MANY THANKS to Whiskey Bear for this Instagram Post:
WeatherWool appreciates this Instagram post from @Whiskey_Bravo_White_Bear:
@weatherwool samples came in few days back and can't stop playing around with the fabrics. The amount of care and packaging that went into FREE samples is amazing! 100% a damn good company that cares!
2021-10-18 ... Big Week!
I was quite pleasantly surprised to hear that the tailors will be finishing some Anoraks this week and we should be shipping Black Anoraks by next Monday the 25th. This is somewhat earlier than I expected! Also, there is a good chance that the loom state MidWeight Drab Fabric will be ready for the finishing processes by the end of this week!
2021-10-16 ... SHIP ASAP
We love backorders but we rarely accept advance payments or even deposits because we don't like owing and because the virus, the flood and the difficulties of pure American manufacture have created so many uncertainties. But when I think I have a handle on the ship date, as with the Black Anoraks and All-Around Jackets that I expect to ship next month, we email people who have placed backorders. The email explains that we expect to ship soon, and that providing us with credit card details will truly reserve the garment(s) they have backordered.
Yesterday, in response to my note inviting him to lock-in his backorder, a guy wrote that he felt I was trying to scam him. I wonder how many others feel the same?
I keep trying to figure out how to let people tell me in advance what they want -- it's how we figure out what to make! -- but I definitely don't want advance payments. Accepting a deposit for $10 or $20 seems a good way to weed out people who won't follow through with a purchase but accepting a deposit would also result in some people thinking they've actually bought a garment.
As for the guy who thought I was scamming him, I canceled both his orders, emailing him that we can't work with anyone who doesn't trust us, and wished him luck. He was unhappy with that, too. I should have phoned him, maybe, but if I get any whiff of mistrust, dissatisfaction or unease, I'm done.
2021-10-15 ... Made in America in Style!
Suddenly it seems Made in America is much more widely appreciated than only a few weeks ago.
We started WeatherWool in 2009 with 100% pure-American as a fundamental principle. Denali made this graphic for me yesterday.
2021-10-14 ... Brad Veis / Supervising Producer / Director of Photography
Brad sent me a review 3 days ago, and the intro details make me smile a little bit. He's definitely become a friend of mine and a friend of WeatherWool, but I had forgotten it's nearly four years since Brad first contacted us. Brad is a heavy-duty outdoor pro. Many people who enjoy outdoor-related programming don't realize the work of the photographers, cinematographers and producers often requires them to do whatever "the talent" is doing, and do their own job at the same time, in the same conditions. It reminds me a little of that line about Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. "Fred was a fantastic dancer. But Ginger did everything he did ... backwards ... in heels!" (Not that I know the first thing about dancing or camera work.) THANKS BRAD! Always a pleasure!
2021-10-12 ... NOT Fast Fashion ...
Livia Firth on "fast fashion", from Apparel Insider Magazine:
Can fast fashion be sustainable? Firth is unequivocal. “Fast fashion can never be sustainable and it’s the big elephant in the room of any sustainability conversation,” she told us. “You have a business model predicated/based on producing huge volumes, super-fast, and selling them super cheap. This model can only be based on slave labour and will never ever be sustainable – never. We are addicted to a pace of consumption like we are addicted to sugar… And these brands are marketing claims and commitments which are completely greenwashing, it is indeed a ‘great green washing machine’. Also, cheap clothes can only be made of synthetic fibres – which are oil and plastic – so they are not only producing using slave labour but also directly responsible for a huge part of pollution.”
The article linked above is an excerpt from an extensive interview to be published in late October. I think using this paragraph is OK but I've sent a note to Apparel Insider to make sure. THANK YOU APPAREL INSIDER!
PS --- A few hours after I contacted them, Apparel Insider replied that our usage is OK with them and that short excerpts, with attribution, are always legit.
2021-10-11 ... Frank the American Bulldog
I love this photo sent from Jared Dumas in Vermont. BIGTIME THANKS, JARED!
Frank, an exceptionally well-dressed American Bulldog, looking suave in his Anorak!
2021-10-10 ... Everybody is Getting (or is Already!) Old
One problem with the wool business in the USA is an awful lot of old-timers. There are not very many people working in woven woolens in the first place, but also, of those that are doing wovens, too many of us are in our 50s and 60s and 70s. We need some younger blood to keep things going. But it seems to me that interest is growing. And I do hope that what we do with our company can help to interest some younger people (in addition to Alex and Denali ... and even Alex's 5-year old daughter Zabz, who also works with us). It also seems to me that there is more youth in the knitted woolens, and that can only be good for the whole woolen industry, both woven and knitted.
2021-10-07 ... Response to Solicitation
Suddenly I have a pretty good head cold going (no fever so not the Rona) and I guess that made me crankier than usual because I wrote back what I really thought!
Vendor Note, supposedly from the CEO:
My Cranky Response:
So anyway, that’s how I think vendors should approach us. Particularly a PR firm. Best Regards --- Ralph
2021-10-06 ... WeatherWool on TV
It's always a kick to see WeatherWool on TV. Alex Javor of National Geographic's Series Life Below Zero Next Generation is wearing our All-Around Jacket and Double Hood, and Reversible Watch Cap, on this week's episode (Season 3, Episode 6). Alex got a lot of experience in our wool in some very serious conditions, and he gave us great written reviews.
We have never paid anyone to wear our products. Here, Alex Javor wears WeatherWool on Season 3, Episode 6 of National Geographic's Series Life Below Zero, Next Generation. Season 3 Episode 6 is airing this week.
2021-10-05 ... Advisor Rob Stuart Visits
Rob has been our Senior Fabric Engineer (or only Fabric Engineer) since "day one". He spent some time with us on his way to visit his son in NYC, and we took a few photos.
Debby took the photos above and below during dinner at a sidewalk cafe in South Orange, New Jersey (our home town). Rob is wearing a CPO Shirt in Solid Duff Color and I'm wearing a CPO Shirt in Lynx Pattern. One of the photos didn't turn out so well ...
The photo above was taken in our kitchen (WeatherWool Headquarters!) by me while Debby and Rob were watching Josh Kirk of National Geographic TV Series Mountain Men. Josh is wearing our All-Around Jacket in Duff Color.
Rob gifted us some great wine, a cute little family of woolen sheep and some wonderful old books about wool, fabrics and weaving. THANKS ROB!!!
2021-10-04 ... Another Really Nice Step!
This afternoon Diego Paullier, Manager at Chargeurs in South Carolina, informed me our "flood wool" (Batch 7) has been blended with the greasy wool from Batch 8 and re-cleaned, and all is well with our fiber! Regarding WeatherWool fiber, the turnaround from the dreadful news of 7 September is nearly 100%. But processing of this fiber is still stalled indefinitely until Littlewood Dyers comes back online.
2021-10-03 ... "Always More To It!" (Even when I think there isn't!)
On Friday I dropped off Yarn for our MidWeight Drab Fabric at MTL, where it will be woven into Fabric. As usual, and even though he runs a company with 150 employees, MTL founder/owner Mike Hillebrand came out to the dock to help Mike's crew and me unload my little trailer.
Mike's team immediately began work on the "Warp Yarn" (the yarn that runs lengthwise through the bolt of Fabric), and here is the "more to it" part. Mike's equipment didn't work optimally with the cones upon which the warp had been spooled. Mike said they were getting "tension and breaks", and would need to re-spool it. MTL is equipped to do this, but it's still a delay and an expense for a detail that I had never even considered.
MTL and AWC are trying to figure warp-yarn-coning that will work for both AWC and MTL. AWC uses a specific type of cone for the warp because they do the dyeing of the warp. The weft (horizontal yarn), also known as "fill" -- is dyed as fiber (before spinning into yarn) by Littlewood, which was badly hurt by Hurricane Ida.
2021-10-02 ... WOW! Some Great News!
I actually learned this on Monday, but didn't want to put it on the website until last night because I was concerned maybe somehow I was confused. No doubt, American Woolen thought I knew more than I did, and so didn't answer some of my questions in a way that would disabuse me of my own assumptions. But the basic great news is that although huge problems still face us as a result of Hurricane Ida, these problems actually do not affect Batch 6 (MidWeight Drab and MidWeight Lynx Pattern) Fabrics! On Monday, I learned that yarn for our MidWeight Drab Fabric was almost ready for weaving. And yesterday, I stopped off at AWC, picked up the yarn and delivered it to MTL, who expects to complete work on the loom-state fabric in about two weeks. As soon as MTL is ready, I will bring the loom-state MidWeight Drab to AWC. And the MidWeight Lynx Fabric is a few weeks behind. This knocks me out ... in a good way! It doesn't help with Batch 7 or Batch 8 ... but it's great to know Batch 6 is on track!!
Keith of American Woolen and me, just after we finished loading the Batch 6 MidWeight Yarn onto the little WeatherWool trailer. Drop-off at MTL next!
2021-10-01 ... Customer Activities
Thanks to a phone call today, I realized we didn't have ORIENTEERING on the list of activities for which people wear WeatherWool, even though I knew people have been wearing our wool for orienteering for years. So I updated the list, which is now 71 entries long. We love hearing what people do with our wool!
2021-09-30 ... DiMeo Farm
This isn't wool-related, except that if my family had not been farmers and hunters I probably would not have started WeatherWool.
Today I visited what is known as DiMeo Farm in Marlboro (Matawan) New Jersey, which was purchased by my Dad's Uncle and Aunt in about 1925. I had arranged to meet for lunch with Cousin Rocco, who grew up there, and Cousin Tommy, whose Mom, Roc's sister, had also grown up there. About 20 years ago, Rocco and his five siblings sold the place to the county with the agreement the farm would be preserved and the land never developed. The family could have gotten easily twice the price from real estate developers, but it was important to them the Farm be preserved.
I had been meeting with Rocco there every year or so, but he is 91 now and with the virus hasn't been getting out as much. But today was splendid and a perfect day to meet there.
To our astonishment, by pure coincidence we also met Patrick and Rachel, two historians doing a study of the barn for the Township of Marlboro. This was really nice, with the huge EXCEPT that the township has plans to tear it down and is being required to document it by the State Historic Preservation Office. Since the sale, the barn has not been maintained at all, and the township has decided it is getting dangerous. And so it was wonderful and ridiculously long odds that we chose to meet on the very day the historians came to research The Farm. Patrick and Rachel were happy to tell us what they knew, and very interested in Rocco's memories, which go back to the 1930s, and to hear the stories that Rocco's parents told him.
Our family did a lot of work on the barn, but the barn was old by the time they bought it. We had thought the barn was built in the 1860s, because of the graffiti inside the walls from Peter G. Conover, who lived there in the mid-1800s. But Patrick and Rachel said the type of barn (Dutch-style Barn) and the way the beams had been hewn means the barn, or at least the beams, are far older than we'd thought. Patrick and Rachel also knew the property had been owned by the Schank Family in the 1700s and 1800s. Patrick's guess was the original structure had been built by the Schanks between 1720 and 1770. I'm looking forward to receiving their report!
Some 1860s barn-graffiti:
Below are me and Cousin Roc, plus historians Patrich Harshbarger and Rachel Kraft.
2021-09-29 ... Reputational Risk
Sometimes people seem a little surprised when I urge them to return a garment for a refund even though there was no shortcoming on our part; such as a customer telling me he probably should have ordered a different color. I'm very concerned about "reputational risk", and we try to eliminate any reasons people might have to be unhappy with WeatherWool. Having so little production is a constant issue and is the biggest problem we face. But it has been our policy for a long time to avoid advance payments or even deposits ... more so now than ever before. Last week someone from Australia commented on an Instagram post that he never got his Anorak (that is quite possible) and had to "chase us for a refund" (NO!). The suggestion that we were trying to dodge a debt really set me off. Because the comment came from an account with no name attached, I sent a "direct message" (private Instagram chat) requesting the guy's (gal?) name, and got the response that he'd learned his lesson about international orders. I pressed for a name so I could check our records. No response, although Instagram does tell you when a direct message has been read. Rather than remove the public comment, I explained that I needed a name to research the situation, and that nobody has ever had to "chase" us for anything. Or been denied a refund, even if I thought they didn't actually deserve one (such as described in the Blog of August 7, below). Given that I still don't know this guy's name, I can't say for sure he didn't pay in advance, although I'd bet long odds he didn't. It could be that he was confused. Maybe I overreacted, but I didn't want to delete the comment and I couldn't let it go unchallenged, either. Reputation is about all that any company has.
2021-09-28 ... First Page in the "Naturals"
Every day about 4 or 5 people email me (from generic accounts like hotmail) that they can get WeatherWool on the first page of the "natural" (not paid-for ads) google search results. We have not, nor do we intend to use any service like this. And if we did, it wouldn't be in response to a note from a hotmail account. But actually, we are already on the first page of the naturals for "American Made Woolens". Nice!!
2021-09-27 ... From Shelter to Fashion
I think it was years ago that Advisor Bill McConnell said to me "Clothing is your primary shelter." That's about as short and sweet as could be, but I'd never actually thought of it that way. Today, Debby said "Clothing has evolved from shelter to fashion." And again I thought "Exactly!" Many of us spend almost all our time in temperature-controlled shelters, and we need our clothes to be comfortable and presentable and "shelter" isn't even a thought. And even a winter coat, for most of us, doesn't see any serious service. A few minutes crossing a parking lot or walking the dog is about all. I guess that's obvious, but it's a kind of amazing thing. Time was, people had very little clothing and it was expensive. Now, we usually have a lot of inexpensive, "short-term" clothing that we expect to discard. WeatherWool is happily, definitely swimming upstream, and it seems clear that more and more people appreciate pure-American Hardcore Luxury® garments.
2021-09-25 ... Another Virus
This year and last year have been nothing like any years I can remember. And I've been 19 for almost a half-century. Everybody knows about COVID-19. And now our local deer are getting hit amazingly hard by a different viral disease. EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease) is not a danger to humans, but it is a disaster for deer. It tends to be localized and sporadic, and our deer will probably bounce back within a few years. But now, it's like a horror movie at The Swamp, where we do a lot of testing and photography of WeatherWool.
Thanks to Advisor Fisher Neal for this sad photo. These sick deer will almost certainly succumb to the virus very soon. This time of year, the deer are normally fat and getting fatter. But a symptom of the disease is very rapid weight loss.
In warm weather, Fisher visits The Swamp a lot more than me because he has a much higher tolerance for mosquitoes.
2021-09-24 ... Pillow Stuffing?
We have a lot of Fabric remnants that accumulate from cutting our garments. Last night I had the idea to put some remnants in a pillowcase, and it worked really well for me. Debby thought it was a bad idea, and she didn't really even test it. Today, Denali stuffed a pillowcase and she will test hers tonight. Should have given this a try long ago. Don't know why I didn't think of it before.
2021-09-23 ... 900 Days ... and Counting ...
About 2 and a half years ago, a guy named Mose O’Griffin stopped by. We had a great visit. Mose is a craftsman, designer, and very interesting guy based in San Francisco. Mose and Jennifer O'Griffin run APROE, their own company that specializes in “making things that have never been made before”. Mose is very much a creature of habit. He has several identical pairs of pants and shirts because he doesn’t want to have to think about what to wear, or about what items are in which pockets. He rolls the same way, every day. But he needed a new jacket, and he was interested in a Black CPO Shirt. But we didn’t have Black in his size. So he took a CPO in Lynx Pattern. This was kind of a big deal for Mose, because he’d been wearing a black jacket daily for a looooong time. We corresponded a little bit over the following months and years. Mose gave us some ideas regarding customized Slot Buttons for our Peacoat and North Maine Double Coat. I don’t remember Mose saying anything about the CPO until he contacted us a couple of months ago. He said he had made a video to introduce his company, and that, because he had worn the CPO for 837 consecutive days (!!), he’d decided to show it briefly at the beginning of the video, and to give us a credit at the end. I spoke yesterday with Mose, and he is up to about 900 straight days where he’s worn the CPO at least a little bit. In San Fran, the nights get cool, even in summer. Here is a link to the APROE website, and the 3-minute video can be viewed at the bottom of the home page. THANKS MOSE!!!
After I posted the above, I realized that at work, Mose does things never done before. But when he gets dressed, it's the exact opposite. I thought that was interesting and funny and Mose agreed. He responded to my note: "I think I only have so much bandwidth for decisions each day, so I try to keep as much credit in that account as I can!"
2021-09-22 ... AAJ and Watch Cap Reviews from THE FAR NORTH ... Equinox
This afternoon, in the Northern Hemisphere, Fall begins! And our Friends on the other side of the Equator head into Spring.
I mentioned these Reviews a few days ago, and have just created a "Reviews from Alex Javor" page. And now that Nat Geo has begun showing Season 3 of Life Below Zero, Next Generation, I can post more info. Early this year, Alex Javor, one of the "Next Generation", phoned me and we spoke for quite a while about his needs. We were able to ship a Reversible Watch Cap to him right away, and he wears the Watch Cap quite a bit on Season 3. Later, we sent an All-Around Jacket with Double Hood. He wears the Watch Cap a lot on Season 3, but he didn't receive the AAJ until the filming was almost complete. Season 4 will begin filming in late 2021 or early 2022. Probably everyone understands better than me that there are now lots of ways to watch these shows besides waiting until Tuesday Nights when it airs on Nat Geo Channel. And I guess I should note that WeatherWool has never paid anyone to wear our garments. We've been on a bunch of TV shows, with more (not Nat Geo) filming now, and always the TV folks sought us out.
2021-09-21 ... Black Anorak Announcement Video
They keep telling me it's all about video now. So we are working on video. Too late for me to become photogenic, but we'll get better at the video. I tried to add the video to the main product page for the Anorak, but there is something about the coding of that page that prevents the video from loading. So I had to put the video on the Al's Anorak More Info page.
And here is a 2-minute video about the Black Anoraks we expect to ship in November. Before we filmed, Denali told me the chattering of the bugs would really come through on the video. She was right ...
Because our Fabric production is again shut down, this time due to Hurricane Ida, I rewrote the Production Backstory. That page now lists and explains the roadblocks from the present and working backwards. I can hardly believe I had to do that.
2021-09-19 ... Lending Library Interest
Three days ago I decided to create a Lending Library, and there has been significant interest already. Terrif! --- Thanks All!
2021-09-17 ... WeatherWool on TV
National Geographic is currently airing Season 3 of Life Below Zero, Next Generation. This Season, one of the personalities on the series, Alex Javor, wore our Reversible Watch Cap and All-Around Jacket with Double Hood. He wears the Watch Cap a lot on Season 3, but he didn't receive the AAJ until the filming of the last episode. Season 4 will be filming before long. Probably everyone understands better than me that there are now lots of ways to watch these shows besides waiting until Tuesday Nights when it airs on Nat Geo. And I guess I should note that WeatherWool has never paid anyone to wear our garments. We've been on a bunch of TV shows, and always the TV folks sought us out.
2021-09-16 ... Lending Library
This may well turn out to be a bad idea, but I just created a Lending Library. The idea is to enable people to get a sense of our garments without actually buying, and to enable someone with an urgent need, such as an upcoming trip, to get something serviceable in a hurry. Ideas welcome! Also, if you have anything you want to trade in, that will help us grow the Library. Trade-Ins are explained in the Introduction to the Specials Page.
2021-09-15 ... "looks so sharp"!
Earlier today, someone ordered his 4th and 5th Anoraks. He said Jim's photo of the Black Anorak (yesterday's post) "looks so sharp" he decided to get one. He also ordered a MidWeight Lynx Anorak. The Black Anoraks are scheduled to ship in November. As for the MidWeight Lynx and our other Fabrics, we need to get past the Hurricane Ida troubles.
Many of our customers are outdoors-oriented, and usually that means there is a certain type of gear that really turns their crank. Could be cameras and photography equipment, rifles, fly rods, knives, axes, fishing lures, bows, boats, binos, boots, hats, even clothing. And it is always interesting to talk to people who have a strong focus and know a huge amount about "their thing". These folks tend to appreciate excellence. And for some, their focus is excellence. We have a customer in Connecticut who cooks, carves, paints, writes, fishes, hunts, does carpentry and probably other things too. And judging from what I've seen, I'd say what he really likes is doing things himself, and doing them really well. It means a lot to us that many of our customers are people who, as a lifestyle (when possible, anyway!), very much appreciate and seek excellence. And we actually do have customers who've told me clothing is their "thing" ... they want to know all the brands. We love to work with all these types of folks.
2021-09-14 ... Medical Setting
We always like to get photos of WeatherWool in new settings. Jim McCullough wears his Black Anorak while working in a hospital as an Ultrasound Technician. Definitely a great entry for our Versatility page. THANKS FOR THIS, JIM!
2021-09-13 ... Production Status and Production Backstory
Frequently, when updating the website, it seems that one change requires another, and another.
I was updating our Production Status page with info about how Hurricane Ida has caused problems. That update in turn led me to spend time updating the Production Backstory page ... which caused me to create pages on Zippers, Thread and Dyeing.
I was actually trying to catch up with all the emails that accumulated last week when we were on the road, and that somehow got me updating the website.
2021-09-12 ... Catch Up ... Black Anorak Shortfall
It's going to take me a few days more to get current with the mails and all that piled up while we were on the road last week. One item from last week's mails really stands out. We are well short of where I expected to be on the number of Black Anoraks we're making now. Sizes Medium, Large and XLarge will likely be spoken for by the time the tailors finish their work. If you want one of these Anoraks, please set up SHIP ASAP. Thank You!
2021-09-11 ... 911
The events of 911 filled me with rage on that day, and still. But there is too much rage in our world, and so I wasn't going to post anything about 911. But then I realized a lot of people do not know about Rick Rescorla and his Security Team at Morgan Stanley. They have not gotten the recognition they deserve. This post is a tribute to them, and I hope people will read about Rescorla and his Team. I'll bring them up again at the end of this post.
I've only had two employers in my life, and they are both tied to the events of 911.
In 1980-1981, I worked for Telerate Systems, a tremendous outfit that supplied realtime financial information to worldwide subscribers. Telerate's offices occupied almost all of the 104th Floor of 1 World Trade Center, and I developed a real affection for the WTC, by far the best place I have ever worked. The WTC was like a city unto itself ... about 50,000 people worked there. For many of us, it was a place to both work and play. Debby also worked in the Financial District then, and was at the WTC with me many times ... in Telerate's offices, on the beautiful grounds around the buildings and enjoying evenings with co-workers at the clubs and restaurants on the concourse level.
The Towers were 110 floors high, and the 104th and 105th floors, where I worked, were the highest office space. The restaurant was on the 110th, and the floors between us and the restaurant were used for maintenance. When I first started working there, I felt the buildings were too tall. I would relax a little at the end of the day when I got back down to ground-level. Although I was only 26 then, I was always mindful that trouble on the floors below would leave us trapped. And this uneasiness colored my thoughts on 911. The Towers did move in high winds, and you could see this in the water coolers. You could also see the movement by lining up the edge of the Number Two Tower against the edge of a window. Some of the doors would move, too. If you were there during off-hours, which I often was, and it was really windy, you could hear the building creaking like an old boat. The view was amazing, and we never tired of it. Plus, having nearly the whole 104th floor, we could look in all four directions. It was kind of crazy looking over the Hudson River toward New Jersey. The Towers were close to the River, and the Hudson was and still is a very popular flight corridor for recreational aircraft. People love to fly around the Statue of Liberty, which is right there. Regulations required the planes to fly at about 1100 feet, and we were looking down on them from much higher.
Sometimes there would be thick cloud cover, and you'd look out the window right into a cloud. So you couldn't see a thing. Once, there was thick cloud cover below us, and clear skies at our level. So looking out the window we saw nothing but the tops of the clouds, which was very beautiful and just like you often see when flying ... EXCEPT looking to the North, the Empire State Building was magnificent, rising out of the clouds.
And once, I thought I would surely die, and I believe that for a couple of seconds I experienced what some of the people of 911 must have felt as they watched the hijacked planes headed to murder them. Walking toward my desk, I naturally looked out the huge floor-to-ceiling windows, and was horrified to see a jetliner on fire and headed straight for me. I remember very clearly thinking "That plane is going to be right in my lap in another couple of seconds, and there is nothing to be done about it." But what actually happened was the "jetliner" suddenly turned into three fighter jets. One flew left, one flew right and one flew up and over. And they weren't on fire, they were streaking a great deal of smoke deliberately. The Royal Canadian Air Force was doing a show. I've never read an official account of what was going on, but there were a lot of witnesses. Down the hall from my office was a big room with dozens of people working. Two or three seconds after the Air Show terrified us, there was a huge roar in that room. All of us doubtless have many times remembered our feelings during those couple of seconds, and thought about all the people for whom that horrible sight was only the beginning.
When the actual attack happened, I was working at Morgan Stanley's Midtown Offices on Broadway just north of Times Square. My job was on the trading floor ... about 500 people in one gigantic room. As soon as I saw the size of the impact of the first plane, and because I've spent a lot of time with pilots, I knew it wasn't an accident. And maybe because I'd thought so much about calamity on the lower floors, I told my co-workers that the Tower would fall, and that we were at war. Until the 2nd plane hit, almost everyone thought I was crazy. One of my co-workers believed me because he'd been working at WTC in 1993 when terrorists tried to bring down the Towers with bombs, and quit because he thought the terrorists would be back.
My lifelong friend and best man, Gil, was working at 1 WTC on 911, and I called his house as soon as the news broke. He was still at home, and I sent an email to a bunch of friends letting them know Gil was safe. If the attackers had waited another couple of hours ... I don't want to write it. As it turned out, telephone lines were quickly overloaded and people trying to reach Gil could not get through. The internet, the world-wide-web, was designed and created to be a means of communication that would function even when parts were destroyed, and that email was how our friends found out Gil was safe.
Rick Rescorla was a remarkable guy, and I strongly urge people to read a little about him and his Security Team. Of the 2700 Morgan Stanley employees at the World Trade Center, all but 13 survived. Rescorla and at least two of the people on his Team refused to evacuate, working with the New York Fire Department ("New York's Bravest") and the New York Police Department ("New York's Finest") to get more people to safety.
Rescorla's planning and, ultimately, action, doubtless saved hundreds and probably thousands of lives. Imagine the scene, thousands of people going down 50, 60, 70+ flights of stairs. Morgan Stanley was in Tower 2, which was struck second but came down first because the impact was lower on the building. Rescorla overrode instructions to stay in place, and got huge numbers of people out before the second plane arrived. It was only by sheer force of personality that Rescorla had long since persuaded Morgan Stanley management that they must periodically practice evacuation of the entire staff -- via the stairwells.
James B. Stewart wrote a terrific bio of Rescorla, Heart of a Soldier, which is widely available. Amazingly, Stewart recounts how Rescorla predicted terrorists would attack the WTC with airplanes, and repeatedly but unsuccessfully tried to get governmental authorities to seriously consider this threat.
There are several magazine articles and news stories about Rescorla and his Team that are freely available online. Many of the people interested in WeatherWool have a Military background, and will appreciate that Rescorla served in both the UK and US Military.
Here is a photo of Rescorla that I lifted (without permission, PLEASE, THANKS and SORRY!) from an article pubished by BadAssOfTheWeek.com
This photo was taken by Peter Arnett during Rick's service in Vietnam in 1965, and was used in promotion of We Were Soldiers Then ... And Young
There is a Memorial to Rescorla and his Team at Morgan Stanley's Headquarters building, and here is a link to the notice they posted today on their website. Morgan lists the names of their 13 employees murdered by the terrorists, and I apologize that I do not which of these people were part of Rescorla's Team and also refused evacuation. I'm not certain, but I think the names are in Stewart's book. But I can't find my copy.
Here are some more links:
- Thayer Leadership Blog
- America Matters
- Washington Post
- New York Times (Review of an Opera about Rescorla)
- New York Times Book Review
2021-09-10 ... HOME, "Flood 2021" Page Updated
We are back from 3 days on the road. I have updated the Flood 2021 page with details. Bottom line is that although, with luck, nearly all of our fiber may be in good shape, our production has likely been set back several weeks at least, and, other than the Black Anoraks and All-Around Jackets that are now being sewn, we doubt we'll have any additional garments completed prior to February or March. BUT WE WILL DO WHATEVER WE CAN TO GO FASTER!
And our Open House is still "a go" for Sunday the 12th.
2021-09-09 ... Road Trip?!
We are stopped for gas, make that diesel fuel, at Circle K in North Carolina. We have a rented truck. We were able to salvage, hopefully, 11 of our 12 bales of wool that were in the flood at Littlewoods. We are taking them to Chargeurs in South Carolina and maybe the wool can be cleaned up good as new. We won't know for a little while yet. Diego, who runs operations at Chargeurs, tells me that scoured (clean) wool cannot be re-scoured because it will not go through his machinery properly. So we are trying to rush our 12,000 lb of greasy wool that is presently in New Mexico over to South Carolina. Hopefully on Monday, Diego can mix it with the wool we just rescued at Littlewood's, and scour everything in one huge (for us) batch.
A lot of people have gone far out of their way to help us in this crazy situation. Bob Littlewood, who was clearly exhausted from working 3 days straight, inundated, dropped what he was doing dug our wool out of the chaos at the dye house and loaded up the rental truck. Mike Corn and Cindy at Roswell Wool in New Mexico had to work hard to find a truck for us. That contract hasn't been signed yet though. Jacob and Giuseppe at American Woolen and Rob Stuart from the old days at Woolrich had a lot of advice for us. And it will all come down to what Diego can pull off at Chargeurs. Thanks to Denali for driving my truck back to New Jersey from Philadelphia, where Littlewood is located.
And thanks to Debby for taking a completely unplanned road trip with me!
Big wheels moving on!
21-09-07 ... Swept Away by the Flood
Nobody was hurt, so we're just talking about "stuff". And here at WeatherWool Headquarters (our home), we were not personally affected at all.
A few days ago, parts of the USA experienced tremendous rain and terrible flooding from Hurricane Ida. Quite a few people were drowned by unexpected walls of water, so our little problems don't matter, except from the point of view of delivery of our products.
2021-09-07 ... Customers Help Keep it Fun and Interesting
Twenty-one years ago when I first stumbled into selling woolens one of the nice surprises was that I enjoyed working with the customers. This probably shouldn't have been a surprise, but I hadn't given it any thought until I got involved. And the customers have continued to be a great source of interest, pleasure, satisfaction and even friendship for our family. Over the weekend, we got an order from Panama. The validation software that processes payments for us flagged the order as likely fraud. So we corresponded and yesterday we spoke with an extremely friendly, courteous and lively guy in Panama. And he has great command of English. It was a really nice call. His All-Around Jacket (and more) will go around the world with him. A few hours later, Debby and I were on the phone for a half-hour with a native of Hungary who wants to get some wool. Another really friendly, courteous and energetic guy who has tremendous English skills. And now I've got to tidy up the Showroom. An early-rising customer is making a 2-hour drive from Connecticut, and he is expected to be here by 7AM. A summer morning that starts before sunup is about as good as it gets!
2021-09-06 ... "Science of Wool" Bringing Visitors
There are a lot of analytics available that help analyze websites. Shopify, the now-giant company that hosts our website and makes it easy for small businesses to have web-stores, offers several studies. I don't usually pay attention, but I should. I am surprised that one of our primary "landing pages" (the first page visitors see) is the Science of Wool, where we try to explain why wool works so well as All-Purpose Outerwear. I think that people would only first "land" on this page as a result of a search. And typing "the science of wool" into a handful of search engines actually does put our page at the top of the "natural" (not paid) results! I need to modify this page in view of its unexpected role.
2021-09-05 ... Another Mike Dean Video Uploaded
I added another video to the Mike Dean Videos page. In this 8-minute clip, Mike talks about dressing for the rain and a few other things. We actually filmed Mike in May of 2019, and had intended to present a series of nicely edited videos. But editing was taking far too much time. And anyway, a natural, unedited presentation is much more in keeping with Mike's personality.
2021-09-04 ... Uncertainties
We do all we can to get our garments made, and have been for a long time. We have managed to make quite a few garments this year, after a long drought. And things are moving, but I still can't comfortably predict when a garment will be ready. There are too many moving parts that I don't control. So I have created an Uncertainties page. A page I wish was not necessary.
2021-09-03 ... Black Garments ... Backorders Update
Black Fabric (FullWeight only) is now being made into All-Around Jackets and Anoraks. We expect to be shipping these garments in November, and we appreciate the backorders. We hope people who place backorders are serious, and that they will "upgrade" their backorder status to SHIP ASAP or SERIOUS.
2021-09-02 ... Neck Gaiters and Watch Caps
We do not plan to make more Neck Gaiters or Reversible Watch Caps for this upcoming season. We just have too much else to focus on. We really like these items, but they are not our core business and they'll wait. We do have a good supply of them, in all colors, but we'll probably sell out before Christmas.
2021-09-02 ... Videos ... and we are OK!
I added a Videos link to the Main Menu of every page. Looks like were committed to doing videos now. We have only a handful so far, but we intend to add more regularly. This morning I added to Mike Dean's Advisor Page a 9-minute video of Mike talking about Bowie Knives and in particular his Bowie made by Advisor Jerry Fisk. The Blog from 28 August has info about a program just aired on the History Channel showing Jerry Fisk re-creating the original Bowie knife made for Jim Bowie. Made from a meteorite!!
THANKS to all the people who got in touch to check on us regarding Hurricane Ida. For us personally, it was a non-event. A great deal of rain, but we live on a hill, so rain is immaterial. And there was no significant wind, so all is good right here. But there are localized floods and power outages, although great weather is here now and whatever problems remain in the area will be handled very quickly. We'll need a week or so of clear skies before we can get into The Swamp, tho!
2021-08-31 ... 37 Years
We moved into our house 37 years ago. Without this house, aka WeatherWool HQ, we might not have gone down the wool path. Our home was built in the late 1890s, when people routinely had a bunch of kids plus grandparents in one house. And so it's a fairly large place. Without the extra space, I don't think we would have started a home-based business. And if we'd had to rent office and warehouse space for the business to grow a little, that also might have ended things. As it is now, WeatherWool occupies most of the house, including a Showroom (formerly the living room) for Open House Days, but fortunately that still leaves plenty of living space.
In 1984, August 30th and 31st were Thursday and Friday, heading into Labor Day weekend. We got most of the moving done on Thursday, after the closing. The purchase pretty well wiped us out. We had about $100 in our checking account and a jar of coins with another $100 or so. And a house with a big mortgage! But when we pulled up to our home for the first time, my pay check was waiting for us in the mailbox! And the next day, as I loaded up the car with the last of the contents of our apartment, I was shocked to find the envelope with the check from our last month's rent. I thought I had mailed it on the normal schedule, but somehow it wound up under the seat of the car, and the landlord never said anything because, I guess, he was used to people trading the last month against the security deposit. In those days there was no online banking, so finding that check was a total surprise. Suddenly we were flush (relatively speaking)!
People are often surprised that I almost always answer the phone. But I've been working 7 days a week for a long time. My Dad worked 7 days, and his Dad worked 7 days, and they both worked a lot harder than me, sitting at my desk. Back in 1984, I took two days off to move into the house and two days off when Alex was born. In 1985, zero days off. But still cupcakes compared to my ancestors working the fields every day for decades. When I was writing this Blog entry I got a call from a guy who wears his Anorak 7 days a week about 9 months a year. He owns a construction business and rarely takes a day off.
Funny to think that in all these years, the house really hasn't aged at all. Not quite true for me!
2021-08-30 ... Videos ... Two Blog Entries Yesterday
Yesterday was the first day I'd ever made two separate Blog entries, but it seemed appropriate.
We're now hosting videos on this website. Not quite as smooth as I'd like, but better than having to link to YouTube. About half of our readers are on mobile phones, and the other half on desktops and tablets. The different devices have very different screen sizes, and sometimes the videos don't frame in the center of the mobile phones. There is a new Videos page that has more info and links to all the videos (only four at the moment, but more coming steadily) that we will be adding.
2021-08-29 ... Afghan Evac
From one of our Green Beret WarriorWool contacts:
A glimpse inside one of the hangars housing our Afghan brothers in an allied nation. Word is that it's terribly hot and the food sucks, but these folks are one step closer to freedom. The military, veterans and private entities continue to work every back channel they can to just get "one more" out of harms way, but it doesn't stop here.
If you want to help but don't know how, the Brothers of the Green Beret (Instagram and website) is a great place to start. Give what you can or just share the word and let others know where they can help. These guys and their families bled for us and are coming to a completely different world with only the clothes on their backs in many cases. All donations will go directly to Afghans that supported U.S. Special Forces. #dol #afghanallies #gwot #NMRG #afghaninterpreters
2021-08-29 ... Website Links
Running BrokenLinkCheck, I was surprised how many bad links were on the website. It took a few hours of editing, but the site comes up clean now, except for some broken links that seem to be invisible to readers. I'd really appreciate hearing about any problems on the website. What got me going on this in the first place was a customer telling me about a link that pointed to the wrong page. Software is not going to find those. And no doubt there are still some unclear or jumbled sentences, typos, etc. And maybe there are factual inaccuracies, which would be worst of all. Any issues, please let me know!! THANK YOU --- Ralph!
If there are people out there who understand website internals, and have any inclination to chime in, that would be great. For example, the Broken Link checking software reports today that the website is 584 pages, 9 pages more than a couple of days ago. I am pretty sure I didn't add 9 pages, and I am wondering exactly what a "page" is.
2021-08-28 ... Jerry Fisk on History Channel
Man vs History is a current series on the History Channel "that follows acclaimed storyteller and local historian Bil Lepp as he travels off the beaten path across the country to discover the truth behind mysteries and legends of American history." In this week's Episode 6, the "Secret History of the Bowie Knife", Advisor Jerry Fisk helps evaluate the plausibility of the legend that Jim Bowie's famous Bowie Knife was made from a meteorite. Using technology favored by James Black, Bowie's bladesmith, Jerry makes and then oversees testing of a Bowie Knife made from a meteorite. Jerry often wears a WeatherWool CPO Shirt while working in his shop. The wool protects him from sparks and from radiant heat. In this documentary, Jerry wears his CPO Shirt while the Bowie Knife is tested by host Bil Lepp.
Jerry is one of the world's most-respected bladesmiths, and he is very well known in the world of custom knives. Our Advisors do some interesting things, and I recently started a page devoted to Advisor News.
2021-08-27 ... Website Maintenance
A customer had a question today, and when I tried to direct him to the page on the website that had the information he wanted, it turned out a link was completely wrong. It was an easy fix, just took a few seconds, but I was surprised because I try to test all the links before I stop the work-session where I create them.
There are freely available utilities that examine websites for broken links, and running BrokenLinkCheck over this site turned up 76 (!!!) broken links on 575 pages. WOW, I thought the website was a lot tighter than that. And I didn't think we had so many pages, either. A lot of the breaks were caused by the string "%20" being appended somehow to the linked URL. Where that string comes from is a mystery to me, but I'm guessing it's a well-known gremlin because there must have been about 20 of those. And a bunch of the breaks were caused when other websites moved the page I was trying to link. Those breaks will require rewriting the text. I made a lot of the easiest fixes, but that's it for today. I'll run the utility again overnight and address the updated list of breaks tomorrow.
2021-08-26 ... Jones Ranch
The Jones Ranch is an important source of WeatherWool, and produced the largest portion of the fiber in Batch 7 and Batch 8. Here is the text of a Facebook post (20 August 2021) from the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum:
2021-08-25 ... Fabric Samples
We are happy to receive so many requests for Fabric Samples! Putting together the Sample Packs does take quite a bit of time and Denali says Zabz, Alex's daughter, is truly helpful. It startles me to think that Zabz is almost 5-and-a-half, and has been helping Denali for almost a year!
A few days ago I overheard Isabelle explain to one of her friends: "Zabz is my WeatherWool name."
2021-08-24 ... Black All-Around Jackets in Production
On Saturday the 21st (entry below) I delivered some FullWeight Black Fabric to Factory8 in NYC's Garment District, and the tailoring work began immediately. The following 42-second video shows a stack of Fabric (mostly Black but also some Drab and Lynx Pattern) on the "cutting table":
Cutting is just one of many procedures needed to turn our Fabric into All-Around Jackets. Here is a description of the cutting process and some of the steps before and after cutting:
AAJs on the Cutting Table
- On top of the stack of Fabric is a "marker", a huge sheet of paper generated by a Marking Company that specializes in this work.
- The marking software systems hold complete information about all the pieces of the pattern that make our All-Around Jacket. That is, the software knows the dimensions of each piece, and how those dimensions vary from size to size (XXSmall up to 3XLarge, a total of eight sizes).
- The markers combine the sizing information with the "Cutting Ticket", which specifies how many AAJs of each size and color we are making.
- The marking software then creates the marker -- a sheet of paper that is the same size as a roll of our Fabric.
- This is a big piece of paper! The rolls of our Fabric are about 54 inches (137 cm) wide and 30 yards (27 meters) long.
- The marker is like a huge jigsaw puzzle showing all pieces of the pattern, arranged to maximize the yield.
- The marker is sent to "The Cutters", who follow the marker and cut the Fabric into pieces as shown in the video
- The end of the video shows a stack of cut Fabric that will become a pocket of the All-Around Jacket.
- This stack still has the marker on top. The marker is labeled with the name of the pattern piece and the size garment to which this stack of pieces corresponds.
- Collections of these "bundles" are then sent to the sewing pros who will turn out the finished All-Around Jackets.
On a related note, I've recently learned that if the mill does not "finish" our Fabric properly, it creates big problems downstream. Three weeks ago (Blog of 30 July) I picked up this same Black Fabric in the loom-state (un-finished) at MTL, the weavers, in Pennsylvania, then delivered it to American Woolen in Connecticut for finishing. I knew some of what the finishing processes involved, but didn't know until lately that when our Fabric comes off the loom, it is full of tension. A vital part of the finishing process is relieving this tension. If the Fabric is not fully relaxed when it reaches the cutters, it will actually change size and shape when it is cut into the pieces of the patterns, and the tailors would not be able to sew acceptable garments! THERE'S ALWAYS MORE TO IT.
2021-08-23 ... Bentley and Rolls Royce
Over the years we've heard hundreds of times from people who have the idea "wool is wool". When trying to explain WeatherWool to these people and others, I frequently use cars as a reference. Everyone is familiar with cars and everyone understands there is a huge variety of cars and a gigantic price range. And I tell them woolens can also be made in many ways with a huge variety of results and prices. And when I continue that if WeatherWool were a car, we would try be a Bentley or a Rolls Royce, the idea is clear. I've never actually been in a Bentley or a Rolls, but I've seen them and I know their reputations. Quality, performance and luxury, all pushed to the max. I would love to hear from someone -- if there is anyone -- who owns our wool and a Rolls or a Bentley.
2021-08-22 ... It's a SHE!!?
We really love hearing from our customers. It's almost always good, although sometimes it's bad. But bad news is important because addressing problems is one way to improve. Bad news this morning came in from Australia. A customer emailed that the seam joining the Hood to the shoulders of his new Anorak separated an inch or two (a few centimeters). This is the only known problem with the Anorak. We may be forced to make this seam bulkier (join more Fabric together, and use wider binding tape), but we really don't want to increase bulk. The failure rate reported to me is about 2%. I could live with half that, but 2% is too high. It will help if people do not remove the Anorak by pulling on the Hood -- pull up from the shoulders instead. Of course, we will do whatever is necessary to properly serve our Australian customer. And we will continue to work at improving this seam. We tug on this seam as part of our Quality Control. Looks like we need to tug harder.
And the nice news came from a woman in America's Rocky Mountain West. She wrote me that her Anorak had arrived: "She came in the mail today and she's beautiful." In response to my surprise at the use of a feminine pronoun, our customer explained "You have to call it a 'she' after all the love, work, and trouble that goes into making it. Especially after all the headaches of 2020." Our whole family got a big kick out of this attitude! So suddenly, just for today, the WeatherWool pronouns are SHE/HER.
2021-08-21 ... Batch 56 Black Fabric Delivery
I've been driving in NYC for 50 years, but this was the first time I was pulling a trailer. Lucky for me, Saturday morning the Garment District is very quiet and I was able to pull up to the curb and unload directly in front of Factory8 office.
The guy at left was hustling change from people stopped at the traffic light, and he wanted to be in the photo.
Pushing the dolly (and REALLY leaning into it!) is Advisor JR Morrissey, owner of Factory8. JR will get the Fabric turned into Anoraks and All-Around Jackets.
JR told me he's been pushing dollies of fabric and racks of clothing all over the garment district for decades. It's interesting that when I loaded the loom-state Black Fabric at MTL, our weavers, owner Mike Hillebrand helped. And when I loaded the finished Fabric into the trailer for the trip from American Woolen to Factory8, owner Jacob Long and I loaded. I moved this Fabric among three different Partners, and in each case the owner of the company helped with the (sort of) heavy lifting.
I was thinking about this on the way home, and I remembered long ago asking my Dad, who drove 18-wheelers, why Cousin Mike, who owned a construction company with hundreds of employees, dressed blue-collar and handled a shovel every day along with his workers. Dad simply said "Because he's a working man." Mike's companies built highways and large projects, and when inspectors visited, Mike would shake his head, which meant he wanted one of the crew bosses to handle the inquiry. Very few people knew the owner was also one of the regular workers.
Because of the trailer, I had to use the George Washington Bridge, instead of the Lincoln Tunnel, which is the direct route. I always recommend visitors to NYC walk across the GW ... that's not on the usual tourist-list, but walking across that giant suspension bridge is impressive ... the air is great, the view is great, and it's a little spooky to feel the bridge shimmying underfoot.
Back in the 1970s, I used to deliver papers in Manhattan. Parking the station wagon while I made the inside deliveries was tricky because a parking ticket would have erased about a half-day's work. I finally figured out that if I left my vehicle running, nobody ever bothered it, no matter how it was parked. That makes no sense, but that's probably why it worked. My absolute best days delivering were during the 1977 blackout. The newscasters were telling everyone DON'T DRIVE because traffic is a horrible mess. As a result, there was very little traffic and with all the traffic lights out of operation, the most aggressive driver got the right of way at every intersection. I finished my route much quicker than ever before or after. But I made good time this morning, and had the trailer home and tucked away by 11. A decent piece of work for a summer Saturday morning.
2021-08-20 ... Black Fabric
We offer Black Fabric because quite a few people urged us to make Navy blue, which to me is very much a city-wear color (outside the Navy, anyway), and not really consistent with our All-Purpose Outerwear philosophy.
BLACK is different from our other colors. It is the newest of our six colors/weights, and we were a little reluctant to offer it. For one thing, adding another Fabric is a big deal to us. With 8 sizes, adding another Fabric meant we'd need to make 48 Anoraks just to have one of each size/Fabric.
We decided right away that we would go with a true black, rather than any of the not-quite-black blacks. But we weren't all that sure black is consistent with All-Purpose Outerwear. Black obviously works for city-wear, but I question how well black works in Natural settings. To my eyes, black is very conspicuous, whereas our other colors all disappear very well in Nature. But a great many birds are black, And here in New Jersey, nearly 100% of our black bears are black, although in much of Western USA and Canada, black bears come in many colors. We also have a few black-phase gray squirrels and coyotes. Ravens are suddenly doing well here. Our wild turkeys are thriving, and although they are iridescent, I'd say they are more black than anything else. So black certainly has a place in Nature, and if it's a good color for so many animals, it must not be as conspicuous as I imagine.
Black is on my mind now because tomorrow I'll be delivering FullWeight Black Fabric to the tailors to make All-Around Jackets and Anoraks.
We love hearing what people do in our garments, and it seems clear that Black is the color most likely to be chosen by our customers who are not thinking about disappearing in Nature. More and more, people are ordering our garments in Black. And although, except for prototypes, we've not yet made Peacoats and North Maine Double Coats, the great majority of pre-orders of these items are Black. It's important for us to figure out what this means!
Advisor Melissa Miller was one of the first to wear Black WeatherWool
2021-08-18 ... Anorak Price Increase
I'm pretty sure that in the next couple of days we'll bump the price of the Anorak to $625. As stated on the WarriorWool page, our own cost of delivery of an Anorak to a customer has been $365, but it's more like $400 now. So even a price of $625 is still well below industry standard margins. Backorders will be filled at the price in effect when the order was originally placed.
Prices of everything seem to be rising rapidly, but that's not all. There are a lot of supply chain disruptions and service provider disruptions. We have some "greasy wool" to be scoured, but the scouring plant told me not to send it because they have a labor shortage. And Roswell Wool, where my greasy is being stored, tells me it's difficult to arrange trucking, and that trucking costs have suddenly risen very sharply. People who make our thread and some other components have warned us of significant price increases coming soon, and American labor costs have also risen.
2021-08-17 ... FullWeight Black Fabric
Today I drove from home (South Orange, New Jersey) to American Woolen Company in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, to pick up 673 yards (615 meters) of finished (meaning "tailor-ready" FullWeight Black Fabric (Anoraks and All-Around Jackets coming up!). Trucking has lately taken some huge price jumps, and has become difficult to schedule. Fortunately our pickup and trailer can handle up to about 1000 yards, and the round trip is about 300 miles (480 km). On the way home I realized I should have gotten a photo of Jacob Long (owner of AWC) and me loading my trailer. It would have made a nice bookend to the photo from the Blog of 2018-07-30, which shows Mike Hillebrand (owner of MTL, the weavers) and me loading up the trailer to bring the Fabric to AWC.
2021-08-16 ... WOW!! -- I like Mondays!
Some years back I read an interview with Mike Bloomberg, multi-billionaire whose company dominates the dissemination of financial information. Bloomberg is an impressive guy in a lot of ways (not all of them good, if you ask me), but what I remember most from that interview was Bloomberg saying how Monday is his favorite day because it's the start of the work week. I've been working for over 50 years, and I've mostly been very lucky with the work and the workplaces. But reading Monday was Bloomberg's favorite day really shocked me because if I had a favorite workday it was for sure Friday. But just now it struck me that today is Monday and that is AOK with me and I actually would have to say WOW!!! ... On this subject, I now agree with Bloomberg. MANY THANKS to my Debby and my Family and to WeatherWool's Customers, Partners and Advisors for making this startling perspective my own reality!!
2021-08-15 ... Open House with a Taste of Fall!
Sometimes "old-guy" sleep patterns are useful. Although I was working until after midnight, as usual I was wide awake after about four hours of shut-eye. Yesterday was a real taste of August in Jersey -- meaning serious summer -- but 5AM was a more like a taste of the first days of October. A cool and splendid morning!
As if to underline the coming of Fall, my inbox had an email from Advisor Don Nguyen, to whom I owe a couple of garments (along with a bunch of customers, and we are working on that!). Don reminded me about a prototype jacket he's had for a year or two that I snatched back from several months ago. This jacket was a sort of cross between the Mountain Jacket and the All-Around Jacket, and about 6 years ago we were working on it with a Military Vet. It seemed ideal for Don, who does a great deal of serious aerobic work in high wilderness. And Don does like it a lot and as usual he had plenty to say ... Don is an ideas-machine as well as a climbing-machine. But I needed Don's jacket when Advisor Jerry Fisk told me some friends of his were starting a new magazine (I'll post info about that before long.) and he wanted to send them some WeatherWool with pit-zips. The only garment we've ever offered with pit-zips is the Mountain Jacket/SkiJac. Being completely sold out, I had to borrow a SkiJac from Advisor JR Morrissey's brother, and this prototype from Don. THANKS for the reminder, Don ... we'll get you something soon!
But now I've got to get busy tidying things up and making the first floor of our house, which is mostly a workspace these days, into something more presentable for anyone who might show up for today's Open House. Given that this is mid-August, the weather is about as cooperative as we could hope!
And ... RATS! ... I was stewing the last of the year's nectarines and smelled something burning. I should have known better than to put the burner on high. I thought I would heat them up quickly while writing this blog, then turn the heat to simmer. That didn't work out well ... nectarines wasted and it's going to take a lot of scrubbing to clean the pot. "No fool like an old fool" may be my epitaph.
2021-08-14 ... Open House Tomorrow
The day before an Open House is always busy because our home is very "lived-in" and very "worked-in". So we are boxing garments for shipping and for stock-storage, prepping the Showroom and generally tidying the place. The unexpected wrinkle for today is putting up nectarines. Our nectarine trees did really well this year, and we've enjoyed a great many of them tree-to-hand-to-YUM! But some nectarines were getting over-ripe and falling and I didn't want to wait until Monday so I picked the ones still on the trees -- about 100 of them. We'll process these somehow (stewing or preserving) today as part of Open House prep. It will be a great Family-Day!
Tree-ripened fruit just cannot be beat!
Hope you can join us tomorrow for the Open House!
2021-08-13 ... "WeatherWool Branded"
It's really flattering that people tell us we should put our logo on our garments. Or that we should develop an insignia for that purpose. It's routine for the major (and not-so-major!) garment makers to put their logos on the chest or maybe the shoulder. And the idea that some people feel we should do that -- and that they would like to wear our logo -- is extremely flattering and actually amazing to me. But I personally prefer not to wear logos. I'd be fine to drive a truck without a maker's name on it. And a lot of people feel the same. HUGE THANKS to everyone who has asked about a logo or a patch or suggested branding our garments. But it's not something I am comfortable with.
2021-08-12 ... (Temporarily) Anonymous AAJ Review
Here is a really nice review of our All-Around Jacket. The gent who wrote this review spends a lot of time in the far North where temps get crazy cold ... -40F/-40C and even colder. He will be in media within the next few weeks and we then will add some background info.
By far the best coat I've owned. Well, the best piece of clothing period that I have owned. I was wearing it out on the lake ice fishing in 0 degree [-18C] weather with 12-20 mph [19-32 kph] wind and was very comfortable with just a wool shirt and undershirt underneath. Although I don't ride snow machines much, the film crew uses them so I got to test the coat out while riding and it was very nice for that thanks to the double hood and tall collar that protects the cheeks. So it blocks wind well, but most important for me is that it breathes well too. So when I got to hike back to camp, getting sweaty wasn't a concern. It's easy to just throw on a million layers and stay warm of course, but getting just the right balance between warmth and breathability is what I think makes this coat so valuable, especially for somebody doing exercise in the extreme cold.
Besides the raw functionality of the coat, I appreciated all the little thoughtful details. Buttons being sewn on with a heavy duty strap - I doubt those will ever come off. Heavy duty zippers, extra big hood that fits over arctic hats. A tall collar that covers your cheeks. A very well thought out coat that makes a big difference in comfort and survivability in extreme cold conditions.
And last but not least, there is the fact that the coat looks beautiful. It's well fitted, the wool itself is thick and plush, it feels nice on your skin. It has a certain quality just like when you see a nice wolf ruff or other animal fur - it looks very natural and real. The Lynx pattern functions well as camouflage, but also has a real majestic beauty to it just like the animal it is named after. Everywhere I went in town people remarked about the coat, usually saying something about how nice the quality looked.
2021-08-11 ... Anorak Reviews by Craig Matheson of Ontario
Craig has both FullWeight and MidWeight Anoraks, having gotten his first one -- FullWeight Lynx Pattern -- in January of 2019. MANY THANKS to Craig for working with us, and for the thoughtful reviews of both our FullWeight and MidWeight 'raks!
2021-08-10 ... United States Forest Service Grazing Lands
The USFS published a short piece a couple of months ago about sheep that graze public lands in Western States. It's a short article with some basic info that is probably not going to surprise anyone reading this blog. I just thought it was interesting that USFS would want people to know grazing is allowed.
2021-08-09 ... UK Military Donation
We have recently received a WarriorWool donation for the UK Military. Advisor Ziggy, who has had a 30-year career in the British Army, suggested we get an Anorak to John Hudson, the Chief Survival Instructor to the UK Miltiary! John actually wrote the UK Military Survival Manual (JSP 911). Too bad John is a size Large, because we are sold out of size Large regardless of Fabric. John chose the Solid Duff Color, and we hope we can get an Anorak to him before the end of 2021. Very much looking forward to hearing John's impressions of our wool!! HATS OFF and THANKS to Ziggy for such a great WarriorWool connection!!
2021-08-08 ... The Essence!
Yesterday I had a long talk with Advisor Chris Christian. He'd been field-testing his first pieces of WeatherWool in June and July but somehow we didn't connect to exchange thoughts until yesterday. Funny, I phoned him just as he began to compose an email to send us.
Chris will provide details of his extended tests in the Rockies and the Adirondacks, but it will be hard to top the results he reported from his first day in Idaho. Chris was in an extremely isolated area at 9000 feet (2750 meters). The weather was mild and pleasant but Chris was wearing his Anorak because it was comfortable despite the warm conditions, which was a sweet surprise. Chris was enjoying the afternoon, a couple of hours from camp and without any gear (because it was such nice weather and he should have known better!) when suddenly the High Country decided to change things. The temperature dropped, the wind began to howl and absolutely torrential rain began to fall. Chris said it was raining so hard it was difficult to see.
Under the Anorak Chris wore only a short-sleeve wool T-Shirt. The bottom line is that the wool handled the weather better than Chris thought would be possible, and he said he'd have been in real trouble without it.
And this is THE ESSENCE of what we are trying to achieve with WeatherWool ... garments that people want to wear, whether needed or not. And if a nice day turns bad, the wool handles the unexpected.
Chris said he did not remove the Anorak during his entire solo week of testing, wandering, exploring and creating images. Here, he wears the Anorak and Reversible Watch Cap while enjoying some sun at 10,200 feet (3100 meters).
2021-08-07 ... Record Ridiculous Return
We understand sizing can be tricky. And wrong-size exchanges are common. We try to make the size-charts clear, but stuff happens and we expect people to need a different size sometimes. And we absolutely don't want anyone ever keeping a garment that is not satisfactory. We ask that people test size upon receipt, and not take garments outdoors until after deciding the fit is right. And if the fit is not right, let us know and we'll send a return label. It's easy and works well. And almost everyone stays within the guidelines. But we do have surprises, and yesterday was the "record ridiculous return". We were surprised by a large package. A note explained the enclosed garments don't fit, and requested a refund for two All-Around Jackets, Anorak, Pants, Double Hood, Mouton Hat, Big Brim Boonie Hat and Neck Gaiter ... that he purchased in 2018 and 2019. Gee ... if the clothes didn't fit, why buy more and not mention any problems? The note also said he'd be seeking other brands that fit him. Definitely the biggest refund we've ever issued! We'll put these used garments on the Specials page in a week or so, after dry-cleaning.
This is NOT the way things would usually look as we receive garments and do our own final Quality Control prior to shipping!!!
The Hood of the Anorak is quite large ... large enough to completely protect the face from sideways sleet. But that means it's also big enough to block peripheral vision, and so the rear of the Hood has a buckle and strap to retract the sides and restore full peripheral vision. Just a few days ago we realized (thanks to customer Shawn!!) that the buckle had somehow been moved an inch or two (a few centimeters), depending on size, and in some cases the sides of the Hood could no longer be retracted far enough. So ... we moved all of the buckles to the correct position. If anyone has an Anorak that needs adjustment, please let us know! This problem escaped our own Anorak QC because although we had been checking the buckle we didn't foresee this possibility. And so the QC gets revised ...
We have a QC checklist for all of our products, but so far only the Anorak QC list is on the website. Writing this post makes me think we should link each QC list to each product page.
- 10 million tons (hardly matters whether metric or short!) of apparel goes into landfills every year
- About 30% of inventory is unsold. In 2018, Burberry burned $36.5 million worth of inventory, according to the New York Post
Tailored Industry is all about on-demand manufacture ... that is ... making garments to fill current orders rather than garments to keep in inventory until sold. On-demand is becoming more and more feasible for knitted garments. But almost everything we make, except Neck Gaiters and Watch Caps, is woven, and on-demand woven garments are somewhat farther down the road. In our case, however, we don't really change styles from year to year, and we don't make very much. We are much more "slow fashion" than "fast fashion", and we know people intend (and do) keep our garments for years and years rather than dispose of them after a season or two. So we don't expect WeatherWool to be going into landfills (although wool is 100% bio-degradable), and, actually, wool is non-flammable.
2021-08-03 ... Scout the Location, Spot the Box and Bobtail Home
Apologies to any real truckers reading this, but that was the lingo back in 1970 or so, when I worked in trucking. Yesterday we drove from home to American Woolen, pulling a small trailer that held our Black "loom-state" Fabric that we had picked up Friday at MTL. AWC kindly allowed me to leave my empty trailer ("spot the box") with them. Next we spent a couple of hours talking and touring AWC, which Denali had not previously visited. She needed to "scout the location" (new lingo for me!) for video she'll shoot next week, when we return for the finished Fabric. And then we "bobtailed" home, meaning we drove without a trailer. Of course, way back when, it was a 60-foot, 18-wheeler, not a pickup truck and a 10-foot, 2-wheel trailer ... But close enough. I was still working summers in trucking in the mid-70s when Movin' On was a big TV Show and Convoy (Wikipedia , YouTube), was a #1 hit single. So I made Denali play Convoy from her Pandora account while I told her about the TV Show.
Maybe I should apologize to everybody, not just any truckers, for this entry. Sometimes I can't help myself. Denali was stuck driving with me for 6 hours ...
10-4 (I don't remember saying that, tho!)
2021-08-01 ... Bag or Box?
Shipping involves a lot of considerations ... and one of the most basic is whether we should ship in a PLASTIC BAG or CORRUGATED BOX.
- Definitely a nicer presentation. Marketing people agree the "unboxing experience is very important"
- Boxes can be re-used (customer pointed this out!)
- American-made boxes are available
- Most important, the bag protects the garments quite a bit better. The bags are crazy-tough and waterproof. The boxes are much more prone to damage during shipping
- Bags are smaller and lighter and therefore less expensive to ship
- American-made bags may not be available in all the sizes/styles we need but we'll use non-American bags if necessary because the bags are not a WeatherWool product
So ... we sort of have to decide between "Hardcore" or "Luxury". No question the box, if there are no problems, is a more luxurious type of presentation. But we have decided to lean toward the hardcore-performance option, and going forward we'll be largely shipping in bags.
We have always prioritized use of bags for shipping outside USA, where the reduced shipping costs and extra toughness are most significant.
It would be great to hear from our customers on this! If people don't request otherwise, we will be using the many boxes we have on hand for shorter-distance deliveries, and we'll be using the plastic bags more and more for everything else. THANKS FOR ANY INPUT!!
PS ---- BOX or BAG preference can be put in the NOTES for online orders, or just phone/email/text us!
2021-07-31 ... World Ranger Day
When I posted about Advisor Stani Greenway a couple of days ago, I'd forgotten that July 31st is World Ranger Day. Stani devotes a lot of time, energy and expertise to training people who fight an uphill battle to protect wild life and wild places. In Stani's case, the Rangers are in Africa, but Rangers, Wardens and Conservation Officers work throughout the world.
2021-07-30 ... Old Times Come Round Again
As mentioned recently, my first real job, with paycheck and taxes, was in the trucking industry where I worked both as a longshoreman and as helper to truck drivers. It was fantastic work for a kid, but I remember the older guys telling me it was kind of a trap. They warned me to not be taken in by what was, for a 15-year old, a lot of easy money. I was making about 4 times what my friends were, but those of my co-workers who'd started young mostly wished they had stayed in school, and strongly advised me to continue my education. And although I continued to work "on the docks", I also continued schooling and eventually went "white collar". But experience is almost always good, and somehow it seems whatever work I do involves at least a little bit of jackassing freight. There was a funny incident when I worked at Bell Labs (at the time, the world's premier communications research institution). We occasionally had to ship massive amounts of reports (paper reports, by truck! ... because this was the 1980s). So I was pulling a fully-loaded pallet-jack down the hall, headed for the loading dock, when someone in my group remarked "Good thing we got a big strong guy as database admin ...".
I think if you do that kind of work, it's hard not to do it sometimes. So today, we had about 1300 pounds of Black Fabric (greige state) that needed to get from MTL, the weavers, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, to AWC in Northern Connecticut, for finishing ... and I couldn't resist picking it up with my own little trailer. When I backed up to MTL's loading dock, I was surprised (though I should NOT have been!) to find Mike Hillebrand, owner of MTL, ready, willing and able to help me load up. Several of Mike's guys also helped, of course. But here's Mike and me laughing and working on a splendid July afternoon. It really couldn't have felt better.
Mike and I load a "piece" of Fabric, about 112 pounds (51 kg). MTL is a large, successful company that is a "secret weapon" to Mike's many customers.
MTL is about 2 hours from WeatherWool headquarters (aka my home) and today was not only a basically perfect day for a drive, but I was on the phone with customers nearly half the time. Given the Olympics and current events, there was plenty to talk about besides wool. Both customers I spoke with are Americans, and both had spent time in Asia (China and Japan).
2021-07-28 ... Stani in Africa
Advisor Stani Greenway gets around the world quite a bit, mostly spending his time in wild and remote places. One of the activities most important to him is his work in Africa, where he teaches anti-poaching and related wildlife-protection work. I would definitely like to know more about this work and about this photo. Here is what Stani posted on Instagram two days ago:
Some of the beautiful animals “outside the wire” of our bush training camp. During the @lead_ranger Field Ranger Instructor Course, Remote Area Operations module.
Knowing how to correctly move through the bush and react when encountering the various species of dangerous game. Reading the animals body language and understanding the individual species behavior is key. Are they comfortable with our presence? What are the warning signs they show if we get too close? How to react if charged? Is it a mock charge or a kill charge? The Lioness totally couldn’t care less with our presence, mostly seemed bored. The Buffalo “eying” us lets us know he is aware (warning sign, it stops with his “normal” behavior to focus on us). The Elephant wasn’t impressed with us one bit and made that very clear by charging. Awareness at all times in all directions, stay switched on and know where the wind is coming from. Also a camera lens with a good reach helps 😬 #runningandplayingdeaddontworkhere #bushskills #rangertraining #dangerousgame #conservation #sonyA7R #Sony70-200mm #ilovemyjob #animals #remoteareaoperations #bushcraft #tracking #awareness
[The other day, I live-trapped a ground squirrel that was raiding my back yard garden in the New York City suburbs. HAHA -- Ralph]
2021-07-27 ... Mike Dean's Secret Admirer?!
Mike Dean, the first WeatherWool Advisor, sent me a note. Mike wrote that he'd received an unmarked package with an apparently brand new Al's Anorak inside. Mike has no idea who sent it, and neither do we. Pretty great, whoever did it! Mike is ecstatic ... and puzzled!
Here is the text we added on our repost:
@FieldEthosJournal is only half-right on this one. Chief Operating Officer Mike Schoby (@schoby375, @mikeschoby) has been a good friend of WeatherWool since we were still developing our first Fabrics. If he means Ralph is ugly, nobody would argue, except @TheWoolMaven (maybe). He might also mean that he looks ugly in our wool, but there is only so much that clothing can do. Funny story about when I first met Mike. In 2011 we were still developing our Fabric, but I reserved space for 2012 at one of the big outdoor shows. I thought for sure by then we’d have some real production garments. But a year later we were still testing and modifying fabrics, so I’m standing there in an empty double-booth with nothing to show but a still-under-development jacket, and Schoby stopped by. Mike was running one of America’s biggest outdoors magazines, and his advice, interest and encouragement have been important ever since.
Some of the comments people tossed in were funny and gratifying, and we appreciate them all.
It was actually WeatherWool Advisor Jerry Fisk, National Living Treasure (I think you have to be even older than me to be a "Living Treasure"), who sent some of our wool to Field Ethos. Thanks, Jerry!
Looks like we'll be working with Field Ethos on a new hunting jacket design.
2021-07-25 ... Phishing Mails
We recently paid one of our production Partners (aka vendors) by ACH (Automated Clearing House), which enables businesses to make overnight or even instant payments conveniently. A few days after paying the emailed invoice, I got another mail from the same company requesting that my next payment be made to their new account. This email referenced previous correspondence, used the names of the people I had been in contact with, and originated from the company I had lately paid. And it made sense because I did have another payment coming up. But it didn't look quite right. As it happened, I was actually visiting this company shortly after I received the mail. So I asked to speak with the woman who'd sent it. ... And she denied having done so. Furthermore, she wasn't normally involved in billing. It turned out they'd been hacked, and the hackers evidently hoped WeatherWool would make its next payment into their scam account. For me, the lesson is that if any payment details change, I'm going to seek direct confirmation by actual person-to-person verbal conversation.
2021-07-24 ... AAJs On the Move
This pic was sent to us by Advisor JR Morrissey, proprietor of The Factory8, who oversees our NYC Garment District production. The hamper is full of All-Around Jackets in Solid Duff Color, and JR wheeled it the few blocks from the Sewing Pros to his own facilities on 37th Street, where he will do his own QC inspection before we pick them up. We'll be shipping Anoraks this week and soon, these AAJs.
Next time a load of WeatherWool is traveling the streets of the Garment District, I really want to be the runner. My first official job, with an actual paycheck and taxes deducted, was longshoreman, and it's going to feel great to jackass some WeatherWool around Midtown. I'll probably only be good for 10 minutes, especially in Manhattan's summer heat, but I have to do it!
2021-07-22 ... Last Anoraks of this Production Run
This afternoon Alex will be picking up the last Anoraks in this production run. We'll tally up what we have, do our own final Quality Control inspections and be shipping. Usually this wouldn't be as significant as it will be today (I'm writing just after midnight) because usually we know exactly what's coming. But in this case, we got less Fabric than I expected (my own fault) and some of our Drab MidWeight Fabric was mistakenly used to make All-Around Jackets instead of Drab Anoraks and we have an unknown shortfall of the Anoraks. Once I know exactly what the shortfall is, I'm all but certain I'm going to have to work with people who have paid for Anoraks I cannot deliver when I expected to deliver. We are determined not to renege, tho, so we'll be offering inducements for people to wait, or switch to another Anorak, or ... I am open to suggestions. Very much Not Happy this is the situation.
Following up from the post of July 13th, this morning it was about 15 seconds before the first bird -- a robin -- hit the pizza ... It went after the pepperoni.
2021-07-21 ... International Shipping
We are honored to have customers in many countries, and it helps a great deal that international shipping is so good. Depending on the situation, we may use UPS, DHL, US Post Office (hands off to local Post) or FedEx. On Monday we shipped a jacket to rural France, and it arrived Wednesday morning. We split the cost of international shipping with our customers, which is usually around $60, so we each pay about $30. It's kind of a lot of money, but at the same time ... the package is insured and delivered safely, thousands of miles away, after having passed through customs inspection and import tariff assessments and payment. On Monday we also shipped a package to Australia, where it is scheduled to arrive on Thursday (tomorrow), when it might still be today (Wednesday) in the USA.
2021-07-20 ... Advisor Josh Enyart is Published!
Advisor Josh Enyart has just published his first book, SURVIVING THE WILD. Congratulations, Josh, and Best Of Luck with it. We know there is a huge amount of experience, dedication and hard work to be found on those pages!
Here is the text and photo Josh posted on Instagram:
Look what was here waiting for me when I got back from Utah! She’s a beaut, Clark! Just a real beaut! My first book, Surviving the Wild, available for pre-order on Amazon or wherever you get your books most likely. Releases July 13th!
2021-07-19 ... Thanks Les and Sara Gibson!!
A few days ago, customers Les and Sara Gibson, of Missouri, surprised and delighted us very much by sending some towels embroidered with WeatherWool! The towels arrived just in time for yesterday's Open House. We placed the pictured towels in the downstairs powder room and the larger towels will go to the guest room! MANY THANKS to Les and Sara for their totally unexpected generosity!
2021-07-18 ... Sounds Familiar ... Also, "Picture This"
Debby was reviewing the website of another woolens-company, and some of their explanatory text was very familiar to her. Seems they borrowed from us. Everybody (hopefully) does some research in various places, and hopefully verifies experimentally what they can, and writes things up in their own words. And I know it's possible -- happens in songwriting pretty regularly -- that people think they've composed something original but it turns out to actually be a song they'd already heard and sort of forgotten. In the case of the other company using my words, I don't much care, except that I wouldn't want anyone thinking the borrowing happened the other way round. And the owner of the other company is actually a buddy of mine, a very fine fellow, and my guess is that his web-guy got kind of lazy and my buddy is unaware.
Not wool-related ... There is a cell-phone app, Picture This, that does a really good (I think so, anyway!) job of identifying plants from photos. Just snap a pic and in a few seconds Picture This tells what it is. There is an interesting looking weed/shrub that I've been seeing all over my area this year, and never noticed it before. Turns out it is Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium), also known as loco-weed and thorn apple and source of the hallucinogenic drug stramonium. Anyway, Picture This is well-worth the $10 per year.
2021-07-17 ... Drone Footage of Sheep Herds ... Hunter Ed Instructor
Pretty cool drone-video of the movements of a flock of sheep. Video from Israel. I think they should have played it a little slower. But still kind of mesmerizing. Interesting how some sheep think they should go opposite the others, but quickly change their minds.
Advisor Fisher Neal has just become an instructor for the State of New Jersey's Hunter Education Programs. Knowing Fisher very well, I have no doubt he'll do a great job teaching not only Hunter Ed, but also Hunter Ethics and Nature Appreciation. A lot of people will get "the right start" thanks to Fisher.
2021-07-16 ... Open House this Sunday
We'll be having an Open House this Sunday. We still don't have much inventory because we are mostly shipping out what is coming in, but we have some Anoraks and All-Around Jackets, Neck Gaiters, Watch Caps and assorted other items.
2021-07-15 ... Tie Together the Last Two Days Blogs!
Funny thing ... I woke up around 3AM today, as usual, and had a few mails that needed responses. One of the correspondents asked "Do you ever sleep?" ... Whenever I'm tired! And three or four days a week I'll catch an afternoon nap. But it seems to be a family-thing to sleep a few hours and wake up wired at 2 or 3 or 4. When I got to my desk early this morning, I found that my niece had brought home for me my favorite pizza!! THANK YOU SANDRA!!! It was none the worse for having waited a few hours for me. And so I had a "bird's breakfast", left some pizza for Debby (this type of pizza is perfect at room temp), cleared off the overnight correspondence, updated the website in a few places, met the milkman (!!), checked the news and now it's light enough to do some gardening. Great start to the day! (Oh, yeah ... and I'll straighten up the kitchen, too! Someone please tell Debby.)
2021-07-14 ... 24/7/365 ... We DO Mean It
People often seem surprised when we respond to their contacts at odd hours. But we do try to be always available. And for whatever reason, we're often awake at odd times. I've always liked being up and about in the wee hours, and that has proved very useful when I was working with colleagues in Europe and Asia, or for doing software maintenance in the middle of the night when all the users were off the systems. It's important to be working when your customers need you to be working! And sometimes it pays unrelated dividends.
In 1994, I was doing IT work until about 3:30 one morning. I had just gone to bed, but not quite to sleep, when I heard an intruder in the house! Debby and the children were all asleep and by odd coincidence I was unarmed ... and very unhappy with the situation. Luckily, when I went down to the first floor I realized the intruder was in the basement, and all I had to do was lock the basement door. South Orange, New Jersey, has some serious police, and they were at my place within 30 seconds of my call. They rousted the guy out of the basement and he freely confessed to having already burgled a few homes that night, plus a bunch more in the preceding weeks. A career criminal with a long record.
One summer night in about 2008, Alex was working late, around 3AM, when some hollering and a loud crash awakened me. I ran downstairs to find Alex has an intruder pinned on the carpet!!! Zack, my other son, was also in the house that night, and faced with three of us, the intruder didn't struggle. We called the police, and the scene turned somewhat comical. The intruder had come entered our back door, which was open to catch the summer air, and he claimed he thought he was entering the home of a friend. He was about 20 years old and pretty clearly drunk. We told the police if his story checked out, we'd just laugh off the whole incident. Sure enough, the police came back and in fact the guy was expected at the home of some friends ... ON THE NEXT BLOCK!
2021-07-13 ... Website Visitors ... Eat Like a Bird
As mentioned a couple of days ago, our website is built on the e-commerce platform offered by Shopify, which makes it possible for us to have a decent website without much knowledge of how websites work. Shopify also offers some analytics. It's interesting to me that our site has been visited by people from 188 (at least) countries or regions. Scrolling through the list, there are two places I'd never heard of before ... Wallis and Futuna (a French collectivity in the South Pacific, according to Wikipedia), from where we have actually received orders, and Åland (a Baltic Sea archipelago that is an autonomous region of Finland). Only a handful of countries are not on the list. That's a trivial but wonderful example of how the web brings the world together. Also, I would guess nobody without significant English-language skills would spend time on our site .
And the bird-part is not related to WeatherWool at all, but I like it ... My niece, a teacher of hearing-impaired children, lives with us, and enjoys a part-time job at a pizzeria. At closing, she usually brings home assorted leftovers that would otherwise be discarded. It turns out that birds dearly love pizza. The birds are usually on the pizza within seconds (literally) of when we put it out on the lawn. Some of the birds are all about the toppings and cheese, other birds want the bread. ... And I guess now, even if I personally demolish a pizza, I can still truthfully say I eat like a bird.
2021-07-12 ... Google Review, Google Verification
I have heard quite a few times that google reviews are important. We didn’t have any until yesterday.
Heirloom-quality woollens, the best money can buy. Unmatched customer service, responsiveness to messages and returns policy; nothing is too much trouble. A company with a real 'make-It-happen' attitude in a world of seemingly unlimited empty hyperbole.
THANKS MARK TRIST!!
Google has done some amazing stuff … But also … they contacted WeatherWool at least 100 times to “verify” our business. They kept calling from different numbers so even though I was flagging the calls as SPAM (maybe that didn’t work because I have an Android phone?) they kept ringing through. Eventually, I thought maybe it would be better to hear them out instead of getting another 100 calls. So it seems GOOGLE VERIFICATION means (this was a while ago) they put a STAR next to your business name on search results once you have been VERIFIED. There was quite a series of questions and I was passed from one rep to the next as I went through the VERIFICATION process … For sure, I was told GOOGLE VERIFICATION was going to be great for us. Mostly I just wanted them to stop calling. But I figured a STAR wasn’t going to do any harm. Eventually, my call was passed along to their closer … WeatherWool had been VERIFIED, but in order to get the STAR WeatherWool had to pay about $350. Ahhhh …. So …. “How much confidence do you have in the benefits of GOOGLE VERIFICATION? Can I cancel the VERIFICATION? You take your STAR back and we get our $350 refunded?” "NOPE" ... We didn't buy a STAR, but at least they stopped calling. Why would a company with Google’s stature behave in such a manner?
2021-07-11 ... Knoji?
Alex told me he'd seen a WeatherWool entry in "google reviews", and while I was searching for it, I found a site called KNOJI, which I will not link because they are full of ... garbage ... at least regarding WeatherWool. They list WeatherWool coupon codes, places where our garments are on sale, etc. We don't do coupons, we don't run sales and WeatherWool is available only from us. Here are a couple of quotes from their site:
Sign Up for WeatherWool's Newsletter to Receive Member Discounts and Coupons
We don't have a newsletter, members, member discounts or coupons.
Another completely bogus line:
WeatherWool is currently offering 9 total coupons for discounts on their website. Today's best WeatherWool coupon is for 30% off.
There is a lot more stuff there, which they claim is verified.
A tremendous amount of work has clearly gone into the knoji site. Why do people do things like this?
As for the google review, it was great, and one of our customers put his name on it. Will probably address that tomorrow.
2021-07-09 ... Customer Research and Website Analytics
Our website is built on the platform from Shopify, which has over a million customers like us. Shopify provides the website hosting and website building tools, shipping and billing routines and a flock of other services that are very helpful and otherwise almost-impossible for a little outfit like ours to handle on our own. One thing I really like is that Shopify's software understands how to present our website to each visitor depending upon the device used by the visitor ... cellphone, notebook, PC, desktop, etc. Shopify also has all sorts of analytics, which I mostly don't look at, but probably I should. When customers place their first order, Shopify tells us how many times each customer has visited our website previously. Customers frequently tell us they do a lot of research, on our website and elsewhere, before ordering ... even if the first order is Free Fabric Samples or a $0 backorder. Today I noticed that a customer had visited our website 47 times over 30 days before placing a first order.
2021-07-08 ... SURPRISE!
WeatherWool Advisor JR Morrissey, who oversees garment production for us, popped up with a real surprise. He was browsing through the huge collection of fabrics at the NYC Garment District warehouse of Mood Fabrics, when he came across some of our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric! Mood is a true Garment District institution ... "the number-one shopping destination for fashion fabric in the world" ... a destination for tourists and a mainstay of almost anyone who is looking for fabric. It's a resource for not only the fashion and garment industries, but also for Broadway and Hollywood costume makers. The hit TV Show Project Runway frequently films their contestants selecting fabrics at Mood.
Here is our best guess at how Mood came into possession of WeatherWool Fabric. The famous Woolrich Company, which no longer exists as an American manufacturer, helped us develop and manufacture our Fabric. We worked with them from 2009 through 2018, when we were blindsided by the sale of Woolrich to a European company that shut down all of Woolrich's US operations. In 2014, we were also working with Woolrich's sew shop, which made some of the first All-Around Jackets that we offered to the public. Woolrich shut down their sew operation in 2014, and they should have returned to us all the WeatherWool in their possession. As part of the shut down, Mood bought all the fabric that Woolrich still had on hand ... which, after nearly 200 years in business, was a LOT of fabric, including a small amount of WeatherWool, which JR purchased as our agent. Mood tagged our Fabric as "wool blend" ... grrrrrrr .... but we're just glad to have the Fabric back.
WeatherWool was surprised to find that some of our Fabric – somehow – was available for sale at Mood Fabrics in New York City’s Garment District.
The Fabric Swatch from Mood matches my own original CPO Shirt, made several years ago. PHOTO CREDIT to JR Morrissey for all three photos!
2021-07-07 ... Waterjet Cutting!
Sometimes it's surprising where WeatherWool leads. Today, our quest to make custom Slot Buttons led us to meet with Larry Price, proprietor of New Jersey Waterjet. Basically, we're hoping Advisor Chuck Carson can make small sheets of thermoplastic resin with a matrix of our Lynx Pattern Fabric. We'll then see how the Lynx-impregnated resin behaves during and after cutting with a Waterjet. I had heard of Waterjet Cutting, but had never seen it working, and had no idea of the capabilities, both in terms of extreme power and extreme precision.
The photos above and below show Larry holding a steel pharmaceutical manufacturing component his Waterjet has just cut. In the background you can see the Waterjet machine and the large sheet of metal. The Waterjet has already cut many holes in the large sheet. Next, the Waterjet will cut each of the individual components from the sheet.
We hope to post more about Waterjet cutting, thermoplastic resin and the whole Custom Slot Button situation very soon.
2021-07-06 ... Bob Padula AWA Certificate of Completion
Longtime WeatherWool Advisor and Consultant Bob Padula (the guy who teaches us about wool!) was awarded the American Wool Assurance Certificate of Completion. As this program grows, we expect all the Ranchers from whom we buy fiber will be certified. Bob's Certificate Number (43-162-526-0813) can be verified at the AWA site linked in this entry. CONGRATULATIONS to Bob, the whole Padula Family and the PM Ranch!!
(PS from 7 July) ... I should have added to yesterday's post the text that accompanies the search for the certificate of any given Ranch or Rancher: "The AWA standards focus on year-round quality care with regard to health and nutrition, effective facilities, low-stress transportation and handling, and safe and humane shearing. With multiple levels of certification that require independent validation and regular recertification, buyers can be confident that sheep in the AWA program are living with a high standard of care. If you have any questions, please contact email@example.com"
2021-07-04 ... FOURTH OF JULY!!! ... Happy Birthday USA!
WeatherWool is American ... Made in USA, using materials made in USA, starting with "American sheep eating American grass" (which the Army told me is a requirement for their woolens).
In 1991, many people were calling for the Super Bowl to be canceled because US Military was beginning the campaign to end Saddam Hussein's occupation of Kuwait. Their thinking was Stateside life should take a pause out of respect for the relatively few who were going to war. But the perspective of those in uniform was that they do what they do in order that Stateside life continue as usual. So the game was played and Whitney Houston, backed by the Florida Orchestra, gave us the best-ever Star-Spangled Banner.
2021-07-03 ... Anonymous and Sort-of-Anonymous Reviews ... Sizing Chart Link Placement
Every day, people send us feedback. Usually the reviews are very short and sweet and we don't publish them, although we are hugely grateful to all our customers, particularly those who provide feedback of any kind. And a couple of months ago I started saving all reviews -- should have been doing that all along! If I think it would be useful to put a review on the website or social media, I ask permission to use the words, with attribution. I don't really like using -- or seeing elsewhere -- vague attribution like "TB from Kansas" or "Tom B". But it's easy to understand why people wouldn't want to be identified in cyberland, particularly if their comments were to receive wide exposure through use by a big-time brand. Today I added to our Watch Cap Reviews page a really thoughtful review from "Lisa B", and this is what she wrote about our use of her full name: "In terms of my name in cyber land, would it suit to use my first name and the first letter of my last name? If you’re not comfortable with that I understand, and in that case you could use my full name."!! How super-nice and considerate! In practice, even using her full name wouldn't truly identify her because a 2-second search shows a bunch of people with the same name. And this is the usual case ... there are not very many unique names. So maybe I shouldn't care about using the full name after all ... Anyway, here is Lisa's review, and MANY THANKS, LISA!!!
In November 2020 I ordered a number of Woolpower pieces when Alex outdoors was clearing them out and was also the very appreciative recipient of a watch cap. I also have a neck gaiter too (gifted to me by a friend from the year prior and I use it all the time too, year round). I used the Woolpower pieces, the neck gaiter and watch cap throughout the winter as a mariner working on the Great Lakes. In November, I had contemplated purchasing the mouton hat, and while it would have been wonderfully warm, the watch cap turned out to be the right choice for this reason: any time one is on deck one has to be wearing a hard hat and the watch cap fits beautifully underneath. The fact that your watch cap is seamless is absolutely awesome! Wearing a conventional hat with seams, lumps and bumps under my hard hat causes pressure points and eventually headaches. Not so with your seamless watch cap. When an entire watch is outside on deck that makes a big difference! When it’s really windy, I just make damn sure I use the chin strap on my hard hat. I don’t give a rip about the hard hat flying away, but I’m not interested in my watch cap learning how to fly! The watch cap is perfect, it is warm, fits just right to cover my ears and back of my neck (I was the customer who shrank it just slightly in the dryer to make it a bit more snug on my smallish head) and it is a very flattering fit on my head. As a bonus it stretches perfectly to cover my ponytail when I have my hair tied up and when I pull the ponytail out, the hat fits just as well with no hint that it was just stretched to cover my ponytail (in other words I love the elasticity of the 100% pure merino knit). My watch cap is always close to hand, even during the summer because I live on the coast of the (North) Atlantic. It can get quite windy and cold on the water, and while the sun often shines on beautiful summer days, some evenings (and days too!) cool right down, so out comes my watch cap from a nearby pocket. As another huge bonus - I often have campfires and the wool doesn’t care about sparks. I really, really love this cap.
Also, people frequently send us suggestions, which we really, really appreciate. Ideas are everything! Along with her review, Lisa suggested we link our size chart near the top of our product pages, because (she is completely correct) the link to the sizing info is very easy to miss when it appears only at the end of all the product info. And in fact we hear frequently from people who are not aware we have sizing info for each product. Lisa made the suggestion in particular regarding Al's Anorak, and I did add the suggested link at the top of the page. THANKS AGAIN, LISA. ... It would be great to get some more feedback on whether the link seems awkward or out of place in such a prominent spot. There are already a bunch of things I'm trying to highlight before getting into the description of the Anorak ... Any input appreciated! -- Please and Thanks -- Ralph
2021-07-02 ... Advisor News Page
The WeatherWool Advisors do some pretty interesting things and so we have created an Advisor News Page ... Media appearances, movie work, books coming out, class offerings ... I should have done this a long time ago.
2021-07-01 ... "First Time Buyers Only"
I just saw an ad offering a special deal, but only for new customers. And I know this is common practice, but I don't understand ... Why (well, I guess I know why!) would a company make a special offer to everyone but their own customers? It seems insulting. How does that work on the phone? "Hi, I really like your products, been using them for years. I'd like to order the advertised LALAPALOOZA SPECIAL." "Well, sir, we appreciate your long patronage, but if you want another LALAPALOOZA, you're going to have to pay full price." Seems like a great way to turn your customers into someone else's customers.
2021-06-30 ... If They Were Serious ...
A few times a week we are approached by people who want to work with us. And often they seek significant work ... they want to show us how to market, how to do the website, how to understand our customers, how to use social media (we do all those things ourselves, in the family). I explain that anyone we work with needs to understand and agree with the principles on our Partner Relations page before we can have any real discussions. And I point out that significant, actual, experience in our garments is important. I think only one prospective vendor (they aren't Partners until we work with them!) has actually bought any WeatherWool.
2021-06-29 ... Big Company? ... No, But Still ...
Large companies have to deal with weird situations simply as a result of doing huge business. Way back in 1983, when I was working at Bell Labs (Ma Bell to us old-timers!), I asked the manager of a software project why he was planning for contingencies that seemed extremely, EXTREMELY unlikely. He told me the software needed to handle EVERYTHING short of physical disaster (fire, flood) that brought down the host computer. Given that Ma Bell provided telephone service for almost all of USA and Canada, it was easy to appreciate that unusual things would still occur quite frequently. So it made sense to plan for them.
Big companies also have weird social problems. It seems it can be pretty easy to shake them down for serious cash if you threaten them with a lawsuit or bad publicity. The way they will sometimes pay a bunch of money to have a problem go away has, at times, amazed me.
Well ... we're growing and we now have interacted with thousands of people. Almost always it's been a friendly glide path of customer relations, and everyone has been happy. But a couple of times it hasn't been happy. It's always our policy that we'll give a full refund, and that we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who is troublesome.
So now we have a situation I had not anticipated. In April of 2020, a guy donated the price of an Anorak to WarriorWool. With all the shutdowns, it took until March of this year before I could actually send the Anorak to the USMC Scout Snipers. Somewhere along the way, this gent got it into his head that he'd also purchased an Anorak for himself. But he can find no record of that purchase, and neither can we. He seemed very sincere, and he was very polite and although we actually keep three totally separate sets of records (Shopify/website, Excel sheets on our local PC and my phone), stuff can happen (see Ma Bell above). So I told him he could have an Anorak at half price, which made him quite happy three months ago. My phone still shows the whole, year-plus text exchange. But this morning he flamed us publicly, essentially calling us thieves, sent me a bunch of texts and refused to answer my call even as he continued to text me. If he had been nice about it, I might actually have sent him a check (can't refund a credit card transaction that didn't happen) but now, the only money he's going to get is a refund of his WarriorWool donation, IF he specifically tells me he's backing out of his donation.
I think it's best that no "refund" will be issued when there is no record -- anywhere -- that a transaction has actually taken place.
2021-06-28 ... Andy Murray Competing in Wool at Wimbledon
Woolmark, of Australia, does great service to the entire woolen industry with their research, outreach, education, marketing and probably lots more. Today I received a mail from Woolmark about Scottish tennis ace and two-time Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray competing in Wimbledon this year -- now -- wearing all wool! I apologize for repeating myself again (and again!) but if I thought there was a better fiber for All-Purpose Outerwear than wool, I'd be doing something else. THANKS AGAIN (and AGAIN!), WOOLMARK!! Go Andy!
2021-06-27 ... American Wool Testing ... Equipment on the Way
The properties of wool fibers differ significantly from breed to breed, from sheep to sheep and even from different years and different places on the same sheep. Fibers can be longer or shorter, thicker or thinner, etc. And the properties of yarn and fabric depend on the characteristics of the fiber. Lab testing of the fiber is critical to our selection of raw wool. For many years, there was only one American wool testing Lab, and since that lab closed in 2019, it has been necessary to send American wool to New Zealand for testing. By next spring a new American testing facility is expected to open at Texas A&M University. That new testing lab took a nice big jump toward reality when the testing equipment began its journey (by ship!) from Melbourne, Australia, to the Texas AgriLife Wool & Mohair Lab at Texas A&M University in San Angelo, Texas. Very important and very welcome progress!!!
2021-06-26 ... July Open House and Garment Completion
Just realized that our next Open House, July 18th, is the day after we are scheduled to pick up a load of All-Around Jackets (Drab, Duff and Lynx) and Anoraks (Drab Color only) from the tailors. Should make the Open House more interesting and a little crazy, but that's good!
2021-06-24 ... Make it Cheaper, Illustrated
Following from yesterday's post ... I really enjoyed this illustration.
We saw this on an Instagram post from @timberandrustradingco, who gave us the green light to re-use. Not sure if they created it.
Just got an update that a good batch of All-Around Jackets and Anoraks will be completed and ready for pickup on 17 July. We'll still have to do our own Quality Control inspections, and then we'll ship.
2021-06-23 ... Low Quality Shoddy
Our plumber stopped by yesterday. We didn't expect him because his telephone machine said he'd be on vacation until next week, and so Debby and Alex had completed the DIY prior to his arrival. Debby didn't even leave a message but after 30+ years, Jeff's a friend so he stopped by anyhow. I didn't want him to waste a trip so I asked him about changing a valve that wouldn't close completely. And ... Jeff told me he could put in a new one, but we'd soon have the same problem. Jeff said the new valves just don't last. And then he really got rolling. Jeff is a super-friendly guy who operates at a speed few humans can match. So he quickly lost me as he explained how valves are made now and how he feels they should be made and that the basic problem is all the manufacturers seem determined to cut costs and nothing else matters. I seldom touch the plumbing, so I mentioned how the newer pull-chain light switches seem to dog-out amazingly quickly. Our house was built in the 1890s, and we have some porcelain pull-chain switches that are probably 100 years old and still working. But the new ones die quick ... Jeff picked right up on that, too, and said you can't get good ones anymore ... the pull-chains are all garbage now. I don't understand how making shoddy (which originally meant recycled wool! ... see blog of 21 April) goods is a wise business strategy. And why would anyone produce something they know will soon aggravate their customers? There must be some great valves and porcelain pull-chains on the market ...
2021-06-22 ... Gardening with Wool??!!!
Debby found an interesting article at AmericanWool.org ... Adding waste wool to soil can significantly enhance plant growth. One study claimed wool pellets cut tomato growing days from 76 to 38 ... growth was twice as fast! An astounding result. The study focused on the dirtiest, least-useful wool sheared from parts of the sheep (face, belly, back end) that have (until now, anyway) had little to no value. The waste wool was formed into pellets that aided gardens in various ways ... nitrogen, water retention, slug control, insect resistance, mulch ... The work, and the wool-pellet soil amendments are new and I am guessing people will have a lot to say down the road. From our point of view, we are wondering if adding some of our tailoring remnants to our garden will help. I look forward every year to picking tomatoes and cukes in the back yard.
2021-06-21 ... Great Day
Yesterday we had our first Open House in about a year and a half. And although we would not normally have Open House in the heat of summer (and yesterday was definitely WARM!) we wanted to put the virus behind us. It was a nice mix of Father's Day and WeatherWool. Only one person stopped by for WeatherWool, but that was fine. We spent about two hours together, which was really nice!
2021-06-19 ... OPEN HOUSE TOMORROW ... Juneteenth ... Conflicts
Tomorrow -- Father's Day -- is our first Open House since before the virus. Hope to see you!
Juneteenth is now an American Federal Holiday. A bit of history I read very lately is that after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, many thousands of enslaved Americans were sent from other parts of America to Texas and held in bondage -- along with those who had been enslaved in Texas all along -- until June 19th, 1865, when Freedom was announced and enforced.
A little more about yesterday's blog ... some examples of conflict of interest are well-worn ... untrustworthy used-car salesman might be the classic. As my colleague claimed, the conflicts are built into every business relationship. But the corollary -- routinely taught in business school and quoted in business journals -- does not seem to be recognized nearly as often ... "Reputation is your most valuable asset."
2021-06-18 ... Fiduciaries and Conflict of Interest
A colleague from long ago once said to me "The world is built on conflict of interest." I'd never heard it put that way before, but my old pal, a remarkable guy, was serious. He started on Wall Street in the 1980s, operating a copy machine on the graveyard shift. An extremely quick study, when I met him in the early 90s, he was a partner at one of America's best-known banks, and eventually ran his own firm. Every banker and most of the people on Wall Street are fiduciaries ... meaning they are ethically (and often legally) bound to act in the best interests of their clients, even to their own detriment. I think my colleague was telling me that although always acting in your client's best interest may sometimes present a conflict, you'll not truly succeed if your best efforts are not expended on behalf of your clients.
Seeing a TV ad during which a spokesman from a financial services firm said he was a fiduciary, I was reminded of what my colleague had said. And I was surprised to realize I'd never connected the word FIDUCIARY to WeatherWool, although in fact this is a focus of our customer relations.
2021-06-17 ... Southern Hemisphere
Woolen outerwear is very much a seasonal business ... people acquire the great majority of their woolen outerwear in the cooler months. The Southern Hemisphere is about to welcome winter, and this time of year our Friends way down South start thinking about us. There are people in Australia and New Zealand wearing their WeatherWool now, and orders from so far away -- and from places where wool has such a high profile -- are exciting for us. I'm pretty sure yesterday was the first day we received orders from both NZ and OZ. THANK YOU!!!
A 10-second web-search just now informs that roughly 800 million people -- about 11% of global population -- live South of the Equator.
2021-06-16 ... OPEN HOUSE ON SUNDAY ... Watch Cap Review
Our first Open House Day in a long time is this Sunday, June 20th, which also happens to be Father's Day. People can visit us almost anytime, but please make an appointment (831-704-1776) first. We are happy to be also having Open House Days again!
We're also happy whenever we hear what customers think of our products, and we just received a very careful review of our Watch Cap.
2021-06-15 … NOTHING BUT WEATHERWOOL!
We began in the wool biz somewhat by accident … “one thing led to another”, way back in 2000. We took our last delivery of outerwear made by someone else in 2010, and our last delivery of base layers in 2016. Our inventory of “other people’s wool” was very large and to sell it off we operated the web-store AlexOutdoors … until yesterday … when we finally shut it down. We are now completely DONE with everything except WeatherWool, and it is GREAT to write that!!
2021-06-14 ... WarriorWool -- Three Times!
Last night I had a great phone call. The caller, a great customer and a soft-spoken gentleman with a great attitude, has previously purchased two Anoraks for himself, one for a friend and made two WarriorWool Anorak donations. This gent, who prefers to remain anonymous, is waiting for another Anorak for himself, and told me he’d decided that because he’s buying a third Anorak for himself, he wants to make a third WarriorWool donation. WOW!!
2021-06-13 ... Quality Control
I just added a page on our final Quality Control Inspection of the Anorak to exemplify our in-house QC. Of course, our various Partners are performing their own QC at many previous points in the production process. This QC page is a part of How WeatherWool is Made, a big piece of website-work that probably will be "in process" permanently.
2021-06-12 ... Registering WarriorWool Trademark
The WarriorWool™ Program has been an important part of WeatherWool since the "drawing board" days. And the idea has always been to provide wool to Active Duty Military at our own cost. So I didn't really think of WarriorWool as a commercial venture. However, we've been using the name WarriorWool for a long time, and I decided we had to seek the full protection of registration as a trademark because that's the best way to prevent its use by another company. Whether or not our application for registration is successful will have no effect on the WarriorWool Program.
2021-06-11 ... Mountain Men TV Show
It was nice to see Mike Horstman wearing our Anorak again last night on this season's second episode of History Channel's Mountain Men. It's important to note that Mike is wearing WeatherWool because he chose it. We haven't ever paid anyone to wear WeatherWool. Other people will also be wearing our wool on TV, but I think the producers want me to keep quiet about the specifics until after the shows air. More info and pics about WeatherWool and Mountain Men on the page linked above.
2021-06-10 ... BEST QUESTION YOU CAN HEAR!
A customer who has been waiting a loooong time for an Anorak on Tuesday pulled the trigger on an All-Around Jacket instead, because we had the Lynx Pattern AAJ on hand and the Anorak is still months away. He received the AAJ yesterday, and phoned to tell us how much he liked it, and asked about other colors. When I told him we'd have Solid Drab Color in about a month, he ordered one of those too. Advisor JR Morrissey, our production and general garment-industry guru, tells me the best question you can ever hear is WHAT OTHER COLORS?
2021-06-09 ... "Sewn By" Labels would be nice, BUT ...
A couple of days ago a customer suggested one way to incent our tailors would be to sew into each garment the name of the tailor who made it. We like the idea, but our tailors don't work as individuals. The tailors work as a team. And actually, a team of tailoring companies work together ... the overall supervision is handled by Factory8, but there is a company that "marks" a huge piece of paper with the outlines of the pattern pieces, another company that cuts the bolt of Fabric according to the marks, and then still another company that sews. And even here, the sewing professionals generally will prepare/sew each of the main components of a garment separately, and then, finally, sew those components together as a last step. Then comes Quality Control inspections. And so putting a tailor's label into our garments would really mean we'd have to add a label with the name of one -- or even four -- other companies. (I need to get this info, with a lot more detail, into the How WeatherWool is Made pages ... )
2021-06-08 ... SEXISM WARNING!
Years ago, we used to have a WeatherWool booth at various events. Between the outright expense and the time required, those shows were never really worth it, although it was great meeting people. One thing I really liked was that frequently the husband would walk right past our booth but the wife would notice us and pull him in. Women usually have a better understanding of fabrics and tailoring than men, and it has always been kind of funny that almost all our customers are men but women mostly understand us better. Yesterday we had a nice visit from a wonderful couple. The husband planned to buy an Anorak and the Mrs came along to see what he was up to. She was apprehensive at first, but liked our Fabrics and craftsmanship. Hubby preferred Lynx Pattern, and the Mrs preferred Duff Color. So when he decided on a Lynx Anorak, she decided he also needed a Duff All-Around Jacket. This is very gratifying to me!
2021-06-07 ... Open House
Just scheduled the first Open House in a long time. Sunday, 20 June, and then every 4 weeks or so thereafter. New Jersey is getting back to normal, we'll have some wool on hand again, and even though we previously did not have Open House in summer, it seems appropriate this year. Hope you can make it!
2021-06-06 ... D-Day
I had a WeatherWool post in mind, but then I typed the date. This year, it's only 6 days after Memorial Day.
2021-06-05 ... American Woolen ... WildFed ... Summer!
Debby and I returned home last night from a short road trip. On Wednesday we spent a few hours at American Woolen Company, which oversees production of our Fabric. After visiting the plant, Debby and I had dinner and drinks with Jacob Long, owner of AWC, and Giuseppe Monteleone, production manager at AWC. We seek to develop strong personal relationships with everyone who helps us make WeatherWool, and AWC is absolutely pivotal.
Jacob Long, proprietor of American Woolen Company, with a “cornerstone” of the original plant. The Connecticut River Valley was the cornerstone of the Industrial Revolution in the USA, and well within living memory, New England was dotted with woolen mills. Jacob and the team at American Woolen keep the flame alive.
Below, Debby and Giuseppe Monteleone, AWC Plant Manager, after dinner.
On Thursday, Debby and I continued up to Maine to meet with Daniel and Avani Vitalis of the TV Show WildFed. We will be trying to figure out how WeatherWool can work with WildFed. We'll have more to say about WildFed in the coming weeks. You can catch WildFed "on demand" on Outdoor Channel anytime, and they'll start filming a new season in the next week. Besides the TV Show, WildFed also has a website and quite a few podcasts already recorded. One of the podcasts features WeatherWool Advisor Fisher Neal. The Anorak looks great on Daniel!
AND ... today marks the unofficial start of summer with the first-of-the-year gnat divebombing its way directly onto my eyeball.
2021-06-04 ... Mountain Men
We are on the road now so I didn't see the show (we actually had a great dinner meeting and I will post about that later), but a customer texted me that Mike Horstman of Kodiak Island Alaska wore his Lynx Pattern Anorak last night on History Channel's Mountain Men Season Opener. We'll be home soon and I'm looking forward to seeing that!
2021-06-02 ... Delivery Drivers Maxxed
We shipped quite a few Anoraks yesterday (see entry of 29 May) and I was speaking with the guys who handle pickup and delivery on our block. Twelve-hour days and weekend and even holiday work has become routine. One of the guys told me he's never been this busy in his 26 years on the job.
2021-06-01 ... Orson Welles Wool Film!
Cinema highbrows often cite Orson Welles' Citizen Kane as the greatest film ever made and Welles was a huge name for decades. America's wool industry seems to have peaked in the 1950s, but wool was still important enough -- or maybe he was just a wool lover -- that in 1977 Welles narrated a tremendous 14-minute film FROM FIBER TO FABRIC ... WOOL'S A NATURAL. Welles had a wonderful radio/narrator voice, and his 1938 radio adaptation of HG Wells' (only one e and I presume no relation!) War of the Worlds famously caused some panic here in New Jersey. FIBER TO FABRIC, made for The American Sheep Producers Council (defunct?), may lack drama, but presents some fantastic information Fantastically Welles! (Sorry about that!) ... Big THANK YOU to my Old Friend Bob for flagging this to me!
2021-05-31 ... Memorial Day.
2021-05-29 ... Anoraks
This morning we took possession of a hefty batch of Anoraks in FullWeight Solid Duff Color and FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabrics. It was pouring rain today, so we caravanned three passenger hatchbacks to the offices of Advisor JR Morrissey's Factory8 in the Garment District of New York City.
In the NYC Garment District, loading up three hatchbacks with Anoraks.
It was a great visit to NYC and a great visit with JR also.
Even after all these years, I still love the Big Town!
We'll be boxing Anoraks in the next couple of days and things will start to move on Tuesday. Factory8 sewing pros are still working on Anoraks in MidWeight and FullWeight Drab Color, as well as All-Around Jackets in Lynx, Duff and Drab. Some of the sizes/colors are already completely spoken for, and some we now have in stock, or will have in stock soon. If those cases, the website will accept payment. If the price in the shopping cart shows 0, you're placing a backorder that we hope we'll be able to fill around the end of 2021. Thanks to everyone for your patience!
2021-05-28 ... Turkeys, Start to Finish
Given that The Swamp is only 20 miles from NYC, this post follows yesterday's post pretty well. Come about May 1st, I mostly avoid The Swamp because the place is usually Skeeter-City. For several months a year, mosquitoes rule, although some years they are almost completely absent. This wasn't one of those years, tho, so I have not been there since May 3rd. But Advisor Fisher Neal is a turkey-hunting fool, and neither the bloodsuckers nor the Poison Ivy, prominent in the photo, deterred him. On Wednesday, Fisher called two Gobblers across the Rockaway River (that is some serious calling!) for clients, who had a crazy-perfect first hunt. And today he returned on a busman's holiday and bagged a tom on the very last day of the season. There was a nice symmetry to The Swamp's Turkey Season this year ... my bird came to me on Opening Day, April 26th (Blog entry below), and Fisher's Thunder Chicken closed things out. It's great that The Swamp normally has so many turkeys and so few hunters that the spring bag limit is effectively one male turkey daily, although none of us have managed more than two in a season.
2021-05-27 ... New York City Surprise
One of the fringe benefits of WeatherWool is that it affords me the opportunity to speak with people all over the USA and Canada and sometimes other countries too. Almost all the people I speak with are men, and a lot of them are country boys. It naturally comes up that I've spent the great majority of my days very near -- or in -- New York City. And frequently my telephone-friends will say something like IT'S SO CROWDED ... SO MANY PEOPLE ... HOW CAN YOU STAND IT!!?? ... this has played out well over 100 times, I'm sure ... and my answer is always the same ... HALF OF THOSE PEOPLE ARE WOMEN ... and the reaction is also always the same ... GEE, NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT THAT WAY ...
That reminds me of another NYC story that I could have sworn was already on the website, but I don't find it ......
In 1976 I was 22 and living in Manhattan's famous and crazy Greenwich Village. NYC was and is a magnet for young people and particularly for those who grew up nearby, as I did, in Jersey.
Just before deer season, I'd been living "in town" for a few months and realized that I qualified for a New York State Resident Hunting License. The Resident License was $6, I think, and the non-Resident License was around $35 ... that difference would cover about 2 weeks food ... a really big deal.
The usual way to demonstrate residency was a driver license. But a new driver license would have been money out-of-pocket, and a delay. Somehow I found out that a notarized statement, backed up by utility bills, was enough to prove residency for purposes of a hunting license.
So I walked up to a PHONE BOOTH and looked up notaries in THE YELLOW PAGES. The first name that got my attention was Dr Freddy Alvarez. I called Dr Freddy and explained and he said to come on by. When I asked about his fee, he said DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT.
Dr Freddy was an attorney, and I don't know what kind of doctor he was, but he was definitely not your usual New York City doctor or lawyer. He had an office in midtown Manhattan, right on Times Square, and to my amazement he also had a side-by-side shotgun leaning against the wall next to his desk!
Dr Freddy typed up my statement -- hardcopy on a manual typewriter, of course, this is 1976 -- and we signed it and dated it and he embossed it with his official Notary Seal and wished me Good Luck. When I asked again how much I owed him, he repeated DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT. I hope Dr Freddy's having a great time somewhere!!
2021-05-26 ... Megan on TV tonight
Reminder (see Blog of May 23rd) that Advisor Megan Hine will be on Discovery Channel TV tonight ... searching the Amazon for a lost city and lost explorers. Near as I can remember, I've actually only spoken with Megan once. But we've exchanged a lot of emails and you can get a great sense of her from Instagram and her books. We're admirers for sure, and looking forward to the show tonight.
2021-05-25 ... Backorder Logistics
The last few years, until quite lately, have been difficult. The Production Backstory tells that tale. What I want to present here -- hope it's not too boring -- is the backorder/fulfillment situation. Essentially, I have not been able to figure out a fully satisfactory way of handling backorders.
- We really don't want to take advance payments or deposits because I don't like owing, and because I've seen too many unexpected delays. Back in November 2020, we got some great Lynx Fabric, and I thought our tailors would immediately be making All-Around Jackets in Drab and Duff and Lynx, and began accepting payments. But we later decided the Drab and Duff Fabric needed some additional finishing, even though the Lynx did not. So there are people still waiting on All-Around Jackets that were paid for in November, and this makes me cringe (and they are welcome to a refund, but nobody seems to want one).
- We would prefer not to accept any payments for garments we do not yet have in hand. But that approach -- accepting $0 backorders -- is also not without shortcomings because this leads to orders that are not serious. And unless we already know the customer, non-serious orders can't be distinguished from serious orders.
- And so when people placed $0 backorders, we send an email inviting them to leave their credit card with us, so that we know their order is serious and we can ship their order as soon as we have the garment in hand. Quite a few people have done exactly that, and that's the approach with which I'm most comfortable ... however ...
- With all the hacking going on, some people don't want to leave their payment info with us (no insult taken!), preferring to pay in full on our website, hosted by the huge Shopify, when the time comes. So, as soon as the tailors are working on the Fabric, I'm sort-of comfortable turning on live pricing, particularly because that's what the customers have told me to do. ... but that leads to ...
- ... another problem with $0 backorders -- and I actually didn't know this until customers told me -- is that some people don't want to place any order at all until we are ready to fill it. People I'd never previously been in touch with told me they'd been watching the website and placed live (paid) orders as soon as we were accepting them. Probably I should have anticipated that, but I did not.
- It's great to have orders coming in, but I feel we have no choice but to ship fully paid orders in priority to everything else ... we have a debt that must be discharged as quickly as possible. It would seem insane and weird to put a notice on the website "Please don't purchase a garment unless you have already placed a backorder", and so I haven't done anything like that. But this means I have -- near as I can tell -- no choice but to sometimes fill brand-new, fully-paid orders in priority over orders that were placed long ago, but not paid for -- AT MY REQUEST!
2021-05-23 ... Advisor Update ... Megan Hine on Discovery Channel
Beginning Wednesday, May 26th at 10PM Eastern Time, Discovery will begin airing a series on the "Curse of Akakor". WeatherWool Advisor Megan Hine joins a team searching for Akakor, a rumored lost city, and for clues to the fates of three explorers who disappeared on a previous attempt to find Akakor.
2021-05-22 ... The Best
The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), linked from the Main Menu of every page, gives some important info about WeatherWool. And the answer to the first question is that we are trying to make the best All-Purpose Outerwear there has ever been. I felt like that answer deserved more of an explanation than was appropriate for a brief FAQ answer, so I created a new page, The Best.
2021-05-20 ... Other Online WeatherWool Shops
We have had a Facebook page for a long time because so many people expect it. I'm not going to link to it now because there is no reason to visit our Facebook page if you already know our website. But I mention it because people have asked us about our Facebook Shop. We don't want a WeatherWool shop on Facebook, or Instagram, or anywhere online except here. Every now and then we search for ourselves on the web. It's good to know what's out there. And to my surprise I've found WeatherWool offered at "BIG DISCOUNTS" on completely bogus sites.
2021-05-19 ... Great Advisor Update
Yesterday, Advisor Stani Greenway had an Instagram post that I really liked. He gave me permission to add the text and photo (wearing Lynx Pattern Anorak in a helicopter) to his Advisor page. THANKS STANI ... that was some tremendous work (Megan told me about a similar episode a while back) and it's really great to have you with us!
2021-05-18 ... Ruby Video on YouTube
About three weeks ago I blogged here about a new page describing Ruby Spitz, our late hat maker. Ruby was a really remarkable character, and comparing his early years to mine -- or almost anyone's -- puts life in perspective. I mention this page again because Debby just added links to a couple of very short videos featuring Ruby.
2021-05-17 ... It's VERY Subjective and Sometimes Surprising!
Yesterday we got an order from an Australian who had returned his wool a year ago because it didn't keep him warm. And so in my THANKS FOR THE ORDER note I mentioned that a new order from him was unexpected. He responded with the explanation that he returned the wool last year before he realized that losing a lot of weight had simply caused him to be much more sensitive to the cold and nothing was working the way it used to. The way we experience weather (cold and heat) varies greatly from person to person. But it also can vary greatly for each of us not only as the years go by but even from hour to hour. There is a What to Wear page on the website that has more info.
2021-05-16 ... THANKS for Kind Words and Perspective!!
A note from customer David Strand: "I’ve been thinking a little about your blog post ‘Inflation’ [from May 14]. Although prices may increase I still believe that your product is saving me money at the end of the day. The way I look at it is that inferior products are also going up in price, so if I continue to invest in your quality product (which I will), I don’t waste my money on lesser products that don’t work as well. Sometimes we get spooked by the initial cost of a product and forget to factor in the cost of ownership. What are your thoughts? By the way, I’ve been wearing my new anorak every morning for my 5km [3+ miles] dog walk. Whatever the weather is I’ve been very comfortable. Thanks again for making awesome clothing."
It's really gratifying for us to hear that people are enjoying the wool, and we very much appreciate everyone's perspectives. The post about Inflation wasn't meant to foreshadow imminent increase in WeatherWool prices. Our main costs are wool and processing, and those costs have not gone up yet. Here's hoping that doesn't happen. And as mentioned previously, backorders would not be affected.
My own thoughts on buying just about anything ... Dozens of people have told us WeatherWool has been economical because one wool garment can take the place of multiple articles made of other materials. And as David suggests, we've also heard from a lot of people who told us they'd spent a lot of money buying, year after year, garments they didn't like. Very few people can afford the best of everything. Most of us have to pick our spots. Driving old -- but still reliable -- vehicles has saved me a lot over the last 30 years. Also, a vehicle is wildly more expensive than a jacket, and we wear clothes a lot more than we drive. But I don't drive much. When I was commuting by car 7 days a week and working all kinds of overtime, the wheels were much nicer! If something is important, even for strictly emotional or personal reasons, it makes sense to devote more resources to it. A lot of outdoors-oriented folks have huge collections of gear -- knives are endlessly collectible! -- because our gear brings us closer to what we love. (A colleague used to keep his baseball mitt at work!) Wearing our field jackets in town, or keeping them in the car "just in case", does have value. And none of the foregoing addresses outdoor professionals and others who have truly hardcore needs.
2021-05-15 ... Light Test / Breath Test
I asked Advisor Chuck Carson, who teaches Materials Science at a prestigious university, what he thinks of The Light Test, which many people use to guesstimate the wind resistance of garments and fabrics. Part of his response really surprised me. He checked with another instructor, who had a lot of experience at one of the biggest outdoor-clothing companies. She said her former employer mainly used The Breath Test ... hold the garment or fabric against your mouth and feel how much air you can push through by exhaling.
2021-05-14 ... Inflation
We have been notified by some of our suppliers of significant price increases. We bought what is, for us, large quantities of zippers, thread, buttons and other components in advance of the price hikes. But with energy prices rising sharply, it seems everything will follow. We will try to hold the line on prices. But if we do raise prices, backorders will not be affected.
And this is really cool ... A couple of days ago Alex noted that we are trying to add videos to this site, but we kept getting a lot of white space before the video. Today, customer BK told us how to fix that. BIGTIME THANKS TO BK!!
2021-05-13 ... Pulled back some Developmental Products
We've had some Pipeline and Developmental Products on the website for a while as a way to gauge interest in ideas. For at least the next several months, we've pulled them down. That doesn't mean we won't eventually make them, but we have too much going on now and want to focus on front-burner items. We'll still be more than happy to hear any ideas people may have. The ideas/products we pulled down had not generated much interest.
2021-05-12 ... Videos Coming to this Website
Alex did some digging today and found a clean way to add videos to this website! ... Here is Alex's guest blogspot!
With some digging I pulled off the IMPOSSIBLE... I finally found a way to attach a video file to our web pages!
At first I was going to use YouTube, but YouTube has advertising at the end of the video and doesn't have a clean look to it.
But finally we can now post a video to every WeatherWool garment we now make.
I am thinking to show the features of the garment and some optional commentary.
Please let us know how you like the up-and-coming videos.
Seems like we have a problem with the video creating blank space on the page before and/or after ... UPDATE! On 14 May 2021, customer BK told us how to fix this formatting issue. THANKS BK!!
2021-05-11 ... Batches 6 and 7 Getting Going
Very glad that American Woolen is working out the details to make our Fabric Batches 6 and 7!
2021-05-10 ... Dates Slipped
Today I learned the tailors will need another two weeks or so to complete work on the FullWeight Duff and Lynx Anoraks I expected to ship on May 15th. I'm waiting on adjusted ETAs for the Drab Anoraks (Full- and MidWeight) and All-Around Jackets in Drab, Duff and Lynx. This is disappointing and underscores why we would rather have credit cards on file (SHIP ASAP backorders) than advance payments. Anyhow, regarding production schedule, we always ask our Partners for their best, not their fastest. Our very sincere apologies to everyone who is waiting. And, of course, anyone who wants to cancel/refund needs only let me know. THANKS ALL for your patience!
2021-05-09 ... Mother's Day
All our children will be here today. Debby will have us all gardening. And that's the story here. Happy Mother's Day to all!!
2021-05-08 ... Fabric Samples Getting Lost ... Vaxxed ... Links, Please
We've had a couple of reports lately that Fabric Samples didn't get delivered. We will normally send the Samples out same-day, and they should reach anyone in the USA within 2-3 days. Canada will take longer, and other Countries longer still, but everyone will get notification of shipment of the Samples via email or text. If you don't get your Samples, please let us know.
I got my second shot of the Pfizer vax today, and mention it only because we are hoping to begin holding Open House again soon (we will have some inventory, at long last!) and everyone else here was already fully vaccinated. Incidentally, I got the shot at New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, where FEMA and US Air Force were running a huge operation very precisely and efficiently. Each time I was there, I guessed about 1000 people in the NJIT gymnasium.
I got a text today from Advisor Tanner Buller, who asked if I could add a bunch of links to the Start to Finish page I created yesterday. I would have done this yesterday, but ran out of steam. Links have now been added. Thanks for the nudge, Tanner!
2021-05-07 ... PM Ranch Lambing in Minnesota for 2024 WeatherWool
Late April is lambing time on Advisor Bob Padula's PM Ranch in Minnesota. Today we posted on Instagram and Facebook a 6-second video of a lamb born on the PM in the last few days. Padula sent me the clip with the comment that this little one's fleece will not be made into garments until 2024. It's a long timeline that actually begins a year before the lamb is born. I put up a new page, Start to Finish, that details the steps and the elapsed time.
2021-05-06 ... New YouTube Video on No-Risk Testing
We just posted a 1-minute video on our No-Risk Testing and Return/Refund Policy. It was actually recorded in May of 2019, but we didn't post until yesterday. Basically, we need everyone happy with their wool, and anyone who doesn't want it is invited to return for refund.
One thing not mentioned on the vid is that if someone is just really short of cash, that's a good enough reason for a refund. It's no fun being broke, but at the same time, it's good for the soul. The late Kirk Douglas was on the Tonight Show decades ago, when the late Johnny Carson was the host. They were talking about Kirk's son Michael, and Douglas said something like YES, HE'S GOT EVERYTHING GOING FOR HIM. Then he caught himself and added EVERYTHING EXCEPT HE'S NEVER BEEN BROKE. I used to sell my blood plasma twice a week for $5. Glad I have those days to remember.
If returning a jacket helps make rent, just let us know.
2021-05-05 ... Difficult for Sample Makers, Too ... Laser-Cut Tabs
After reading yesterday's entry about some of the tailors refusing to work on All-Around Jackets, JR at Factory8 told me the Sample Makers must have a technician recalibrate their equipment before and after. BUT ... on the Up-Side, the Pattern Makers DO like WeatherWool!
One thing I have learned over the years, tho ... if people seem unhappy, it's important to get to the root of it. And if they simply don't want to do a project, but they do it anyway, we won't get their best work. So I'm glad they told us. Also, JR clarified for me (on May 6th) ... Working a long day on our All-Around Jacket is physically exhausting. One very important part of what Factory8 does for us is handle the "human side" of getting this work done. When the garments are complete and the rails are loaded, everyone appreciates a job very well done.
And I just remembered that last week JR sent me a photo of the laser-cut elastic tabs that can be used to secure the sides of the Anorak when the side-zips are left open. The laser does a super-neat job, plus all the sides of the cut and both ends of the tab are cauterized so there won't be any unravelling. We had been using a hot knife, which also works very well, but not as slick as the laser. Great new wrinkle, JR!!
2021-05-04 ... Sewing Pro's Revolt
There are many reasons why production of WeatherWool is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. One reason is that sewing professionals do not like working with WeatherWool:
- Our Fabric is heavy. Spending a day lifting our garments is very tiring
- Garments in general are sewn inside-out, and sliding wool back and forth over wool is physically difficult because of high friction
- The thickness of our Fabric makes corners and pockets and seams much more difficult than usual
- The tough Fabric and thread breaks a lot of needles
- Our Slot Buttons are unusual and more time-consuming than standard 4-hole buttons
- Our specs require a lot of double-stitching and bar-tacking
- We also require finished inside-stitching. Because we don't use inner liners, the inside stitching, which tailors expect to be covered by a liner and therefore not really subject to inspection, is instead featured. This requires much more careful and skillful work. It's much easier to make a mistake, and the garment must be constantly inspected from inside and outside during sewing.
All of this meant that after doing a batch of All-Around Jackets and Anoraks, one team of sewing professionals sort of revolted and refused to make more All-Around Jackets, although their compromise was to resume work on Anoraks. So we've been using for the All-Around Jackets a group that has specialized in heavy denim. This is a very good thing because we have Peacoats and North Maine Double Coats coming!
2021-05-03 ... Roast Wild Turkey ...New Website Section ... The Swamp
Last week I got lucky at The Swamp and brought home a Wild Turkey, which gave us a great dinner last night with a lot of leftovers. A reader asked me to post the recipe, and that got me thinking about how fundamental my love for Wild Foods is to WeatherWool. If not for wild foods, I wouldn't have been out in the weather so much, and there would not be a WeatherWool. So I decided to add a new page to the website, DiningWild®. In about 2009 I actually registered DiningWild as a trademark, thinking we would make a business of our love for the foods Nature gives us. But with WeatherWool, and the fact that I was still doing a lot of financial work, there was just too much else to do. But it makes sense that DiningWild appears on this website. And the Wild Turkey Recipe is also linked from there.
This morning I was at The Swamp again for the 2nd section of New Jersey's Spring Turkey Season. WHAT A DIFFERENCE a week makes! Visually, the swamp had exploded in new green growth (plus vast numbers of copper-color poison ivy shoots), and the undergrowth was immensely thicker. Like a new place. Sunrise in Springtime is just the best, the swamp is so bursting with life it's amazing. But the not-so-nice difference was that today the mosquitoes were really starting to do their thing, whereas last week there were none. So I spent about 90 minutes walking the length of our dirt access road up and down, moving along slowly and calling, listening for a gobbler to call back to me. But I got no responses, and that was just as well because I was having a hard time keeping my movements down with mosquitoes lavishing so much attention on me. So I took a nice little walk and admired the million shades of green on display, and got myself out of there. Looks like The Swamp will be mostly off-limits until the frost. The Swamp can be quite inhospitable to humans, as for months at a time the dominant life forms are mosquitoes and poison ivy. But if it's a really dry summer, the mosquitoes may disappear, and the poison ivy is easy to deal with, so it may be OK in there. We'll just wait and see what Nature dishes out. (BTW, bugs can't bite through the wool!)
2021-05-02 ... BATTLERS!
Jack Irish, of Australia, the Merino Capitol of the World, has been waiting more than two years for an All-Around Jacket in Black. In an email exchange this morning, I wrote about current production status and the backstory, detailing some of the difficulties of the last three years. And I mentioned how we will do it "our way" or not at all. Jack said in Australia we'd be thought of as BATTLERS. Sound great to me. I've always just thought of us as stubborn. THANKS JACK, for both the flattering term and your patience!!
2021-05-01 ... Light Test Page Updated
A couple of months ago I put up a page on The Light Test. A lot of people hold different fabrics up to a light source believing that the amount of light showing through a fabric gives an indication of how much wind can pass through. This test is only meaningful (if it is meaningful at all) when comparing same-color fabrics. Denali photographed the results of The Light Test on our own Fabrics and Knits that we know differ only in color, and I updated the page with her photos and some more of my yakking. The light transmission varies dramatically depending on color, with Black capturing all the light and White just the opposite. And that should not be a surprise because (I think?!!?) really, that's what color is ... light wave absorption and reflection is the difference between black and white.
2021-04-30 ... Wool Auction
Yesterday and today Roswell Wool held their Spring Auction. We have bought nearly all of our greasy (raw) wool at Roswell's Auction and this year is no exception, so Roswell's auction is a big deal for us. Please click for more info on our new Batch 8 wool and our Fabric Batches in general. At present, we have four Batches in various states of processing ... Batch 5, Batch 6, Batch 7 and now Batch 8. We really hope we never again have so many Batches going at the same time, but the last three years -- the Production Backstory -- have been very ... uneven.
2021-04-29 ... Anoraks Shipping Again May 15th
Today I got the news that Anoraks in FullWeight Duff and FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric are scheduled for completion on May 15th. As soon as we have them, we'll be shipping. More Anoraks in Solid Drab Color (both FullWeight and MidWeight Fabrics) and All-Around Jackets in Drab, Duff and Lynx Pattern FullWeight Fabrics to follow. And there may be some AAJs in MidWeight Drab because of a mix-up during cutting.
2021-04-28 … AAJ BOM
The graphic shows the Bill of Materials for our All-Around Jacket as prepared by Factory8. The BOM lists the zippers, buttons, toggles, labels, cord, stoppers, threads and tape needed in constructing the Jacket. The BOM also details, for each of these items, which color must be used for each of our Fabric colors. And in the case of zippers, there are eight sizes of zippers for the cargo pockets and center-front because the AAJ is offered in eight sizes, from XXSmall to 3XLarge. Each size/color of zipper needs to be ordered in lots of 100.
For us, all of these materials must be made in the USA, which sharply limits our choices and increases costs and lead times. We need to keep on hand thousands of extra zippers and many thousands of buttons, for example, because we (me!) would go a little nuts if production was delayed while we waited 3 months for our specialized Slot Buttons.
In addition to the BOM, the sewing professionals are also guided by the Pattern (26 pieces), the Sew-By (a complete Jacket), the Cutter's Must and maybe other things, too. I have learned quite a bit about putting a garment together ... but that's only in comparison to what I used to know (almost nothing). There is an awful lot going on.
I’m working on a section for the website that will provide information on everything required to deliver an All-Around Jacket … from the ranch to the customer. It’s a surprise to me how many people and processes are involved.
The last line of the BOM is no longer applicable to the AAJ because we have eliminated any fabric except our own. We never used "liners" anywhere, but the combination wool/nylon fabric that we use elsewhere for pouch pockets is often referred to in the trade as liner.
2021-04-27 ... Ruby and our Hats
Now that Fabric production is moving again, we are planning on making some Hats, and we'll be meeting with a potential new (to us) maker. It's been a long time since we've made any Hats, partly because all of our Hats (all the woven ones, anyway), have been made by the amazing Ruby, who passed away in 2017.
2021-04-26 ... Spring at The Swamp
Great morning at The Swamp. Morning in Spring seems to me the time of day and time of year when the world is most ALIVE. This morning was a little cool (40F/5C) and breezy for 26 April, but the place was a thousand shades of green and everything with a voice wanted to be heard ... except the gobblers that I was looking for! I walked and called for about two hours, and didn't see or hear a turkey. Lots of wood ducks were around, and it's always a kick for me to see ducks in trees. As I walked along the river, I saw something surface quickly and disappear, so I watched for a while, and a few minutes later it seemed two fish breached the water but I didn't get a clear look. Staying where I was a few minutes longer, I caught some motion to my right and saw a soaking-wet mink, hunting its way along the riverbank toward me. I believe what I'd seen earlier was a mink chasing fish, and the fish trying -- successfully, it seemed -- to escape. I was standing in the open, and didn't move except to grab my phone and prepare to take a photo. The mink walked up within 4 steps and looked right at me. But as usual, with Lynx Pattern on my head and torso and dark pants, the mink did not see me as a human and after staring a few seconds, continued on its way without alarm.
As the morning wore on, I saw deer, a great blue heron, geese and many smaller birds. And I heard but did not see a raven. My personal impression is that ravens were absent from this area until the last 10 years or so. But there was no response to my turkey calls. The idea (and the law, in New Jersey) with spring turkey hunting is that you must call the male turkeys to you. Or, at least, you cannot pursue them. The fact that my hen-talk did not result in any responsive gobbles did not necessarily mean there were no male turkeys nearby. Turkeys have a fairly strict hierarchy, and gobblers must be willing to fight for the right to gobble. So many males do not gobble, or gobble infrequently, but will still come to the sound of a female turkey in season. I'd been sitting and calling for about 75 minutes, and decided I'd slowly work my way back toward the truck in the 45 minutes before noon, when legal shooting hours ended today. And now I got very lucky. When I reached our dirt access road, I was surprised to see, in the distance, the road blocked by a group of turkeys standing/walking side-by-side. At The Swamp, it's wise to move slowly and quietly, as if you believe game is near, because it often is. In this case, I'd entered the road only enough to take a peek, and was able to ease my way back into the thick stuff without alarming the birds. Through my binos I could see there were four males ... large, dark birds with bright red heads, slowly picking their way in my direction. So I got ready and waited. About 15 minutes. Just a few yards before I would have had a clear shot, the group veered off into the trees and I realized they were heading to the exact spot I'd just left. Turkeys are generally believed able to pinpoint the spot from which a hen has called, even from a great distance. And they will remember the spot, and take their sweet time making their way to it. Today, I was seeing this demonstrated. When one of the birds passed through an opening in the brush about 25 steps away, it was time. A 12-gauge shotgun makes a big noise, but when one of their buddies hit the ground, the other three turkeys were interested only in kicking the tar out of their fallen friend, and were reluctant to run off, even as I walked up within 10 steps. This is common turkey behavior.
WeatherWool Lynx Pattern matches very well the fallen leaves and the colors of the turkey feathers. This one-year-old bird is destined for Saturday dinner, stuffed with apples and pecans and slow-roasted with a homemade maple syrup/butter baste. And maybe some homegrown shiitake mushrooms ...
As I walked out, I passed a bunch of turtles sunning on logs in the river. When I was only partially visible to them and still maybe 40 steps away, the turtles all slid back into the water. It surprises me that turtles have such keen vision, although I don't have any reason to think they shouldn't. And I'm still trying to figure out why sunning turtles are so wary.
2021-04-25 ... Open House starting in August, hopefully sooner
Things are getting back to normal, even here in Essex County, New Jersey, supposedly one of the worst places in the USA for the virus. We have scheduled some Open House Days, beginning in August. We are, as usual, open for visitation by appointment, although right now we have only All-Around Jackets, Watch Caps, Neck Gaiters and Hand Muffs in stock. But we will very soon have some Anoraks, too. We'll be making and shipping garments all Spring and Summer, and some of those garments will be available to see here. And I am really hoping to have an Open House or two prior to August, although people usually don't think about wool until that first scent of Fall that comes to Jersey in late August.
2021-04-24 ... Surprises
Yesterday's blog reminded me of something that comes up from time-to-time ... how a garment fits a given person can be surprising. The sleeves of the Anorak are a just a little bit longer than the All-Around Jacket, but the customer experienced just the opposite. As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, a very fundamental problem tailors must overcome is turning an essentially flat fabric into a 3-dimensional garment that is comfortable as the wearer makes all sorts of movements. It's a very difficult task ... maybe it shouldn't be surprising at all that it's occasionally hard to explain what people report.
There is an old tailor-joke I always liked:
2021-04-23 ... Evaluating Clothing as a Hobby
We have been corresponding lately with Joseph Long, and use his words with permission. It's always great and sometimes amusing and/or surprising to read what people do with our garments.
One of Joseph's lines in the previous paragraph really hits the nail on the head for us, and is exactly what we are trying to achieve:
The one thing that tells me your products are the best is that when I need to make a decision on what to wear I am always building my layering system around your anorak.
When Debby asked Joseph about the size of a closet that could hold 150+ jackets, he replied that "My closet is an entire basement."
Many of our customers are extremely particular about their gear, and I've had long talks with people who collect and test optics, guns, knives (and how about collecting knives!), fly rods, bows, cameras, and on and on, but I think Joseph is the first one that actually collects and tests clothing:
I am always on the quest for the perfect jacket that I know I will most likely never find but if I did, all of my fun buying, testing, and collecting would be gone. I am not a rich man and I have never received any gear for free nor would I want to. I see my purchases as my way of acknowledging a job well done and to support those businesses so they can keep inventing / creating. I rarely sell or let go of any gear. If I did sell or give away pieces I would have nothing to compare new gear to for fit, finish and performance. Collecting outdoor gear is what I do when I am not outside using it. I have a real passion for outdoor wear. My wife said I should have started doing what you are doing years ago. I honestly think that would have ruined all my fun.
THANKS JOSEPH!! --- Pleasure working and corresponding with you!
2021-04-22 ... Auction Coming ... Still No Rain in New Mexico
The State of New Mexico is the primary source of the "greasy" (industry jargon for "raw wool" that has not yet been scoured) from which we make WeatherWool. Yesterday we spoke with Advisor and New Mexico Rancher Mike Corn, who has worked with us since 2010, when all we had was an idea. Mike is one of the first people -- maybe even THE first -- who took us seriously. Mike and Advisor/Rancher Bob Padula are the keys to our acquisition of greasy. Mike is a partner at Roswell Wool, the auction house and financial intermediary that facilitates our bids and payments.
Every year, usually in April, Roswell auctions a relatively large quantity of greasy with the characteristics we seek. Although I speak regularly with Mike, I talk to him more at this time of year, because of the auction. We'll need to see the specs on the various lots of greasy before we know what, if anything, we will bid on. But sadly, the most important news from Mike was that there is still no rain in New Mexico. Mike's family has been on their ranch since the 1800s. Mike is in his 60s now, and has never seen such a terrible drought. Wool prices have improved a little (that is, prices have gone up), but are still very low. Lamb prices (lambs for meat) are pretty strong, and that helps, but if the land cannot support the stock ... The drought continues to drive New Mexico's Ranchers out of business, and this was sadly the case for one of the Ranchers from whom we bought greasy last year ... and they'd also been on their land since the 1800s. There are now only about a dozen sheep ranches left in New Mexico.
2021-04-21 ... 100%, 100%, 100%
A couple of days ago I got a surprising letter. It was a very lawyerly, bureaucratic (the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act) email, as if it had been written by some kind of inspector, but it came from a gmail account. When I asked, the writer explained she was an industry professional, that her husband was interested in WeatherWool, and that she'd written because we seemed to be trying to pass off synthetic garments as woolens. I was startled by this because I always thought the website makes clear our Fabric is pure wool. But I was also surprised that the "Our Fabric" link on the main menu leads to a page that didn't actually state our Fabric is 100% wool. Also unstated on that page was that our wool is always 100% virgin. (The first garments made from recycled/waste wool were known as "shoddy", and it became quite an industry about two hundred years ago. Shoddy garments were and still are cheaper and inferior, and the word is now generally used as a synonym of "inferior".) So I've added yet another 100% wool, 100% virgin, 100% American set of statements to the website.
This situation reminded me of a time when someone was grilling me about what our use of "American" meant. He was very suspicious that we were counting materials or labor from anywhere in North, South or Central America as American.
But the 100% info does belong on the Our Fabric (the WeatherWool Difference) page, particularly because it is linked from the Main Menu, which is available from every page on our website. So definitely THANKS to our suspicious correspondent for that!
2021-04-20 ... Selvedge and Remnants
We have some Selvedge (from the Weaving Mill) and some Tailoring Remnants available. We don't have any particular uses for the Mill Selvedge. The tailoring remnants we use for the Fabric Sample Booklets. The selvedge and remnants are made from the same production fiber and yarn as our garments.
The Mill Selvedge (above) in this case is Drab Color. When the Mill finishes weaving a bolt of our Fabric, they trim about 1 inch (around 2 centimeters) from each side. The trim comes to us as two long strips, each the length of the entire bolt of Fabric, about 55 yards (50 meters or so). We know the mill selvedge can be used for ghillie suits.
The Tailor Remnants are various sizes left over from cutting the Fabric into garments. The remnants we have now are FullWeight Drab and FullWeight Lynx Pattern.
If you are interested in getting some Selvedge or Remnants, please give us a call.
2021-04-19 ... New YouTube Video
Denali today posted another video on our YouTube Channel. In this clip, I talk with Mike Dean, the first WeatherWool Advisor, about our first conversation, and Mike describes how he tested his All-Around Jacket before purchasing it. This video was recorded in May of 2019, but it took us a long time to work through it. THANKS MIKE and DENALI!!!
2021-04-18 ... Nice little story
We just heard from a guy who is frequently in our area, and wants to stop by. The interesting/funny part is that he requested Fabric Samples a month or so ago, and he thought we did not send them. But he'd just found the Sample Pack somewhere outside his house, where it had been sitting in snow and rain and weather ever since the Post Office (almost) delivered it. He said the packaging and paperwork had gotten pretty nasty, but the wool was totally unaffected, and that was interesting.
2021-04-17 ... All-Around Jacket, Anoraks ahead of schedule
Advisor JR Morrissey, who has long advised us on production and is managing the team of tailors currently producing our Anoraks and All-Around Jackets, tells me the crew is running ahead of schedule!
2021-04-16 ... Made in USA
American Made Matters, "A MOVEMENT TO STRENGTHEN THE AMERICAN DREAM", had a startling post on Instagram yesterday, based on data from David Trumbull (we have met David) of Agathon Associates and the Fibershed Foundation. It's amazing to read that in 1965, 95% of clothing worn by Americans was made in USA. I saw some of this myself. As a teenager in the early 1970s, I was lucky to work frequently as a longshoreman, handling truckloads of shirts coming Georgia and the Carolinas and headed for retailers in the New York City area. By 2012, only 2.5% of American clothing was made in USA. Now, the number is maybe 3%. We have a small pamphlet published by Botany Mills in 1948. Botany operated from Passaic New Jersey, only short drive from WeatherWool's headquarters. Botany's pamphlet, in reference to their woolens: "We make fabrics which are necessary to the health, the comfort and the appearance of 90 per cent of the people of the country throughout the year." It's astounding Botany could make such a claim, even if it was an exaggeration (and I'm not saying it was!). I think US clothing manufacture is on the upswing, but must compete in the marketplace on quality and service.
2021-04-15 ... Spring means Fall
The coming of Spring here in the US Mainland means Fall is coming in the Southern Hemisphere. It is really gratifying to have a flow of orders from Australia, the Merino Wool Capital of the World!
2021-04-14 ... Server Crash
The company that hosts our website, Shopify, is having some problems today. WeatherWool.com has been up and down for a few hours. It's not us. Shopify is a pretty giant host ... over a million online stores use the Shopify platform. Just another of a zillion examples of really astounding technology that mostly gets taken for granted until there is a glitch.
2021-04-13 ... Garment Size
Our garment size charts present the measures of the garment, rather than the measure of the person. There are several reasons for this, and it just dawned on me that I'd may as well create an explanatory page that the size-chart pages can link to ... The Anorak Size page is the only one that has the link at this point.
Just watched a short YouTube video from Carhartt, posted in 2012. The video tells a good bit about Carhartt, and why they want to keep making garments in the USA. It also tells that between 1997 and 2012, over 600 American textile factories closed, and that <2% of clothing worn by Americans is Made in America. I don't know what's happened since 2012. Something to research.
2021-04-12 ...Design Meeting in NYC Garment District
Advisor/Designer JR Morrissey had a brilliant idea - pattern the new ShirtJac, which is really more of a Jacket than a Shirt, off of the body of the Anorak, so it will have the fit of the Anorak with the design of a shirt, without the pullover design. We will keep the cuff adjustments of the Anorak, but the ShirtJac will have Slot Buttons down the center front, generous zippered slash pockets and, of course, button-down chest pockets. Buttons at back of a more generous collar, similar to the collar of the All-Around Jacket, will enable attachment of optional Double-Hood.
Also, here is a drawing of the ShirtJac from JR:
2021-04-09 ... New phone number 831-July 4th-1776 (831-704-1776)
A week ago (please see Blog entry for 2021-04-03) Denali secured a better phone number for us. It's been working fine, so I just updated the phone number on the website Main Menu. YAY! Our previous number, 973-761-1776, will also always reach us, but I like the July 4th, 1776 number better!
2021-04-08 ... Garment Production Teams
Although the performance of our Fabric relies to a large extent on the 3-dimensional structure created by the Jacquard Loom, the art and science of "tailoring" requires turning essentially flat fabrics into very very very 3-dimensional garments. Here are some of the teams (mostly separate companies) that, under the overall supervision of Factory8, turn our Fabric in WeatherWool garments (thanks to Anya Ferring of Factory8 for this info):
- Pattern Makers ... Draft flat patterns for the garments following design and fit measurement instructions of designer
- Graders ... Take the finished, approved pattern and apply grade rules to the base pattern to create all the requested sizes. Grading used to be done by hand with lots of room for variability, but now everything is streamlined via computer
- Markers ... Lay out all the pattern pieces from every size onto a giant piece of paper that has the same length and width measurements of the fabric being cut. In the case of WeatherWool Fabric the dimensions are about 50 inches by 55 yards. Marking ensures the best yield (best return on Fabric), and that no Fabric is unnecessarily wasted due to layout. Until relatively recently, marking was done by hand. But now marking is optimized much more quickly by software that test through huge numbers of possible layouts extremely quickly
- Cutters ... Inspect the Fabric and then cut out the sizes in the fabric from the marker
- Tailors / Sewing Professionals ... Sew up the cutwork following quality and construction details determined by designer
- Pressers ... Work with the Sewing Professionals to press out seams during sewing construction as needed. Pressers also press and clean finished garments before packing
- Quality/Final Inspection ... Each of our garments is inspected at dozens of different points ... seams, zippers, bar tacks, buttons and ribbons, cords, cord locks, symmetry, sizing, tags ...
There is a great deal of expertise and precision at every step of the way ... over and over and over ...
2021-04-07 ... Connections
Yesterday we got a great note from customer Raquel Zink:
Thank you guys So Much for getting my size exchanged so promptly. I really appreciate your customer service!
I wanted to tell you that I was wearing my new Anorak on a video call with my lawyer, Jersey Green. He and I both hunt and he was asking me about it, noting that the pattern would be perfect for coyote hunting here in CO. As I was singing your praises, waxing poetic about the quality of construction and wool used, etc, he said he thought his friend Ralph owned the company. We figured out that was the case and Jersey said to tell you hello!
My new Anorak is perfect and fits wonderfully. Thank you guys so much for exchanging it for me. I was so pleased when Jersey noticed it as a quality outdoor garment.
Of course we love that Raquel is happy with her garment. And we had no idea our old friend Jersey is her attorney. It's special to us when our garments are recognized or when WeatherWool turns out to be a connection. Something we also really like is that Raquel wore her Lynx Pattern Anorak for a (presumably) indoors meeting. Versatility is a huge goal for us. BIG THANKS to Raquel and Jersey for this post!
2021-04-06 ... USAF SERE Donation
A customer who is a Veteran of the US Air Force donated anonymously two WarriorWool Anoraks, directing the wool to fellow Airmen. Brady Nicholls is an Air Force SERE Instructor with a great deal of experience in WeatherWool, and Brady liaised with Michael Wolfel, who has just relocated to Eielson AFB in Alaska, where WeatherWool has previously undergone a lot of testing at "the Cool School". Wolfel and another SERE Instructor at Eielson received their Anoraks a week or so ago, and extend BIG TIME THANKS to the donor. (I did flag this Blog post to him.) Michael is also a pretty great photographer who is active on Instagram. Military people often need to keep a very low profile, but Michael helps Air Force Special Warfare recruiting efforts with his photography, and has an established online presence. THANKS for the photos Michael! We hope you and your fellow SERE Instructor wear the Anorak in great health for many years!
2021-04-05 ... WeatherWool Buttons ... Moisture Content of Wool
Advisor Chris Christian is a very heavy-duty tinkerer and DIY-er. When Chris heard we are hoping to embed some Lynx Pattern Fabric into resin and make Slot Buttons, he was intrigued. And given that he works with resin a lot, he whipped up a couple of buttons. We expect actual production of the buttons will be overseen by Advisor Chuck Carson.
We recently picked up a large box of loom-selvedge from MTL. The selvedge is trimmed from the edge of the bolt of Fabric after the weaving is done. The selvedge is made with our yarn, and we are looking for things to do with it. The selvedge came in a large box and it took me a little bit to transfer the selvedge into a few smaller bags of maybe 20 pounds each. We use clear plastic garbage bags for things like this ... seeing what is inside the bag is very convenient. When I filled a bag, I set it aside in the sun and began filling the next. After the bags had been in the sun for only a few -- maybe 10 minutes the most -- I noticed the inside of the bags was wet with condensation. Running my hand inside the bag resulted in visibly wet skin. This was a shock. The selvedge had felt absolutely bone dry or I would not have put it into bags in the first place. And actually, MTL wouldn't have been working with it if it hadn't been dry. And yet, the Drab selvedge picked up enough heat from a few minutes in the sun that it began to release trapped moisture. The water vapor released by the wool quickly condensed on the inside of the bag because the air was cool even though the sun was strong. This was a tremendous and totally unexpected demonstration of the behavior of wool with regards to moisture and heat!
2021-04-03 ... 831-July 4th-1776
When we were getting a phone line for WeatherWool, New Jersey Bell told us we could pick our number from what was available in 973-761-xxxx. Debby immediately asked for -1776, and that has been our office number ever since. (Non-American readers might not know July the 4th, 1776 is the date of American Independence.) Ever since, I've had it in my head to get xxx-704-1776, and have tried to do so. When I was doing financial work, New York City phone numbers were at a premium, and the company paid a bunch of money to get 212-xxx-5000. So I was thinking it would be a big deal to get xxx-704-1776, and I had wasted some time years ago in the attempt. Yesterday I mentioned this to Denali, and within 5 minutes she paid about $20 to NumberBarn.com and, it seems, secured 831-704-1776 as our new phone number. We'll have to test it for a while, and we'll keep 973-761-1776 regardless. But it looks like our phone number will become 831-July 4th-1776. I guess this is childish, but I don't care. I'm really happy about it. GREAT WORK DENALI!! ... Also, Big Hat Tip to Jesse from Wyoming ... He asked me yesterday whether the 1776 was coincidence, and he agreed getting the 704 exchange would be great. I would not have had it on my mind when I spoke with Denali if Jesse hadn't questioned me.
2021-04-02 ... Batch 6
Today we decided Batch 6 will be 2/3 MidWeight Lynx Pattern and 1/3 MidWeight Solid Drab Color. Making only one weight of Fabric will simplify operations for American Woolen and Material Technology and Logistics because the MidWeight and FullWeight Yarns are spun differently, and the Fabrics are woven differently. (Please note many more Batch 5 garments are in the works now.)
2021-04-01 ... Offer from Advisor Tom Brown III (T3)
WeatherWool Advisor T3 has been a great friend to us, and since childhood has been as deeply involved in Nature Studies and Instruction as anyone could possibly be. Tom and about 15 of his associates are offering a series of professionally produced online Masterclasses (fishing, foraging, survival ...) that are available through tomorrow (April 2nd) at a steep discount via this link:
Thanks for the tip, Tom!!
2021-03-31 ... Fabric Finishing
We are thrilled that our Fabric production chain is rolling along again, after three years. And we are now getting much more of a sense of the knowledge and experience of the team at American Woolen, headed by production manager Giuseppe Monteleone (see yesterday's entry). For many years, Giuseppe had been running the same plant for Loro Piana, the world-renowned Italian maker of luxury textiles. Giuseppe presented some ideas for different finishing processes that we will eventually test, after things settle and we get caught up with our production. As usual, whenever I spend time with the professionals who help us with our production, I learn a bunch but come away feeling more ignorant than before. At least it's good to be aware ... Giuseppe's team will enhance WeatherWool Hardcore Luxury®. By the way ... a sharp-eyed Instagram follower spotted the Italian-language stickers on the sponging train equipment in yesterday's Instagram post.
2021-03-30 ... Sponging our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric
Last night, Giuseppe Monteleone, who has been running the plant at American Woolen since 1988, sent us a 90-second video (available now on our YouTube Channel) showing our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric on the Sponging Line at American Woolen. Sponging is one of the "finishing processes". After our Fabric is woven, it must still undergo the finishing processes that make it ready for the tailors. Sponging uses steam and heat to remove tensions from within the Fabric. Weaving fabrics creates tensions that will cause changes in length or width when the tailors cut and sew. Sponging removes these tensions. Our Fabric is sponged twice so that it is completely relaxed. THANKS TO THE AMERICAN WOOLEN TEAM!!
2021-03-29 ... WeatherWool Custom Slot Buttons?!!!
Our newest Advisors, Chris Christian and Graham Carson, are both very design- and materials-oriented. Graham is a Senior Lecturer at RIT and Chris is demonstrably comfortable working in a wide variety of areas. Graham and Chris are both working with us (they are, separately, actually doing all the work!) to develop Slot Buttons for our Peacoat and North Maine Double Coat. Chris just sent me this photo of a single thickness of our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric in epoxy. Chris evidently has quite a workshop at his house. THANKS CHRIS!! That is crazy and beautiful!!
2021-03-28 ... CPO Shirt
Because our Shirt is modeled on the Military CPO Shirt, we decided it made sense to call it CPO Shirt. This will also help to distinguish the CPO Shirt from the ShirtJac. And while we're at it, maybe change the ShirtJac to JacShirt ... ?
2021-03-27 ... WarriorWool™
Last night I added the ™ (trademark) symbol to the WarriorWool™ pages. I've been reluctant to do this, despite advice of Polson Law, our IP Attorneys, due to concerns it creates an appearance of commercialization of WarriorWool. But it would drive me completely nuts if some other company started using the term, so I've decided to protect it, a least a little bit. I might even go the extra distance and seek registration of the mark with the US Patent and Trademark Office. This step does not change the WarriorWool Program in the least. In a similar vein, I may seek international registration of the WeatherWool® trademark, which presently has legal force only in the USA. But about 10% of our customers are outside the USA, mostly Canada.
2021-03-25 ... Visit to MTL
This is Mike Hillebrand, the founder and owner of Material Technology and Logistics, the only company that has woven our Fabric. Mike has been a huge help to us! He is wearing an All-Around Jacket in Lynx Pattern.
2021-03-24 ... "Doll" and Denali Munchkin
Today I had a little bit of a funny phone call with a customer who noticed that his email to Debby displayed as "Doll" and he wanted to make sure we understood he hadn't deliberately done that. The backstory is that long before WeatherWool, I had saved Debby's phone number as DOLL in my phone. Eventually, I started using my phone for emails, and somehow Debby@WeatherWool.com started displaying as DOLL all over the place.
Debby and my daughter's given name is Laura. But I wanted to name her Denali, for the tallest mountain in the USA, and because I think Denali works really well with DiMeo. But Debby doesn't like the DD initials (her own), so ... But when Laura began to work with WeatherWool, I finally got my (somewhat limited) way. As for "Munchkin", Denali was very tiny for her age in her early years, and I called her Munchkin. She is actually on the tall side now, but Munchkin has been in my phone for 20 years. And now I see incoming business mails displaying "Denali Munchkin".
Proves we're a family company, I guess!
2021-03-23 ... Website Maintenance
A kind and detail-oriented visitor to our website flagged a stale link. We try to keep the website current, and tight, but it's gotten to be a pretty big site and not as well-maintained as I wish. We really appreciate when people point out any way we might improve!!
2021-03-22 ... US Secret Service and "Pay-Behind Line"
Today a gent who has previously donated to WarriorWool donated another Anorak, directing this one to the United States Secret Service, Presidential Protection Unit. A couple of years ago, we also had an All-Around Jacket on an Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit that was dedicated to protecting the president. As previously, today's donor chose to remain completely anonymous. But while we spoke, he told me a nice tale. He was on line at the Chick-fil-A drive in when he noticed the driver of the car behind him was a co-worker. So he picked up the bill for his colleague ... who then picked up the tab for the stranger behind him ... and the Pay-Behind lasted about 25 minutes.
2021-03-21 ... FullWeight Lynx Pattern Anoraks and Ancient Woolens
I forgot to mention yesterday that I just picked up another run of Anoraks in FullWeight Lynx Pattern, and we're working this weekend to fulfill backorders.
Also ... added a great item to the Related Information page, courtesy of Advisor Will Cooke. THANKS WILL! ... "I thought the below video might amuse you. It's about 1700 year old finely crafted wool tunic found in Norway. They estimate the cost of having it made today by the traditional methods in use at the time would be about 44000usd. If ever anyone complains your wool is too expensive you can point them to this. ..... https://youtu.be/15IxF53AZfE " ... This video is some really interesting history of woolens. But it also provides great "count your blessings" perspective, in that it illustrates how expensive clothing has been historically, and how until quite recently, clothing was normally extremely expensive (in terms of time and/or money). Anyone in a position to read these words lives in an amazing age of plenty!
2021-03-20 ... Anonymous
We receive a lot of really gratifying comments from our customers. It's a huge kick to us, and we really appreciate that people take the time and make the effort. Mostly, we don't post these comments, although we have posted quite a few of them on the website or social media. I very seldom use a comment without full-name attribution, and of course only with permission ... which is rarely withheld. But when it comes to WarriorWool donations, usually people don't want their name published. And often, people don't even want the recipient to know who they are. But some of the donors look forward to hearing from the recipients, even if they remain anonymous. Often a donor is a veteran directing an Anorak to the branch of service where he/she served, and wants to hear some news.
2021-03-19 ... 9 Years Plus on the Blog ... Last day of Winter
Winter is ending here in Northern New Jersey with sunny skies and lots of wind. Plenty of the early plants are growing, and lots of migratory birds are back. Glorious days of Spring coming!
I'm kind of amazed to see more than 9 years of this Blog here on the website. Looking over some of the earliest entries, it's a little funny and a little distressing that I don't remember better!
2021-03-17 ... Fabric Going into Finishing
For quite a while, we have had significant amount of Batch 5 Fabric in a sort of virus-limbo, but that is coming to an end. American Woolen is re-opening and they will soon complete the "finishing processes" that will turn our loom-state (greige) Fabric into Finished Fabric, ready for the tailors. We'll have enough to make about 580 garments. We will definitely make All-Around Jackets and Anoraks.
2021-03-16 ... Tough Times in New Mexico
My Grandfather used to joke that Farmers have no need for gambling at poker or dice because if you're a Farmer you're always gambling on the weather. In New Jersey, tho, where my family farmed, we really don't have to worry about water. Granpa mostly had early or late frost in mind. But it's a very different story for our Ranchers in New Mexico. In the best of times, New Mexico sheep range doesn't grow much feed. But most of the last decade has been disastrous. Ranchers have had to reduce the size of their flocks, and even that has not been enough. Supplemental (purchased) feed has been necessary. And additional sources of water have had to be created because if natural feed is too far from water, sheep may not be willing to travel to it, or may be overly stressed when they do. And the drought is added to the usual problem of heavy predation of sheep by cougars, coyotes, bobcats, wolves, bears, eagles and sometimes even crows. It's an extremely difficult situation for some really fine people, and a multi-generational and much-beloved way of life is threatened.
2021-03-15 ... Nice to be Shipping Product
We got a good bunch of Anoraks on Saturday, and got them all shipped out. It feels great to be filling orders. But also, I realized this photo is kind of interesting because we have the packages separated by carrier.
We use different carriers and different packaging depending on the circumstances.
We have always offered free shipping to USA and Canada and split shipping costs to other countries. Which carrier we choose, and which packaging we choose, depends on the situation. We don't really like to use plastic bags, but the fact is they protect the garments better than the boxes, and they are in some cases far less expensive to ship. In this photo, the big group of boxes and two plastic bags are going to UPS. The stack of three plastic bags next to my foot are DHL, and the other stack is USPS. Here is an example of how we decide on shipping ... The package on the bottom of the DHL stack is going to Sweden. The package was picked up around noon and had already left the USA within a few hours. DHL will complete delivery within 72 hours. The shipping cost was $80. Our website charged the customer $30, and a basic service was around $65 ... so we would have paid the "bigger half" of shipping anyway. But we decided to pay up for DHL because of their speed and service. DHL will get the package through customs twice -- leaving USA and then entering Sweden. DHL will notify the customer of the import duty, VAT and whatever other government fees there might be. Customer can pay online, which can be a giant convenience, and then deliver to home or business. And $80 is a lot of money. But DHL is taking the package across the Atlantic Ocean, through two customs inspections, handling government fees, and providing door-to-door pickup and delivery in 3 days. WOW!! ... Maybe I should add a Shipping Methods page to the website ...
2021-03-14 ... WeatherWool Advisors working for Discovery Channel
Bill McConnell and Naked and Afraid
Discovery's long-running Naked and Afraid Series will air tonight an episode set in Montana. In August of 2020, Debby and I spent a couple of days with Advisor Bill McConnell, who was actually the first person to wear WeatherWool on TV. Bill is a lifelong practitioner of Primitive Skills, and has been teaching at a high level for decades. We knew Bill was on assignment for a media company while we were visiting him ... but at the time he could only tell us he was doing some consulting work with a film crew. However, we just learned from his Instagram account exactly what he was up to. I don't think Bill will be seen on tonight's episode, but he was involved off-camera, probably before filming began. WeatherWool Advisors Don Nguyen and Melissa Miller have been contestants on "NAA". We laugh about that sometimes because, of course, the contestants are absolutely NOT wearing WeatherWool! ... although some good wool would have made their very difficult situation a lot less uncomfortable.
Dane Lawing and Shark Week
Discovery Channel has done a great job popularizing Shark Week, which I think is scheduled to begin August 9th this year. WeatherWool Advisor Dane Lawing specializes in underwater cinematography, and is well-known among those who film professionally underwater. Dane is presently filming for Shark Week in the waters of Islamorada, Florida Keys ... one of the world's great places!! I don't know what Dane is wearing, topside or underwater, but WeatherWool is actually worn by at least one commercial diver under his dry suit. This surprised me. I never expected our wool to serve underwater. Our wool is also worn by several other pro divers, one of them working with perhaps the world's most famous SCUBA team. But as far as I know these folks pull on the wool right after coming out of their wetsuits because the soft wool is warm and comfortable on wet skin.
2021-03-13 ... Garment District Run this morning
I will be making a quick run into the Garment District in NYC at about 6:45. Picking up 31 Anoraks at JR Morrissey's The Factory8. All of them should be shipped out by Monday. A few may move via US Postal Service today. ... DONE!! ... Looks like Saturday mornings are the way to go when we need to make pickups. There is usually no traffic first thing Saturday morning, very little commercial activity and there was plenty of space to pull right up curbside and park. And the drive took only about 25 minutes each way. But JR had to rearrange his Saturday plans ... THANKS JR!
Also, following up on the Blog from 2021-03-05, Zabz and Debby kept experimenting with the "slime" recipes, and today they nailed it!
2021-03-10 ... Binding Tape Tale (continued from yesterday)
Advisor JR Morrissey gave the combination fabric a try, and was not satisfied. So then they tried the 3/4-inch binding tape, and JR didn't like that either ... He said it "ropes". (I don't know what that means, but it's bad.) Now, here is the good part. JR's facilities are in the heart of the New York City Garment District. In normal times (which are returning!!), the streets are flush with runners pushing and pulling racks of dresses, dollies of fabric, models and designers with portfolios, block after block lined with bustling shops selling or making garment-related items. It's a great place for anyone who likes the rag trade or even just the vitality of NYC. So ... as JR told us ... he simply hit the street with the 1/2-inch tape and sought out someone who could offer a solution. After hearing a lot of opinions, JR eventually talked to a guy who had an idea about another guy who had a machine that might be able turn 3/4-inch tape into 1/2-inch tape. And it worked! Great going JR ... hats off to the community of the Garment District. ... ALSO ... a fine example of how seeking the help of the community really works!
Always pushing for more, Debby immediately asked if 1-inch tape can be cut into two 1/2-inch strips. It can be. YAY!!
Also ... it's a little bit funny to think about ... Various people have been mildly aggravated with me because I won't use even the smallest component if it's not made in USA. They might say something like "After all, it's just a little blah-blah" ... and now the sitch is flipped ... "Can 1/4-inch be all that big a deal?". YES ... on both counts.
2021-03-09 ... Binding Tape Blues
This little episode gives a sense of the difficulties involved in making a 100% American product ... "Binding tape", sort of a nylon ribbon, is sewn over some seams in order to strengthen the seams and create a clean finish for the interior of our garments. We use 3/8-inch (almost 1cm) binding tape in most places, but where the Hood of the Anorak is sewn to the body of the garment, we switched to 1/2-inch binding tape because the 3/8 isn't wide enough for the tailors to work comfortably. We have some 1/2-inch on hand now, but need to buy more. So Debby contacted our usual sources, and found they didn't have any 1/2-inch. And after many phone calls, it seems nobody has US-made 1/2-inch binding tape. Near as we can tell, US manufacture of this tape has ceased. Greater and lesser widths are still made in USA, but we aren't really satisfied with those. And so we will try to make 1/2-inch tape from the wool/nylon combination fabric we use for some of our pockets. This is uncharted territory, and if it doesn't work we'll probably use 3/4-inch tape. But we are very keen to minimize use of anything except our Fabric, and really do not want that extra 1/4-inch width on the bindings. If we are forced to use the 3/4-inch, I bet nobody except our most garment-design-minded customers will notice.
2021-03-07 ... Peacoat Update
With more Fabric expected to arrive in late March, we are getting more serious about the Peacoat design, and Debby has led us to make a more historically accurate Peacoat. Current Peacoat designs normally only button on one side. But the double-breasted design of the old Peacoats enabled them to button right-over-left or vice versa. And we'll stick with the traditional.
2021-03-06 ... Mike Dean Interview Posted on YouTube
Denali just posted on our YouTube Channel the first of a series of videos we made with Mike Dean, the first WeatherWool Advisor. Mike is a real character with huge outdoor experience and knowledge and I knew as soon as I started to speak with him that he is the real article. We created the Advisor Program because I felt a lot of people could benefit and enjoy hearing from Mike. And he's fine with people contacting him directly, although he can be difficult to get hold of.
2021-03-05 ... Pickups
Today we made a quick trip into NYC to visit the tailors and pick up some Double Hoods, Neck Gaiters and Watch Caps.
One other thing came up, off-topic maybe, but Debby and our granddaughter Zabz (Isabelle) have been testing different formulas for "slime" ... sort of a homemade Silly Putty. None of the attempts have worked out yet, and when Zabz wanted to try it again today, Debby had some other things she needed to do, Zabz needed to practice her writing, and so Debby said "I think we should give up on the slime for a while." Zabz replied very firmly and very sternly "The DiMeo family does not give up." Zabz will have her 5th Birthday later this month, and she exhibits some serious determination!
2021-03-04 ... Interesting Day
- A gent who is on a television show seen by millions called to say he really likes the All-Around Jacket we just sent him. He'll be wearing it for episodes that will air this coming summer. He got in touch with us a week or so ago because he'd seen and heard good things.
- Someone who has already two Anoraks called to find out when he might expect his third Anorak. I couldn't promise that he'd get one anytime soon because he ordered only lately and there are so many people in front of him. So he ordered an All-Around Jacket because we have a few still on hand from the current production run.
- Spoke at length to a infantryman in the United States Marine Corps who was also checking on his Anorak order. Given that this is a WarriorWool order, meaning that he will wear it for Active Duty, his order will be filled with high priority. The only higher priority than WarriorWool are the people who have already paid for their wool. And there are not many of those. This infantryman also told me he'd been testing his Neck Gaiter and Watch Cap very hard, and was really happy with the results. And he said our Duff color is closer to the true Military coyote-color (known as 499 in the rag trade) than the Military issue neck gaiter.
- We had a couple of long talks with customers who've lately received All-Around Jackets, and wanted to let us know how much they like them. And one of them ordered an Anorak.
- Most amazingly, we were somewhat thrilled to receive an order from a war-fighting governmental agency that I'd never heard of before. They are planning to outfit a smallish team of Operators with pure wool. But first, over the next couple of months, they will test WeatherWool and several other brands of woolens, and see what they like best. Luckily, we have some things available to send them!
2021-03-03 ... Anorak Review and American Woolen Re-opening
Jacob Long, owner of American Woolen Company, phoned me today and explained they are ready to go as soon as their workplace insurance is in force on March 15th. Then it will be full speed ahead and we'll be quickly finishing Batch 5 Fabric and getting busy with Batch 6 and Batch 7.
Also, we received some wonderful words of encouragement (used with permission, of course, and also posted in slightly modified form on the Civilian Anorak Reviews Page) from Ivan Hageman, of New York City:
2021-03-02 ... Inside Stitching
Today I added an Inside Stitching page, which is sort of an homage to our tailors. It also is a nice example of how things work around here when I ask Denali for a quick photo ...
2021-03-01 ... Thanks to Jen Bonney for a cool photo!
Snowflake on WeatherWool Fabric.
2021-02-27 ... Lucky Truck
We've been packing up the new All-Around Jackets (see previous item) for shipping, and we had a hefty stack of them needing to go out. Rather than wait for our UPS guy, Troy, to make his regular stop here on Monday, we planned to bring them to the local UPS store. But I noticed a UPS truck delivering to the neighbors, which was unexpected for a Saturday. We flagged down the driver and he was happy to take a healthy stack of boxes off our hands. Saved us multiple trips to the UPS store. It seems that UPS guys are always energetic and cheerful. Got to admire that!
2021-02-26 ... All-Around Jackets
Today we zipped into NYC to pick up the balance of the Lynx Pattern All-Around Jackets that The Factory8 has been working on. We'll get to Drab and Duff AAJs in March, I am pretty sure. This has been so long delayed ... very frustrating for everyone.
On the plus side, we sent our some size Large AAJs over the last 10 days or so and have gotten some great feedback. Really great feedback. One gent called last night and said that despite his OCD, he could find nothing wrong with his new All-Around Jacket ... and that he'd be buying more WeatherWool.
2021-02-25 ... Wool takes to the seas with Prada
Woolmark is the marketing and education arm of the Australian Wool Industry, and they put out some great material. Anyone interested in wool should probably get on their mail list and visit the website. Today's mail from Woolmark has a story about the sailing team sponsored by Prada and Pirelli that is wearing uniforms partly made of wool in their efforts to challenge for the America's Cup. AND ... anyone who thinks WeatherWool is expensive should visit Prada's website!
2021-02-24 ... Redwing Blackbirds, Cowbirds and Grackles Today
The season's first Redwing Blackbirds (males), Cowbirds and Grackles showed up at the house here in North Jersey. To me, the Redwing males are the first migrants that tell Spring is really coming on! But none of these birds have visited our bird feeder since last year. They are a very welcome sight!!
This year it seems like there was a very bright line between winter and spring. On Monday (two days ago) we had a brief but serious snow storm ... got a few inches (8-10 cm) in the morning, and I was surprised that the forecast called for the snow to turn to rain, the temperature to jump above freezing, and sunshine in the afternoon ... and then for the next two weeks, daily highs in the 40s and 50s (around 6 to 11C). But it looks like the weatherfolk nailed it. Winter weather seems to have ended about noon on Monday. Never seen such a sharp break from Winter to Spring. Today's high will be 60F (16C) in the sunny spots.
Walking some packages to the Post Office on what will probably be the last really wintry day of the Season (2 days ago). The Blaze Orange addition to my Big Brim Boonie is a strip of our MidWeight (previously) Undyed Fabric that Debby dyed. She sewed it onto the Hat with a few quick stitches and this satisfies New Jersey's Blaze/Safety Orange requirements for firearms seasons.
2021-02-23 ... Fabric ... Light Test ... Vendors are Partners
Fabric: Over the weekend we learned we'll be getting some extra Fabric. MTL, our weavers, had run out of undyed yarn (because Debby rejected some other yarn ... different story!) while weaving Batch 5 FullWeight Lynx Fabric. So we took the smallest bale of Batch 7 clean fiber and sent it from Chargeurs to Crescent Spinning Mills in Wisconsin, where Denali visited today. Crescent spun about 520 pounds (236 kg) of yarn, which they sent to MTL. And MTL was able to weave another 450 yards (411 meters) of FullWeight Lynx Fabric, about 150 yards (137 meters) more than we expected ... and I was happy just to be getting the Fabric at all. This Fabric will still need to be finished at American Woolen Company beginning March 8th and soon thereafter to the tailors.
Light Test: Sometimes people hold our Fabric up to a light source and estimate the warmth or wind-resistance by how much light comes thru. Thinking about this over the weekend, and making some observations, I've concluded that the color of the materials being compared is really important, and that lighter colors transmit more brightness than darker colors. I started working on a Light Test page that describes my thoughts.
Vendors are Partners: A while back I put up a Vendor Relations page. I'm changing that to Partner Relations. Everyone we work with, whether we buy goods or services from them, are truly our Partners. So I changed the page to Partner Relations.
2021-02-22 ... American Woolen Re-Opening
American Woolen Company, who does critical work for us, is re-opening on March 1st, and we will have about 1500 running yards (1370 meters) of loom-state Fabric delivered to them on March 8. They should complete work on that Fabric in about a week, and we'll soon have the tailors busy. The bolts of Fabric will be about 53 inches (135 cm) wide, so, in this case, a running yard is almost 1.5 square yards. And 1500 running yards is enough Fabric to make almost 500 garments.
2021-02-20 ... Watch Caps, Gaiters and Snow Cones
Today we were in NYC to pick up some more Neck Gaiters and Watch Caps ... MANY THANKS to The Factory8 and Tailored Industry for putting up with our many tweaks over the development of these pieces. It was REALLY NICE to see Manhattan as busy as it was today. Seems to be slowly getting back to normal. One day this past summer, midtown was so deserted it was kind of like a horror movie.
And I hope you won't mind ... yesterday we had some (more!) fresh snow and Debby got the idea to make Snow Cones with Zabz (Isabelle)... which delighted her. She made Snow Cones for all of us ... real snow, our own maple syrup and vegetable coloring. And actually it delighted the rest of us, too!
2021-02-15 ... Added Secret Service to WarriorWool Program
Today we are proud to add the United States Secret Service Presidential Protection Division to the list of donation recipients of our WarriorWool Program.
A customer who already has two Neck Gaiters ordered four more. We know some people have been buying Neck Gaiters as gifts. It's great to get such strong affirmation!
2021-02-13 ... Finally ... some wovens!
Yesterday we were in NYC to pick up the first batch of woven product -- All-Around Jackets -- we have made in a long time. We have made some knits, but knits are really just a sideline for us. The woven items, such as AAJs, are our lifeblood. Advisor JR Morrissey and his team did a really fantastic job of sewing these AAJs. The craftsmanship is the best yet! Size Large is pretty well already packaged and on its way to customers, although we have a few left. Size Extra Large coming in a few days. And Anoraks are underway ... Only Fabric available right now is FullWeight Lynx Pattern.
2021-02-11 ... Feedback on Samples
It took us quite a while to come up with the idea of offering Fabric Sample Packs for free. And over the last 6 months or so Denali has really made the Sample Pack look professional. The Samples have proven a very effective way of letting people get a sense of WeatherWool. And we sometimes get feedback. Thanks to Andrew Gorsuch for these notes, received today: "Just got my samples. Mouton is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. Really happy you’ve included actual scrap cuts of the full weight and mid weight. I really can’t express how impressed I am by theses samples. Today would be a perfect day for your anorak, can’t wait to have one." When Andrew gave permission to use his name, he added: "Yes use whatever I’ve said with my name or without as you’d like sir. I meant what I said. This looks like incredible material, I really can’t wait to get my hands on an anorak."
2021-02-10 ... Tremendous Names!
@HawkTracker making Fire at Storyteller Rock, Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina's Blue Ridge Range. All those names really knock me out, and as soon as I saw HawkTracker's post last month I asked permission to use it. BIG THANKS to Kevin Tincher, Holistic Health Practitioner, Wilderness Skills Instructor, Co-Owner Blue Star Hemp/Blue Star Health and Wellness!!
Honored to have @HawkTracker making fire in WeatherWool at Storyteller Rock on Grandfather Mountain in the Blue Ridge
2021-02-09 ... Production Status Page updated ... and Related Info Page
Yikes ... I was really surprised to find this morning that I had not updated the Production Status page for over two months. Sorry about that. Time flies!
As we come across interesting info, we add to the Related Information page. Today Alex flagged another short video describing how microfibers from synthetic clothing have penetrated our bodies (by the millions), the foods we eat and the global environment. Here is the relevant item:
- Synthetic clothing continually releases small amounts of plastic and other materials ... where do these pollutants go, and what effects are they having? This is not a concern with woolens. Click here for a Youtube video on the same subject. Here is another YouTube video -- 6 minutes -- describing the abundance and spread of microfibers released from the wear and cleaning of synthetic clothing. The video offers the claim that these microfibers are so abundant that filters designed to capture them were removed from washing machines because the filters clogged up so quickly. The video claims the microfibers are everywhere in Nature, and that millions of these microfibers have infiltrated the bodies of all of us ... and that we get more every day from the foods we eat. We love that our 100% Merino Fabric is fully biodegradable and does not contribute to this problem.
2021-02-07 ... "NICE JACKET!"
The woman checking receipts at the Costco exit noticed my Lynx Pattern Shirt and said "Nice Jacket!". This has actually happened a bunch of times over the years, and I hope responding "Thanks, my family made it." seems appropriate. She answered "I thought so. I've never seen that pattern before. I know it's not available in stores."
A few minutes before the Super Bowl kickoff, a WeatherWool call came in, and a guy ordered a jacket. While giving me his information, he said something like "As in Kansas City Chiefs". I remarked to him that I'd told Debby, before I picked up his call, "whoever is calling now isn't a football fan" ... He said he called when he did assuming he'd be leaving a message rather than actually speaking with me. We both laughed and we both missed the kickoff.
2021-02-06 ... Sewing Team
Our Tailors continue work on Batch 5, FullWeight Lynx Pattern Anoraks and All-Around Jackets. A few days ago Advisor JR Morrissey, who is getting these garments sewn, wrote me. "We have 5 tailors, a cutter and a manager working on WeatherWool. Plus me and the factory owner. Lots of eyes on it." The factory JR refers to is a sewing shop in the same NYC Garment District building where JR has his office, workshop and showroom.
2021-02-05 ... Carbonizing and ... Compliment?
Carbonizing ... A LOT of processing is required to turn raw wool into tailor-ready Fabric. And right now we are trying to find someone who can run for us a process called "carbonizing", which removes any tiny bits of vegetable matter that might remain in the wool after some of the other processing. We had a conference call yesterday with our Fabric Engineer, Advisor Rob Stuart, and our friends at Burlington Fabrics, who have helped us with yarn and advice. Carbonizing involves bathing the wool in a 5% sulfuric acid bath to dissolve the "VM", then washing to reduce acidity, then drying. Burlington can do all these things ... BUT ... their fabrics are normally wider than ours. And washing our 61-inch bolts will reduce their width, which is normal and desirable from the point of view of our specs. Burlington's machines, however, cannot handle bolts narrower than 61 inches. So the question then becomes what can be done? Burlington cannot stop their high-volume line to for an entire shift to adjust their equipment for us. And nobody even knows what would happen if we tried to package and ship wet, acidic wool to another team that would complete the finishing process. And we aren't willing to risk finding out. So we need to keep trying to find a way to "finish" the loom-state (greige-state) Drab and Duff Fabrics we have on hand now ... enough Fabric to make about 370 garments ... if we can get it tailor-ready.
Compliment, I think! ... WeatherWool does not advertise. We don't pay anyone to wear our wool, and we don't sponsor trips or gatherings of media people. But, after discussion, we do furnish garments to "influencers", people who have a relatively high profile, such as large social media followings or TV shows. I think it's a pretty big compliment that people who can't or don't work with us for various reasons have also declined to return our wool, and continue to wear it.
2021-01-30 ... Chicken ... Chalk ... YouTube ... Backpacks
Chicken: A frequent topic when I talk with customers is why WeatherWool is expensive compared to other outdoors-oriented clothing, woolen or otherwise. And I explain about how always choosing quality of product over cost of manufacture gets expensive. And I often mention that electronics and computing are about the only areas I can think of where prices are falling AND quality is rising. Sometimes I mention that chicken also seems to be getting cheaper and better. And when I said something like "I don't know how big-box-stores sell those $5 roast chickens, my caller reacted strongly. Turns out he was a chicken farmer, and said those $5 chickens are NOTHING LIKE what a chicken should be. Nowhere near. I should have known. And now I have to try some carefully raised chicken ... There must be other areas where prices are falling and quality is rising. I might have said stock-brokerage commissions, but not so sure in light of current news ...
Chalk? ... I'd never really thought about chalk. It's kind of scratchy and makes a nasty sound on the chalkboard. It's dusty and not pleasant to handle. Not necessarily! It turns out (well, DUH!) that "chalk is not chalk". A friend stopped by with a pack of Hagoromo Chalk. This chalk is not dusty, not coarse to handle and glides onto a blackboard. BUT ... It turns out the company ceased operations in 2015, and our friend PAID UP quite a bit to get some of remaining Hagoromo chalk. According to this article, the business was shrinking due to a switch to whiteboards, loss of sales to less costly, lower quality chalk, and the poor health of the owner. Hagoromo developed their own formulas for chalk and their own machines to make it. I hope someone picks up the torch. Anyone who writes a blackboard will appreciate the upgrade from typical chalk.
And so I added Hagoromo Chalk to our page that pictures WeatherWool With the Best of other types of products.
YouTube: We have a little YouTube Channel that I don't really devote any time to. There is just so much else to work on. But yesterday we received a wonderfully thoughtful and inspiring note from a customer who very very persuasively argued that WeatherWool should really make a run at video. And he said I ought to be in front of the camera. Gulp!
Mystery Ranch Packs: We posted here and elsewhere asking if anyone had experience with Mystery Ranch backpacks and in particular their zippers. On Mystery's website it says they developed some of the packs with the Navy SEALs. It turns out one of our customers was on the SEAL Team that had a couple of guys working with Mystery Ranch. He said he's put their packs through extreme torture in an awful lot of places and conditions, and they never failed ... unlike any other pack he had tried. And he said JUNGLE WAS THE WORST.
2021-01-27 ... Zippers and Mailroom Royalty
In response to our question about the zips on Mystery Ranch Packs, Bob Yotko sent us some photos of his pack, and gave us permission to quote him: "My Anorak is the best piece of gear I've ever owned." We added Bob's comments to our Anorak Reviews from Civilians page.
Also ... Our Fabric Samples Booklet Specialist went "business formal" today ...
Great comment from Bob Yotko, who 2021-01-26 ... Indonesia ...
Someone in Indonesia ordered an All-Around Jacket today. Indonesia seems to fly under the radar here in the USA. Indonesia is the 4th most populous country, with about 270 million people spread over 17,000 islands. I've never been there, but Denali loved her Bali vacation a few years ago. And by coincidence a great friend of WeatherWool (who has gotten us on television) called today, and this friend has spent time filming there for major media.
ALSO ... Anyone have experience with Mystery Ranch Packs? Specifically the zippers? That was actually why that friend called today. He thinks Mystery Ranch uses fantastic zippers, and suggested we check on their sourcing.
2021-01-25 ... WarriorWool adds US Air Force SERE Specialists
We are proud to add the United States Air Force SERE Specialists to the list of recipients of WarriorWool Program donations! Recently, a retired Air Force Veteran donated two Anoraks. And so we contacted a couple of people we know in the USAF who wear WeatherWool, and as a result the Air Force Veteran's donations will go to the Air Force SERE Specialists. I was just on the phone with the donor, who was pleased to hear his donations will be heading to the USAF soon. And he mentioned he wears WeatherWool every day. This morning he was out in temp of 12F/-11C and his WeatherWool Watch Cap and Neck Gaiter were "just ... ahhhhhh!!". THANK YOU SIR!!
2021-01-24 ... Camo-Camo is Not Camo
One of our Advisors has been sponsored to do some great stuff by a big hunting-camouflage clothing company, and he is appearing in media for the last year or so wearing their garments. When I asked him if he would have to avoid being seen in WeatherWool, he told me he'd discussed us with his sponsors and they said our Lynx Pattern is "not camo", so no problem. Debby has been referring to Lynx Pattern as "camo-camo" for quite a while, so we really got a kick out of hearing this.
2021-01-22 ... Nice wool video ... GREAT to hear from The Teams
We got a call this morning for a member of the US Navy SEAL Teams ... he is interested in a quote for something like 100 Anoraks and 100 pairs of Pants. Very exciting for us, but we'll see ...
A friend of WeatherWool who is a manager at the famous giant Burlington Fabrics sent us the link to this interesting 1-minute tour of the structure of a wool fiber via a sort of 3-dimensional video, made by the International Wool Textile Organization.
2021-01-21 ... Open House ... Not Until Fall?
Had to pretty well cancel all our Open House Days for the foreseeable future. Hope all of you are getting along OK in virus-world.
On a happier note, and even though I posted my granddaughter only 10 days ago, this cracked me up. Zabz (my new name for Isabelle) is still short of five years old, but VERY determined to help out however she can with WeatherWool. She really likes to help Denali put together Fabric Sample Packs, which is quite time-consuming. Yesterday, Denali needed to do other things, but Zabz kept going on her own. Debby was a little concerned Belle shouldn't be working on her own, and suggested making cookies or something instead. Zabz said GRANDMA, I'M WORKING!!
and 2021-01-18 ... Customer Correction ... THANK YOU!
This morning, a customer named Dominik pointed out a mistake on the website. There are a ton of ways the website could be improved, and I really appreciate when someone lets me know ... particularly when someone flags an error, which was the case this morning. THANKS DOMINIK!
2021-01-17 ... WarriorWool Anorak Feedback
This was REALLY nice. And I posted it on the page for Military Anorak Reviews ... Today I was very happy to receive a couple of photos and an Anorak review from the US Marine Corps Scout Snipers. But what was really different about today's review was that I was invited to use the words on the photos here on the website and social media!
Also today, we created a new product. Many customers have asked us to add Handwarmer Pockets to our ShirtJac. We decided to leave our ShirtJac unchanged, except to call it a Shirt instead. And the ShirtJac with the Handwarmer Pockets, will be more like a jacket than a shirt.
2021-01-16 ... Telephone OUT ... Service NOT "uninterrupted"
Our phone was disconnected for several hours on Friday afternoon/evening. Like a lot of people, we'd come to the conclusion there wasn't much reason to keep our original home-phone land-line. Given that everyone has a cell, almost all the phone calls coming to the house line were trash calls anyway. But we'd had that number since 1984, when we moved here, and it's become part of many memberships and passwords, etc. An actual part of our lives. I'd also kept it because WeatherWool's -1776 number was attached to that account. But robo-callers had turned it into a nuisance. So we had it disconnected yesterday after receiving assurances from a Verizon manager that -1776 would not be affected. OOPS. So WeatherWool had no telephone for several hours on Friday. Sorry for any inconvenience!
We enjoyed some Maple Tea yesterday. Each year around January 10th we tap our maple trees. Here in the New York City suburbs, some say sugaring is possible from mid-fall all the way through early spring, because freezing nights and warmer days happen here fall, winter and spring. But we've always waited until at least January ... and now I feel like we're counting down the winter, already looking at spring. And actually daffodils are already a few inches tall in protected, sunny spots. But anyway, we normally drink some maple tea as part of syrup making. It takes about 100 gallons of sap to make 2 gallons of syrup. But you can drink the sap at any point after collection. Some stores sell maple water ... Once the sap has been concentrated to a degree of sweetness you like, just add tea to a mug and enjoy a hot seasonal drink. And actually, I often omit the tea.
2021-01-15 ... Mountain Men on History Channel
Last night on The History Channel, a new episode of Mountain Men aired, and it was a kick to see Jake Herak, a houndsman from Montana, wearing our ShirtJac in Lynx Pattern. Debby and I visited Jake and Dr Anika Ward, his sweetheart, at Anika's family's home in August. They are just the sweetest, most interesting people, and we are of course delighted that Jake has chosen to wear WeatherWool. We also really like the way this came about ... In 2018, one of the behind-the-scenes, out-in-the-weather guys on Mountain Men bought an Anorak for himself. He didn't tell us he was a media guy ... just placed an order the same as anyone else. Then a colleagues saw the Anorak, tried it out, and bought one for himself. Then the "Mountain Men" ... the guys who appear on camera, got interested and ... So far, two of the Mountain Men (Josh Kirk of Lander, Wyoming is the other) have worn WeatherWool on TV. There will be other TV people also, but I don't want to write anything about it until it's introduced on television. The big kick tho, is that the pros chose us ... the guys who appear on screen, in particular, can wear anything they want. Manufacturers fall all over themselves to get their products placed on TV shows, but these guys chose WeatherWool. Jake told me this ShirtJac was actually bigger than he wanted, and we've since replaced it with an Anorak, which we actually had to buy back from an understanding customer!
2021-01-14 ... Sultemeier Ranch out of business
[I'm actually writing this late on the 15th.] Yesterday I got the news that the Sultemeier Family in New Mexico, from whom we bought wool for the first time for Batch 7, has been forced by the current drought to exit the sheep business. Very sad, and we wish them All the Best.
2021-01-12 ... Belle!
WeatherWool is very much a family business. Debby and my children Alex and Denali work with us. And now Alex's daughter Belle, age 4!
Belle loves to help Aunt Denali prepare Fabric Samples Booklets. Belle is very good at applying the mailing labels!
2021-01-11 ... Anoraks and All-Around Jackets
We're making Anoraks and All-Around Jackets and Double Hoods now ... all in FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric. We've had to shut down "live" orders for the Anoraks ... all Anorak prices have been set to 0, so the website will accept backorders but not payment. We're not sure how many Anoraks we'll be able to make with the wider bolts and an unfortunately very limited amount of Fabric. If you want an Anorak, please order online or via phone. And we may be able to get a FullWeight Lynx made for you in this run.
The situation for All-Around Jackets and Double Hoods is a little better. The website will still accept live orders for those items. In you want an AAJ or Double Hood in a color other than Lynx, it's backorders only for now.
We're still hoping to get our other Batch 5 Fabrics soon ...
2021-01-02 ... Live Pricing for FullWeight Lynx Pattern Anoraks
Today I set "live" pricing on the website for Anoraks in FullWeight Lynx Pattern. People who have previous $0 backorders can now commit to their Anorak by placing an online order with payment info. Or we can accept payment info over the phone, and not run the charge until we actually ship the Anorak (we've had this SHIP ASAP arrangement in effect all along). But the main thing is we're confident the tailors will very soon be making Anoraks and All-Around Jackets in FullWeight Lynx Pattern. WOW ... this has been a long time coming!!
2021-01-01 ... Happy New Year
Wishing everyone ALL THE BEST, and MANY THANKS for sticking with us!
What a year we have just seen ... pretty sure the craziest year I have lived through ... and I was born in 1954.
In November of 2019, American Woolen was able to make for us a small amount of Fabric to prove what they can do (which is great!). Other than that, we have been out of Fabric and unable to make more since 2018. In December of 2019, I was very disappointed to hear we would not have more Fabric until January of 2020 ... and then came the virus. But now it really does look like our tailors will be working on the Batch 5 FullWeight Lynx Fabric within two weeks.