If there is anything you'd like addressed here, please let me know.
THANKS FOR BEING HERE!
-- Ralph@WeatherWool.com / 973-943-3110 (mobile)
2024-02-22 ... Backing Off a Little, for a Little While
On Tuesday, a customer wrote Alex to tell him I'd somehow sent him Lending Library pieces for two other customers. (SORRY, TED and ALEX!) I don't even know how that would be possible. But I've found myself making some exceptionally dopey mistakes in the wee hours. And sometimes I've realized I'm just too tired to work effectively. Yesterday, a fine young man in the UK Royal Marines wrote me. He's visited here, and we've been corresponding. His note asked if I was doing OK, because he'd detected a change in my nature. He suggested I needed some tea (!!!) and some sleep. He was definitely right. THANKS LIAM!! I'm going to back off a little and sleep a little more!
2024-02-19 ... Interesting Activities and (not exactly) Advertising
I've written recently about how we are planning NOT to advertise, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, we hope to produce interesting "content" that will be viewed and shared by people who follow us on the various platforms. And if we can attract enough viewers and enough "sharers", the platforms (Instagram, YouTube ...) will promote our content for us.
For us, a wonderful aspect of WeatherWool is the opportunity to learn about what our customers do in our wool! And we are delighted with the possibilities of doing video covering some of these activities.
If you can think of some interesting or unusual or important content for us, we'd love to hear about it.Just this morning we heard from a customer working to control ticks and mosquitoes and the horrible diseases they carry. That's great stuff and I would never have thought of this myself, but on the other hand, he spends a lot of time in the field, so ...
2024-02-16 ... Another Ultra-Marathon Update
300 Dark, Frigid Miles Completed!
A couple of days ago, Jovica sent us a follow-up note about his Yukon Arctic Ultra-Marathon (see blog of 2022-02-04). Part of Jovica's note:
Now, after a few days and time distance and this kind of perspective - yes indeed, it was a hard and challenging race in every possible aspect, but again I am more than happy and satisfy with the final outcome. It's more than a pure running in essential meaning of the word - it's a "journey" and a true test of the human capabilities - both mental and physical...Just a little small mistake and bad decision and it could lead you to the serious injuries, frostbites or even something worse. For me it was some kind of "quest" and I enjoyed in each and single moment, tried to embrace the Yukon nature and become a part of this iconic and epic trail.
I want to thank you personally and the whole WeatherWool team and family for amazing support, encouragement, humbleness, kindness and willingness to work with me on this project.
Our MidWeight Anorak was absolutely "game changer" during the coldest nights and a perfect match up for the Yukon environment and challenging / changeable conditions. I wear it in several occasions, between the most demanding sections during the race and I have it all the time in my running sled. Literally I have a lightweight polypropylene baselayer below our Anorak and hardshell jacket like additional protection from the elements and it was more than enough to stay dry and to feel comfortable. I am really looking forward to use the products more in the future times and next projects and races.
It's a true honor, bless and privilege to be a part of such unique team and brand and I will do my best to justify your trust and magnificent support.
Jovica's first language is Serbian, not English. Nevertheless, he writes so well it makes me feel my own, native English is uncouth and clumsy.
I admit I didn't think much about exactly how one would undertake a days-long run in extreme cold and darkness. But I did not expect/realize he would be using trekking poles and pulling a toboggan. I'll find out more from Jovica, but I get the impression that resting involved, basically, camping on the race-route.
Of the 18 people who started the 300-mile (483 km) race, only 4 finished. Jovica finished first, by about 50 miles, in course-record time.
As an Advisor, Jovica will be giving us feedback from Serbian Special Forces and input on how the wool can serve in truly extreme situations! It's wonderful to have Jovica with us!!
2024-02-15 ... Garment Label Update
An update to our garment labels is overdue. For two or three years, we made only FullWeight Fabric, but in about 2017 we began to offer MidWeight Fabric as well. (FullWeight vs MidWeight described here.) And soon we will be offering a Chore Coat (we'll put up a dedicated product page before long) made in Denim, our third type of Fabric.
So it definitely is time to sew into our garments labels that identify each of our Fabrics. But also, we want to update the rest of the label. So ... here is the label that will be sewn into the Chore Coat. We're using the larger label (3 inches, 4.5 centimeters), which is laser-engraved leather.
Thanks to Olie's Images, owned and operated by Olie Moss, Zack's brother-in-law, for these amazing labels.
The third line of text may be difficult to read here on the website, particularly in that most of our visitors are using mobile phones (that's another blog topic!!)
100% USA | 100% WeatherWool Certified Fine Wool
We think "100% USA" makes clear that all our components are made in the USA and all our labor is performed in the USA.
As for "100% WeatherWool Certified Fine Wool" ... that's me trying to describe the composition of our Fabrics. If we went with "100% Wool", it could mean a lot of things. Same with "100% Virgin Wool" and some of the other descriptors used in the industry.
We are extremely particular about the wool that goes into our garments ... the characteristics of the raw wool, the conditions under which the sheep are raised, the way the wool is sheared, and then cleaned. We are also extremely particular about the many steps and techniques involved in turning the wool into yarn, and then into Fabric. We applaud the efforts within the wool industry to develop standards for processing and animal welfare. But there is no direct way to allude to all of this on a garment label.
I've decided that we will define our own standards for the fiber we use, the ranches that are home to the sheep that grow our fiber, and the ways and conditions under which the sheep those sheep live and are sheared. We've done this all along, actually, but now we'll codify and publish those standards as 'WeatherWool Certified". And I'll need to create a new page (surprising nobody) on the website that will detail exactly what "WeatherWool Certified" means.
2024-02-12 ... Kodiak Fox from Horstman
Mike Horstman has been "living off the land" ... Kodiak Island, Alaska, actually, for about 35 years. Mike has been appearing on History Channel's Mountain Men series for over 10 seasons. A few years ago, Mike became familiar with WeatherWool because the cameramen were wearing it. Since then, Mike has been wearing our Anorak. A couple of days ago, Mike gifted me a stunningly beautiful Fox Pelt!
THANK YOU MIKE!! The Fox will be admired by all who visit our Showroom!
Kodiak has silver-black color phase red fox.
2024-02-10 ... Adirondack Pack Basket Video
Cody is with Jim Abbott again, in the Adirondack Mountains, making a video of Jim's Adirondack Pack Basket making. I've spoken with Jim about this ... he's been making the Baskets for decades, and he has a lot to say! This type of basketry is an arcane, old-times skill, and I was actually more interested in this video than in Jim's (also made by Cody) great trout-fishing video that's already available.
2024-02-09--Again ... Ultra-Marathon Update ... and ... AT Thru-Hiker!
I never was really able to figure out the host website for the Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon ... so I searched for NEWS. The Ultra has an Instagram page showing Jovica as the winner! It doesn't look like Jovica used our wool, but no doubt he will update me. It looks as if he was traveling with the aid of two walking sticks and pulling a toboggan. I didn't expect that! It's incredible to me to think of what I've done since Sunday morning (not much, just going thru my usual life) ... and that Jovica was truckin' -- in frigid darkness -- almost that whole time.
Remarkably, speaking of ULTRA, a little while ago I spoke with Arlan M, who will be taking an Anorak with him to Springer Mountain, Georgia, to begin his intended start-to-finish hike of the Appalachian Trail (about 2200 miles / 3540 km).
I'm sure glad there are people like Jovica and Arlan!!!
2024-02-09 ... Another Ultra-Marathon Update ... FINISHED!!??
Thanks to Eric M for his email of a few hours ago, explaining to me that the 300 mile race is actually 310.2 miles! I was confused by all references on the race website that refer to a 300-mile event.
Right now, at about 1:45AM Yukon time, the website shows Jovica at 309.9 miles ... just short of the finish ... but he seems to have been at that spot an awfully long time! So, I am still confused.
2024-02-08 ... Yukon Ultra Update (see entry from 2024-02-04)
As of 2AM Mountain Time, Jovica had covered 260 miles (416 km) of the 300 mile (480 km) race. Jovica is averaging 3 miles per hour overall, and 4.4 miles per hour when moving. So he has a lot of long, cold distance still to travel. The race started 3 days and 16 hours ago, and it looks like Jovica has been running about 16 hours per day. Anybody who would take a shot at this race is a truly exceptional person. But Jovica is about 90 miles ahead of Americans John Nakel and Daniel Benhammou, who are his nearest competitors!!
2024-02-07 ... "They Never Learn"
HAHA! .. THEY would be ME. The New Jersey Deer Season is nearly over, and we have not put up any venison this year. So yesterday afternoon I made a quick run to The Swamp. Given that this was going to be a short hunt and I was in a hurry, I wore my office clothing ... except for wool socks (yay for that!), everything was cotton, with my old (first thing we made) All-Around Jacket over the top. Temperature was a little above freezing, and I wasn't going to be out more than a couple of hours, and only a 5-minute walk from the truck. What could happen?
The first thing I noticed was that the day actually wasn't as still as I thought. There was a slight, steady breeze that I could feel through what I thought were heavy, tight cotton pants. Surprising. And after an hour or so, I could really feel the chill. Not a problem, but also surprising, and interesting. If I'd been wearing our own MidWeight Pants, it would have been total comfort.
Between sunset and full dark, I shot a deer. The tracking turned out to be short and easy, but when I began, I didn't know that for sure, so I was hurrying because I don't want to search for a deer in the dark. Given that The Swamp has been under water for most of the last 2 months, the place is wet. Looking for the deer instead of watching my footing, I slipped on wet clay covered with leaves, and totally wiped out into a shallow puddle ... I wasn't hurt, but I was suddenly half-soaked in now-freezing temps. If I'd been wearing all wool, it would have been annoying, but wool would have handled the water. The cotton made ME handle the water.
All in all, it didn't matter much. I found the deer quickly, but spent 90 minutes in cold, wet, muddy, gritty cotton clothes.
Two or three upsides to this episode (besides the venison):
- I re-learned the lesson not to wear cotton in the woods, even when "nothing can happen"
- The AAJ was left in the truck overnight, I didn't even think about it until now. I predicted to Debby that it would bear no trace of my foolish mishap. Sure enough, it's dry and clean. I don't understand that, but ...
- There are not many things nicer than a long hot shower after you've gotten wet and muddy in cold weather!
2024-02-06 ... Ultra Update ... (about 4 AM Mountain Time)
... followup from Sunday and yesterday ...
The race began 41 hours ago, and Jovica has been running for about 34 hours and stopped (resting, I guess!!) for 10 hours. He has covered about 135 miles and is about 40 miles in the lead. Yeah ... 40 miles / 64 kilometers ahead of the second place contestant.
I'm not sure whether Jovica is actually wearing anything from us, so maybe I shouldn't be following him here every day. But I'm just so impressed by what Jovica and the other contestants are willing to undertake ...
I've never been much of a runner, but I did do the New York City Marathon in 1981. It half-killed me, and I remember thinking about giving up and taking the subway to meet Debby and my friends at the finish line in Central Park. And although I did not want to quit, my brains were very scrambled from my physical difficulty, and the decisive factor, amazingly, was that it seemed to be easier to simply follow the blue "Marathon Line" to the finish than to negotiate public transport. Marathon runners sometimes say that anyone's goal is to simply finish, no matter how conditioned you are. And I did see some guys who looked like serious runners, but were on stretchers receiving medical treatment ... and I saw people who looked like they'd never run at all that nevertheless managed to finish.
At the end of the race, I was in no condition to do much of anything. Jovica has already run 5 marathons, with about 6.5 more to go!! Plus, about 3/4 of his running is in the dark, in SERIOUS cold.
Whatever the outcome for Jovica and the others, this is already a tremendous example of the capability of the human mind and body.
2024-02-05 ... Ultra Update (about 2AM Mountain Time)
... followup from yesterday's Blog...
Jovica has been running for about 15.5 hours, and he's covered 60 miles (96 km) as of the last update. I'm not sure how often updates are available. It seems like data is updated at certain checkpoints. Near as I can tell, Jovica is far ahead of anyone else running the 300 mile race, and about 10 miles behind Scott Herron, who is biking 100 miles.
lets you follow the race and filter the data in several different ways.
2024-02-04 ... 300 Mile Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon
And now, the most-extreme entry for the 3rd day of our cold-weather weekend!
Jovica Spajic, of Serbian Military Special Forces, will today begin running the Yukon Arctic Ultra Marathon. There are a few different races rolled into this one event, all starting at 10:30AM today, Yukon time, in Whitehorse.
Contestants choose among running, cross-country skiing or mountain biking. Contestants also choose a distance of a standard marathon (26.2 miles / 42.16 km), 100 miles (160.9 km), 300 miles (482.7 km) or 430 miles (691.9 km). Covering the entire distance requires travel from Whitehorse to Dawson City.
Jovica has previously done some intense ultra-marathon running, but he wrote me that he expects this to be the most difficult run yet. At midnight Sunday morning, the temp was -30C/-22F.
The race starts only 20 minutes after sunrise, and sunset is only 6 hours later. So the ultra-marathoners will compete mostly in the dark. The course record for running the 300 miles is 117 hours ... almost 5 days.
Jovica didn't get his hands on our wool until Friday, but he wrote me then that he intends to wear an Anorak. So, all three of this weekend's "extremers" chose the Anorak, which I keep describing as a moderate-weather piece.
2024-02-03 ... Resolute Bay, Northwest Passage, -55C
I guess this is the weekend for people to send me COLD weather photos! John Hudson trains SERE (Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape) to the Military of UK, USA, Canada and maybe others. It's still a shock to me that people are wearing our Anorak in conditions much more severe than those for which I designed it!! Doubtless, John has some serious clothing under the Anorak.
John took this photo a few hours ago while working with the SERE Instructors of the Canadian Military. They are North of the 74th parallel, at Resolute Bay, Northwest Passage. I think this is the farthest North our wool has ever been. Temperature is -55C/-67F and it's been dark for about two months. Likely, this is also the coldest cold our wool has ever seen. This is much colder than when the US Army had our gear at Ice Camp Sargo.
I completely love that John is wearing our wool, but I have no experience in anything remotely this cold, and can't really comment except to say DON'T DO IT unless you really know what you are doing. John and the people he is with are professionals.
THANKS for this CRAZY-COLD photo, John!!!
2024-02-02 ... Big Lake, Alaska, -35F at Sunrise
We are honored to have a lot of customers in Alaska. I am almost certain that, per capita, Alaska is the State that likes us best. A few minutes ago, Aaron Zulliger of BIG LAKE, Alaska, sent me this photo he took at sunrise today. Weather-lovers know -40F = -40C. Everyone knows -35 is COLD, whether Celsius (-37) or Fahrenheit.
THANKS for a great photo, Aaron! Our Anorak is not designed for this!
(But we love that some people really push the limits!!)
2024-01-30 ..."If you are not moving forward, you are falling behind."
Good day, all you fine folks. Cody here. Ralph asked if I would post a guest blog about some of the changes we've discussed internally at WeatherWool.
Before I jump into that, a short recap of who I am might be helpful.
I met Ralph in 2017. I had just quit my job of 9 years as a creative director working in luxury fashion. What Ralph was doing was the exact opposite of what the industry was doing at the time, and it interested me. While most companies depended on a business model of lowering production costs, branded white-label products and huge markups to cover the advertising costs, Ralph wasn't interested in any of that. He believed making an incredible product and having excellent customer service would be enough. I loved that. It seems so pure. Instead of buying and tricking an audience, it's genuinely a matter of earning and maintaining one. I wished him the absolute best, genuinely hoping he was right, but I wasn't sure they would pull it off. I sure hoped it would work because the product and the philosophy seemed precisely what the world needed. More quality and kindness and less ego and fast fashion.
Ralph and I stayed in touch over the years as I set out on a life much more connected to wilderness exploration, cooking over a fire and building an off-grid log cabin. I wasn't in any rush to get back into the fashion scene of "who's who, being seen, and this season's trends." I still loved fashion but was more interested in quality items that looked better with age. Timeless fashion that tells a story about your life and who you are rather than following a trend that was coaxed by an industry to generate sales.
Over the years of wearing WeatherWool, I fell more and more in love with it. I wore my CPO and Anorak while felling well over 300 white pine and tamarack trees when harvesting logs for my log cabin. That task is about as tough on a garment as any job can be. Branches jabbing you, chainsaw oil spraying, tree sap sticking, and then there is tossing logs over your shoulder to carry, all while cooking lunch over a fire with sparks flying from resinous woods. It held up incredibly well for such a soft wool, but more importantly was the comfort. Unlike my canvas work coat that I was constantly taking on and off to manage body heat, I was pretty comfortable all day long in my WeatherWool, and that was really the moment I realized why wool is such a classic material that needed to be brought back into the mainstream.
The one concern I did have about WeatherWool was the website user experience and the overall branding. I felt the look of the company didn't measure up to the quality of the garments, and I wasn't shy about sharing those opinions with Ralph.
In the late fall of 2022, after a number of conversations, Ralph and Debby officially asked me to become part of the team here at WeatherWool to help out. It was a casual 1-day week type of thing to start, but I was thrilled to get involved with WeatherWool officially.
I realize WeatherWool is already great from a customer perspective. How incredible is it to pick up the phone and call the founder / CEO of your favorite clothing company and talk shop with him whenever you want? But, it takes a lot of overhead money to keep this company operating and inventory in stock. Our wool production starts costing us 12-18 months out before we can even produce garments for sale. WeatherWool is a family-owned and operated true and through, so for these folks to get a solid return on their investment, we need to grow this company just a little more.
Some of you might say, don't mess with a good thing. But we all will benefit from a little growth. It will mean more inventory in stock, new showroom, new fabric development, more product options, collaborations with other incredible brands, and everything you already love about WeatherWool refined, perfected, and expanded.
So with that, all said, in order to grow, we must appeal to a wider customer. A CFO I used to work for once told me, "If you are not moving forward, you are falling behind". We must keep moving forward and accept change is part of growth and staying relevant with the times. We're certainly not going to change or forget our foundation and why WeatherWool was founded in the first place, but we need to attract more people to the brand. No, we're still not going to advertise. But we do need our brand to match the high-end product that WeatherWool truly is for many folks to believe that our garments are as good as they are. We also plan to generate a lot of value-driven marketing, telling true stories of incredible people wearing WeatherWool and giving them a platform to share their skills with all of us.
Over the next six months, we plan to upgrade the website, giving it a tidy-up and making navigation an easy and enjoyable experience. We also want to produce new labels so you can quickly identify the difference between a FullWeight and MidWeight garment. We'll be looking at upgrading our logo and putting a little more thought into a consistent use of fonts, colors and all the stuff that signifies we truly respect our brand, product and our customers. We want to present our garments in the best way we possibly can.
So, all this to say, we hope you accept our wishes to evolve. We would appreciate your thoughts on the new logo designs below. If you're so inclined, you can send us an e-mail. I'm firstname.lastname@example.org and Ralph would probably also like to hear what you have to say and you can get him at email@example.com
Our goal was to freshen it up without changing the integrity and feel of the brand we are so proud of. Our original logo is on top, and the proposed new logo is below.
We also plan to launch new labels that will make identifying the Fabric type easy at a glance and clearly identify our new denim fabric.
We know some people don't like change, but hopefully, the only change you experience is one of more products in stock, more options, and a more enjoyable web browsing experience heading into the future. But if anything goes astray, do please forgive us. We're just a family in a house in New Jersey, and a lone Canadian probably stuck in a snowstorm without power.
Thanks for being here,
2024-01-29 ... Customer Observations ... Customer Reviews
In yesterday's Blog I should MAYBE have mentioned that people send me wonderful reviews every day. Emails and texts mostly, but also phone calls. What was unusual about yesterday's note was the source, the thoughtfulness, the level of detail. Plus the idea of tropical folks looking for cold weather vacations makes me smile whenever I think of it.
One of the visitors at yesterday's Open House has had a long career in Law Enforcement. Speaking with him reminded me of a customer from one of the Virginias, who is a retired cop. So I said something like "Maybe this won't surprise you, but one of our customers is a retired policeman who is now a pastor." And my guest responded "It's not uncommon ... it's the same job -- without a gun." That's the exact line our policeman-pastor-customer had used in describing his two careers. WOW!
2024-01-28 ... OPEN HOUSE Today ... Review from Indonesia
We have an Open House today, starting at 11AM. As soon as I finish this entry I will try to get a couple hours of sleep!
I hardly ever post a Customer Review here, but I really enjoyed this one. We save almost all Customer Input for internal use, but I thought this worth sharing because it is so carefully done and so amazingly well-written for a guy whose native language is Indonesian. But also, I love the perspective.
We did not expect orders from tropical places. In corresponding with these customers, I was surprised that they like to vacation in COLD places. (Another WELL, DUH! moment.) Growing up in the New York City area, going to The Islands (that means the Caribbean in Jersey-talk) seemed the ideal winter vacation. But if you live in Singapore or Jakarta, going somewhere COLD (and maybe even low humidity!) can be very appealing. Probably this shouldn't have surprised me, but it did, and I can't help smiling when I think about it!
So ... here is a great note and a photo from Radian Irdiansyah of Jakarta, Indonesia! THANKS, RADIAN!!!!!!!
It's been a while, but now that I have had the opportunity to use my black hooded jacket for a couple of times for a variety of situations, now I finally would love to share a word or two of what I think. I'll probably have a shorter version of this to paste on your website to help others when deciding.
To summarize all that I have to say, this is one of my favorite buys of all time.
Having read other reviews, I thought to myself that there have been so many good words said about your products that me saying anything would probably not add much, but then I realized my condition is quite unique - I'm based in a tropical country, as far as it can probably get from your typical buyer. I also probably will talk more about how the jacket performs for a city day-trip type of person, because you have plenty of very heavy real backcountry users it seems.
I'm attaching some photos of my trip for reference and also as an appreciation for making such a great product that I hope will stay with me for a very very long time (now that I saw you have a white colored one, maybe one day I'll think of getting something with that color, it would be great!).
I want to share about my most recent trip to Japan this month, when I was there for two weeks and my scene can be summarized as: urban-based winter trip with frequent excursions to rural and mountainous areas. The other feature is that there are two airport layovers (Jakarta and Singapore), which involve higher temperatures (and I wore this jacket all the time... literally all the time... with no discomfort or noticeable sweat). The thing that people often forget is, even tropical people seldom experience real tropical weather because most of your daily experience is air-conditioned to somewhere in the low 20 (Celsius) or below.
This hooded jacket, in full-weight is PERFECT for me. I don't know the details, but I have known that my body tolerates being warm more and tolerates cold a lot less (probably from my body size and geographical background - so the range shifts and I don't overheat easily, while a full protection is much appreciated when it gets cold). I wore the jacket from the time I left on a cab, walking around in the airport in Jakarta, to when I come back and have to stay overnight sleeping on the airport sofa in Changi airport. The number and size of the pockets made me able to put everything there (phone, big wallet, power bank and cable, gloves, passport and tickets, airpods, hand sanitizer, tissues, you name it). Going through security, instead of putting things in the tray, I just have everything in the jacket, unzip it easily, put it on the tray, and that's it - that's incredibly convenience.
As a background, I almost always just used one thing underneath it, a 100% merino 225 gsm long-sleeve shirt, except for the time I went to Enryaku-ji, which is far and particularly harsh (known snow storm).
One feature people don't think about? I flew economy and wore the jacket on 7 hour flights on a tight space. The material is woven, not knitted, but it FEELS knitted and very flexible, so I put the hood over my eyes to act as sleep mask and wrapped it and moved it around like a blanket - it's softer than my blanket at home. Flights get cold, this is not said enough, and wearing this felt amazing. The choice of having this zipper type instead of the anorak suit me incredibly well. It is sturdy, smooth to move around and incredibly helpful for this use.
The city scene in Kyoto, Osaka, or smaller cities in Japan usually have temperature close to zero Celsius that has a huge range (much warmer in the day, much colder near sunset), windy, and quite a bit of small rains or snow. Now it is not exaggeration to say that this jacket's true power is in temperature management. Imagine how many hop-on and off you have to do on buses and trains; going to underground markets; walking in parks in a city trip. The closest I have ever needed to get the jacket off is: well, never, it's just unzipping it and it's not even frequent at all. I find that for my body type, I can keep the zipper on even after running around and entering a really heated place and whatever overheating I was experiencing would quickly dissipate once I sit.
As I said, the hooded jacket effectively can replace an entire backpack. I walk into the Nijo castle in Kyoto, for example, received my tickets and the guidebooks, put the tickets in the left inner pocket and guidebooks in the right one. They are large enough for longer booklets, but even when they don't fit, we can just leave the zippers opened inside the jacket. I have my powerbank (15,000 mah powerbank - it's big), so I can easily charge my phone while walking around, on the outer right pocket, a wool glove, and my iPhone 12 there all the time and still it could fit my hand nicely with space inside.
My chosen color of black works for me as well, as I could blend with office commuters in the morning and not looking like a mountaineer from National Geographic - I often entered the posh department stores where some people wear nice wool duffle coats and thought I looked competitive haha. Now the sleeves are intentionally made long enough to be able to comfortably cover the hands. I appreciated this so much having to grab handles in trains wearing a backpack and not having the whole jacket shifted up exposing my hips as a result. The ability to quickly tuck the hands under the long sleeves is so priceless during one particular thing in my urban setting: convenience store errands. I attach a photo of how holding the plastic bags with my hand inside the sleeve was such a neat thing.
There was this morning when I went to where two major rivers of Kyoto meet, it's a very nice scene. It's a rainy morning and was cold. I decided to take some onigiris and milk tea in the convenience store and just ate on the open bridge while enjoying the river view (I attach the photo). This was so amazing as I felt both warm and dry, while the wind was blowing all over on the bridge. I saw everyone walking around with an umbrella (as the Japanese usually do) and thought how great it was to be me at that time.
The jacket was tested quite a bit when I went to Enryaku-ji, which is a temple complex on a mountain that is so secluded that it needs a train trip, a bus trip, and the longest cable car in Japan to get to even the outside of it (then you hike through lush beautiful forest). It was cold, it was windy, it was miserable, and most of all, it snowed A TON. I had my merino shirt and a light 200 something gsm merino hoodie underneath. I stayed bone dry the entire time and I remember having pretty powerful wind that I could feel hitting my hoodie the way it feels when this kind of wind hits my Gore-tex garment (you feel that there is a strong barrier - but this is a fabric that really breathes!). The feeling of coming out a quiet snowy forest path to a giant complex of ancient red temples covered in snow, with my arms tucked inside the giant soft handwarmers, hoody sealed in place, and everything secured with the jacket is just amazing.
Now the hood I think is truly a star. It is weighty enough for you not to worry of wind knocking it all over, while comfortable and light enough to not really bother you that you're having it on. It is such a nice feeling when suddenly it gets colder or some strong wind blows and I can just put it on instantly (not like a hat) and it's just sudden comfort. Enryaku-ji was the first time I needed to tighten the hoodie to seal against air going towards my ears. It works like a charm. The adjustment on the back WORKS to make me able to see with my peripheral vision - that's so thoughtful.
The only potential addition to this product that would be incredible is if there is something covering that area above your chest to your neck or at least part of the lower neck. As you can see in my photos, this was not really a problem for me because I was wearing a thick cashmere neck snood I've always had that blends nicely with the hoodie.
I have also the privilege of a direct comparison with a comparable product, as I happen to also own a Filson Mackinaw cruiser. This product is clearly, clearly superior to it - although if I didn't own your jacket, the Filson is one amazing thing. First, the mackinaw feels impregnable, but sometimes I could still feel patches of real chill around my arms. The Filson mackinaw FEELS boiled and woven, it really does feel inflexible although to some degree it is comfortable. Wearing the hooded jacket is a delight - I often thought to myself when wearing it, how on earth is something this thick, sturdy, but this soft. I often saw people wearing their synthetic thick coats or down jackets and thought to myself - if only they all knew.
During my 9 hours layover in Changi on the trip back, when I had to sleep in the airport, I wore the jacket walking around and it even made sleeping on the sofa felt very comfortable, you can make the hood part out as a pillow for example. I swear, I didn't feel stuffy at any point, although it might just be due to my own body chemistry that is different.
The nicest thing about all this is, I'm writing to the person who made the jacket. What an interesting thing for a piece of garment. So again, I would like to convey my appreciation for making such a nice product.
Oh yes, remember I suggested the convertible mittens sometime ago. I found a company in America (but Austrian wool) that does just that (although I probably won't buy these for now). The one in this link is exactly what I was thinking about. My big problem in super cold condition remains only one: hands. The handwarmers on the jacket are nice, but generally my hands would already be so cold being outside taking photos and other things before being able to put them in. To have something made of good enough wool that also allows me mobility would be perfect. This is the link: https://www.sweaterchalet.com/dachstein-woolwear/dw-3115-adult-mitts/. Please do let me know if you ever have something like this one day.
Again Ralph, thanks and hope for you, your family, and WeatherWool all the best.
Kind regards, Radian - Indonesia
THANKS, Radian, for the entertaining (and kind!!!) review and photos. And HATS OFF to your amazing English! Maybe come to NYC for the next blizzard!!??
Thanks for the tip about Dachstein Knits. Over the years, a bunch of people have told me I need to give them a try!
2024-01-27 ... OPEN HOUSE TOMORROW
Tomorrow is our first Open House of 2024. More and more people are making private, individual appointments, and that's great. But the Open House days remain very important. And that means a big chunk of today will be spent preparing for tomorrow!
2024-01-26 ... Backorders
Cody just posted on Instagram a reel that talks about backordering. This year, we'll be producing more than ever before. But we still have a very long production cycle, and we need a way to manage backorders. As we have always done, we happily accept no-obligation, free backorders. And until lately, I would respond to each backorder with an email explaining how things work, and how leaving a credit card on file with us creates a reservation that will be fulfilled when we eventually ship the item and charge the credit card.
But with the present workload, I just cannot respond individually to all the backorders. (I also am no longer able to save everyone's contact info in my phone!) Instead, when we prepare to produce an item, we'll contact everyone with a backorder and give them a chance to create a reservation by upgrading the backorder to SHIP ASAP.
SHIP ASAP basically means if the customer leaves a credit card on file with us, we will make the item for that customer and ship it out as soon as possible. We won't charge the card until we ship and the order can be changed or canceled even after we ship. But unless we hear otherwise from the customer, we have our marching orders.
2024-01-25 ... Chore Coats
We have decided to make some Denim Chore Coats. We'll make them in colors we have named DENIM BLACK and DENIM INDIGO. You can see some photos of the Chore Coat on the WeatherWool Denim page. We'll soon put up a page so the Chore Coat can be backordered. Chore Coat will ship at $495. Hoping to ship in late April.
2024-01-23 ... Pickups
Yesterday, Alex made a run up to American Woolen Company to pick up some WeatherWool Denim. And today, I made two runs into NYC's Garment District to pick up some Blanket Coats and FullWeight Drab Anoraks at Factory8. I also had a short sidewalk-meeting with JR to go over some details of our upcoming Poncho. We'll be making a relative handful of Ponchos, all in FullWeight Drab Color. For some reason, I love the impromptu city-sidewalk meetings. A big part of me is still a 'New Yorker'.
2024-01-22 ... Customer-Tailors
We have long offered our Fabrics for sale, and we always like seeing what people make. Here are a few photos of a French-style Chore Coat made by a customer from the West Coast for a friend here in New Jersey:
Made with our FullWeight Drab Fabric ...
A great-looking, functional coat ... made by a Great Friend!!
2024-01-21 ... Full Circle
A few days ago we had a wonderful visit from a couple of young men from Norway. They'd come to NYC to visit friends, but a visit here was part of the plan. One of our visitors had actually grown up in Texas, but it's pretty typical of Norwegians that even the "totally Norwegian" one had tremendous English-skills. When I offered pizza or sandwiches for lunch, they politely explained that they eat meat only if it is wild. So we had pizza and some New Jersey (whitetail deer) venison, which they really enjoyed.
Debby reminded me that I've not yet brought home any venison this year, and we are almost out. While Debby was certainly happy to have me home from my October moose hunt in Vermont, she would have been considerably happier if I'd come home with a moose.
People are usually surprised to hear Jersey is a great place for a venison hunter. In large parts of the State, the season is >5 months long, with no limit on antlerless deer. And we are fortunate to have The Swamp, our own little place only a short drive from home. But it's not called The Swamp for no reason. If it's been raining, it's flooded. And we've had a lot of rain lately, with water levels reaching the official Major Flood Stage, and remaining at Flood Stage for weeks.
I don't think the whitetails really mind the water very much. They can find enough high ground for bedding, and they'll walk through water -- or swim -- without hesitation. But as is typical for winter around here, after it rains we get a cold front. So The Swamp is full of water, with ice and a couple inches of snow on top. Deer hate ice. But I think they hate snow-covered ice even more. And probably even worse than that is what happens at our place after a couple of days. The water comes up high, and freezes, then it starts to drain away, but the snow-covered ice stays in place, with nothing much to hold it up. Deer sign was remarkably scarce. In this kind of cold, icy weather, they seem to hunker down and wait for a thaw. But the tracks I did find were sort of pitiful. What happens ... the deer's feet were going out from under them even when the ice held, but in most places the ice doesn't support them, so they break through the ice and slide. Sometimes, The Swamp is filled with the sound of ice-shelves collapsing everywhere. It sounds like windows being broken. Once, I was plowing through the woods, crashing the ice and making a crazy racket. I was shocked to walk right up on a bunch of deer. They were so accustomed to hearing smashing ice that my bull-in-a-China-shop approach didn't attract their attention!
But what the deer hate, the waterfowl love. Flights of Canada Geese and Mallards were all around. And this icy January weather with high water is also heaven for the otters. There are certain spots where the otters trade between the river and the lake, and you can clearly see where they toboggan themselves down the riverbank. My impression is that the fishing is really easy for them in the cold water. I've watched them just sort of playing around in the lake, chomping on fish, then diving down and coming up quickly with another.
As for Debby's venison, we'll see. We need a thaw and a dry stretch, which is a tall order this time of year!
But regardless of weather, this is sort of full-circle for me ... I started WeatherWool because the outdoor clothes I wanted didn't seem to exist. And in those days I didn't at all like the work I was doing. And I was always longing to do something else, such as hit the woods. Now, although I still love the woods, I have so much work to do ... work that I really like to do (!!!), that I can't really enjoy the woods the way I would like to!
PS ... Temp was about 20F/-6C and breezy. I wore a MidWeight Hooded Jacket over a cotton T-shirt, cotton shirt and cotton sweat pants. I was moving around for about 90 minutes, and this was a good set of clothing for what I was doing. I was also wearing cheap synthetic-mesh sneakers and quality wool socks. I broke thru the ice many times, getting my feet wet repeatedly. But the wool handled the water easily. If I had planned to be stationary, or hunting, I would have dressed entirely differently.
2024-01-19 ... Remnant Blanket
A customer just sent me a couple of photos of a Blanket he made with our Fabric Remnants. It took a tremendous amount of time (The customer said NOBODY should think a Remnant-Blanket is a way to save money!), but a great Father-Daughter project resulted in a fine Blanket and finer memories.
2024-01-16 ... AI and AI
Not long ago, Rancher John Jewell phoned me. John grows some of the best fiber there is, and we are honored that John chooses to place his clip with us. My son Zack and I spent a few hours with the Jewells some years ago, and I was very impressed with the extreme amounts of data John has on his sheep, and the depth of analysis applied to that data. So when John talked about AI, it made sense -- sort of, at first, that he would apply Artificial Intelligence to all this number-crunching. But John talked some more, and mentioned AI a couple more times, and it didn't make any sense at all until I realized he was referring to Artificial Insemination.
This story got a few laughs on Saturday night at the Sheep Convention when one of the leading breeders, an admirer of John's fiber, mentioned many visits to Australia to acquire the "material" needed for AI on his Stateside ranch.
I guess if there is confusion over AI, it's better to be mistakenly thinking Artificial Intelligence than to be mistakenly thinking Artificial Insemination.
Today, I used some (sort of?) Artificial Intelligence-type AI to correspond with a customer in France. The web-based language-translation software might not be great, but it seems entirely adequate to enable basic communications for me in French, Korean and Japanese. That freely available web-services (these from Google ... just go to Google.com and type "translate English to Japanese" in the search bar) enable me to communicate with people who have no English is really wonderful. I've also used it a little for Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Spanish, Swedish and maybe more. Except all these customers actually had serious English skills and the translation software was more fun than necessity.
2024-01-15 ... Fashionistas and Enviros and Bureaucrats Backing Into Wool
One of the things I talked about at the Convention (entry of 13 Jan) was how the fashion industry is sort of backing into wool because of environmental concerns. I say they are "backing into wool" because they are not really interested in the performance of the garments. The fashion folks are getting more and more concerned about environmental issues and pollution, tho, and they like the environmental friendliness of wool. It seems crazy to me that they don't care what wool clothing does for the people who wear it.
Today in the trade press (THANKS AGAIN to Woolmark!) I am reading about Extended Producer Responsibility. EPR holds producers responsible for management of the eventual disposal of their products. France and Sweden have already implemented EPR for textiles, and the EU is working on it. For companies making woolens, EPR is much less of a problem than for companies making synthetic clothing. And for WeatherWool, making garments that are wool, wool, wool, EPR would be a minimal problem. I guess we'd need to address zippers, buttons, etc., but our Fabric would be loved by the "make good garbage" folks. I guess imposition of EPR would actually be a competitive advantage for us.
2024-01-14 ... ASI Talk ... HOME (Office!)
People actually seemed interested in what I had to say at the Convention (see previous entry)!! WeatherWool was the only "outside" speaker ... meaning everyone else was directly involved in the ASI. I had thought there would be a bunch of others. THANKS AGAIN for having me!
Debby and I left Denver early this morning and were home by about 1PM. We had a very quick and impressive demonstration of the extent to which humidity affects perceived temperature. The temp at 3AM in Denver was -7F/-22C. Debby was very surprised when I told her the temp, and we agreed it didn't FEEL any colder than 25F/-4C in New Jersey, where we have much more humidity.
It's good to be "back in action" after two weeks on the road. But it's going to take me a week to catch up!
2024-01-13 ... ASI Convention, Denver
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is holding its 2024 Annual Convention in Denver from 10 through 13 January. They have honored us with an invitation to speak for 15 minutes to the 150-member Board of Directors, and this is what I plan to say.
THANK YOU for this invitation! And THANK YOU to everyone who has created and maintained our American Sheep and Wool Industries. Our company, WeatherWool, builds upon decades and centuries of work of many teams of people in many disciplines.
My name is Ralph DiMeo, from New Jersey. In 2009, we started WeatherWool, a company that makes 100% American Woolens. We buy greasy wool with the help of Bob Padula and Mike Corn, and with the help of our many Partners, we turn the greasy into Fabric and clothing. I'm wearing some of our clothing, and there are a couple of pieces available if anyone would like to examine.
Compared to so many of you, we are the new kids on the block. We try to be transparent about everything we do -- it's almost all on the website -- but absolutely if you have any questions or concerns, pick up the phone and talk to me.
I've been asked to speak about
- how WeatherWool came to be
- challenges faced
- opportunities for WeatherWool and the wool industry in general
- anything else
The first topic, origin of WeatherWool, is very simple. I'm a lifelong hunter and a lifelong office worker. I wanted wool hunting clothes as comfortable as the wool I wore to the office. But I couldn't find them, so Debby and I decided to try to make them. And do so 100% USA.
The second topic, challenges, is also simple. So much of our garment industry has been "offshored", and so many people wear primarily synthetics, that there is very little domestic capacity left for making woolens. That's not meant to disparage anyone, just a statement of fact that there is a lot less domestic production than there used to be. We have found great people to work with, no issue there. But we need a whole lot more demand to ensure US domestic production thrives and grows.
And that leads to the third topic ... opportunities ... which is really what I'd like to talk about. We need to create much much more demand. Everybody here probably knows that full well. But we're very amped up about it!
I will offer here what I have learned from speaking with thousands of people about clothing. THANKS to all of them and in particular a few who contributed ideas for my yakking today.
- I see enormous opportunities for growth of woolens because people, worldwide, don't wear very much of it ... far less than in generations past. The decline of wool has been driven by the advent of inexpensive synthetic clothing that has been very effectively marketed
- But the annual apparel and shoe market in the USA and Canada (no duties on US wool) is approaching $500 billion. And American clothing is only 2-3% wool.
- Worldwide market is maybe two trillion dollars annually. Consumers in Europe and Asia are very keen on US quality. There are huge opportunities abroad.
- Wool makes much better clothing than the synthetics, but very few people know what wool can do!
- Most people, without any real reflection, think they know wool, but they don't. Everyone has had some experience with wool, very frequently not good experience. Everyone knows that there is great variety in cars, but people don't realize that woolens are like cars ... a lot of variety is possible. People will remember an itchy jacket from high school, and that puts them off wool until they are shown something different
- We need to educate the public about how/why wool makes great clothing ... healthier clothing! ... and bedding, and rugs, and ... This is akin to a public service. Seriously ... this type of education is much more than an industry promoting itself. People wear a lot of clothing that is ineffective AND unhealthy. The educational materials must be interesting and entertaining. Maybe hosted by a celebrity. In 1977, Orson Welles narrated a great wool video for the American Sheep Council, which I think became ASI. Welles' video focused on production -- good stuff -- but people need to learn WHAT WOOLENS CAN DO FOR THEM. Most people have no idea! A customer from Australia wrote me that even there, people don't know what wool can do. Telling people that wool is CLOTHING MADE BY NATURE captures their attention. The public generally holds the viewpoint that our manufacturers have surpassed Nature. Jet planes and cell phones are awesome and wonderful, but people don't realize these technologies are cupcakes compared to the functions within every single cell of our bodies. I try to make people aware that "modern synthetics", "technical fabrics", "poly- micro- FLEECE(!!!!)" are as nothing in comparison with the functional sophistication of a fiber that has been created by Nature to do almost exactly what we ask of it. This is the most effective avenue I've found toward re-oriented public perspectives. But I've also found it's sometimes important to be gentle about it. Many people have huge investments in their synthetics
- Environmental concerns. It's been a surprise to me to learn that the fashion industry seems to view clothing as fashion (duh ... i know), and they focus almost completely on what garments look like. They don't seem to care, for example, that wool keeps people comfortable over a much wider range of temperature than synthetic. But lately, the fashion people are focusing on the environmental impacts of clothing. Wool and sheep are great for the land and the environment, whereas synthetics are awful. Environmental concerns may well be the hook that brings the fashion industry over to woolens. Wool is much more environmentally friendly than synthetics. Wool does not shed micro-plastics, is longer-lasting than synthetic, is biodegradable, uses much less water. The sheep enrich the soil. Sheep are even keeping the grass short in solar-panel farms
- Health concerns ... more and more research is showing a lot of the clothes we are wearing, whether due to the composition of the garment or the chemicals used in preparation, are unhealthy. Public concern in this area is growing and wool can be in the forefront of a movement toward healthy, natural, chemical-free clothing
- Bedding (not just blankets) and even sleepwear can be a large market for us. Particularly for babies and children. And this actually ties in with both health and safety. Wool's non-flammability is a really big deal. And while it is true that synthetics are not as dangerous now as in this dramatic old video from New Zealand, the flame-resistant additives bring dangers of their own from which wool is completely free
- Naturally Colored Wool (black, brown, gray and more) is going to be huge. The beauty will have wide appeal and the lack of chemical dyeing will appeal to those with environmental and/or health concerns. And not just clothing. Wool upholstery, rugs and wall-coverings will grow in importance as our buildings become more tightly-sealed and we employ wool to remove noxious chemicals from indoor air. I don't know these other markets, but what I do know is that people simply like NATURAL products more than synthetic. People like leather more than vinyl. Wood more than fiberglass. Stone over concrete. And given a taste of serious wool, they will prefer it to the synthetics
- We need an easy, effective and inexpensive way to protect woolens from moths
- The public likes the idea of sheep, wool, American Family Ranches. There are many people who will "pay up" for American ... and not just Americans, but also Canadians, Europeans, Asians, Australians. "Made in USA" has global appeal
- Public appetite is shifting toward quality over quantity. American manufacture must compete on quality and service, not price
- The public loves transparency
- WE -- THE SHEEP INDUSTRY -- SHOULD WEAR WOOL. AMERICAN WOOL. Flip through the Sheep Industry News and you won't see much, if any wool clothing
13 January 2024 --- Ralph
2024-01-11 ... Alex is Shipping
Sorry to have fallen behind. Alex is back in the office now, and shipping as fast as he can. A couple of us in the family have tested positive for the Covid, and Alex seems to have it now, too. But still working.
Debby and I at Sheep Convention in Denver until Sunday.
2024-01-09 ... Starry Night
Living just outside NYC, our nighttime sky has few visible stars, mostly because of so much artificial light. So when we can, we like to take in a starry night. This photo was shot while we were waiting for darkness in the desert outside Phoenix, Arizona, relatively far from artificial light. Wow, the desert sky is beautiful!!! Shooting stars and a visit from a curious kit fox were nice bonuses!! Thanks to (family) tour guides Olie and Brenna!!
On the left is son Zack, our CFO (in my CPO), nephew Ian (Anorak), me (Anorak), Debby (Blanket Coat), Alex (prototype Black Denim Hooded Jacket).
Zack's brother-in-law, Olie Moss, created this image in the same general area.
2024-01-07 ... ASI Convention Talk
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is holding its 2024 Annual Convention in Denver from 10 through 13 January. They have honored us with an invitation to speak for 15 minutes to the 150-member Board of Directors. I'm working on my talk, and any input would be great. I think what I can offer the industry insiders is what I have learned from speaking with thousands of people about wool clothing. Here is what I have prepared so far. THANKS!!
2024-01-05 ... Lynx Again
Jesse M, a customer from the Los Angeles, California area, phoned me this morning to tell me about his experiences so far (about 3 weeks) with his Lynx Pattern CPO. Jesse has been wearing WeatherWool for two years, but this was his first item in Lynx Pattern. In the short time he's had the CPO, he said numerous people have admired the garment and wanted to touch it. Jesse had not seen the 3 January Blog!
2024-01-03 ... Lynx Pattern In LA
Debby and I are visiting our son, Zack (WeatherWool CFO) and his family in Phoenix. Zack lives in Casper, Wyoming, but rented a place in Phoenix for a month to help shorten the winter. I haven't eaten oranges picked off the backyard tree in ... a long time!!!! Fresh-picked fruit is super! Alex will be joining us on the 5th and so we won't be shipping anything until he gets back to the office on the 9th. Sorry!! But this has been a long stretch of long weeks and we all needed a bit of a break. But actually, we've got some WeatherWool meetings planned, too.
Debby has close family on the West Coast that we rarely see. Everyone will understand how time just slips by. And we didn't want to miss the opportunity to see them. So yesterday we drove West from Phoenix to Los Angeles for a big family dinner. Debby's Cousin reserved a private room in a ritzy restaurant and we had a great evening. Debby is on the shy side, and it was a little funny to see her the center of attention ... really, Debby and Aunt Harriet ... who makes age 95 look like 65. Harriet is amazing and inspiring!!
I wore a Lynx Pattern CPO (over a light cotton T-shirt) during dinner, and was very comfortable in the restaurant and outside in temp of 50F/10C. After dinner, we were lingering outside, a few feet from a very elegantly-dressed couple. The gent was probably about 50, and he remarked to me THAT IS A NICE JACKET! I replied with thanks and what may have seemed a disrespectful or dismissive or, at least, mysterious, remark that I'd made it myself. But when people comment on my WeatherWool I feel like I should say something. And Lynx is what folks notice. However, the family chimed in and pushed me to explain. The stranger offered that he is definitely not in the habit of commenting on other men's clothing, but he was very interested in the CPO, so I gave him a card.
It's a weird thing, but whenever I speak to people about our colors, I feel bound to warn that those who don't want to be noticed should avoid wearing Lynx in public. I've never heard of Lynx being rejected as inappropriate, but it's not going to be overlooked (except it disappears in Natural settings!)!