When I was a little kid, back in about 1960, people frequently spoke about THE ROARING TWENTIES ... and it really impressed me there was a decade that earned such a moniker. I figured it must have been a really exciting time. And the 1920s, when my parents were born, was an exciting decade.
MANY THANKS for your interest in WeatherWool. We wish you and yours a great New Year and a great decade! Looking forward to THE ROARING TWENTY TWENTIES!!
Alex is out of rehab and on-the-mend. Complete recovery will take a while. But he is on his feet and getting started on a little bit of work. My apologies to everyone who has requested Fabric Samples in the last couple of weeks. We probably have about 50 Sample Packs to send out. Alex normally does all of that ... and I didn't get any of the Sample Packs shipped these last two weeks. Whenever Alex is out of the office, I find out that he does a lot of stuff that I normally don't pay any attention to!
THANK YOU from all of us for the good wishes and prayers extended for Alex. He is doing pretty well! Here are before and after X-Rays of his neck. The crook in his neck, plus some bone spurs that had grown inside his spinal column, caused nervous signals from his brain to his legs to be weakened and slowed, so his walking was significantly impacted and his arms were being affected as well. The titanium plate and screws were installed to pull his neck vertebrae into alignment. It's kind of miraculous what the medical folks can do now.
The post-op X-Ray was taken while Alex was wearing a large, wraparound neck brace.
Alex may need more hospital-based rehabilitation that we originally expected, so we have canceled the Open House that was scheduled for this coming Sunday. Next Open House will be January 26, 2020. Alex was up and walking -- with a walker -- this morning, so that's great. He probably just needs a few days ... a lot of work was done.
Updating from Alex's hospital room. On Monday, Debby and my son Alex, who is an owner of WeatherWool and responsible for all shipping (and more), underwent surgery for spinal stenosis. He is expected to make a full recovery, but it was a long, serious surgery and recovery will take time. The docs tell us spinal stenosis is a condition where something inside the spinal column squeezes or pressures the spinal cord and obstructs the ability of the brain to transmit instructions to the limbs. In Alex's case, over a period of several months, his ability to walk was severely impaired. Opening the spinal column and removing obstructions sounds unbelievably difficult and dangerous to me, but Dr Shekhtman told us she has done hundreds of these operations, and it is viewed as routine. BUT Alex had some major bone spurs that needed to be removed, three discs needed replacement, and a bunch of titanium screws were drilled into his neck vertebrae to stabilize the area. Or, at least, that's what I think was done. Because Alex's surgery was more extensive than usual, his hospital stay will be longer, and he will wear a neck brace probably six weeks. The impact on WeatherWool is that I am handling Alex's work, which includes also includes all inventory as well as shipping ... Apologies to everyone for the delays and uncertainty, and for the less-than professional packaging!
We still have an Open House scheduled for this Sunday. It will be a little more festive than usual as we welcome Alex back to our house where he will rest for a spell. But also more festive because we will be having a little Christmas Party and celebrating the First Night of Hanukkah. We hope you can join us!
2019-12-10 ... Lesson Learned, Again ... NO COTTON!
It was warm this morning, the rain had let up but more was predicted soon. We hurried out the door to walk a few miles before it got wet again ... Debby's not interested in walking in the rain! I grabbed a MidWeight ShirtJac but did not change out of my cotton T-Shirt. And I have to laugh because I've seen this over and over, but I did it anyway ... it started raining when we were about 20 minutes away from the truck ... my Ball Cap kept the rain off my head, and the ShirtJac mostly kept the rain out. BUT, on my shoulders, I got a little wet. It didn't matter, with such warm weather, but it still impresses me that the ShirtJac itself can be drier than the cotton underneath it! How is that possible? I should have left the T-Shirt in the car, and walked in the ShirtJac with no base layer, which I have done many times ... it works fine.
We spoke with the folks at the mill this morning and we're going to focus immediate production efforts on our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric, which, among our six Fabrics, is the most important.
Debby and I walked about four miles today on a breezy ridge that overlooks New York City. This ridge has been a vantage point for hundreds of years ... probably thousands ... there is a plaque where George Washington watched troop movements during the Revolution. The NYC Skyline, 10 miles to the East, is prominent, and there is a Memorial to the local residents who were murdered on September 11, 2001. It seemed a good place to walk on December 7th. Also a good place for us to try out prototypes of our new Neck Gaiters. We'll change the weave and weight a little bit from what is shown in the photo, but we like what we already have quite a bit. We want to make them the same as the previous ones, even though we are now using a better knitting machine that can handle the whole job, eliminating about a half-hour of Debby's hand-sewing for each Gaiter. The new machine will also do a slicker job of knitting, particularly along the top and bottom.
We got some early snow yesterday, and into the night. I thought today would be a great day to hunt The Swamp ... Muzzleloader for deer. About 8 inches (20 cm) of fresh snow, light breeze, temp just below freezing. I hunted really hard for five hours, from sunup until noon. There were very fresh tracks everywhere ... beds ... droppings ... And the amount of beaver and otter activity was really surprising, considering it had been less than 12 hours since the snow stopped. But I never saw a deer. Never heard a snort. Not a tail. I was likely close to deer half the time I was out there, just based on the numbers. But in many places, The Swamp is very thick. Deer love to bed in the THICK stands of brush and multi-flora rose. But that means you can be really close to deer and still not see them. Once, I was certain I smelled them, but it wasn't possible to see even 10 steps in the direction the breeze came from. ... AND ... when I got home, deer were browsing leisurely in the neighbor's back yard!
.... We have been getting some samples of our next batch of Neck Gaiters made. We need for these new Gaiters to be completely machine-made. Debby has been spending about a half-hour hand-stitching the "tube" closed, but we need to get past that manual step. We're really happy with the quality of the work we are seeing, but we need to get the thickness and weight and stretch right. So it will take a few iterations. But it will happen!
2019-11-27 ... Thanksgiving Eve
We at WeatherWool have a great deal to be Thankful for. Here, I will just say that we are Thankful for the many people who have helped us along the way, and for the many people who have become Friends through WeatherWool. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! --- Ralph, Debby, Alex, Denali
PS ... This is a really cool drone-movie (from very high) showing a sheep dog herding sheep through a chute! Many thanks to Heidi N. Moore, @moorehn, who posted this on Twitter ... and to my Great Friend Gil, who flagged it to me.
THANKS to everyone who came to yesterday's Open House! The turnouts for Open House are usually about four separate groups of people. And usually they don't arrive at the same time, so we have good sessions with everyone who comes by. Next Open House Day is the Sunday before Christmas.
Two days ago at The Swamp, waterfowl were everywhere, and Advisor Fisher Neal and friends did very well with the birds. At one point, Fisher estimated there were 300 wood ducks on our lake. Today I was there for deer. What a difference two days can make! The river had come up about 3 or 4 feet (a meter or so) due to rain yesterday. I saw ONE goose and ZERO ducks. I also saw ZERO deer, which is quite unusual, although I did find fresh deer tracks in the mud, which made me grin. I normally sit quietly from before first light until an hour or two after sunup, and then start stillhunting (creeping slowly through the forest, looking for deer). On my way out, I passed the spot where I'd been sitting early, and the deer had walked right by ...
Two highlights ... while sitting, I saw a huge bird attempt to land in the top of a tree about 100 yards away, but the limb the bird picked broke off when it landed! It was a pretty good-size limb, too ... made a racket falling down. The bird flew off just a little bit, and landed facing directly away from me. I happened to have with me 15x binoculars, and watched it for a while. It seemed to me it could only be an immature bald eagle. But that was odd because I'd only seen a bald eagle there once before. A couple hours later, while stillhunting, I heard a crash, and expected to see a fleeing whitetail. But instead what I saw was a mature bald eagle (the mature birds have the famous white markings) taking flight!!
Our younger son, Zack, just got engaged! We are thrilled to welcome Carla to our family!!!!
Just added a new page to the website, WarriorWool Donations, that shows the donations that have been made to the WarriorWool Program.
We arrived home from Burlington about midnight last night and before noon today we were on our way to Brooklyn to drop off the yarn with a company that has Shima Seiki Knitting Machines. This is the type of machine we've been looking for ... it can seamlessly knit the tube of our Neck Gaiter, eliminating a tedious and time-consuming manual step, AND making a slicker product! We really look forward to seeing the first sample next week!
While at the knitting plant, we got a message that the first pieces of our FullWeight Fabric were delivered to our tailors in New Jersey. So ... we went straight over there to check them out ... and immediately set the tailors to making some FullWeight Anoraks! Luckily, they had not quite finished with the MidWeight Anoraks they'd started the week before, so this small addition didn't create a problem in their planning. Altogether we'll be making 55-60 Anoraks, all in Solid Drab Color.
Yesterday Debby and I drove from our home in South Orange, New Jersey, to Raeford, North Carolina, where Burlington Fabrics has a huge plant. When we set out to make our Hooded Sweatshirts [now Hooded Jackets] a while back, we needed to make the cuffs and ribs from American Merino Wool. There was only one company knitting what we needed, and they exited that line of business before they provided to us enough material to complete our run of Hooded Jackets. So we were forced to make our own, which meant buying quite a bit more yarn than we had intended. We bought this yarn from a company named Hanora, which has since been acquired by Burlington. Because we had to buy so much extra yarn, Debby decided to make some Neck Gaiters with the surplus. The Neck Gaiters have become a popular item, and totally sold out. We ordered more yarn 13 months (!!!) ago, and getting it made to Debby's spec was quite an ordeal, involving a tremendous amount of interaction with Burlington. It is really something when a gigantic operation like Burlington devotes so much time to what, for them, is a fly-sized order. When the yarn was finally ready, Burlington invited us to tour their facility and pick up the yarn (about 600 pounds). THANKS to Tom Aubrey and Mike Bonney and Troy for helping us with the yarn, and for the tremendously informative tour of their facility. As usual with this kind of thing, we gained a couple of pages of knowledge and learned that there is another encyclopedia-worth of stuff we don't know! For example, Debby had been working for months (seriously!!) With Troy toto get the colors exactly right, and we could not understand how matching colors could be such an involved process. After touring the Burlington facility and seeing what goes on in their color and quality control labs, we have a lot more appreciation, and (especially Debby) more knowledge about the difficulties of pinning down color. YIKES! It always turns out that there is a lot more to it than I would ever have imagined!
Below, I'm standing next to some woolen fiber coming off Burlington's machines. This gigantic room was actually only a small fraction of the facility in Raeford. The high-level tour took nearly two hours, and we are really grateful that the folks at Burlington took so much time familiarizing us with their operation!
Today we visited the famous Stoll Company's North American Headquarters in NYC's Garment District. Stoll has been a world leader in knitting machines for many years. We are trying to find someone who can not only knit our Neck Gaiters for us, but also link the sides of the flat fabric together, creating a tube. Debby has been sewing the two sides of the Gaiters together by hand, and it takes quite a while to do each one! Stoll is actually the third knitting company we have visited trying to find someone to handle the linking. But even for companies that have the linking machine such as Stoll, it is still a slow, tedious and labor-intensive process.
2019-10-24 ... Pennsylvania Deer
Did some hunting in Pennsylvania this week. Pennsylvania has an antlerless deer season for those who hunt with muzzleloading rifles. I've liked the muzzleloaders for a long time ... the modern muzzleloaders have capabilities similar to (current technology) centerfire rifles, except they are single-shot.
For those not familiar ... a muzzleloader is a firearm that is loaded from the muzzle -- the front end -- where the bullet exits the rifle. It's a much earlier technology that has not really been in use much at all, except for historical reasons, since the late 1800s. With the way muzzleloaders have evolved in recent decades as hunting weapons, they can be extremely accurate and reliable, particularly at shorter ranges, but because they are so slow to load/reload, they are essentially single-shot hunting weapons. The first shot has to count. (And if you don't fully expect the first shot to count, then you shouldn't take it!) This type of weapon suits my own preferred hunting style ... slipping very slowly and as quietly as possible through the forest, hoping to see deer before they become aware of me. Because the Eastern deciduous forests tend to be pretty thick, it's quite normal to get close to deer that cannot be seen. I think the great majority of deer that I encounter move off ahead of me without me ever having been aware of them. Whitetails, when they want to be, are extremely keen. Their senses of smell and hearing are phenomenal, and their eyes are very sensitive to movement. Anyway, four half-days of hunting resulted in several close encounters, but for various reasons I did not shoot. This year, Pennsylvania added a new element to "muzzleloader week" ... senior citizens, which I now am (!!), are permitted to use totally modern centerfire rifles the last three days. I welcome any chance to hunt with my favorite rifle, a Marlin .30-30 my Dad bought for about $50 in about 1950.
Background on my "thirty-thirty"
- The rifle was manufactured by Marlin Firearms of Connecticut, an important name in American history
- The ".30" means the caliber (diameter) of the bullet is .3 inches, approximately
- And the "-30" refers to thirty "grains" (1.9 grams) of modern, smokeless gunpowder propelling the bullet. Smokeless powder (as opposed to black powder, which generated a lot of smoke and fouling) was new in 1895 when Winchester introduced the Winchester Model 1894, the first hunting rifle designed for smokeless powder.
- Marlin and Winchester .30-30 rifles each have their fans, and which is better is a classic way to start an argument in some circles. No question where I stand!!
So anyway, it was really nice to tiptoe up on a deer and put Dad's thirty-thirty to use. And another highlight was my visit to the butcher! A friend in the area told me to take my deer to Moose, who would do a great job butchering and turning the meat into anything we might desire. Meeting Moose and touring his facility was a real treat. Moose is EXTREMELY serious about his craft, and built his own huge butcher shop complete with everything a game butcher would want, including very large walk-in cooler. Moose is an artiste' of-a-butcher, and I spent about an hour with him, talking about his craft. What a pleasure! I actually intend to hunt Pennsylvania more than I otherwise would have, in hopes I can bring another deer to Moose. He also makes and smokes his own cheeses. His family raises beef and pork and he makes some specialty cured and smoked meat products from his family's livestock. With Moose, I found a real kindred spirit ... he feels about butchery and charcuterie the way I feel about WeatherWool! A lot of hunters like to process their own game, and I fully understand that. I'm not good at butchery, but also, even if I was, I'd never be as good as a true professional ... and I see this expertise as another way to honor the animal whose life I took to feed my family.
This morning was a great illustration of the intangible benefits of WeatherWool!
- A customer phoned from Ontario hoping to get an Anorak. But we were sold out of the size/color Anorak he wanted, so he took our last Black All-Around Jacket instead because he really wanted to get something from us, based on all the info he'd found on the web and social media. He texted me a few minutes later, saying he still wanted to get the Anorak when they are in stock again!
- When checking my phone for the text message, I noticed there was a Facebook message waiting for me. A customer from Indiana sent some photos and high praise for his Anorak, saying it was his favorite piece of outerwear. He wants to work with us, and after we speak with him, perhaps I will have permission to post his quote and name here.
- Then I saw an Instagram post that Advisor Dane Lawing is in Chicago, filming the upcoming TV Series Lincoln, An American President. Dane had posted a photo of himself in his Anorak, holding his video camera. Dane is a heavy-duty, award-winning cinematographer who actually specializes in underwater work, with an emphasis on Nature, but his expertise is much in-demand for television, movies and Netflix.
- Another text came in from a great customer in West Virginia. He is a retired policeman-turned-preacher. We've become pretty good friends since he first ordered a year or two ago, and he once told me something really memorable. He said being a preacher is the same job as being a cop, except he no longer has a gun to defend himself. Take care of yourself, my Friend! Thanks for doing what you do ...
- I got another text from Dr Steve Schutzer, who first got in touch with us about 5 years ago, and he's become a family friend. This morning, Dr Steve sent a link to a news article ... Steve holds an MD and is one of the world's foremost Lyme Disease researchers. He knew I'd be happy to read about some extremely promising new technology he is working on regarding Lyme vaccine and treatment!! What wonderful news! Let's stomp Lyme disease! Go Steve!
- Customer Ziad "Z" Kerala from Upstate New York sent us a couple of photos and a great ShirtJac review. Z has several pieces of WeatherWool, and he wears his ShirtJac all the time.
- And tonight, we'll be attending a Bonfire and Barbecue at Revelation Farms, the home of Advisor Chase Burnett and his wife Kate Grom Burnett. Kate is a rising singer-songwriter and world-class competitor in American Saddle Horse Tournaments, riding horses that have been bred and trained at Revelation Farms.
A great deal to be thankful for!
2019-10-17 ... Initial Pieces of MidWeight
Today we received the first pieces of our next batch of Fabric. This was a small sample ... about 118 yards (108 meters), and everyone is really happy with it. For technical reasons, however, we may still may need to try a couple of other combinations of equipment. But ... an encouraging and very long-awaited step!
2019-10-16 ... North Maine Double Coat Prototype Received
Today we received "the muslin" (see photo below from a couple of days ago) of the NMDJ. It looks great, but of course we have some changes that we want to make! Great work from Advisor JR Morrissey, owner of TheFactory8.
2019-10-14 and -15 ... Finger Lakes Farmland
I forgot to note this at the time, but we spent Monday and Tuesday in Western New York, South of the Finger Lakes. We are thinking about making a huge change ... moving to a farm. With the passing of both our Moms this year, things have changed a lot for Debby and me, and it's time to at least think about moving. It seems like "WeatherWool Farm" would be a great step. Maybe that's because we don't know anything about farm life. BUT ... we didn't know anything about making woolens, either ... HUGE THANKS to Neil Dougherty of North Country Whitetails and Corey Figueiredo of Future Forest Consulting for showing us some stunning property and great value. We have known Neil for about 15 years, since he first bought wool from us. And it turns out that Corey is a graduate of SUNY School of Forestry at Syracuse University, where Debby and I met. These gents have huge experience in land management and are a pleasure to work with.
2019-10-11 ... First MidWeight
Today we got our first look at the test Fabric for our next production run. The mill sent us a strip of MidWeight Fabric in Solid Drab Color. It meets our specs and feels great! We have a call scheduled with the guys at the mill on Monday morning, so we'll know more soon.
2019-10-10 ... NMDJ and Fjällräven
A couple of days ago, we were surprised and grateful that Fjällräven tagged us on an Instagram post announcing their new jacket made from recycled wool. I was surprised because Fjällräven Instagram accounts have about 700,000 followers, whereas WeatherWool is still under 6000 ... it seems like this can only be a boost for our little company. Thanks, Fjällräven!! ... and we'll return the favor by tagging you! ............. Separately, Advisor JR Morrissey is helping us create the North Maine Double Coat, and he sent us the first couple of photos of "the muslin".
Until now, I had known of "muslin" only as a cotton fabric often used to test clothing designs. But in the garment industry, "a muslin" or "the muslin" means the first cut at a garment design, made with less expensive fabric than will be used for the final product. In this case, the "NMDJ muslin" is actually made from some really serious Melton, but even that industry-leading wool is a lot less expensive than our own Fabric.
2019-10-09 ... Yom Kippur
It's an important day here because Debby is Jewish. Solemn since last night, big family dinner tonight. .............. Also, I am putting up a page showing production/inventory status because a lot of people have been asking, and because we try to provide as much info as we can. [There are separate pages showing Production Status and current Inventory and these pages are linked from the Main Menu of every page. --- 27 August 2021.]
2019-10-01 ... TEN YEARS!
Ten years ago we (really me) decided to "do" WeatherWool. What a crazy journey this has been! Like most people getting into something new, it took far longer and was far more difficult and expensive than I ever thought. Had I known what it would actually be like, I probably would not have done this. Truly. But it has been immensely rewarding ... and perhaps someday it will even be financially rewarding. BIGTIME THANKS to everyone who has worked with us ... Customers, Ranchers, Processors (Scourers, Carders, Spinners, Weavers, Dyers, Finishers, Tailors), Testers, Reviewers, Editors, Writers, Advisors, Lawyers and others who help us realize our vision. And what a kick that so many of these great people, from Alaska to Australia, have become friends! Thanks to Alex, who does what I think of as the "real work", and Denali who creates the professional images. Most of all, THANKS to Debby, who is more of a realist than me, but nevertheless has always completely supported WeatherWool, and whose partnership is indispensable in everything. --- Ralph ........... Also ...... very coincidentally, today of all days, Fjällräven, a much larger, older and 100 times better-known company, "tagged" us on an Instagram post featuring their jacket made from recycled wool.
2019-09-30 ... THANKS!
Thanks to everyone who came by yesterday for our Open House. Next Open House is Sunday, October 27, a few days before Halloween (one of my favorite days)!!
2019-09-29 ... OPEN HOUSE NOW!
Be here or be square ... that's a take-off on the old, old saying Be THERE or be square ... and if you don't know what "square" means, well, I'm kinda jealous of anyone that young ...
2019-09-28 ... Getting ready for Open House Tomorrow
We always say that we'll keep the "Showroom", which used to be our living room, "ready" for Open House, and for people who visit by appointment, which is a frequent occurrence. But the day before Open House involves a bunch of work anyhow ... So, that's what we'll be doing today! Hope you can come tomorrow!
2019-09-27 ... Partial Donations to WarriorWool
A primary reason WeatherWool exists is our wish to provide to US Military personnel clothing that outperforms the alternatives. Our WarriorWool Program offers reduced-price Anoraks to Military people buying for themselves or for anyone who wishes to donate. Yesterday, a customer suggested that we accept partial donations -- that is, donations less than the cost of a WarriorWool Anorak. I thought it was a great idea, and basically said YES immediately ... partly because Advisor Dave Canterbury has already made such donations (not publicized until now). When the smaller donations add up to the WarriorWool cost, we'll make the donation. All American Military receive a 5% THANK YOU credit on WeatherWool, and the customer who made this suggestion, a Veteran from the State of Maine, donated his 5% to the Program. He also gets great thanks for this idea!
THANK YOU 2019-09-26 ... Natural Colored Gaiters ... Production Update
Much to my surprise I was told there is a good chance we'll have our Fabric by the end of November. We have a lot of Fabric to make, and I did not expect it that quickly, based on all the work that needs to be done. This is great news, but my enthusiasm is very much tempered by my doubts! ... Also ... We are going to make some Natural Colored Neck Gaiters this year. All of our products so far were dyed -- made by dyeing the wool of "white" sheep. But Andy McMurry, one of our main Ranchers, and a new WeatherWool Advisor, raises some gorgeous Naturally Colored Merino, and I've been longing to do something with it since first I saw photos of the sheep. Look at this beautiful fleece!!
2019-09-17 ... CUBA! ... Drab Neck Gaiters
This is pretty cool ... we are shipping an order to the US Military Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba! That brings our List of Countries where WeatherWool has been to a total of 47 ... Also ... Debby has decided to make Neck Gaiters in Solid Drab Color this year, and she listed them on the website today. It took about an hour for someone to order the first one!
The first small bits of test Fabric have been woven. Next we need to weave some much larger pieces. Not sure when the larger pieces will be woven, but I hope this month. After the test pieces are woven, they will still need to be dyed, carbonized and finished. So, still a lot needs to be done before we go into production of Fabric in earnest. And once we get rolling, it will take months to make the Fabric, and then tailors will need time to make garments.
2019-09-08 ... New Jersey Sheep and Fiber Festival
Held annually and organized by the New Jersey Sheep Growers ... very interesting and glad I went. Who knows ... maybe we can eventually source some wool from Jersey. Or ... wild idea ... maybe even have a ranch of our own here in Jersey. The biggest problem with that, tho, is that real estate prices (and taxes!) in Jersey are sooooo high.
2019-09-06 ... WeatherWool Open House Sunday, September 29
With cooler weather coming to the Northern Hemisphere, it's time to begin our monthly Open House schedule again. Hope you can join us. This Open House had been scheduled for the 8th, but we need to attend the New Jersey Sheep Festival that afternoon. Sorry for any inconvenience due to this change!
2019-08-28 ... Road Trip
Debby and I will be driving from home (New Jersey just West of New York City) to Atlanta and back starting this afternoon. We'll be seeing friends from school for a wedding in Atlanta. On the way South, we'll be looking at Eastern Tennessee as a possible place for a little WeatherWool Ranch. On the way home, we'll be on the Eastern side of the Appalachians, perhaps visiting the Outer Banks and other spots on the North and South Carolina Coast ... another place we are interested in living eventually, and where we will be vacationing in October of 2020. We'll also stop off somewhere around Annapolis, Maryland and Alexandria, Virginia, to see family and have a dinner/interview with a writer who wants to publish an article about WeatherWool. Alex (and Denali) will keep things going in the office while we are gone.
2019-08-24 ... Great Feedback!
Robert Mulloy from Virginia wrote us today: "Thank you for getting that delivery out to me so quickly. I haven't taken off the Anorak since I've put it on. I even slept in it. The quality of your wool us unlike anything I've seen and I wish all clothes were made of this stuff." THANKS ROBERT! Obviously, we love getting positive feedback. But we really, really hope people will let us know about anything that goes wrong!
2019-08-23 ... Posted NMDJ Update
I always like being confounded. Normally, when I post on social media, I make virtually identical posts on Facebook and Instagram. Instagram "always" has 5 or 10 times more engagement (LIKES and comments) than Facebook. But with the NMDJ post, two people on Facebook commented that they definitely want to get one. Good news ... and a nice surprise having the Facebook folks step up!
Next week, Debby and I will be driving down to Atlanta for a wedding on Sunday the 1st of September. We'll head for home on Labor Day, and along the way we'll see some WeatherWool people ... and maybe look at a little real estate in eastern Tennessee.
2019-08-20 ... North Maine Double Coat
Today we started work on the North Maine Double Jacket. We should have the first rough mockup (in muslin) in a couple of weeks.
2019-08-19 … Great comment!
A couple of days ago, a customer sent me a note: "I have been wearing the ShirtJac every day since I bought it from you. Lots of my friends are jealous and swear they are going to buy one. I accidentally left it at my cabin on Sunday and am forced to wear my Filson Mackinaw Cruiser until I can pick it up this Friday. I once considered the Filson amazing quality, but as soon as I put it on, I laughed and shook my head." Please understand I'm not trying to be confrontational, although I welcome head-to-head comparison and testing against any other outerwear. I admire Filson and their long history of promoting wool. But although I have seen many Filson products, I've never seen anything from them that compares to what we are doing. I don't mean to knock Filson .. just telling it like our customer (and I) see it. WeatherWool is at a different level.
2019-08-16 ... Scent Killers
Field & Stream Magazine does period tests of clothing and devices that are designed to help suppress human scent in order to enable people to avoid detection by animals. The tests involved a police dog trained to find hiding people. F&S has been running these tests for a few years, and nothing has come close to fooling the dog. This year, they tested an ozone generating machine, and the dog needed 50 seconds to find the hidden man. Fifty seconds was far longer than ever before. Please click here for an interesting read. Please note at the end of this article is a link to the tests of previous years.
Debby's Mom, who lived with us, passed away a few days ago. We'll be getting back to work soon.
We have just added the US Army 10th Special Forces Group to our WarriorWool Program. It's exciting for us to add a new group to the Program, but what really made us happy, in a way, was when my contact at the 10th told us there is a rumor among Special Forces in Afghanistan that the Air Force is issuing WeatherWool to its SERE instructors. WE WISH! It kind of amazed us to think we would be the subject of rumors among Special Forces. The USAF SERE Instructors at the Arctic Survival "Cool School" at Eielson Air Force Base outside Fairbanks do have several pieces of WeatherWool we donated when I did a presentation there, but the Cool School had to cancel a planned purchase. Interestingly, the instructors there preferred MidWeight Anoraks over FullWeight Anoraks. That just goes to show that people who are used to cold weather, confident, physically fit and well-equipped tend to go light ... but even knowing that, I was still surprised, because these guys spend extended time in the winter weather of Fairbanks, AK.
I remember the Apollo 11 landing on the moon in 1969. (I was 15.) But even if I didn't remember, it would still be a huge kick for us to be shipping WeatherWool to Cap Canaveral, launch site of the Apollo Missions, on the 50th Anniversary of the real Moon Walk!
There is a great video on YouTube about the behavior of wool vs synthetic furniture coverings. The vid was made by the government of New Zealand, and it has a feel of being made about 1960. But it is pretty intense and well worth the few minutes to watch the whole thing. A lit match placed on a sofa has a house on fire in under 5 minutes. Here is a screen capture and the link to the video. THANKS to the Government of New Zealand for a dramatic and memorable video!
This screen capture from the YouTube video shows a sofa made of synthetics 80 seconds after a single, ordinary match was placed upon it. The same video shows a completely different result when placing a match on another piece of furniture, with the same padding, but covered in wool. The wool shrugs off the match, and even a crumpled, burning piece of office paper.
Just put up the first Japanese on this website. Our Advisor in Japan, Jeremiah Goodman, is an American married to a Japanese woman, raising their daughters in the forests of Nagano Prefecture, a few hours drive outside Tokyo. Jeremiah's family lives close to Nature, heating their home with the firewood gathered by Jeremiah from the local woods, which are heavily populated by Black Bears! Nagano is known for huge snowfall, and hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. Mrs Goodman helped Jeremiah with the Japanese.
2019-07-07 ... Overnight??!!!
I had passed this spot many consecutive days, and I believe these wonderfully delicious Oyster Mushrooms actually popped overnight. Mushrooms can grow astoundingly fast. For reference, that kitchen knife is 12 inches (30 centimeters) long. It was a very humid hazy day and it shows in the photo.
2019-07-06 ... WarriorWool for UK Forces
Soon we will announce that "Ziggy" has joined us as an Advisor. Ziggy has served 26 years in the Special Forces of the United Kingdom. He continues to serve the UK in a military capacity, and needs to keep a low profile. Ziggy has been wearing WeatherWool since October of 2018, and he likes it enough that he'll be working with us to get the UK Military a taste of WeatherWool through our WarriorWool Program. Because of his long service, Ziggy has many connections in the various units of British Military, and he will be distributing any WarriorWool donations that have been directed to the British Military. We are really pleased to have our Great Allies as WarriorWool donation recipients. Separately, a member of United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance has just begun a personal evaluation of WeatherWool.
2019-07-04 ... Really, my favorite day of the year.
We are really happy we were able to secure WeatherWool's phone number ending in "1776". I have tried several times to get phone number "July 04 1776" (704-1776) in any area code, but for technical reasons the phone companies haven't been able to manage it. HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!!!!!!!!
Debby and I got home from Wyoming yesterday. It was great to spend some time with our son Zack. Z works about 65 hours per week in the oil and gas industry, and is the only one of our children who is not heavily involved with WeatherWool (beyond his family ownership interest). We also had a great talk with Chris Sheets and Adam Teter of the Right to Roam Podcast. [Please Note: In late 2021, the guys pulled the podcast because they were too busy with other things.] The podcast is run by four guys who are extremely committed to protecting America's Wild Heritage, and three of them are professional Wildlife Biologists, employed by Wyoming Fish and Game or the federal Bureau of Land Management. Chris has been testing a MidWeight Anorak in Lynx Pattern for a few weeks, and he had some really great feedback for us, which will be included in the podcast. Chris likes his Anorak enough that he, and perhaps the other gents at Right to Roam, may work with us. We also met Ben, who runs Mountain Meadow Wool. Both Mountain Meadow and Right to Roam operate out of Buffalo, Wyoming. Mountain Meadow Wool's production capacity starts with scouring raw wool and goes all the way through completed knitted garments. The only thing they don't do is raise their own sheep. We really liked Ben and his operation, and we may work with them. While in Wyoming, the family watched the Youtube Review of our Anorak by Brady Nicholls, an Air Force SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) Instructor and Contestant on the History Channel's Survival Series ALONE.
2019-06-26 ... Wyoming
We are at Newark Liberty International Airport, headed to Casper to spend a few days with our younger son, who has been living in WY for 7 years. We will also do an interview with the Right to Roam Podcast. First time I have ever updated the website from my cell phone! Looks like the formatting is a little off.
2019-06-23 ... Feedback Requested Please!
We are always keen to hear from our customers ... and even from people who are not our customers ... what they like, what they don't like, what they wish for, and in particular, where has WeatherWool failed. In the next day or two we will be contacting all our customers, plus posting on Facebook and Instagram, asking for feedback ... and most of all we seek information about any failures.
2019-06-22 ... First day of WINTER (in Australia)
"Costi Farms is one of the world leaders in the Macadamia Nut industry. The seven farms, which sit along the south east coast of Queensland, spanning a distance of over 400 km (248 miles), have a zero waste policy." ... Rob Griffith, Operations Manager. Macadamias are native to Australia. Temperature just above freezing. The guys at Costi haven't had their Anoraks long, but expect the wool will work for farming and flying.
2019-06-18 ... Heavy Rain Again
I've posted before about hiking in WeatherWool in heavy rain. Today was another one of those days, but the new wrinkle was the warmth (74F / 23C) and my decision to wear our Ball Cap. I wore a MidWeight ShirtJac without a base layer, and the Ball Cap for a hike of about 4.3 miles (7 km) in a forest during heavy rain. I never felt the raindrops hitting me, and even though it was a warm (almost) summer day, the cool/cold rain never seemed to touch my skin. I thought with the Ball Cap, the rain would be running off the sides and back of the Cap, and then down inside the ShirtJac. But that didn't seem to happen. So the main point is that even in such relative warmth, the wool kept me much more comfortable than I would have been had I worn true rain gear, which would have caused me to overheat immediately. At the end of the hike, I was somewhat damp, but not at all uncomfortable. The ShirtJac itself, however, was pretty wet, and when I got home and draped it over a chair (about 20 minutes after getting into my truck), a little water dripped out of the sleeves.
2019-06-17 ... HOMEMADE (Trailmade!) PANTS!
Buck Muir, a friend from school days, completed the 2192 mile (3527 km) Appalachian Trail in 1978, covering the last few hundred miles of the trail with Tennis Shoe Barb, who earned her nickname by hiking the entire AT in tennis shoes. When they reached the Northern New Hampshire town of Berlin, the weather was turning cold and wet, and Buck and Barb decided his cotton pants were a liability. So they got hold of an old wool blanket, and in the basement of the Berlin Firehouse, cut up the blanket and stitched together the pictured pants. Buck told me this story a couple of days ago, and pulled out the pants to take this photo. Buck said the pants worked for the 300 miles (480 km) of AT from Berlin to the trail's end on Mount Katahdin in Maine. Buck still does a lot of walking and even some through-hiking, and here's hoping this post will motivate him to pay those old pants some respect and get them on the trail again. Wool lasts a long time!! Thanks to Buck for a great story!
2019-06-15 ... THANKS to our Friends!
About once a month or so, we get 'flamed' ... that is, we receive a negative communication regarding our business. The flamers are never our customers, happily, but nevertheless they express a few complaints: we must be making a crazy amount of money because our prices are higher than others; no way WeatherWool can be worth the cost because other people sell garments much cheaper; we will never get any traction because we are too expensive; we are dopes for making garments that are priced beyond what many people are willing to spend ... my favorite flame is that wool is outdated because 'modern synthetics' are so much better ... "This is 2019 not 1819" was a memorable line. (But the 'synthetics' people are yet to accept a head-to-head performance test.) A couple of weeks ago we were scathingly flamed publicly on YouTube, and last night I made Instagram and Facebook Posts showing the flaming. We have never gotten anywhere near as many comments on a post, and we are really, really grateful for the kind words. A gent from Australia wrote on Facebook: "Yep.... mine was dear... and even dearer when the exchange rate to Australia $ plus freight... wow... what was I thinking... well I wore it in the Deep South of nz [New Zealand] during the red deer roar... I got caught out overnight in a storm in a beech Forrest... I was wet but warm and alive... I cried over the cost but I credit it for saving my life. Put a price on that men".
2019-06-14 ... New Product Ideas
We hope to soon add to this website pages covering one (if Debby gets her way) or two (if I win!) new products. Debby and I have agreed that WeatherWool needs to develop a hat in the popular Bomber/Aviator design. WeatherWool's version will be made of two layers of our FullWeight Fabric, and might be reversible, offering two different colors ... and one of those colors might be Blaze/Safety Orange, for which we have had many requests. (And THANKS to WeatherWool Friend Tim for making this a front-burner issue!)
2019-06-13 ... Coyote Update
Two days ago I posted on Facebook and Instagram (which has been a great tool for us) a photo and some words about coyotes:
Only 10 miles West of New York City, there are plenty of coyotes. There are even some songdogs living IN NYC. This rear leg was separated from a whitetail fawn killed by a vehicle or the local 'yotes, or maybe a combination of both. The South Mountain Reservation, 2100 acres (840 hectares), America's oldest county park, is home to plenty of coyotes and critters that coyotes are happy to eat. But unless you are there at first light or nightfall, you are very unlikely to see a coyote. Got to hand it to urban/suburban wildlife ... give them a little bit of habitat, and they will thrive.
Only 24 hours after that post, a friend notified me that a coyote had just attacked several adults in a town near my Swamp. I assume the 'yote is rabid, but it hadn't been caught.
We got an order for an Anorak from Australia a couple of days ago. We like to speak with new customers, and we only have maybe 15 customers in Australia. Also, I was intrigued by his commercial email address, and a quick search showed that he was with a very large Macadamia Nut grower. So I phoned him and we talked a bit. Turns out a friend of his has one of our Anoraks, and our new customer bought it pretty much as soon as he saw his buddy's. Today, another order from Australia ... this one from the owner of the business. When I phoned him, he recognized the US phone number and answered with HELLO RALPH ... or, actually, I think he said G'DAY RALPH, but I'm not sure about that. And we also had a nice talk. Until this week, I had no idea Macadamias were native to Australia, or that Australia is the largest producer. Because of Australia's huge reputation for wool, it's an honor for an American company to have Australian customers for its woolens!
Our clean fiber arrived at the facility where it will be carded and spun into yarn. It is really good to see our new Fabric production getting going!
Last week a Friend of WeatherWool who is a Medical Doctor in Georgia was at Thunder Ranch studying Defensive Handgun Techniques and Trauma First Response Procedures. Pretty interesting that a shooting school would be teaching Trauma Response, but it makes sense and Thunder Ranch does have at least one Emergency Room Physician on their roster of instructors. Thunder Ranch is located in Oregon where the weather, typically, was highly variable during the few days our friend was there ... giving him a great opportunity to see and show what his MidWeight Anorak could do. When he got home, he ordered another for his wife ... who is headed for Machu Picchu this weekend!
2019-06-10 ... ALMOST American ... Close, but no dice ...
Here's a great illustration of some of the situations that come up in trying to make a pure-American product. (And of course we don't mean this as a knock on any other countries. We have been on lots of great international trips and have WeatherWool Advisors and friends in many other countries!) We decided in the beginning we would make a totally American product, with no "buts" and no "excepts". And we're very strict about this. In the last few days we have been speaking with Dunlap Industries, in Dunlap, Tennessee. And they seem to be a great company ... exactly the sort of people we'd love to work with. They make some zippers that we could really use, and they make them in Tennessee. BUT ... and this is the sort of thing we run into a lot ... the zipper pulls, the piece that you hold between your fingers when you adjust the zipper, are not made in the USA. We hope Dunlap starts to make their own zipper pulls! And we really appreciate that they were forthright about the separate manufacture of the pulls. The vast majority of "notions" (zippers, buttons, fasteners, cord locks, cords) are made outside the USA, and therefore our choices are severely limited.
2019-06-08 ... Countdown to Fall Begins
It sounds odd, I know, but the first subtle hint of Fall has already arrived here in New Jersey. The earliest sunrise of the year (ignoring seconds) is 5:25AM ... starting today, June 8th. The sun continues to rise within that same minute until the solstice on June 21st. Taking the seconds into consideration, the earliest sunrise in our zip code (07079) would be about June 15th, a week before the solstice. Similarly, the latest sunset of the year will be about June 28, even though June 21st has more daylight than any other day in the Northern Hemisphere. You can see this information for your area on the great TimeAndDate website. And while I do absolutely love Summer, that's the season when people have the least interest in WeatherWool, so I can’t help but look forward to Fall!!
2019-06-07 ... ALONE on History Channel
Last night was the Season Premiere of Alone on History Channel TV. Brady Nicholls, a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) Instructor in the United States Air Force, is a contestant, and he is wearing our Anorak in Lynx Pattern. They are still introducing the contestants, and they didn't get to Brady last night. We will be posting information about the contest on our ALONE page. We expect Brady to be working with us to help introduce WeatherWool to more people in the US Military.
2019-06-06 ... Denali!
WeatherWool Advisor Don Nguyen this morning summited Mount Denali, the tallest mountain in North America, at 20,156 feet (6,144 m). Don works often as a mountaineering guide. Typically, Don is one of about three professionals guiding about eight clients to the summit of various mountains in North and South America, including Aconcagua, Rainier, Pichincha and others. In recent decades, mountaineers have worn almost exclusively synthetics because of their light weight, but Don has been experimenting with WeatherWool on his trips, and has been happy with the results. He has worn the ShirtJac to the summit of Aconcagua, and he told me he'd be wearing the Mouton Hat at the summit of Denali, where I think it would be ideal against the extreme wind and cold. Looking forward to speaking with Don and getting the details. THANKS DON for taking WeatherWool to such extreme places!
WOW!!!! --- Amazon just shut down WeatherWool's Amazon-Pay option because of WarriorWool!! They seem to be claiming we are posing as a charity without having a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. We're not posing as a charity at all, and any human would understand that. But a hallmark of Amazon is to do their utmost to automate everything. I am guessing some robot scanned our website and spit out a termination letter. And if this actually did come from a human, even worse. We are not giving up WarriorWool to make Amazon happy. And we're certainly not running a charity here, though we are still a long way from tax issues! From their point of view, tho, it would not be surprising that they are doing anything they can to avoid falling afoul of the IRS (for non-American readers, the IRS is America's Internal Revenue Service ... the federal tax authorities).
Today we added to our Military Anorak Reviews the thoughts of a US Marine Corps infantryman who has been testing the Anorak for about 6 months. The same gentleman will be testing the Ski Jacket / Mountain Jacket soon.
We just added the United States Marine Corps Scout Snipers to our WarriorWool Program. The Dad of one of the guys in the Scouts bought an Anorak for his son, who let some of the other guys try it out. One of those guys phoned me ... and now let's hope someone wants to donate to the USMC! WeatherWool is very proud to have the USMC as a choice for donors to our WarriorWool Program.
2019-05-22 ... May!!!
Hereabouts -- Northeast New Jersey -- May is an absolutely splendid month. If you are thinking about a trip to or near NYC, May is the time to come! And of course we hope you visit us, too!
2019-05-20 ... Weekend with Advisor Mike Dean
Denali and I drove up to Maine to visit with Advisor Mike Dean this past weekend. We spent several hours getting Mike on video. His knowledge of all things related to the outdoors is remarkable ... he knows the books but more importantly he has the experience. Definitely the right guy to be WeatherWool's first Advisor! ... THANKS for your patience this weekend, Mike ... We'll be working over the next weeks on the videos, plus some still shots for posting here and on Social Media. And Huge Thanks to Denali for working the cameras. Denali not only devoted her weekend to this trip, but she'll be spending many hours processing the still photography and video. And, oh yeah, sitting in Mike's yard reminded how much I hate black flies! I smashed a lot of them during the interview Saturday (on Sunday the temp was below 50F/10C and too cold for the flies), and that will show on the video. But a lot of them got me and my hands and wrists feel like poison ivy today.
2019-05-17 ... Jersey gets nuttier
The county inspector (see previous entry) phoned me this morning. Said he'd met with his supervisor and they decided wood from my yard would deplete the nutrients in the soil if left to decompose in the forest at The Swamp, along with the thousands of other trees that are already decomposing there, where they lived and died. He said the wood from my yard needs to be removed from The Swamp and taken to a proper decomposition facility. If this "wood can't decompose in a forest" stance isn't insane enough, The Swamp is adjacent to Sharkey's Dump, one of the most infamous Superfund sites in the USA. Until the early 1970s, you could take anything you wanted to Sharkey, and dump it. As long as you paid, no problemo, no matter what it was (although the government does not officially acknowledge this). I don't know if anybody was ever held to account for Sharkey's, but the taxpayer ponied up a ton of dough to get the place remediated. For the record, The Swamp is so bursting-full of plant and animal life it's hard to believe there ever was a problem. But anyway, the irony of "can't let wood rot here next to Sharkey's Dump" would be beyond belief, if it wasn't actually happening. I asked the inspector if he could cite a statute that prohibits me from bringing my own wood onto my own property. He said he didn't want to argue with me and got off the phone. I believe a summons is in the mail.
2019-05-08 ... Jersey is nuts
Holy Smokes, New Jersey is getting to me. Our town took us to court twice recently because they don't like my firewood. We live in a historic neighborhood, on a block lit at night by gas lamps since the 1850s, in a house built in 1897, before central heat. Our house was designed to be heated with wood. It has a fireplace in most rooms. We've been here for 35 years and have always burned a LOT of firewood, at least for suburban folk. But this year the code enforcer, or whatever his title is, took us to court because, he said, our firewood was blighting the neighborhood. So we paid some court costs and moved the firewood farther from the street, meeting the request of the inspector. But they took us to court again, changing the story of what they'd previously told us, hit us with a significant fine and made more demands, which we (really just Denali), are working on now. Also, we had a very large white pine tree that snapped about 20 feet off the ground, and the town decided the stick had to go. I don't want to burn white pine, so I bucked it up and trucked it to The Swamp. Well ... my pickup lost 4WD a week ago, and The Swamp is very wet now, so I didn't want to drive all the way in, and instead dropped off the wood near the entrance of the dirt two track that is our access road. Amazingly, a county inspector, who told me he'd never been to this spot before, shows up and tells me I can't drop the wood there. He felt that wood from my yard, rotting there, in the forest, among many thousands of other fallen trees, would be harmful. He said my wood should have been brought to a decomposition facility (which would cost hundreds of dollars). I'm not sure what will happen next.
2019-05-01 ... Right to Roam Podcast
Today I got a phone call from one of the founders of the Right To Roam Podcast ... a Nature and Hunting oriented podcast put together by four professional Wildlife Biologists from Wyoming. They thought WeatherWool would make an interesting subject for them, and we'll probably record a 30- or 40-minute talk within the next few months.
2019-04-30 ... Wild Fox ... No interest?
Funny thing .... walking in the local woods today (the South Mountain Reservation it's called), two guys called out to me. There is a zoo that adjoins the park and these guys decided to check out the woods. But they got lost, and asked how to get back to the zoo. I was headed that way, so we walked together. We'd covered a few hundred yards, talking, and I was surprised to see a red fox in plain sight only about 50 yards away, and suggested the fox was working overtime to provide for kits. Now here is the funny thing ... these guys had come from the zoo, and they were headed back to the zoo ... but they had no interest in a free-living wild fox.
2019-04-29 ... Textbook Turkey Hunt
This morning was a real textbook turkey hunt for me. One thing I love about Spring Turkey Season is the dawn in the woods ... it seems like every critter with a voice is sounding off to greet the new day. BUT ... I wasn't there. There is a school of thought that gobblers are much easier to call later in the morning, when the hens have gone to the nests, and the gobblers are getting lonely. So this morning, I slept in, and arrived at The Swamp on an old-fashioned banker's schedule. I sat down on a little rise at 9:48 and hen-called every 10 minutes or so. I heard a distant gobble in response to my 3rd calling sequence. I waited a few minutes, and called again. The gobbler responded again, and he was certainly closer. After 15 minutes or so, the gobbler popped out of the woods onto our 2-track dirt road about 100 yards away. The Swamp is normally pretty thick, but I had a great view of the tom as he looked for the female. Every few steps he'd stop and fan and strut a little, and periscope, trying to spot the female he thought he had heard. I was fully visible to him ... my way of avoiding detection is to wear my wool, plus a facemask, and to stay still. As the gobbler approached he certainly must have seen me, but in Drab Pants and my old Lynx All-Around Jacket (the first piece of WeatherWool that passed my field test!) he never paid me any mind. Many times I have had deer, turkeys and foxes approach me closely, sometimes even zeroed in on me, wondering what I was, but never figuring it out unless they eventually got my scent. People often think Lynx Pattern will not work in the green woods of Spring, or the somber woods of Winter, or the bright colors of Fall. Lynx seems to work everywhere, although I do believe wearing Drab Pants breaks up my silhouette. My idea is that the two different looks cause animals to disassociate my legs from my torso. All I can say for sure is that I have a lot of confidence in this approach because it has worked so well for me so many times. The gobbler continued his approach, constantly looking for the hen, but never realizing what I was, even though he had a great view of me. I shot him at 30 yards. Although this is a light-hearted note, the tom's life was not taken lightly. Nice bird ... 20 pounds, probably two years old. Wild Turkeys are soooo beautiful. A friend of mine will use the feathers for fishing, and of course the bird will be the centerpiece of an upcoming dinner. Love for Wild Food is actually what eventually led to WeatherWool.
WeatherWool Advisor Fisher Neal, @HuntingActor on Instagram, has had some promising auditions on stage ... and twice this week, as a hunting guide, he has enabled first-day hunters to put gobblers in the game bag. Fisher teaches the whole hunting and Nature experience ... animal sign and habits, calls, respect for Nature and for the quarry, edible wild plants. I met Fisher 5 or 6 years ago when I saw him working with his crossbow at a local park. Glad I decided to say HELLO!
Another great WeatherWool Friend is one a Ranger at one of America's most-loved and most-famous National Parks. He has invited us to visit him for a couple days of insider-experiences. The National Park Service dislikes having the name of any particular park mentioned in a commercial setting, so we won't name the Park!
One of the most rewarding aspects of running WeatherWool is the people we meet. Today, Mose O'Griffin stopped by WeatherWool Headquarters (our home) to see what we are up to, to get acquainted, and to show us some fantastic BRONZE SLOT BUTTONS that he made for us. Mose is not only delightful company, but his work is varied and fascinating. When I asked him, after a couple of hours, to briefly describe the work of his company, Advance Prototype Engineering (he is the founder), he said "We make things that have never been made before." What a splendid description! The buttons he made for us are really, really interesting. We are committed to Slot Buttons because of their reliability, BUT melamine (mil-spec plastic) is not as elegant a material as might suit a piece like our Mouton Jacket. So we are thinking that, with the help of our new friend, we may be able to offer a wonderful optional button for pieces like our Mouton Jacket or Mouton Vest.
One other nice thing about working with Mose ... he was expecting to pick up a Black ShirtJac ... he'd told us he dresses in black every day. But after looking at a Lynx ShirtJac up close, he decided that at least for a while he'd be wearing Lynx every day!
We put two new Advisor Pages up today ... Melissa Groo and Mike Engelmeyer. We'll make announcements that they have joined us soon. Funny ... both Melissa and Mike are very heavy-duty professional photographers, but they don't have any good photos of themselves! Melissa will get us a good photo. Mike doesn't seem to care. In Mike's case, all of the photos were taken by his clients on their cell phones ... HA!
In the coming weeks we'll be announcing some tremendous new Advisors including:
- Jerry Fisk, one of the world's premiere makers of custom knives
- Anton Kalland, a full-time professional outdoorsman raising his family in the Swedish outback and living mostly off the land
- Mike Engelmeyer, a commercial photographer specializing in outdoor products
- Dane Lawing, a pro photographer and videographer currently on assignment for one of the world's best-known publishers of photography and Nature
- Melissa Groo, a world-renowned wildlife photographer affiliated with National Geographic, Cornell Ornithology Lab and on and on ...
Since its inception in early 2017, our Advisor Program has changed somewhat. Early on, we were looking for people who had enough experience with WeatherWool to vouch for the product ... and of course people with the personality to interact with customers ... and that was enough. We still need people with the right personality and experience with WeatherWool, but we are well-enough established now that newer Advisors will have recognition of their own. Huge appreciation to all who have supported us, particularly those folks who took a chance with us in our earliest days.
Today I learned the definition of a term I've heard occasionally for quite a while ... COMFORT FACTOR. The comfort factor of any given sample of wool is the percent of fibers in that sample that have a diameter of less than 30 microns. WeatherWool has a comfort factor of over 99%, and I think we have only a few percent -- at most -- of our fiber measuring over 22 microns. Anything over about 22 would almost for sure be contamination from other fiber sources. .... Ha ... this is funny ... no sooner did I write the above than I learned it is a sort of basic, simplistic definition. And I'll need a whole new page on the site to go into it more. I'm just going to quote what Advisor Bob Padula wrote ... Will try to get that done in the next couple of days ...
- The Office of Secure Transportation is a new choice for those who wish to make a WarriorWool donation ... or for OST personnel who want to wear an Anorak. More info on OST in the previous blog entry. to the list of choices for WarriorWool donations.
- We have several new Advisors whose pages will be going up soon. Melissa Groo (@MelissaGroo on Instagram) and Dane Lawing (@DaneLawing) are heavy-duty photographers who work for National Geographic, among others. Anton Kalland (@PrettyBackward) is a Finn who, along with his Swedish wife, is raising their children in the Swedish forest, largely living off the land. Jerry Fisk (@Fisk_Knives) is one of the world's most highly regarded custom knife makers. Jeremiah Goodman is an American living in rural Japan with his wife and daughters. Jeremiah's wife, who is Japanese, has been helping Jeremiah with @WeatherWoolJapan, our Japanese Instagram presence. Josh Enyart's Advisor Page is already online, and we'll announce soon that he has joined us. Josh has extensive Military and outdoor experience, is running his own wilderness skills school, and is an instructor working with Advisor Dave Canterbury.
A WarriorWool day ...
- Looks like the Office of Secure Transportation will be joining our WarriorWool Program. The OST basically provides security for the shipment of nuclear weapons. OST is part of the Department of Energy, and the personnel tend to be former military. Wikipedia has an entry for the OST.
- Today I spoke for a while with an agent of the Diplomatic Security Service in Jordan. We are shipping him two Anoraks, one in Drab and one in Lynx Pattern. First time we have shipped to Jordan also, bringing our "list of Countries" to 40. Here is the Wikipedia entry on the DSS.
- Another cool thing today ... a customer from London ordered his 2nd Anorak ... this one in Black FullWeight, the first one in Lynx MidWeight.
Boy, we love South Orange, our home town, but it gets a little nuts here sometimes ... the town took us to court and fined us $350 because I have too much firewood ... Wyoming is calling ...
Today also wound up to be an interesting example of what the wool can do. I was doing chores outside, and alternating with carrying firewood inside and working at my desk. The weather gauge tells the story ... cool and humid outside, hot (because the fireplace was really cranking) and very dry at my desk. A MidWeight ShirtJac over an old cotton T-Shirt was comfortable the whole time.
Yesterday I spoke with a few customers, as usual. But one conversation stands out. The customer said he'd been following us closely for about a year-and-a-half, and he is planning to order something later this year. He was sort of embarrassed about taking so long ... but he shouldn't have been. I understand completely, because it was the same for me. I thought and thought and thought before I ordered my first piece of high-end wool back in about 1994 ... and I ordered it only because it was on special, a factory second. And that was the first step on the road to WeatherWool. Wool's been my favorite for a long time -- and I had a good job -- but I still couldn't really figure how one wool hat could be worth two or three times the price of another wool hat. It takes a while to get ready to buy into new territory, even for people who have money to burn.
Glad that order flow picked up as soon as I took off the 0 prices for items we don't have. I still don't understand why ... live and learn!
Well ... I guess people don't like the inventory information being on the website for each product. I put this info online back in November, and it seemed to cause orders to drop a lot. Same story these last few days. So ... I deleted it. If you order something we don't have, we'll get in touch with you directly and figure out what to do. We don't charge until we ship ... the website gives us the ability to charge, but payment does not come to us until we request it manually when orders are actually fulfilled.
I have added a "current inventory" section to the bottom of each of the product pages. We can only fill about 35% of the orders coming in lately, so I thought it would be helpful if people could see on the website just what we have in stock. It's still possible to order items we don't have (and please do!), but if we don't have it on hand now, the price is set to 0 ... which means we'll contact you about your order when we are preparing to make that item. At that point you can cancel, change or confirm the order. It's a huge help to us to know in advance what people want! We would love to be able to always keep everything in stock ... maybe someday! -- Thanks!!
Working on website, trying to get things set up cleanly so people can order -- without commitment -- those products that are sold out, or products, such as the North Maine Double Coat, that are on the drawing board. The platform really isn't designed to handle situations like these, but it seems like we can make it work. If you run into any issues on our website, please let me know! -- Thanks -- Ralph
Today we were contacted by a delightful woman who runs her own PR firm. We defo need to get better known, and it makes sense to get professional help to make that happen. But it feels a little inauthentic to me ...
We make maple syrup every year here in South Orange, NJ ... just outside New York City. We have 9 trees we tap ... not much, but usually we make more syrup than we use. It's nice to give it away, and it's a conversation piece here in suburbia, where most folks have never seen sugaring. One thing I really like about it is that we tap about January 10th, and we pull the taps right around the first day of spring. I'm not all that keen on the syrup itself, actually ... it's the seasonal part of it all that I love. Which is a good thing, because this year, I broke my own dope-record ... I lost track of the time when we were finishing the syrup, left it on the heat too long, and ruined the whole year's product. I've burned portions before, but this was the first time the whole year was lost. We still have enough from last year for one stack of pancakes ...
We are nearly completely sold out of both Shemaghs and Neck Gaiters ... both of these are products that we really never thought we'd be making when we started the company. ... You never know ...
Actually, this was about 10 days ago ... someone called and ordered some wool. We always ask people how they heard about us ... but this was a surprise!! The customer said he's been wearing Filson for decades, and has a lot of it. But he said he was not happy with his recent purchases, and he called Filson to tell them he felt they weren't making the garments they used to make, and that they could do better. The Filson Customer Service Rep suggested "WeatherWool might be what you are looking for."
The first bunch of Shemaghs we made sold out quickly, so we searched up some more Fabric (the Shemaghs are small enough and simple enough that making them is logistically a snap compared to a run of Anoraks or similar), made another batch of Shemaghs and these have also disappeared quickly. We had no idea so many people were interested in Shemaghs!
Last night we heard from a customer who used her Hooded Jacket as a downhill sled ... this is at least the 3rd time we've been told WeatherWool made a good sled. On this occasion, it was just for fun, but another customer had been disoriented on a very steep Idaho Mountain and decided the safest thing to do was slide on his backside until reaching the road.
"Hello, Ralph! I wanted to tell you about an unexpected use for my WeatherWool. Yesterday, I was hiking with the poodles along abandoned ski trails. We took the switchbacks uphill, and followed the ski trails downhill. Well, the snow was much more slippery than I had anticipated, and I found myself unable to keep my footing. Two of my dogs were bounding down the hill, but my third was sliding with me. So, in a pinch, I unzipped my hooded jacket and sat down in it, with my dog in my lap, and wrapped the sleeves around us like a safety belt. It became a makeshift sled, and we went down the hill that way! The wool was definitely tough enough to stand up to the snow, roots, sticks & stones, but smooth enough to keep us sliding down. Not a single bit of damage, and kept me dry, to boot! WOW!
It really was so much fun, I haven’t laughed from sheer glee like that in ages!
And yeah, WeatherWool continues to amaze me with it’s durability and versatility."
THANK YOU @SisterPearl !!!!
We had a terrific experience with a customer 6 months ago, who called to tell us we'd shipped him an extra Anorak, and that he'd decided to buy that one as well. We heard from that customer again, with another new and great wrinkle to the story ... please click the link to read A Tale of Two Anoraks.
So ... we made a few shemaghs after a number of requests, and we offered them on the website. We just made 10 more ... really looking forward to feedback from the field!
- We had an Open House scheduled for this upcoming weekend ... Sunday, 3 March ... but we've had to pretty well cancel because of persistent cough and, maybe, remnants of the flu with Alex and me. If you had plans to come, please give us a call, it should still be possible, but we won't be doing the usual promotion.
- We added a quick new little video to our Youtube collection. THANKS to customer James MacDougall for the video and text of him out in a cold windstorm.
- We got some material from Rancher Bob Padula about the amazing equipment and capabilities of a stud ram.
Funny how we react to weather. New Jersey Governor Murphy just declared an Emergency because 1-3 inches (2-7 centimeters) of snow are expected. Followed by (wow!) temperatures in the 50s (around 12C). For February in the Northeast, this is really mild stuff.
I should have posted this back in November, but anyway ... Here is correspondence between me and customer Jim Bonney:
Just got my medium weight shirt jac about an hour ago. It’s perfect. The cut is amazing. You lengthened what needed to be lengthened, the buttons are rock solid, the medium weight fabric is perfect for my needs and the Lynx pattern is nothing short of extraordinary. I’m keeping the three business cards of yours I have in the chest pocket so when I’m asked about this shirt I can hand them out. Simply fantastic. Can’t wait to test the performance of the fabric in the rain.
Thanks a lot! This will be my go to woolen for the rest of my life or until you release more hooded jackets. Truly well done!
On Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 12:57 PM <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
THANKS JIM! --- Can we put this on the website? With your name?
Either way, we really, really appreciate the feedback and the support! It makes a big difference to a small family company.
We hope you wear the ShirtJac in great health for many years! ---- Ralph & Family
From: Jim Bonney <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, November 9, 2018 4:51 PM
Subject: Re: WeatherWool
I’ll touch base with you after the first of the year and I’ve used it in the rain, snow and sleet we get in winter around here. For Christmas all I’m asking for is WeatherWool gift cards.
I expected high quality but I have to admit I feel like I robbed you.
Ohhhhh …. That last line is a killer!!
Have an awesome Holiday season! ---- What a fantastic time of year! ---- THANKS ---- Ralph
Thanks, you too!
Hi again Ralph,
I can’t seem to stop pestering you. So far the performance of this shirt jac has been what I would normally call unbelievable. For such a thin material this stuff retains body heat to a degree that I would have thought not possible. By itself it’s more effective than two similarly thick smartwool sweaters stacked on top of each other under my waxed Carhartt work jacket.
Unreal. Happy thanksgiving!
Huge thanks for these kind words, Jim!!! We really really appreciate it!
If anything goes wrong, we are here!
All the Best to you and yours for Thanksgiving! ---- Ralph, Debby, Alex, Denali
Hi again Ralph,
Got my first opportunity to use Weatherwool in the rain. 40 degrees, 1 hour, light stroll, no problem. Used your ball cap and gaiter as well. This stuff does exactly what you say it does. I’ve never encountered a fabric like this before. It’s truly remarkable and you win, I’ll be a customer as long as it exists.
I know you put me on the waiting list for a hooded jacket. I had said before I wanted a Lynx fullweight. I don’t know if you’re keeping track of colors but I’d like to switch to black. I’d like to make it my outdoor work jacket. As much I love Lynx I find myself babying the beautiful ShirtJac mainly because of how pretty the Lynx pattern is. I think I’ll be more inclined to wear the Hooded Jacket when I need it the most if it’s plain black vs your amazing Lynx pattern.
I can’t pay you a higher compliment than to say if I’m stuck during the daily grind outside in the wet and cold I want your product. Nobody makes what you’re making. Your Hooded Jacket is priced at a bargain considering what else is out there for legit weatherproof work clothes. It’s hardly more than a Filson cotton jacket.
Maybe I’ll get lucky and win the lottery, then I can buy the whole line of goods. Til then I’ll build my WeatherWool stash like Johnny Cash built his Cadillac.
All the best and can’t wait to get more WeatherWool!
Pretty cool ... shipping WeatherWool to Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Morocco and USA today. We've never shipped to five different countries on the same day before!
- Weaving of the first small batch of test fabric was completed this morning, and has been shipped to us. Weaving is only one of several steps in turning raw wool into Fabric, but is probably the most important. One of the key companies that helped us make our last batch of Fabric has closed up shop in USA, so assembling a new team and testing everything thoroughly is a big and critical piece of work in front of us.
- Just realized that the "ShirtJac Reviews" page was not linked from the ShirtJac page ... so there was no way for anyone to get there! Website work never ends ...
Today we picked up from the tailors two MidWeight Black Anoraks. We have never made MidWeight Fabric in Black, however, because people requested these Anoraks prior to our most recent production run of Anoraks, we took some MidWeight Drab Fabric and dyed it Black. If it is really important to the customer, we can dye Drab or sometimes Duff garments Black, but we prefer not to do that because the dye does not penetrate all areas of a completed garment equally ... it takes multiple trips through the dye to get the Black to penetrate into the areas of the seams. These MidWeight Black Anoraks came out great!
The Bushcraft Journal just published a very nice review of our Al's Anorak in Issue 24. The review was written by Advisor Joe Price, who wore his Anorak every day for four months. To read the review, you will need to purchase Issue 24 for $3.99, or subscribe for $24 ... TheBushcraftJournal.com
A few items today:
- Our raw wool was scoured ... SCOURING is the first step in the processing of the raw fleece. The scouring process removes the great majority of the lanolin (about 10% of the weight of the fleece), the dirt, and much of the vegetable matter and other debris the accumulates within the fleece while it is grown by the sheep. The yield was not as high as I'd hoped, or as high as last time ... which does not bode well for future pricing. We also had to pay quite a bit more for the raw wool than previously. And even the cost of the scouring itself went up 25%.
- We visited for over three hours with the mill that has been weaving our Fabric. They are obviously crucial players for us, and they are great people who are very much leading-edge in what they do
- We got a note from Mike Freeman, a terrific guy to work with and a commercial diver on the Mississippi River, who has been giving us feedback on our wool. Mike wanted to let me know that the combination fabric that the tailors had placed under the collar of his CPO Shirt has pulled loose a little at the seam. This news aggravated me because, of course, we hate the idea that our products would fail ... but also because that fabric was not supposed to be there in the first place. One of the crazy things we have learned about tailors is that they just LOVE to use liner fabrics. The CPO Shirt design calls for a mil-spec wool/nylon blend combination fabric as a backing to the flaps on the chest pockets. This is a fine fabric that we are told is used for uniforms by US Marines. But we don't like anything other than our own woolen Fabric in our garments. However, using this combination fabric behind the pocket flaps helps to prevent the corners of the pocket flaps from curling. So it's there for structural reasons. But for some reason, the tailors added this fabric to the back of the collar, on the outside of the collar where it is not even seen until the collar is flipped up. It does not touch the skin because it is on the outside of the garment. They also added the combination fabric to the inside of the cuffs. Nobody has ever questioned the fabric's presence besides me. I feel it's useless at best, and kind of insulting. But anyway, Mike was letting me know there was a separation, as shown in the picture he sent.
So I offered to have it repaired or replaced or whatever Mike preferred, and explained how I'd just as soon remove it. Mike actually didn't care, he just wanted to let me know what had happened ... And he sent the following note: "In defense of your product, I absolutely love it. I think we both know, I’ve put the product through way more than anyone can design a outerwear jacket to accommodate. It has spent some 30 dives compressed in a dry suit, and several months now of daily wear in a marine construction environment, and I mean daily. My email is absolutely not a critique, I stated in the beginning of our correspondence that I would advise you on the products ability to wear in a working environment and I have worked the heck out of it this winter. Your [CPO Shirt] has withstood welding/cutting both above and below water, heavy rigging, rain, sleet, and daily contact of materials involved in construction. It hasn’t even discolored. Well done. The wool is exceptional. I wouldn’t give this product up for anything." ...... THANKS MIKE. We hope to stay in your good graces for a long time!
Today, Jerry Fisk, probably America's most-respected knife maker and knife artist, put up a really great post about yet another insanely beautiful knife he is creating. ... A Dog Star Pattern Damascus Bowie with Mammoth Ivory Handle. Click here to see the Instagram video. And here is a still picture:
The reason I mention this now is that Jerry also posted a few words about WeatherWool: "The background is a lynx pattern WeatherWool shirt jacket. I am a wool person. It will last 3 to 4 times longer, is absolutely the best material you can wear in the Bush. WeatherWool is the best wool shirts I have worn. And, no, I am not on the payroll. But I do know quality when it is my hands."
There is a little bit of a funny backstory ... About three months ago, Jerry sent me a message on Instagram. For some reason I read FISH instead of FISK, and sent a pleasant, non-committal reply. A few days later, something went off in my head, and I thought ... wait a minute ... was that @FISK_KNIVES? I knew who Jerry is, and so was delighted to see that indeed it was Jerry Fisk interested in WeatherWool! Glad I double-checked that message! Thanks for the kind words, Jerry, and it's a kick to have you in our wool!
There are at least three guys currently wearing WeatherWool to work metal. The wool isn't damaged by sparks, and it keeps radiant heat off the skin.
Interesting day for WeatherWool!
- It was an unusually good day for order flow. If today became the usual ... that would be great!
- Our scourers told us we are in line to have our raw wool cleaned next week. Most companies that make clothing buy their fabrics. But we make our own Fabric because nobody offers for sale the fabric we need. We buy raw wool from great ranches and, after we have the raw/greasy wool, the first step in production is to have the wool scoured.
- The United States Drug Enforcement Administration wants to see if our Anorak will work for their agents. (After some talk and correspondence, we have added DEA as recipients to which WarriorWool donations can be directed.)
- We had this Instagram post reach 100 likes in only about a half-hour -- the fastest ever for us. Instagram has been extremely helpful in our efforts to "get known".
- For over 11 years, I worked at Morgan Stanley, the securities firm. I started there in 1991, long before they got involved in retail brokerage. I mostly did technical support work on the Institutional Equities Division trading floor at the Headquarters Building in the heart of New York City, on Broadway and Times Square. It was a good environment for me ... a sort of controlled chaos. About 500 people in one huge room, with incredible energy and shouting and crazy amounts of information and of course a lot of trading of financial instruments. I really enjoyed the people, and my job was to understand the information systems and the business well enough prevent and put out fires. It was a good match for my personality, in that I like to work with people and I enjoyed the immediacy and the pressure. BUT ... I never had any natural interest in the securities industry. And so although it was a great job, when they had major work force reductions in 2002, and I was cut, Debby said I came home looking like I'd been paroled. They treated me well, and because I saw it coming, was prepared to hit the ground running in a hedge fund diligence business with my friend Bob Krause, who is an owner of WeatherWool. The hedge fund work was great, and although we worked A LOT, the hours were up to me, and I felt like my life was my own. The problem, tho, was that I was still in the securities business! But now I was able to get a lot more involved with the wool business, and eventually to found WeatherWool. The reason for all this background is the other thing that happened today ... I had a long talk with a gent from the Mergers and Acquisitions group of Morgan Stanley. Somehow they found out about WeatherWool, and contacted me to discuss possibilities! This was kind of a shock, and we need turn this little acorn into an oak before we could actually work with these guys, but the officer felt that it is not premature for us to learn about the possibilities and think about the future. And it will be a real kick for me to return to my old workplace and discuss with them my own business.
Open House went very well. These Open House Events have been a good idea, and we'll keep them going. Today's Open House started at 10AM and went on until well after the Super Bowl. It was a little bit tough for us to decide which team to pull for ... We make American (as in Patriots) Wool (as in Rams) ...
Today, Debby decided the picture of me, below, was not suitable for the website Home Page -- even just for the few days prior to Open House -- so she substituted a picture of a Labrador Retriever wearing a Poncho.
Just announced a Super Bowl Sunday Brunch and Open House ... Sunday, February 3, 2019, 10AM until after the game. Please visit the WeatherWool Open House page for further details.
Today we visited the American Woolen Mill in Northern Connecticut. As you may know, we are out of Fabric, and working to make more. There are many steps in the Fabric production process, and because the people who did some very important work for us have gone out of business, we are hard at work reconfiguring our production team. The facility and people at American Woolen are extremely impressive. They don't have all the capabilities we need, but they have some, and they may be an important part of our team.
Still trying to get our next run of Fabric going. Wow ... a lot to put together! Today, we got an order from Greece. First time we are shipping there. That makes 36 countries on our list.
Today we got orders from Austria and China and someone in Australia wrote that he is interested in our North Maine Double Jacket. There are now 35 countries on our list..
This has been an ultra-wet fall in North Jersey. My favorite spot, The Swamp, has been underwater to the point where I haven't been able to get in there for deer. So far, we have always made venison there every year since we invested in 1998. The Jersey deer season runs until mid-February ...