2020-11-27 ... Stolen Video
A couple of friends of WeatherWool notified us of some slimeballs using pirated Trustin Timber/WeatherWool footage to advertise what I guess is supposed to be their own Anorak. Cody (Trustin Timber) flagged this to me on Instagram Wednesday, and "PH" flagged it to me on Facebook this morning. Trustin Timber did a great YouTube review of our Anorak, and "senseofall" stole some of the footage for use in their own ads and website. They also snatched work produced by other companies. MANY THANKS to Trustin Timber and to PH for notifying us! --- UGH!!! --- Ralph
2020-11-26 ... THANKSGIVING
Always a great day in the USA and an attitude I believe is appropriate every day.
This week we received from TTI a sample of our fabric that they had finished from the loom-state fabric sent to them from MTL where it had been woven into fabric. AND ... we approved it! MTL then shipped to TTI 29 pieces (bolts) of fabric to be finished. This is fairly huge news for WeatherWool because we have been out of Fabric for a long time. TTI tells us this Fabric will be ready for the tailors about mid-December.
Finishing loom-state fabric is half art and half science and it is an extremely important stage of processing. The loom-state fabric is rough and stiff and kind of oily. Very, very different from the finished Fabric that goes to the tailors.
I have just added to the website a Production Backstory page that explains why we're sold out of just about everything, and how the production problems have come about. It is looking like the production problems may be over, so I probably should have added this new page a long time ago!
2020-11-22 ... Home-Made Blaze
A little bit of "Home-Made Blaze" ... Years ago we made a bolt of Undyed MidWeight White Fabric. And last week Debby used some hobby-shop dye to make enough Blaze Orange to wrap around my Big Brim Boonie to satisfy New Jersey's Blaze Orange hunting requirements. In Pennsylvania, a Blaze Vest or Jacket is also required. We have had many requests for Blaze Orange wool from Hunters, Search and Rescue and various others. Problem is that commercial-scale Blaze Orange processes that are legal in the USA are not truly color-fast ... meaning that over time, air and sunlight will fade the color. It will remain quite bright and visible, but maybe not remain in compliance with the various official Blaze Orange standards. But we can re-dye this little strip if it fades in a year or two. We still hope to offer Blaze someday. Several different standards-setting organizations have their own definitions and requirements regarding exactly what Blaze Orange is. Some good info on Wikipedia's Safety Orange page.
Today we received for inspection another sample of finished FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric from TexTech Industries ... And we approved it! Hopefully we can now go forward with all of Batch 5. YIPPEE!
2020-11-17 ... Yellowstone on Paramount Network
I've been enjoying the Yellowstone series on TV in part because a friend of WeatherWool wore our wool while working on the show ... and that he gave ShirtJacs to others to wear during production. Recently, I told my friend I really like the way Yellowstone is done ... something about the photography, the sets, the sound ... He said "Yeah, they spend a lot of money." --- Ralph
2020-11-16 ... Finishing / Spinning / Countries / Covid / Reviews / RIT
A few things today:
- Great progress on finishing our loom-state Fabric. Not quite the way we need it yet, but really close! And very encouraging! Plus, there is another company that is also taking a shot at finishing our loom-state
- We have spoken to two companies that seem to be quite capable of doing our spinning, and we'll send some fiber out for trial
- We got orders from Dubai and a French possession called Wallis and Futuna, a group of islands in the South Pacific ... a place I'd never even heard of before. We have a page listing the countries where our garments have gone. In this case, we are just sending our Samples, so it doesn't really count. BUT I decided to add a little bit to the bottom of the Countries Page for Fabric Samples going to surprising places. Kind of childish, but that's me.
- Today the doc told my niece, who lives with us and who had tested positive for the virus, that she no longer needs to quarantine and can re-enter polite society. She never felt particularly ill. None of the rest of us in the house has had any symptoms. HOORAY!!
- A week or two ago a customer sent us a great ShirtJac Review, and today he added to the ShirtJac Review, along with comments on his Neck Gaiter and Watch Cap
- We have been sending our tailoring remnants to the Design Program at the Rochester Institute of Technology. This came about because one of the instructors there has been wearing WeatherWool for three years or so. The wool protects his skin from sparks and from the tremendous radiant heat in his metal fabrication lab.
2020-11-15 ... There is no "just" ...
Or, at least, there usually isn't. One of our big companies tells us to "Just do it." And in the context of getting me to hike a few miles, that's the right attitude. But in other situations ... NOPE.
I may have written about this previously, and if so, sorry. But it comes up regularly. Someone hears about delays in our production, and asks "Why not just do it yourselves?" There are many very specialized companies that provide services to us at each stage of the production process. And at each of those stages -- even at the various steps within those stages -- there is no "just do it". The guys who are trying to "finish" our "loom-state" fabric were going back and forth about how different types of dyes react to different types of water. There is a lot of science involved in finishing our fabrics. But also a lot of art.
Sometimes we need the tailors to lengthen the sleeves for extra-tall customers. It had always been an inch or two (a few centimeters). But we had a customer who is very athletic and slender and 6'8" (203 cm) tall, and he needed his sleeves lengthened 4 inches (10 cm). Given that the tailors had lengthened sleeves before, I asked them to "just add 4 inches", and they were very ... unhappy, and absolutely unwilling. They insisted that much additional length required a completely new pattern for the sleeve. So ... we made a new pattern.
More than once, I have asked Denali for "just a quick picture" ... and, as a professional photographer, she will do it right, or she won't do it at all. And she is the one who has turned "there is no 'just'" into a common saying around here. --- Ralph
2020-11-13 ... Virus Update
As mentioned on the Blog entry of November 9, my niece, who lives with us, evidently (tested positive) came down with the virus on November 4th. So far, she still isn’t really sick, never felt really ill. If there wasn’t so much virus-emotion, her level of barely-ill wouldn’t matter at all. Others in the household have tested negative and we all feel fine.
Just for perspective: Maybe I should add that in 2009, I had the swine flu, which was also an H1N1 Corona virus. Seventeen days with unbroken headache and fever. Got pneumonia about 11 days into it. Brains so scrambled I didn't even realize being barely able to breathe was a new level of sick. But Debby realized I had developed pneumonia and got me to the doc for antibiotics. Even after I got better, I was off-balance, feeling weak, for about 3 months. The one good thing was that I'd torn some cartilage, or something, in my ribs that had been bothering me for 5 years. But 17 days in bed finally healed it up!
Some who have studied the swine-flu situation believe 100,000 Americans died from it, but supposedly the CDC was ordered to quit tracking statistics so the official count is about 12,500. It was all-in-all bad stuff. --- Ralph
2020-11-12 ... Supportive Imagery ... NOT FOR A THOUSAND BUCKS
On Veterans Day (perfect!) I was speaking with a retired Army Ranger, who'd lately spent some time in the bush with a friend who is still in the Rangers, almost at retirement. The Ranger has one of our Anoraks, and my caller related how his friend told him he wears it sometimes for weeks straight, sleeping in it, and that he "wouldn't sell it for a thousand bucks." That's the sort of comment we've been working to earn since we began in 2009. [And I forgot to mention he ordered two Anoraks, one for himself and one for his son.]
Debby and my daughter, Denali, is a professional photographer, with quite a lot of experience in several areas of commercial photography. She was most recently working in travel photography, but the virus completely blew up that business. She had been working more and more with WeatherWool even before Corona-world, and now she is working with us fulltime, which is great. She told me some (actually just about ALL) of my product photographs are not suitable as used. But she offered that some of my stuff could be moved off the main pages and used for "supportive imagery" ... so I am wounded but at least learned a little jargon. --- Ralph
2020-11-11 ... Veterans Day
What can we say to our Veterans? "Sure is nice never having been conquered!! Thanks a bunch. Great not having to worry about an invasion!" As Americans we really almost always take for granted that a hostile army is not an issue.
As I write this I'm gratefully wearing (with blessing of more than one Marine!) a USMC Tun Tavern hat given to me by a customer who retired from the Corps. Yesterday was the 245th Anniversary of the founding of the United States Marine Corps, in Tun Tavern, Philadelphia.
Below is a photo of my Dad, Ralph Sr, on the right and my Godfather Ray Corbo. They were shipmates in the Pacific Theater. Friends for over 70 years. The photo was taken at Dad's 90th Birthday, which was also Mom and Dad's 60th Anniversary. Dad and Ray are seated at the desk where I'm typing this now. --- Ralph
2020-11-09 ... Covid-19 here
Today we had a wonderful afternoon at The Swamp, and I saw some woodcock, which I haven't seen there in 15 years or so. But the main thing is that we just found out my niece, who lives in my home, tested positive for the virus. She thought she was having hay fever, but after a few days went to the doc, and got tested. She's not feeling badly. We'll see what happens. Considering this part of New Jersey has pretty much the worst virus track record in the USA, it's kind of amazing it hasn't struck anyone I know around here until now. My son and his wife, who live in Wyoming, just got over it. --- Ralph
2020-11-07 ... Customers Page
I just created a Customers page. It seems worthwhile to have a page that describes who buys WeatherWool and what they do in it. Almost everyone who has WeatherWool wears it as part of everyday life. And some people have WeatherWool just because they want something warm, and not for any other specific reason. But most people also have a specific activity that got them thinking about us. --- Ralph
2020-11-05 ... "Finishing" Fabric
After our Fabric is woven, the "loom state" Fabric must be "finished" before it is ready for the tailors. Finishing is a big deal ... loom-state is VERY different from finished. The loom-state will be "fulled" (partially felted/shrunk) about 11%, washed, sponged and napped. All of these steps in the finishing process are half art and half scientific recipe. The method by which the fiber was dyed affects the way it needs to be finished. And even the specific chemistry of the water used by the mill will require that finishing varies somewhat from place to place. So ... the folks in Philadelphia who are finishing one piece of our Fabric for demonstration purposes have a lot of experience ... and they have samples of our production Fabric, so they know exactly their goal ... but there is no clear or simple path for them to follow to achieve what we need. We'll know more soon.
Also today, Arrio Farugie gave us permission to use this letter he sent this evening. He's not been out in the cold yet ... the letter describes his initial impressions of his ShirtJac:
I just got home from work and tried on my ShirtJac, It's everything I wanted it to be, and more. I've been very into wool (I'm trying to avoid saying obsessed) for about the last decade. I have a nice collection of Icebreaker, Smartwool, Darn Tough (socks) and other miscellaneous wool clothing. In my mind, I've always wished there was clothing made of a thicker, tougher merino wool. This is literally what I've been dreaming of all these years.
It's not going to cool down here in Minnesota until Monday unfortunately, but it'll be in the mid 50s in the morning when I go out for my sit spot, so at least I'll get to enjoy it then. I still haven't taken it off and I'm perfectly comfortable indoors at ~68/70 degrees, I have a feeling I'll be wearing this all the time.
I really like the buttons and I love that it's pure wool. The craftsmanship is very, very very nice. I was a little concerned that the size small would be too small, but I think it's a great fit (I'm about 5'7" ~160lbs, athletic build). I can hardly wait to buy more WeatherWool- pants, anorak, AAJ, mouton vest, and more. It may take a few years to afford it all, but one day I will have a serious collection of your clothing. I'll definitely be putting some content out on Instagram/YouTube about it, it's just too good to not show and tell.
Thank you for the free upgrade to 2-day shipping and for making the wool of my dreams!
Until next time, in warmth, Arrio
2020-11-03 ... European Good Wishes
WeatherWool has been very quiet today in terms of customer interactions. But interestingly a couple of people from Europe sent wishes for calm. --- Ralph
2020-11-02 ... Coming out of Retirement
It's true that the American textile industry has been beaten down very very hard, and many of the people working today have been at it for a long time. But still it makes me shake my head to think Advisor Rob Stuart has come out of retirement to help us continue to make our Fabric. Rob's been our Fabric Engineer since we began. Mike Hillebrand, owner of MTL, who has woven all our Fabric, isn't retired. BUT recently at lunch when it came up that I'm 66, Mike said "I've got you by six years" ... and he didn't mean to the young side. Mike has been well aware that we've had troubles getting our Fabric finished after his team wove it, and he put us in touch with a guy he's been working with for many years. So now our loom-state (unfinished) Fabric is in Philadelphia, and the current owner of the plant has talked the previous owner out of retirement to help us. We are speaking with some new (to us) people who may be able to spin our fiber into yarn ... again ... these guys have decades of experience and are retirement-age-plus. --- Ralph
2020-10-31 ... Trick or Treat Covid-Canceled!
Halloween is a pretty big day here, especially for me. Big day in our suburban NYC neighborhood. But this year, it was another casualty of the virus. We usually get a couple hundred kids. This year, ZERO. Didn't even see any trick-or-treaters. My son in Casper, Wyoming, said only about half as many kids as last year ... but at least the virus didn't kill Halloween there. -- Ralph
2020-10-29 ... Very Interesting Customers
One of the best parts of WeatherWool is the people we meet, even though it is usually only over the phone. There is a lot of work still to do today, and hopefully some good news coming later. But this is pretty good too ... I've been on the phone over two hours with customers already today, at about 2PM.
2020-10-28 ... Talking to Finishers
After the Fabric comes off the loom, it's referred to as "loom-state" ... and ready for the finishing processes. The folks we had expected to finish for us can't do it right now, so we are speaking with a couple of other companies.
Finishing makes the Fabric feel a lot nicer ... smoother and more supple. Finishing also involves fulling, which can be regarded as controlled felting. The loom-state bolts are about 62 inches (157 cm) wide, and about 53 inches (135 cm) after fulling. Finishing may sometimes also include carbonizing (removes the last tiny bits of vegetable matter by treatment with acid, heat and rolling/shaking and rinsing.) We need a thorough explanation of all the steps between the ranch and the tailor somewhere here on the website, but the team at Woolmark, the educational arm of the Australian Wool Industry, has an introductory piece on Wool Processing. Incidentally, the fiber used to make WeatherWool Woolen Fabric would normally, because of exceptional length, strength and fine diameter, be used to make worsted fabric.
some 2020-10-27 ... Weaving Again
Today we got the green light we needed to get the loom going again. Loom-state fabric passed the inspection of the finishers. HOORAY!!
2020-10-26 ... WarriorWool
Today we got a couple of orders for WarriorWool. One of the guys phoned, and I asked him how he heard of us. He said he served with someone who wears WeatherWool and that person was comfortable when the rest of the team was not. Helping our Military is a primary reason WeatherWool exists, and so this is about the best compliment we can get! --- Ralph
2020-10-25 ... Wool Info Paper from a Customer in Pennsylvania
Today, Albert Stankavage, a customer from Pennsylvania, sent me a PDF of the paper The Wool Fibre and its applications Notes. This paper is pretty long, and I haven't studied it yet, but here are a couple of great nuggets:
BTW, the paper was originally published by the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), which puts out a lot of great information about wool. Many Thanks to the CSIRO and Australia.
We have links to a lot more info about WeatherWool-related topics on the Related Information page. -- Ralph
2020-10-23 ... Perspective from Advisor Bob Padula
Bob posted the following on Facebook today:
I recently was reading the updates on the progress for converting more wool into fabric. As Ralph Ralph DiMeo Jr. points out in his posts and explanations about WeatherWool, the US textile manufacturing base is very small these days and when you add "CoVid" to anything these days - uncertainty and delays abound. It takes time for wool "off the back" of the sheep to be made into a garment "on the rack" because of the many steps involved. When I'm asked about the time lag from "back to rack" or "sheep to shelf" - I tell people it's best to figure 2 years - if things go well. Can the time line be shortened, of course it can, but it still takes time due to the number of steps involved and coordination. Ralph DiMeo Jr. does an excellent job of explaining all the steps and challenges. My involvement in in the process - raw fiber producer - goes even further beyond that. Today and in the next month, I am reviewing data and planning which sheep to mate to each other to produce offspring (baby lambs) in 2021. These lambs will be sheared for the first time in the spring of 2022 - and then it is another "2 years" before it hits the shelf.... So for WeatherWool enthusiasts, I'm already planning for your 2024 and beyond garments. Thank you all for your dedication and support. Bob Padula - PM Ranch.
2020-10-21 ... Anoraks and ShirtJacs, Gone
I was hanging onto one last Anorak for myself. For a long time I've avoided wearing Anoraks because my shoulders are both in need of surgery. But I've been babying my shoulders for so long a lot of the tenderness is gone, and I've been able to get in and out of the Anorak comfortably. So I thought I would keep the last Anorak, which happened to be in 3X (my size). But customer JD called right after that, and we agreed I'd wear the Anorak for a little bit, get some photos and then send it off as Used at a $100 discount. I'll get an Anorak eventually, and THANKS to JD for letting me hold onto his 'rak for a little bit!! Also, our last two ShirtJacs went to customers this week. WOW, we are dying to get our Fabric!!
2020-10-19 ... Drab Loom-State Samples
Today I stopped off at Material Technology and Logistics, our weavers, and picked up loom-state samples of our FullWeight and MidWeight Solid Drab Color Fabrics. The samples look good to us but we're not used to inspecting loom-state Fabric, which is a long way from the finished Fabric we work with. MTL will send loom-state samples to American Woolen Company for final approval before they continue weaving.
2020-10-15 ... Vendors
We've been speaking with people who may be able to spin our fiber into yarn and others who may be able to finish our Fabric after it comes off the loom. We'll see ... there is not much left of America's wool industry ... very few companies still in the business ... but the introductory talks were encouraging.
2020-10-13 ... Clarification
This is territory I surely never thought I'd be blogging about. ...
American Woolen Company is overseeing the manufacture of our Fabric. They can reasonably be viewed as the prime contractor responsible for getting our clean fiber turned into tailor-ready Fabric. They do a lot of the work in-house, and handle arrangements with other companies to do what AWC cannot. Being in Connecticut, AWC was hit very hard by the virus-shutdown, even if not by the virus itself. For over two months, we've been waiting on AWC to send specs and purchase order to Material Technology and Logistics, our weavers, so they can complete weaving Batch 5.
Yesterday, I got a call from Jeff, a customer who read my blog entry from the 11th. He told me what I needed to do was pray. I've never been a praying sort. When people ask me to pray for something, such as the healing of a sick child, I do. But it has never felt right that my own concerns be raised in such a forum. However, the customer on the line was turning the tables on me, and he was so earnest I simply followed his instructions when he asked me to repeat after him, and led me through a very short prayer asking that our production get rolling again.
A few hours later, AWC sent to MTL most of the information they'd been waiting for. And then early this morning, Mike Hillebrand, owner of MTL (it's crazy in the first place that Mike, who is running a very large business, would personally handle WeatherWool), wrote me that weaving would start immediately.
When I updated Jeff, he was not at all surprised.
2020-10-12 ... Movement
WOW ... A bit of a lurch forward on the production side!! Nice ...
2020-10-11 ... HOME! GREAT!! ... Production Not Great. Not Even Good
We had a terrific trip ... met some great people and spent time with family and friends of more than 50 years (gulp!!) ... 18 days of working vacation. But it seems like the best part of almost every trip is coming home.
One of the companies who helps turn our clean fiber into our Fabric is having troubles getting anything done ... virus troubles and ... I don't know ... but anyway, we are hopeful. However, we also need to seek other solutions ... and I was (still am!) really hoping that's not necessary. But things are dragging on too long. I will be updating the Production Status page, which is linked from the Main Menu of the website. --- Ralph
2020-10-05 ... Shooting on the Beach
People usually don't think of wool on the beach or around the water ... maybe because most people are on the water in summer. Wool is actually very good with water. And the Beach is a great location. Denali always tries to shoot early or late, when the light is best for this type of photography. --- Ralph
Morning shoot for WeatherWool on the Beach in Corolla, Outer Banks, North Carolina, October 2020. Photographer Denali DiMeo, LauralieStudios.com
2020-10-03 ... Wool on the Beach
WeatherWool Lynx Pattern (ShirtJac and Anorak) on the Beach in Corolla (Outer Banks) North Carolina. Windy, temp about 60F/16C.
2020-09-01 ... Wild Horses on the Beach
There are about 100 Wild Horses that live at the North end of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Eight or nine of the horses strolled within a few feet of my truck. They are not people-shy at all. It would have been great to get some WeatherWool photos with the horses in the background, but they are difficult to find and the Wild Horse Trust folks feel people need to stay away from them. In this case, I was driving on the beach, which a LOT of people were doing, and simply stopped my truck to let them pass safely. I was very lucky to get such a closeup view. --- Ralph
2020-09-25 ... Great Sessions
Thanks to the folks at Burlington, Kentwool and Chargeurs for spending a LOT OF TIME with little ol' us! We got some heaping helpings of Southern Hospitality! ... Diego Paullier, who manages the Chargeurs plant where our wool is cleaned, surprised me when he said he is willing to clean smallish amounts (2000 pounds / 900 kgs) of Naturally Colored Fleece. I love the Natural Colored! Tom Aubrey at Burlington had an interesting perspective, suggesting we talk about MERINO instead of wool, because people think "merino" is modern and technical and "wool" is old-fashioned and uncomfortable. All of the fiber that we use is in fact Merino and Merino varietals and we often use the term Merino, but it didn't really occur to me to avoid use of the word wool. But I think Tom is right! And I guess from now on I will capitalize Merino, which is consistent with my eccentric use of capitalizations anyway. HA!
2020-09-22 ... "On the Road Again"
If you're old enough, you'll remember that tune from Canned Heat. Debby and Denali and I will be on the road for a bit. Debby and I leave tomorrow and we'll meet with some big-time wool companies in the Carolinas ... Burlington, Kentwool Yarns and Chargeurs. After the meetings, we'll have two weeks working vacation in Corolla, North Carolina's Outer Banks. Alex will remain in the office the entire time to keep things going. Goodbye Summer and Best Wishes to All!
Also ... almost 900 running yards of FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric should be coming off the loom this week. For more info, please click the PRODUCTION STATUS link at the top of every page of the website.
2020-09-18 ... Size 3X WarriorWool
A very generous wool lover from the Midwest last week really really really wanted to pay in advance for two Anoraks for himself (MidWeight and FullWeight Lynx Pattern) and one more as a WarriorWool donation. The only Anoraks we had left were size 3X and that's not exactly a common size in the Military. But there are 800 Green Berets in the Army's 10th Special Forces Group, and our contact in the 10th managed to find a guy who is that big.
2020-09-17 ... FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric in Progress
The weaving of our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric is well under way at Material Technology and Logistics in Pennsylvania. MTL expects to finish weaving the FullWeight Lynx by the end of next week. Then the "loom state" Fabric will still need to be "finished", which is a pretty big deal, too!
2020-09-16 ... New Fabric Sample Pack and updated Samples page
Denali has burnished our image quite a bit by creating a new Fabric Samples Pack, part of which is pictured on the "Free Fabric Samples" page. The Samples have proven to be a great way for people to get to know us a little bit. And now the Samples Pack are presented in a much neater and professional manner. Great work, Denali! --- Ralph
2020-09-07 ... Afghanistan
Four Neck Gaiters going to someone in the US Military in Afghanistan. Improving kit for our Armed Forces is a primary reason WeatherWool exists.
2020-09-03 ... Weaving
Our Fabric is woven at MTL (Material Technology and Logistics) in Pennsylvania, and I've lately been working on the website page devoted to MTL. The MTL page also has my take on the main points of weaving. --- Ralph
2020-09-02 ... Slot Button Hero!
Today we got a call from Shannon Pendley, who was until today an anonymous hero in WeatherWool lore (to the extent we have lore). A long time ago, Shannon sent a note inquiring about "Canadian slotted buttons", which we had not previously ever heard of. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I somehow lost track of Shannon's name. But we researched the Slot Buttons and immediately loved them and were delighted that our button supplier, US Button, actually makes them in the USA for the Canadian Military. We have used Slot Buttons ever since. After we told him how important the buttons are to us, Shannon actually dug up the original email he'd sent me ... from way back in 2012, before we'd ever even made our first batch of production Fabric! So ... HIP HIP HOORAY and HUGE THANKS to Shannon Pendley. We truly view our customers as part of our team. Everyone at WeatherWool agrees the Slot Buttons are the best suggestion we've ever gotten from a customer. .... Also .... anyone interested in 72,000 standard 4-hole buttons? Cheap? ------ Ralph
2020-08-30 ... Spider Season
Around here (Northern New Jersey), as soon as the late Summer weather shows a little hint of Fall, the spiders are suddenly very busy, and webs appear everywhere ... definitely admire their webs, but REALLY don't like walking into them! I'll be waving a stick in front of me as I hike for the next few weeks. -- Ralph
2020-08-29 ... More hands on deck (on the website)
The website maintenance and narratives have been 99% me (Ralph) since Debby forced me onto the Shopify platform. (Debby did a lot of work converting our old site over to Shopify, which is the most widely-used website-hosting platform for companies like ours. We recommend them.) But there is a LOT of website work that needs doing, and I've encouraged Debby, Alex and Denali to take their shots. So now, whoever last updates a page will be adding their name alongside the date at the bottom of the page ... or after the blog entry. Great to have the help! -- Ralph
2020-08-26 ... FALL just started in Jersey
Here in New Jersey, every year in late August there is a night when the weather breaks and it seems to trigger FALL in people's minds. Yesterday's temp topped out at 91F/33C but an evening weather front blew in and the temp dropped to about 63F/17C. This morning is still cool and pleasant with low (for Jersey summer, 52%) humidity. It's interesting the effect this change in the weather has on people ... same as the birds knowing it's time to migrate and the bears going on 24-hour feed. Also interesting, I learned recently that the weather folks refer to September, October and November as "Meteorological Fall" ... Glorious Days coming up!! At least for us in Jersey, the meteorological seasons match the weather ... December, January and February are winter; March, April and May are spring and June, July and August are summer.
2020-08-19 ... Not Camouflage
A few of our Advisors are sponsored by other clothing companies. We have never paid anyone to wear WeatherWool, but some other companies do. Other companies may also sponsor outings, gatherings, TV shows ... and of course they want their clothing showcased. I recently asked one of our Advisors, who has been appearing in big-brand camo, if he was going to have to quit working with us. His answer surprised me. He said the other company didn't mind him wearing WeatherWool because they do not consider our Lynx Pattern to be camouflage. We smilingly refer to Lynx as camo-camo because, although it is extremely effective camouflage in Nature, people usually do not perceive it as camo.
2020-08-18 ... Back in Jersey
Great road trip!! Our son Zack married Carla, his longtime sweetheart!!! It was a fantastic wedding and reception and Jackson Hole was the perfect place for it. I love driving around the USA (and Canada) and there could hardly be a better reason to hit the road than a family wedding. Thanks to Debby for driving with me from New Jersey (about 2100 miles each way) instead of flying like a sensible person. After and before the wedding, delighted to spend time with some people who are very important to WeatherWool. We'll be posting more about that later. ... One other thing ... I love coming home!
The kids got hitched with Grand Teton National Park in the background.
2020-08-14 ... Yellowstone National Park
A friend of ours is one of the Senior Rangers in Yellowstone. He's been wearing WeatherWool about 3 years, and that's how we got to know each other. We've been hoping to meet in person for a long time, and today should have been the day. As he advised us, we entered the Park through the North Gate at Gardiner, Montana, and took the beautiful drive to the Lamar Valley. Watching hundreds of bison living generally just as they have for thousands of years is pretty great. We planned to meet our friend at Canyon Village, and we knew the road from Lamar to Canyon was closed for maintenance, so the U-Turn back toward the North Gate was part of the plan. But when we tried to head South from Mammoth Hot Springs to Dillon and then on to Canyon, we found that road suddenly also closed due to a water main break. The Rangers hoped it would be repaired in 24 hours, but were not sure. So in order to see our friend, we would have had to leave the Park and detour about 4 hours ... then probably wait in a long line (the gate at West Yellowstone has been the busiest lately) to re-enter the Park. With over 2000 miles between Yellowstone and home, we decided we'd meet our friend in November ... he has plans to visit New Jersey! We'll spend a couple of days with our son Zack and new daughter-in-law Carla in Casper, and head back East on Sunday the 16th.
2020-08-13 ... Advisor Bill McConnell
Debby and I thoroughly enjoyed spending most of the day with Advisor Bill McConnell.
Before writing about today, I should finish up about yesterday. Joining us with Bill was his delightful four year-old Willie the 4th. Willie loves the outdoors, and could not have a better teacher than his Dad. Willie has already learned a great deal, and it was a pleasure seeing his energy and enthusiasm. Willie wanted to run around while the oldsters stood and talked, but Bill made him stay close because there are lions in the area. Willie was playing in the rocks when he disturbed an ant nest and got a few bites. Debby and Bill brushed the ants off and cleaned him up with a couple of wipes. The ant episode was forgotten quickly, and Willie headed back to his rock pile. Bill gave him something to think about ... "You see those ants are still all riled up, swarming the rocks. You can go back there if you want, but if you get bit again, no crying. You know what you're getting into. If you're going to be stupid, you've got to be tough." I will use that last line ...
Bill teaches tracking, flint-knapping and stalking/hunting, among other things. So today he gave us a few minutes of instruction in each of those areas, as a photo-op. We were happy to hear that Bill didn't need to bring his Anorak along because he keeps it in his truck year-round except maybe in July. The area had already had a pretty good freeze a week or so ago. We got some nice photos of Bill, and he showed me some moose and bear tracks that I would never have noticed -- let alone recognized -- without him.
Without Denali, who had to get back to the office unexpectedly, the photos are OK but far from professional. And like a dope I forgot to get any photos of me with Bill. I did get a photo of Debby changing the way Bill was wearing his Watch Cap, which made me laugh.
In these photos, Bill is actually wearing a MidWeight ShirtJac that we just gave him. We wanted Bill to have something in our MidWeight, and we gave him Alex's personal ShirtJac because we have been out of stock for a long time. Bill said the ShirtJac would be used for antelope hunting when the season opens in a few days.
After 2 or 3 hours in the gorgeous Montana Countryside, we had a very long and leisurely lunch at Ted (Turner's) Place on Main Street in Bozeman. We've seen a fair amount of Bozeman these last couple of days, and we like what we see a whole lot. If we could afford it ... !!
2020-08-12 ... Sheridan and Bozeman, Montana
This morning we again visited (yesterday's post) the Ward Family's Clover Meadows Ranch where they raise Targhee Sheep offered for breeding stock to other ranches. We spent some time with Dr Anika's Dad Cal, who showed us all the things we didn't get a chance to see yesterday evening. They have had bald eagles nesting on the ranch for 9 years. For us, it's always a treat to see bald eagles as they are very few in New Jersey. Cal also explained how installing pivot irrigation and annual plantings of a mixture of seven to nine forage plants has completely transformed his operation. We also enjoyed looking over the workmanship of the barns ... some of them pushing 200 years old. What people accomplished back in the day without power tools is a kick to see! There was a note on a door detailing some calves sold at 26 cents apiece on 8 July, 1862. THANKS for another great visit, Cal!!
By early afternoon, we were in Bozeman with Advisor Bill McConnell. Bill and I have known each other since 2015, I think, but this was the first time we'd met face to face. Bill has lived a life full of outdoor adventure and study, and is well dedicated to passing on his knowledge and love of the outdoors ... and more. We'll see Bill again first thing tomorrow.
2020-08-11 ... Montana ... Jake and Anika from MOUNTAIN MEN
A few of the people from the History Channel's Mountain Men TV Series have WeatherWool. In the photos are Debby and me with Dr Anika Ward and Jake Herak at the sheep ranch of Anika's family. On the show, Jake can be seen chasing mountain lions and bears up into the hills and away from the ranches in the valley, where they may prey on livestock. Anika is a veterinarian who cares for all manner of livestock and pets ... and for Jake's very hard-working Walker-Bluetick hounds.
The photos were taken just before sunset (my fault for talking too much!).
2020-08-09 ... Artsy Shot?? ...
This is the "loom state" sample of Lynx FullWeight Fabric that we just approved. Even after weaving, a lot has to happen before it goes to the tailors. Grand Teton Mountain in the background!
2020-08-07 ... Lynx Sample Approved!
Today we received from MTL (the people who weave our Fabric) a sample of FullWeight Lynx Pattern ... and ... APPROVED!! ... Weaving of about 880 yards of Fabric will begin as soon as American Woolen sends the yarn to MTL ... probably next week.
WOW ... Alex's wife Cecy likes it around here so much that she is looking at real estate listings. If WeatherWool operated out of Wyoming, nobody would ask WHAT ARE YOU DOING THERE? ... which people always ask when they hear we are out of New Jersey.
2020-08-06 from Jackson, Wyoming
This area is crazy beautiful!! Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks are treasure.
We received a sample of yarn for our FullWeight Black Fabric and Debby gave the mill the OK on it. One more step forward.
2020-08-04 ... Mountain Man Joshua Kirk
Wyoming ... I love this State! ... Driving from our son's home in Casper to Jackson Hole for his wedding, we stopped in Lander and spent several hours visiting Joshua Kirk of History Channel's Mountain Men series. Josh lives on an enormous, wild ranch where the bison roam freely over a large area. It ain't New Jersey!!! Josh is hand-raising a young bison that was abandoned by his mother. The little guy lives with Josh's chickens and dogs, alongside Josh's house.A few days before our visit, wolves had come down out of the hills and come after the baby bull. Josh heard a ruckus and got outside before the wolves got inside the fence.
We'll post photos of our visit when we get back home. We were up close and personal with the bison, and I was not comfortable with Debby and Denali being within 5 or 10 yards of animals that could do terrible damage within a couple of seconds if they so choose. But Josh knows the animals well and was expert at predicting their behavior. He explained it would have been a different situation in winter, when the bison are much more energetic. The cold does not bother them, but the heat of the summer afternoon kept them very low-key.
Also, yesterday, I spoke with a Yellowstone Park Ranger who is interested in our wool. Given his work, he spends huge time outdoors in some real weather, and has been less-than-satisfied with all of the outdoor gear he's seen so far. He told me he'd seen someone in Gardiner, Montana, wearing one of our jackets, and approached the stranger to ask about the wool. I don't know who the guy was, but he told the ranger that his WeatherWool was his all-time favorite outdoor gear.
2020-08-03 ... Drab and Duff Yarns Approved
Today we received from American Woolen small samples of MidWeight and FullWeight Solid Drab Color yarn for approval. We also received Solid Duff Color Yarns. These looked fantastic, and we hope to get weaving underway soon!! The Solid Black Color yarn was not black enough for Debby. And some of the Lynx Pattern yarn wasn't quite what she wanted either.
2020-08-02 ... Road Trip ... Wedding Trip!!
Debby and I left home in New Jersey on Wednesday, headed for Wyoming. Our younger son Zack and soon-to-be daughter-in-law Carla will marry on Saturday the 8th in Jackson Hole! Denali has been in Wyoming for 10 days already, fulfilling her Maid of Honor role big-time. Best Man Alex will be in the office thru Tuesday, then in Wyoming for a week with the rest of us. I love road trips and this is the best reason ever!!
It's about 1820 miles (2928 km) from our home to Zack's home in Casper, Wyoming, Interstate Route 80 almost all the way ... Beautiful green farms and hills ... Sweet little towns and wonderful people ... USA, baby!!!
2020-07-26 ... Outback Lockdown
Discovery Channel has begun a series "Outback Lockdown". The series stars Ky Furneaux, a friend of WeatherWool, as she and a companion live off the land -- a very difficult and remote part of Australia -- as a means of avoiding the Covid-19 virus. At this point, it is a 3-episode series running on Sunday nights. Episode Two is tonight. It was too warm for wool during the filming of the first three episodes. But it's cooled off now, and if they do any more filming, our wool should be part of the show.
2020-07-23 ... Big Step Forward, Smaller Step Back!
Today we met with Mike Hillebrand, owner of MTL, several other people who make MTL go, and Rob Stuart, who, has been our Fabric Designer from Day One. The bad news was that some of the fiber in the sample of our Lynx FullWeight Fabric was dyed darker than Debby wanted. (She is tough and never accepts other than exactly what she wants!) This will cause a delay, unfortunately. But the Big Step Forward was that some of the people on Mike's team figured a way to increase the width usable Fabric coming off the loom!! That's a big HOORAY!
2020-07-22 ... FullWeight Lynx Sample from MTL
This morning we received from MTL the first small piece of FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric for our approval. Problem is, we have only once before, about 8 years ago, seen pieces of our Fabric prior to finishing ... and finishing turns the raw, off-the-loom-fabric into something amazingly different ... Tomorrow we will be meeting with Mike Hillebrand (owner of MTL) and his staff. Also at the meeting will be Rob Stuart, who has been our Fabric Engineer since the very beginning of WeatherWool. Rob and Mike have a much better idea of what the unfinished fabric should look like. Mainly, we are thrilled that things are moving along!
2020-07-21 ... Kentwool
This morning we had a great talk with Keith Horn, President of Kentwool Yarn. Kentwool has been supplying us with our warp yarn (the yarn that runs lengthwise through a bolt of fabric) since we started. It's high time that we got to know the people at Kentwool. We look forward to working directly with them in order to enhance a vital part of our product.!
2020-07-18 ... Unsolicited Anorak Reviews
A couple of Civilian Anorak reviews from today. One sent to us by email and one published on Instagram. We put each of these reviews on separate pages because they included several photos. One review from Wendy and one review from Chris. And here is the link to our main Civilian Anorak Review page.
2020-07-12 ... WATCH CAPS page 'live'
We are now taking 'live orders', as opposed to backorders, for the Watch Caps. Also, the Watch Cap page has been completed with photos of the first production Watch Cap. It was difficult to describe in words the different looks that are possible with a two-color Watch Cap, but photos make it clear ... "One pic is worth a thousand words" ...
2020-07-10 ... To the LOOMS!
Mike Hillebrand, the founder and owner of Material Technology and Logistics, confirmed that he expects the yarn for our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric to be delivered to his plant on Monday the 13th. Mike also wrote that he'll begin weaving immediately. SUPER NEWS! After our Fabric is woven, it is still necessary for American Woolen Company to FINISH the Fabric ... some of the most critical steps happen after weaving. Prior to finishing, the Fabric is stiff and greasy. The finishing process make an tremendous difference..
2020-07-09 ... New Pages on Website
Jones Ranch ... this year we purchased wool from New Mexico's Jones Ranch, where the Jones Family has been developing their own strain of Rambouillet Merino Sheep for over 100 years.
Vendor Relations ... We work with a lot of Vendors, and they are indispensable. It's interesting to reflect that no single person has more than just a small fraction of the collective knowledge necessary to make WeatherWool. TEAMWORK!
2020-07-08 ... Production Update
There are a few companies involved in the making of our Fabric, and American Woolen Company has primary responsibility. AWC does a lot of the work themselves, and they manage and coordinate for us the processes handled by other companies. Our Fabric is on track for completion in August. Today, AWC sent me a 10-second video showing our ROVING being made. We are thrilled to see things moving forward again after so much standing still, waiting for safe working conditions.
2020-07-03 ... USA, Baby!!!
We are working up a social media post and a website landing page focused on our pure-American philosophy. Seems appropriate for this weekend, and doubly so given the crazy stuff going on these days.
2020-07-02 ... WATCH CAP
Yesterday we spent a few hours with the team at Tailored Industry, who helped us develop the Watch Cap. We have made about 8 versions of the Watch Cap, and we finally signed-off on the last prototype yesterday. We'll make 50 of the Watch Caps and see how they work out. We regard this as a test run ... it feels like we are being inexorably drawn into the world of knits ... and it's good! MANY THANKS to Kady and Zee and Alex of Tailored Industry for their patience!
2020-06-30 ... Half-Year, 2020
It has been a crazy half-year. For us ... we have almost no inventory left, and no Fabric with which to make more garments. We do have a few items, all of which are listed in one place on the Inventory Page, which is linked on the Main Menu appearing at the top of every page.
Our Fabric Mill is telling us we will get our Fabric in August, and the tailors are keen to get busy. I sure hope so.
Regarding the social media posts (please see yesterday's Blog) I did yesterday, there was no response from any of the people responsible for telling us wet synthetic 'fleece' is a good insulator.
Here's hoping all of you are doing well in these crazy days.
2020-06-29 ... Patagonia and Backpacker Magazine
I just tagged Patagonia Clothing and Backpacker Magazine on an Instagram post. Backpacker's website has an article where a guy wrote how fleece probably saved his life when he got dunked in a (summertime!) river. I updated our Wool and Water page with this material. I think this is the first time I have tagged a monster company like Patagonia, which has 4.5 million followers on Instagram.
2020-06-28 ... WEDDING ROAD TRIP!
Our younger son, Zack, is getting hitched in August. Zack and Carla live in Wyoming, and the big doings will be held in Jackson Hole. We have decided to drive to Jackson Hole from our home in New Jersey. We will have a bunch of WeatherWool people to see along the way, plus people to see in the general area (within a half-day drive!) of Jackson Hole. Still not sure if we'll drive Alex's pickup or rent something. We'll put a big magnetic WeatherWool sign on the front doors of the vehicle! ... For some reason, the idea of the signs cracks me up. Carla and Zack have been together a few years already, and it's a joy to think of their future.
2020-06-24 ... Fabric Sample
Our Fabric Samples are remnants from the cutting and sewing of our garments.
Most companies that make clothing buy fabric. If fabric that satisfied my specs had been available for sale, probably someone would have been making clothing that satisfied my specs, and we would not have formed WeatherWool.
It took us three years to develop our Fabric, and it is the foundation of everything we do. Two or three years ago, we realized it would be a good idea to offer free Fabric Samples on the website. If clothing makers expect people to like their fabric, it seems they would all offer samples.
Many people who have requested Samples went on to order garments. And some people who already had WeatherWool garments requested Samples to share.
Today I spoke with Dave Krysiak of Michigan, who in March requested Samples and noted that his wife is "quite sensitive to wool". Dave just ordered a garment, and sent this note: "The fabric samples were very helpful and approved by the Boss (aka Mrs. Krysiak). She experienced no irritation whatsoever!"
Many people are surprised that wool can be rugged and weather-resistant and soft and luxurious ... Hardcore Luxury! ... and the Fabric Samples help prove it.
2020-06-13 ... Our Sweet Pup
With all the crazy in the world these days, I wasn't going blog about our dog. But reading Denali's post to the Large Munsterlander Club on Facebook changed my mind. Down the road (I'm 66), Alex and Denali will be doing more and more of the WeatherWool work, and I view this as Denali's first WeatherWool blog entry:
2020-06-08 ... DEDICATION
This is the first time I've linked our 'landing page' to the Blog.
SOBERING ... I spoke recently with one of "our" Ranchers. We make it a point to get to know everyone on "our team" -- everyone who helps us make WeatherWool -- all of them are vital, with the Ranchers and their sheep Numero Uno. Our wool comes from Family Ranches, and the Family I spoke with had been seriously considering ending their 5-generation lifestyle ... until WeatherWool bought the great wool they are dedicated to producing. It’s always been on my mind that our customers count on #WeatherWool in some very serious conditions. But to hear of our significance directly from one of our Ranchers underlines everything.
Since 'day one' we have dedicated WeatherWool to making the best we could figure out, with the best customer service. And it's huge for us that people rely on WeatherWool garments in some of the most intense situations. And although we believe our Ranchers have always liked seeing exactly how and where their wool is used, we never saw ourselves as affecting whether or not that wool might be grown in the first place, or whether a Family might continue the life they love.
2020-06-06 ... Wide Body
The last couple of days I've been luxuriating in a new office chair, THANKS to my daughter Denali!! My old office chair, patched with wrong-color duct tape, was hardly befitting (didn't mean the pun) the CEO of a major American corporation ... or even the CEO of a 1-employee home-based LLC. The new chair is great ... better in every way. It has a higher, much more substantial headrest, and it's a lot more comfortable now to lean back and catch 40 winks as I find necessary more and more often. The one unsettling detail is that this is a heavyweight chair. Denali said a typical office chair is only rated to 250 pounds (113 kg). And I'm pretty well North (or would it be South?) of that number.
2020-06-05 ... Like a Kid
So today it was hot and humid and I hiked a few miles then did some yard work then I went swimming with all my clothes and even shoes and socks still on ... like when I was a kid. It felt great and it made my little granddaughter Belle squeal with delight.
2020-05-31 ... MidWeight Basic Vest
We've lately had requests to make our Basic Vest in MidWeight Fabric. I don't see why not, particularly if someone orders in advance of our production run. So MidWeight Basic Vests can now be ordered from the website. We are presently completely sold out of Basic Vests, all prices are set to 0, and any Basic Vest order will be treated as a backorder/indication of interest ... we'll get in touch prior to the next production run.
2020-05-27 ... Incredible!
A customer that I have spoken with previously called today to tell me about his Pants. He had received a pair of our Pants yesterday afternoon, and he wore them for four hours in temp of 74F/23C. He was really delighted at how comfortable he was, and said it was incredible that our FullWeight Pants were good in such warmth. To me, tho, the (almost literally!) incredible part was knowing this gentleman has been living with a donated HEART for 25 YEARS! Amazingly, his brother has spent the last 20 years with a donated heart. On a somewhat related note, WeatherWool Advisor Fisher Neal, a serious outdoorsman and a serious actor, had a great role on "DARE", an episode of the TV Series Law and Order, that dramatized very effectively the need for organ donors.
AND ... this afternoon we bought about 20,000 pounds of raw wool. GULP! We have never before bought this much wool at one time. Much of the wool came from Advisors Mike Corn and Bob Padula, but we also bought wool from two ranchers Mike knows well but I am yet to meet. It's important to us that we know everyone who helps us make WeatherWool, and we're looking forward to speaking with the new members of our team (and I hope they'll give us permission to name them on the website). We wouldn't consider buying raw wool without the advice of Mike and Bob. THANKS GUYS!!
2020-05-26 ... Mountain Men on History Channel
Mountain Men is a very popular reality-style TV show on the History Channel. A couple of the cameramen have been wearing Anoraks for two years or so, and the on-screen talent got interested. The new season premieres on Thursday, 6 June at 9PM Eastern. There will be at least one Mountain Man wearing WeatherWool this season, maybe more ... filming has been thrown off by Corona. But I now have the green light to mention the program because the trailer has been released and it shows, very briefly, Joshua Kirk of Lander, Wyoming, wearing an All-Around Jacket in Duff Color. I don't think Joshua received his WeatherWool until they were filming Week 4. Manufacturers pay a lot of money to have their products shown on TV Shows and movies, or used by well-known people. We have never paid anyone to wear WeatherWool, but we will provide garments at no cost to people who are well-known enough to really help get us noticed. The guys on this show can wear whatever they'd like for free. That they choose WeatherWool is a real kick for us.
2020-05-25 ... Used Garments offered Customer-to-Customer
We have always accepted trade-ins, exchanges, returns ... we do what our customer needs. As a result, our Specials Page will often have a Used item or two offered for sale. We do this strictly as a customer service, and lately I decided to let customers deal directly with each other, which will eliminate some shipping and other costs. I think it will work fine, but I'm viewing it as an experiment.
2020-05-22 ... WarriorWool
Today we sent a WarriorWool Anorak to a member of the United States Marine Corps, Recon/ 0321. We always love to ship WarriorWool, but this piece in particular because we are heading into Memorial Day. It's also a kick that this Anorak is going to a woman. My contact in Force Recon told me she is a "badass" ... she would have to be!!
2020-05-20 ... Wool Flags
We got a call this evening from a US Marine Corps Veteran who is interested in making an American Flag from wool. He said it was normal to make the Flag of wool back in the early days of the USA.
2020-05-19 ... I, PENCIL
Last night, Debby and I were discussing the complexities of turning raw wool into finished garments, delivered to customers. We work with many different specialists, and each time we speak with them, we learn more about what they do. And that reminded us of I, Pencil, the 1958 essay written by Leonard E. Reed. It's a great read, talking about the many different efforts that need to be coordinated to make a pencil. And there are surprisingly (to me!) many. But what I'd not been aware of, previously, was that the bigger point of the essay, made only in the last couple of paragraphs, is that the vast array of players and equipment necessary to make the pencil could not have come about by top-down, centralized planning. I, Pencil is primarily a paean to Freedom.
People sometimes ask me why I always capitalize Freedom. ... Because it is huge to me. And because I much admire the old style of written English manifest in the American Declaration of Independence, for example, where Life, Liberty, Happiness and Sacred Honor are all capitalized.
2020-05-18 ... "SHIPS DIRECT FROM USA!"
... One of the more idiotic lines I've heard on television ads. I don't even remember the product, but more and more hucksters want Americans to think a product is American-made when it really is not. In the 1960s, "imported" meant high-quality and/or specialty goods ... French wine, Belgian chocolate, Swiss watch, German machinery, Mexican tequila. These days, "imported" more often means "low price". So now the importers of cheap-stuff are going with "Ships direct from USA" ... does that really fool anyone? More than ever, WeatherWool is committed to 100% American products. In our early years, even though our business plan called for totally American products, people kept trying to talk us into "excepts" ... turns out you can have an awful lot of exceptions and still legally call your product American. "It's just a zipper" ... "buttons don't need to be American, do they?" ... "it's only the thread, that would be OK, wouldn't it?" ... "you can get great prices outside USA, ya know" ... Now, nobody ever tries to talk us into non-American anything.
2020-05-17 ... Canterbury Fire Update (per yesterday's Blog)
Dave posted today a YouTube video updating his situation.
2020-05-16 ... FIRE
Yesterday, we learned that WeatherWool Advisor Dave Canterbury lost his home and all his possessions to a house fire. Dave and his wife, Iris, escaped unharmed, with only the clothes they were wearing. There are a few GoFundMe efforts already live. It looks like this one was initiated by Dave and another person. I will probably write more about this in the coming days.
2020-05-14 ... vSOFIC
A couple of weeks ago, a retired Green Beret called. He is a big fan of wool, although he does not have any WeatherWool yet. He wanted me to know about SOFIC, the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference. He felt this would be a great place for WeatherWool.
We can't really work with Big Army (or any of the main Military forces) because of the cost of WeatherWool and because, even if we did somehow win a contract for 500,000 pieces, it would take us years to ramp up to that capacity. BUT, Special Ops is different because they can operate on much smaller scales and with more flexibility.
Usually SOFIC would be a big convention-style wingding in Tampa. But this year, the virus-time SOFIC is virtual, running all this week. The virtual aspect is working pretty well for us ... we attend online presentations and get a sense of SOFIC without devoting anywhere near the resources necessary to spend a week working a booth on the road. From what I gather, the companies that will get almost all the attention will be big players selling big systems. Many millions of dollars.
One really interesting thing ... I spoke with a procurement official, who told me that Special Ops typically wears whatever clothing the main forces wear. They may buy their own stuff, but the default is to wear standard-issue provided by Big Military.
I was told in order to do business with the government, I need to have a CAGE number. I spent about 90 minutes online filling out forms and finally managed to complete the application for a CAGE number ... not so bad, I guess, just sitting at my desk figuring out the codes standardized codes that will describe WeatherWool. But I confess to having an extremely low tolerance for that sort of thing. Pretty interesting that, near as I can tell, there is no code that covers a company that manufactures both Fabric and garments. We had to specify whether we are primarily CUT AND SEW MENSWEAR or a TEXTILE MILL. Well, we aren't either. And there was no code that I could find for CLOTHING MANUFACTURER, let alone WOOL CLOTHING MANUFACTURER, which is how I normally describe WeatherWool in conversation. Anyway, it will normally take a week to get the number, as long as there are no problems with my app. One more step on the way to WeatherWool becoming a .... big-time (?) company.
2020-05-13 ... Wool and Babies
The crew at Experience Wool (of the American Wool Council) has a great post on Instagram that WeatherWool just reposted . And they link to an article from the International Wool Textile Organization that has information about how wool helps babies sleep better. There is research showing that wool helps everyone sleep better. WeatherWool is delighted to read that babies sleep better with wool blankets, etc.
2020-05-12 ... Wool and Water
I talk to and correspond with a lot of people about wool, including people who are regarded as very knowledgeable about the outdoors and survival and gear. And I have learned that almost nobody, including outdoor professionals, understands how wool handles water. Everyone knows the old saying "wool keeps you warm when it's wet", but few understand it.
A few months ago I read an article in a great magazine about a guy who fell through ice. He got back on dry land quickly, and the story was about him being in a survival situation because he was soaked and the temperature was around 20F/-7C. He was wearing wool pants (not ours) and I think synthetic long johns, and he wrote something to the effect that even wool won't keep you warm when soaked like that. I sent a note to the editor with info about how wool works, how it wouldn't be soaked in that situation and that if the author had been wearing nothing but wool, he could have simply gone on with his day and the quick dip would not have mattered at all. The editor was surprised, and now I owe him an article.
Wool doesn't get wet the way other fibers do, it doesn't dry the way other fibers do, and it is the only fiber I know of that can be dry even though it is completely saturated (and that's why it keeps you warm when wet). I just updated the Wool and Water page to explain this.
2020-05-10 ... On-Demand Manufacturing
I added to the website the beginnings of a page about On-Demand Manufacturing. It's the way things will go, and although it's probably years down the road for WeatherWool, we need to pay attention.
2020-05-09 ... Tailored Industry Knitting
Added a page to the website on Tailored Industry, the company that is making our Watch Caps and Neck Gaiters. We are barely scratching the capabilities of what they can do, mostly because unlike the Caps and Gaiters, we need our other garments to be snag-resistant and tight against weather, which pretty much requires weaving rather than knitting. But the "On-Demand, Whole-Garment" knitting techniques employed by TI are changing the garment industry for the better. Also, researchers are working on knitting techniques that may eventually offer very tough and weather-resistant fabrics.
2020-05-08 ... Watch Cap
Yesterday we received another Watch Cap prototype. This is the first prototype with two colors ... in this case Black and Duff reversible. We love the reversible concept, but it seems like this proto is a little too big/loose.
2020-05-05 ... Something Happening!
We got a phone call from the folks making our Fabric, and were really happy to get the news that the mill has begun to come back online. They are starting slowly, but they are starting! WOO-HOO!
2020-05-02 ... May!!
I love all the seasons and all the months but if I had to pick, it would be May. Here in New Jersey, Spring is really exploding, leaves are just opened on the trees and the early green color of the new leaves is about as beautiful as can be. A few days ago at The Swamp I was fortunate to see coyote cubs frolic briefly on our dirt access road. They went back into the brier thicket after only a moment, and I hoped maybe their mother and perhaps the whole litter would come out onto the road, but they did not. Coyotes are abundant in this area, but they are extremely good at not being seen. Foxes are widely admired for their brains, but from my point of view, they are dullards compared to coyotes.
There is an old saying that Nature abhors a vacuum. Here in the Northeastern USA, we have large numbers of whitetail deer, but wolves and cougars have been wiped out. Black bears are numerous and bobcats are growing in number, but they seldom prey on adult deer. So, the coyote has sort of grown into the deer-predator niche in these parts. Western coyotes are much smaller than Eastern coyotes, which are now widely acknowledged to be part wolf. And they are fully capable of preying on healthy adult deer. In 1950, coyotes did not exist around here. It's pretty interesting to see such a significant piece of evolution and ecological change in such a short time on my own home turf. In 2004 I spoke with a Game Warden in Newfoundland who told me he shot a coyote (they were very new on the island then) that weighed 82 pounds (37 kg).
WeatherWool Advisor Mike Dean is just back from one of his solo walkabouts in Northern Maine. About 18 days ago, a significant snowstorm hit Mike's beloved North Woods, and off he went, for 17 days. That's a long time for anyone, but Mike is well into his 60s. On the other hand, he did a much longer and colder 6 week-solo trip 15 months previous. He hiked, camped, fished and just generally enjoyed the complete solitude of the remote, uninhabited snowy forest. And he found some new ways to use the Neck Gaiters (he brought two). Here is some of the email Mike sent, written in his usual rapid-fire style: "makes a pretty good pillow and works well as a pad sitting on an old beaver stump, I took off my mukluks and heavy wool socks and used them as foot warmers had to wrap duct tape on the tops to hold them up but pretty warm did the same in my sleeping bag works good, used them as hand warmers had to duct tape also, but the best use other than what it’s designed for was as a bath towel. On the last day I decided to take a bath as I’m headed back into civilization I want to tell you the water was cold but not bad in it as getting out soaped up then back in then out and then used it to dry off with , I must of looked funny going into the water and getting out with no clothes on but there’s nobody around so who cares ..."
2020-04-29 ... SOFIC
Spent nearly an hour on the phone today with a gent who retired as a high-ranking officer after 26 years in the US Military. He called to order an Anorak for himself, but he also told us about SOFIC, Special Operations Forces Industry Conference. We have not gone to any shows in 3 years, but it seems like we should give this one a try. MANY THANKS for the tip, Sir!!
2020-04-25 ... USPS Delays
Here in the New York / New Jersey area, which is reported to be USA's virus-central, the United States Post Office is not functioning very well. Our local post office is actually CLOSED; the sign on the door directs customers to the next town ... where the post office hours and staff are reduced. They tell us they can't get truck drivers. Some WeatherWool shipments have been sitting still for weeks. UPS and FedEx and DHL seem to be fine, tho.
2020-04-23 ... The Swamp
Yesterday I spent a few hours at The Swamp, our little place in the New Jersey swamps. I arrived before first light. Watching and listening to Nature's creatures greet a new day is one of my favorite things to do, and Spring is my favorite time to do it. So many birds singing their songs! Turkey Season was the reason for my visit this particular morning, and a tom was gobbling regularly from his roost starting at first light. As the sky slowly brightened, I realized I had crept closer to his roost tree than intended ... maybe 60 yards/55 meters or so. He'd spent the night about 40-50 feet (maybe 14 meters) off the ground in a large oak. Each time I called to him, he'd gobble in response. But as the day grew brighter, hen turkeys roosted in adjacent trees began to cluck softly. Bad news for me ... can't compete with the real thing! As the turkey chorus grew and the sun gave enough light for the turkeys to feel secure on the ground, they left the roosts within a few seconds of each other, and all flew to the same spot roughly 100 yards/90 meters away from me. With so few leaves on the undergrowth, I could just barely see the tom displaying and strutting for the hens, but no more gobbling, and no interest in me. Later in the morning another gobbler responded to my hen yelps, and he came as close as about 60 or 70 yards (somewhere around 60 meters), strutting and gobbling and looking for the hen he was hearing. But not seeing a female, he refused to come within range of my shotgun. Many turkey hunters will use blinds and decoys, and that probably would have made the difference with this bird. But my own preference for hunting is to keep things very simple. After an hour (a long time to flirt with a turkey that you can see!), the tom got bored of me, and wandered off and I headed back home to work. The riverbank offered a poignant view of Nature's ways:
The bright spot on the tree trunk, partly submerged under the rising river, is due to a very recent beaver visit. The jawbones of the whitetail deer are also very fresh, still attached at the chin by skin and cartilage. The beaver lives, the deer perishes and Nature rolls on.
Another interesting thing is the succession of species I see at The Swamp. When we first got the property in the 1990s, rails (marsh birds) were extremely common. I haven't seen a single one in close to 20 years. Until this year, I don't remember ever seeing a chipmunk there ... suddenly there are a lot of them.
2020-04-22 ... Earth Day
Of all textiles, wool is, supposedly, the most environmentally friendly. I write "supposedly" because there are a lot of ways to look at it, a lot of ways to evaluate the many factors that influence the answer. But the flip side, maybe, is easier ... Is anyone sure wool is NOT the most environmentally friendly textile? It's probably not a coincidence that wool is also one of the textiles that was made by Nature to actually be clothing.
2020-04-21 ... Turkey Season Movie by Advisor Fisher Neal
Fisher Neal, our only Advisor who is also a serious actor, has made a great movie about his 2020 Tennessee Turkey Hunting Season. Fisher is from Tennessee, living in New Jersey in recent years, but he makes a point of returning home for turkey season. The movie, available on YouTube, is about 14 minutes long. Terrific work Fisher!!
2020-04-19 LEO ShirtJac
We started to flesh out the page on the Law Enforcement Officer Jacket today after a good talk with Keith Singleton. We hope to get a lot more input and put a few dozen in the field before the end of 2020.
2020-04-18 ... Testing Outerwear
Just updated the page on Testing Outerwear, and would love to hear what other people think ... not only how you test, but what is most important to you.
2020-04-15 ... Watch Caps
Well, I got myself in a little trouble with the Queen of WeatherWool (obviously, there is no King!) because I asked Tailored Industry (the people who make our Neck Gaiters) to make 20 Watch Caps for our customers to test. Debby and I had decided NOT to do this, but ... But we need to learn more about knits and a Watch Cap is such a classic item. Our biggest concern, really, is that we'll need to offer it at somewhere around $75, and people might think that we simply have high prices, rather than superior products and services. But as usual ... a lot goes into making a Watch Cap, and delivering it quickly without an additional shipping charge. So of course we'll use the best yarn and construction we can find ... 100% USA, as always. One wrinkle we'll offer is a 2-color reversible Watch Cap. Because the Watch Cap will be essentially, two separate layers of wool, knitted together at the crown, we can make the Caps, for example, Black on one side and Duff on the other. The two separate layers also greatly increase the Cap's rain resistance.
2020-04-11 ... Fine Morning at The Swamp
A short drive from my home (and WeatherWool HQ), just outside New York City, we have a little place in the Jersey Swamps. We got hold of it in 1997, and I've always called it The Swamp. It's a great place to go this time of year, with Spring Green-Up well under way but before the mosquitoes take over. This morning was cool for the date, just a little above freezing, but that won't bother the critters ... the warm-blooded ones, anyway.
Moving very slowly and quietly, as if stillhunting (my much-preferred hunting style), I was pleased to note a crosswind. There were mallards in the Rockaway River, and a heron, which is a good indicator no other human was near. A little further on, I noticed two deer well ahead and already aware of me. I stopped while they eyed me and flagged off after a few seconds. I was glad they didn't snort. Continuing on, a few minutes later I spotted a turkey. This was half the reason I'd come -- turkey season opens in nine days. The bird meandered off, unaware. Another hundred yards, with squirrels also enjoying the morning, I spotted two more deer, only about 50 steps away, moving slowly and unaware of me. These deer were moving into the wind, which they generally like to do, and that's why I generally like to hunt crosswind, so I can intersect them. I stopped and watched the deer, which moved into nice close broadside position. Had I been hunting, they offered ideal opportunity. Reaching the river where it bends around my property, I saw wood ducks and a Canada goose that I think was incubating eggs. I walked part of my little property and was a bit dismayed to see our old shooting bench had somehow collapsed during the winter. It was also disappointing to see very little beaver sign. But some sign was very fresh, so they must still be in the area, if no longer living at my place. On the way out, I encountered a trespasser. He was friendly and polite, claiming he had no idea this was private property. There are posters, although I need to put up more. The fellow might have been telling the truth, but probably not. He pretended to have no interest in hunting, but he was carrying a box call (for turkeys), and was familiar with New Jersey turkey hunting seasons. He was heartened upon hearing that although the governor had closed all State Forests and Parks, the Wildlife Management Areas remain open to public hunting. So, my guess is that he was hoping to hunt our place, and I won't be surprised if he comes back.
2020-04-09 ... WarriorWool Recipients
Very cool ... today we added personnel at the United States Coast Guard at Base Kodiak and US Marine Corps Recon/ 0321 to the list of recipients for WarriorWool Program donations. And of course, this note DOES NOT imply any sort of official endorsement by any person or any branch of the US Military. But this note DOES mean that all of my WarriorWool contacts tell me others with whom they serve would be very happy to wear an Anorak on Active Duty.
2020-04-08 ... WarriorWool Donation
Today, WeatherWool's WarriorWool Program received a donation from Jonathan Drouillard, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, who directed his donation to the USMC Scout Snipers. But ... my contact with the Scout Snipers has moved to the US Army Rangers. So now the Rangers are among the recipient choices for donations, and we have a new contact in the Scout Snipers ... someone I had been in touch with previously because his Dad bought him an Anorak!
2020-04-07 ... Almost 19
Our old pup, Camo, was whelped in April of 2001. She'll be exactly 19 soon, but the Magnolia blossoms won't wait ...
2020-04-06 ... TOO SECURE?
We have always been really happy about how secure our Slot Buttons are. Today we got a photo from a customer that I thought was good, but Debby and the customer thought was a negative, indicating the Slot Buttons are too tightly bound to the garment:
This customer is a farmer who wears his WeatherWool just about all the time, and he is very hard on it. Not sure what he did, but rather than pull free from the garment, the Slot Button ripped through the buttonhole. We'll fix the ShirtJac, but our customer wants to hang onto it until the new ShirtJac he just bought (he has a lot of WeatherWool) reaches him.
2020-03-31 ... Pipeline
There are about a dozen products that are in our "pipeline" ... some are just ideas, some we have been prototyping for years. I decided to create a new group of products, "Pipeline", that can be seen under the main "Shop" tab at the top of all pages on this website. I'll be filling in more and more info for all of the Pipeline items in the coming days. We always love input, and in the case of Pipeline, we need input more than ever.
2020-03-26 ... WeatherWool on TV ... NOT (yet)
We were pretty happy that two cameramen from a well-known TV show like their WeatherWool enough that they shared it with 'the talent', who liked it well enough to contact me. So we provided some wool to two of the people who appear on camera, seen by millions, and we were really looking forward to watching the show! But Corona virus has put a stop to filming ...
2020-03-24 ... Corona World ... BEST WISHES TO ALL!!
As if everyone doesn't already know, things are mostly shut down because of the virus. We are out of Fabric, and the mill working to make more for us is severely hampered by Corona, like just about everyone else. Our tailors are closed down, too ... Although New Jersey is officially closed, we are open for business, pretty much, but we have very little inventory. (There are also pages on this website that we keep current with production status and backordering.)
Yesterday, we had some pretty good freezing rain and a moderate breeze. So I took a nice little hike and posted about our sentimental-favorite original All-Around Jacket:
Freezing Rain + Wind = WoolWeather! ... I love this old jacket because it's the very first garment made from what became our production Fabric. Back in 2012, after three years of R&D, this is the first garment that passed field tests, and it's still my main garment for field-wear. This morning, the temp was just above freezing, breezy, steady rain with a little ice mixed in. Good for hiking the local woods ... About 4.25 miles (6.8 km) ... Ideally, I would weigh 165 pounds (75 kg). But really, I weigh 280 (127 kg), and that means, unless sitting still, I stew inside typical rain gear. So I wore my old jacket -- with no base layer, and it worked great. The rain didn't penetrate, and I didn't overheat or feel a chill. The Big Brim Boonie Hat can handle crazy rain. This old jacket, after several design changes, became our current All-Around Jacket. One change we made was adding flaps over the cargo pockets, so rain is channeled down and off the jacket, and doesn't drown whatever is in the pockets.
2020-03-16 ... WarriorWool for United States Coast Guard
We recently sent an Anorak to Kodiak Island, Alaska, where the weather is famously difficult. When the recipient picked up his wool, he was accompanied by a friend serving in the United States Coast Guard, at Base Kodiak ... soon we will have someone in the USCG testing an Anorak. Interestingly, people who are out in the weather a lot tend to go with the MidWeight ... and, even for use out on the Bering Sea in crazy conditions, this outdoors-pro wanted MidWeight.
2020-03-06 ... Shemagh ... and ...
Input from a prospective customer has caused me to rethink / re-purpose our Shemagh. I received a note from a gent who spends a great deal of time -- several months per year -- outdoors, living in Nature, limiting his kit to what fits in a ruck. His gear needs to be high quality and versatile.
2020-03-02 ... Perspective of a Potential Customer
This evening we received a note on our CONTACT FORM:
You seem to be sold out of just about everything. Maybe you should invest in stepping up production so you don't lose so much business. If I want something that costs a lot of money I certainly don't want to wait who knows how long for it.
As a business owner myself you got to decide if you want to remain small time or take a risk and go bigger. It's a gamble but how a business grows. The hardest part is starting the business in the first place and you are over that. Just giving you my thoughts. -- Chris
As a result of Chris's note, we have added more information to our Production Status page. It had not occurred to me that people would think our lack of inventory and slow production cycles are due to a lack of commitment or capital on our part. We WISH we could get our Fabric by simply writing checks. Our situation is a reflection of the greatly reduced capacity of the American wool industry. And THANKS to Chris for opening my eyes to something that a lot of people were probably thinking!
2020-03-01 ... New wrinkle ... New Advisor
WeatherWool has always been in a little bit of a weird spot ... the people who can most afford us tend to be older city people who don't need our performance ... and the people who need our performance tend to be younger and rural and not as likely to be able to afford us.
"Hardcore Luxury" has been our registered trademark since we started WeatherWool. We believe that comfortable and luxurious garments are pleasurable to wear, and therefore more likely to be on-hand when hardcore performance is unexpectedly needed ... and it is mostly "the unexpected" that causes problems. And so we feel "luxury" actually supports "hardcore" in a very important way.
But also, the "hardcore" can complement and enhance the "luxury". And the funny thing is, the luxury market offers products that are routinely more expensive, often far more expensive, than WeatherWool, and generally they don't perform. Nobody expects a name-brand designer garment to offer any protection against anything at all ... or to last for years.
We will soon announce a new Advisor ... our first Advisor whose experience is in fashion and luxury rather than the outdoors. We've been working with him for a while as a model, and he has actually been wearing WeatherWool to some fashion-shoots simply because he likes it ... and he tells us it's attracted a lot of very positive attention. I'm sure quite a few fashion and luxury-oriented people will like wearing something that is also worn by some of the most hardcore people going.
2020-02-29 ... So many (Merino!) Base Layers
It's a source of frustration for us that we hear so often from people wearing base layers that seriously impair the performance of wool. I've been corresponding with a guy in US Military ... it aggravates us that anyone in the US Military is not equipped with great clothing ... but in this case it aggravates me more than usual because of the difficulty and importance of the work assigned to US Special Forces. Compared with the gigantic sums spent on our Military in general and in particular on Special Forces (per individual), it's crazy that these guys are not issued top-notch clothing. Obviously, I couldn't be more biased about the importance of clothing. But on the other hand, it was my view toward clothing that got me involved in all this in the first place.
Anyhow, two things from this morning got me started on this tangent ... ONE ... I saw an ad for a yet another company I'd never before heard of that offers merino base layers. There are more and more companies offering wool, particularly wool base layers, and this makes me happy! ... TWO ... I have been corresponding lately with someone testing WeatherWool for use by one of America's most extreme Military units. He told me that after his polyester base layer got soaked with sweat, the MidWeight Anorak didn't provide enough warmth or wind resistance. My (haughty, now that I think about it) response was that we more or less disavow any testing where synthetic base layers are involved. But the tester pointed out ... polyester is issued, and many of them simply cannot afford to buy with personal funds anywhere near all the gear they'd love to have. Well ... there isn't anything I can do about that, at least not right now ... and there isn't anything I would try to change about WeatherWool to compensate for polyester base layers. BUT, the more people making merino base layers, the more likely the Military will issue them (I hope!!).
2020-02-26 ... Great Feedback
This evening a customer from British Columbia phoned. He works construction, and he is outdoors, year round, all-day, in all kinds of weather. He said he's worn his Anorak in FullWeight Fabric almost every day since he received it in July ... and he phoned to tell us how happy he is with it, and how it doesn't seem to matter much what the weather is doing, or what he is doing ... he wears it and he's good ... and he wears it indoors, too. Of course, this is what we've been working for, but it still knocks us out to hear this kind of thing. The flip-side would also be true, tho ... if anyone were NOT REALLY HAPPY with our products, we would feel that we had failed. Our goal is to make the best All-Purpose garments ... literally (in the original sense of the word!) second to none. And MANY THANKS to the gent from BC for giving us a try, and for the encouraging call.
2020-02-21 ... This is Great! Warrior for WarriorWool
We received some wonderful feedback from Dennis Propes ... used with permission:
Wanted to give some feedback on my Anorak, I have worn it every day since I received it and every day I have received comments from people about how much they like the Anorak. I have never received so many compliments on a piece of clothing in my life. A true testament to the quality and style of your product. Also, I have worn it in the cold and high winds (50 mph gust) and the performance is unmatched.
I love the fact that I’m supporting an American owned company and produced product.
As for the WarriorWool program, I noticed that it included disabled veterans. I would like to know the qualifications on this program as I am a disabled veteran (60% service connected) as I would love to get more of your product, if under the WarriorWool program, even better. Also in time (later in 2020) contribute to the program.
So ... Dennis ... a warrior who suffered Traumatic Brain Injury, plans to donate to WarriorWool.
2020-02-19 OPEN HOUSE this Sunday
We'll host a WeatherWool Open House this Sunday, 23 February, at WeatherWool Headquarters (that means our home) in South Orange, New Jersey. Please visit the Open House page for full info.
2020-02-10 ... Base Layer Fool
Well, I broke my own fool-record ... again. Yesterday I stopped by Alex's place to drop off some packing boxes because he is moving tomorrow. Because of the chaos that accompanies moving, he'd somehow wound up wearing a FullWeight ShirtJac with no base layer, a strange outfit for working indoors, but said he was comfortable. I was on my way to the county park to walk a few miles, and he suggested I forget my base layer, and wear just my ShirtJac. The temp was a little above freezing, so I knew I wouldn't be cold. But previously I had only gone without a base layer in warm rain. I took his suggestion and was perfectly comfortable. No surprise there. I should have kept yesterday's outing in the forefront of my mind ... but I didn't ... Today I was walking again, about 4 miles (about 6.5 km), wearing the same ShirtJac. There were a couple drops of rain coming down, and it didn't look to me like it would rain harder, so I started walking with a long-sleeve COTTON shirt as my base. But I was wrong, it started raining pretty good. And because of the cotton, I got wet in some spots. It didn't matter much in that situation, but when I got back to the truck I realized I should have taken off the cotton and walked without the base layer, just as I had yesterday ... and had I done so I would not have gotten wet. The way cotton pulls water through the wool is kind of amazing. The cotton base layer was visibly wet, while the wool outer layer was not.
2020-02-07 ... Production Details
Denali reminds me frequently that it's rarely "just ..." ... I like to have Denali's photographs on the website. She is a professional photographer, and her images are much better than mine. So when I realize we need a photo, I ask her. But, knowing nothing about photography and not really (STILL!) understanding what makes one photo better than another, I tend to do a quick cell-phone pic and use it. But as a professional, Denali refuses to do "quick" ... and when I say "Can you just give me this one quick photo?", she tells me "It's not 'just' ... you think it's 'just' because you don't know what goes into it." BINGO.
Yesterday I was talking with one of the guys who are making our Fabric, and we were talking about dyeing ... and WOW ... they don't "just" dye it. And actually, the guys who are primarily turning our fiber into Fabric are not doing the dyeing themselves. They are using a specialty dye house. Exactly how the dye house goes about their work depends on a bunch of different things ... the fiber being dyed, the color chosen, the end-result desired. In our case, our warp fibers (run lengthwise thru the bolt of Fabric) are different than our weft (horizontal fibers) and therefore accept dye differently. But they must match exactly when woven together. AND, we need exactly the same color from one bolt to the next, and exactly the same color at each end of the same bolt, and exactly the same color at the edges and middle and everywhere within a bolt.
In order to achieve more precise control of color, we are dyeing all of our fiber prior to spinning into yarn. Previously, our solid colors (Black, Drab and Duff) had been piece-dyed -- the entire bolt of Fabric was dyed as a single piece -- rather than dyed as fiber. And WOW ... even after deciding to dye the fiber, there are still a lot of ways to do it, and a lot of choices within those methods. What temperature and pressure will best fix the dye? How acidic should it be? How long should the fiber remain in the dye? How should it be washed after dyeing? It goes on and on ...
I am thinking of putting together a website "page" with all the gory details of production ... starting with the sheep and continuing all the way to finished garments. It would actually be a very long page and maybe nobody would really want all that detail, but it would be a really good exercise for me to put it together. There is still a great deal that I don't know, things I never knew and things I've forgotten or misunderstood. The "Production Details" page would probably have a dozen or more paragraphs briefly discussing the many steps of production, and then separate, additional pages plunging into the details of those steps.
2020-02-03 ... TV Show
We heard today from another TV personality whose cameramen wear WeatherWool ... Whether or not anything comes of this, it's great to know that the cameramen, who in many ways faces more difficult conditions than the on-camera talent, recommend WeatherWool. But of course we love WeatherWool to be in front of the camera too, particularly Lynx Pattern.
20-02-02 ... "One Jacket"
Customer TJ Alexander posted on Instagram: @dragoncanoe71_ … You must maintain your gear at all times , no matter what it is ! Now this WeatherWool Has been the only jacket I have worn now for the last year and a half ! For work or play or just out and about no such thing as bad weather only bad gear ! I’ve been comfortable from 65 to -25 f , rain snow wind sun all I do is change my layers under from nothing to just a couple layers ! And only in heavy rain I have worn a outer shell ! I also use it as part of my sleep system when out on scouts , I brush it out every two weeks as I do laundry takes me about a hour ish ! But summer it needs a good hand washer! It’s made here in the USA by a small company that have a passion for it and are very patriotic also ! As we all should be ! Yes more expensive than others but look what this one jacket has replaced for me ! I am down to just one jacket ! Dragon approved gear right there ! 🐉 HooRaw ! #WeatherWool #USMCVet #woolrules #USA ... THANKS TJ! ... This kind of feedback is a huge thing for us. Most of the time the customer communicates with us directly, but in this case it was a public Instagram post from TJ. And a couple of other customers made analogous comments on TJ's post.
2020-01-31 ... Value Perspectives
It's very important to us that all our customers are happy with our wool ... and if not ... or even if they just need the money ... they are welcome to a full refund, even after months of use. It's very rare that anyone wants a refund, but we do have returns, mostly from people who have worn something a couple of times, then wanted a different size. (If a garment is worn outdoors AT ALL, or is in possession of a customer for more than 2 weeks, even if never worn, we count it as USED.) We refund 100% and then offer the barely-used item at a discount. In the case of the Anorak, the used items are usually dry-cleaned and offered at $495, $100 less than the $595 price of a new one.
Today, I received a note from a woman with a remarkable perspective:
I feel that less than 17% off of an item someone else has worn a number of times & done who knows what type of activities in is not a sufficient discount for used clothing – no matter how good the condition still is. Formal gowns by name brand designers that have only been worn once by women who go to old fashion balls sell for more than 50% off original prices in consignment shops.
We'd be mortified if this was the case with WeatherWool! Wow! It did not seem to occur to this lady that perhaps the "name brand designer" gowns are wildly overpriced? Or that the people buying gowns are burning money? If they're all happy, it's fine by me.
2020-01-27 ... Book Invite, TV Show
We've just been invited to provide a WeatherWool Jacket for testing and eval so that we can be included in a soon-to-be-published book about bushcraft. We're also going to be on another TV Show before long. Over the weekend, I heard from a very heavy-duty unit of the US Armed Forces who is testing an Anorak. At the time he texted me, he was in a freezing rain. Perfect! Plus I just started work on pages that show our inventory, backordering info and production status. These pages are introduced on a new THANK YOU page that is linked from our current landing page. I'm going to hear it from Denali, a professional photographer, for putting my ugly kisser up front and center!
2020-01-23 ... Sugar Season
My friends in traditional Maple Syrup areas are always amused that we tap our maples in January. Maple sap flows when temperatures at night drop below freezing and rise above freezing during the day, particularly if it is sunny. Here in the New Jersey suburbs of New York City, we could tap our trees in November and have sap flowing until mid- or late March, when the nights stop dropping below freezing. We tapped our trees today, later than usual. We have only a few trees in the yard, but we get 1.5 to 2 gallons (6 or 7 liters) of syrup, which is more than we use. What I like best about sugaring, I think, is how it underscores the passing of the Seasons, and the transition of Winter into Spring.
2020-01-22 ... Grand Canyon Triple Rimmer and Watch Cap
One of our customers is training for the Grand Canyon Triple Rimmer ... it starts on the South Rim, then to the North Rim, then back to the South Rim, a total of 50 miles (80 km) and 10,000 feet (3049 meters) elevation gain. I hope to find out more about Jesse's exact plans, but the latest prototype Watch Cap is on its way to him where he will test it on daily hikes in the Dragoon, Chiricahua and Santa Rita Mountains ... he'll test it a lot harder than me, that's for sure! AND ... Jesse will be wearing a shirt he is making himself from our MidWeight Fabric.
I'd never hear of the Triple Rimmer before yesterday, but here is some more info about a similar, if not identical, route that is well-known among trail runners.
OK ... and while I'm blurting things out ... we are planning to make a garment specifically for runners, speed-walkers and fast hikers. We're probably calling it the Runner, and it will incorporate elements of our ShirtJac, Mountain Jacket and Anorak.
We are developing (or planning) three items ... the Watch Cap, the Removable Cape and the Runner. None of them are yet on the website, but maybe they should be? Maybe we should add them to the Additional Items section?
We received a lovely note and photos from a customer in Taiwan. Very surprised that Cherry Blossoms are in bloom now ... January!
2020-01-20 Watch Cap and Removable Cape
We have been thinking about a Removable Cape that could be added over the top of any jacket or shirt or hoodie, whether made by us or someone else. Today I did a little testing of a prototype Removable Cape, along with continuing testing of the latest prototype Watch Cap. I walked almost 4 miles (a bit over 6 km) at a leisurely pace along a windy ridge (from which George Washington observed troop movements during the Revolutionary War!). The temp was a little lower than freezing, low humidity and at times a bright sun. The Watch Cap was perfect, but with two cotton layers (what I had been wearing in the office) plus a FullWeight ShirtJac and the Cape, I was a little too warm in the torso. Not uncomfortably so, but I should have taken off one (or even both) of the cotton shirts prior to walking. I would have worn a MidWeight ShirtJac, but our inventory is so low that my own MidWeight ShirtJac has gone off to a more-deserving home. More info on both the Watch Cap and the Removable Cape will be forthcoming ... they'll have their own page on the website before long. The Cape needs some work but the Watch Cap may be ready. However, I don't normally wear a Watch Cap, so I am thinking we should make about 15 of them and offer the Watch Cap at a reduced price to people who agree to really test and give feedback. Then we could consider offering the Watch Cap for the 3rd or 4th quarter of this year, when it starts cooling down again in the Northern Hemisphere. BUT ... there are a million Watch Caps already out there and we don't want to offer something that's not better than what is already available. There must be a need because so many people have asked us to make a serious Watch Cap. One question ... should we add a pocket? The pocket would be knitted from the same wool yarn as the rest of the Cap, and could be inside or outside the Cap.
2020-01-19 Neck Gaiters in Hand
Yesterday afternoon I drove into Brooklyn to pick up the first batch of our Black, Drab and Duff Neck Gaiters from Alex and Kady at Tailored Industry. I also spent a couple of hours with Alex and Kady, two wonderful and engaging young entrepreneurs. Knits are pretty far afield from the woven fabric that has always been our heart and soul. But the technology of knitting and the technology of yarns is moving rapidly and we expect to explore the possibilities of more WeatherWool knits with Kady and Alex and the amazing Shima Seiki Knitting machines. We are shipping the Gaiters now.
2020-01-18 Great Anorak Reviews Received
Today we received a couple of tremendous reviews of our Anoraks. One of those reviews (THANKS Joe Mohring) we re-published on Instagram and Facebook and on the website on the Civilian Anorak Reviews page. The other review came in from a member of the US Military. We'll post/publish what we can of that review after we get the green light.
2020-01-14 ... Antarctica!
Customer Rob is just lately back from an 8-day ski trip in Antarctica. Among his highly specialized gear were a Mouton Hat and Neck Gaiter, which he wore mostly during rest periods while skiing from 89 degrees South Latitude to the Absolute South Pole. Rob is posting about this intense trip on Instagram. We're very glad Rob and the group made it to the South Pole (HOORAY!) and then home safely. Strong winds, temps typically at -15F to -20F (about -28C) and the location itself make such a journey very difficult and dangerous. My hat is off to to all involved!
2020-01-12 ... Watch Cap
So, now that we've gotten a Beanie prototype that we really like (so far, anyway) we have decided to be more respectful and call it a Watch Cap! We are very happy with the look and feel of the Watch Cap, but since we received it, the weather here in North Jersey has been warm. I wore the Watch Cap a couple days ago in a temp of 44F/7C ... normally I wouldn't wear a hat at all in that kind of warmth ... and the Watch Cap was fine for about 3 miles of walking, then I felt a little moisture building up so I took it off. But cold weather is needed for real testing. We liked the Watch Cap enough that we did a post on Facebook and Instagram, and a bunch of people said they want one. The yarn is spun from 19-micron, pure Merino fiber so there really isn't any question about the comfort. But I need to experience the wind resistance and warmth.
2020-01-09 ... Two Interesting Things
I've been on the phone for a couple of hours over the last week or so speaking with a guy from eClean.green ... yes, that is their website. It was a surprise to me to learn that ".green" is an internet top-level domain ... along with hundreds of others I never knew about. But anyway, eClean is getting some wool from us to try their liquid CO2 cleaning process on greasy wool (wool as it is sheared from the sheep). Looking forward to the results of their testing!
Also, Tailored Industry, the folks who are knitting our Neck Gaiters, have been sending us Beanies. We weren't all THAT interested in making Beanies until we received another -- about the 6th version -- of their Beanies today. WOW! This one we love ... ALTHOUGH we have not tested it yet. And while the "living room test" is important, it's not nearly as important as the real testing. More about this Beanie will be here on the Blog soon! Great work, Kady and Alex of Tailored Industry!
2020-01-08 ... First "Whole Garment" Neck Gaiters Knitted
The first batch of our Neck Gaiters (Black, Drab and Duff Colors) have been knitted by Tailored Industry (see blog entry below, please), but several steps still need to be completed before we can ship ... Edges must be finished, then the Gaiters will be washed and dried and inspected over light cones. WeatherWool labels must be sewn in (very lightly!) by hand and then another inspection by Advisor JR Morrissey of TheFactory8 before we pick them up.
2020-01-07 ... Frustration
Today we received very disappointing news from the folks who are making our Fabric. We had hoped to have significant amounts of Fabric by the end of January, but now it looks like April or May ... and then another month or two before we will have more garments to ship. So we are looking at June or July before we can ship anything that is not in stock now ... and our inventory is presently very depleted. For us, tho, it is much more important to get it right than to simply get it done. This situation almost all our products, but does not affect our Neck Gaiters, however, which are knitted. Please see the following and preceding Blog about the Neck Gaiters.
Today, Debby and I spent about four hours at Tailored Industry in Brooklyn, New York City. Tailored Industry specializes in seamless knitting -- also known as WholeGarment. Their Shima Seiki machines knit garments 3-dimensionally, producing an entire sweater right on the machine, as an example. By the end of our meeting, we finalized the specs for our Neck Gaiters. We'd been working with Advisor JR Morrissey and with the people at Tailored (Owners Alex Tschopp and Kady Gray) for several weeks ... there is an enormous array of possible stitches, tensions, and on and on. But by the end of the session, Debby was happy with the latest tweaks and Tailored Industry will be delivering the first of the Neck Gaiters within a couple of weeks.
Here, JR and I watch a Shima Seiki machine in action at Tailored Industry.
When I was a little guy back in 1960 or so, people were still talking about THE ROARING TWENTIES, and it captured my imagination ... the 1920s must have been awfully exciting to have earned such a nickname. Well ... here's to this decade being remembered as THE ROARING TWENTY TWENTIES!!
One of the many reasons we love wool is that it is so environmentally friendly ... for one thing, it is completely biodegradable. I read somewhere that if you bury wool fabric, it will be consumed by soil microbes within a couple of months. But I wonder what would happen if it was not buried. So this morning I took some selvedge strips (the narrow strips that border our bolts of fabric), which we normally do not use, and placed them on top of a pile of sticks and leaves in the bushes in the back yard. It will be interesting to see what happens.