-- Ralph@WeatherWool.com / 973-943-3110 (mobile)
2022-08-14 ... Gucci Quote ... Versatility
We watched a movie about the Gucci brand and family last night. I have not researched how accurate the movie was, but truthful or not, I like this quote from Aldo Gucci: "Quality remains long after price is forgotten." In my own life, when considering a quality purchase, I remember that the money always disappears somehow, anyway.
The following might not appear wool-related. BUT this is another (albeit strained) example of the versatility of wool.
Debby and I raised three children. Debby did nearly all the home work and I did all the and paid work. Debby changed nearly all the diapers, but three kids need a whole lot of changing, so I believe I did change hundreds of diapers. However, I hadn't changed a diaper since 1989 until Zabz came along in 2016, and I changed one or two of hers. And now we have 17-day old Carter (another possible Granpa-name is Crater, an anagram of Carter, and short for Crateros, which I think is an ancient Greek name meaning the strongest ... and suggestive of his incipient performance), going through a whole lot of diapers.
I'd told Debby, Carla and Zack that I'd change Crater's diaper before we headed back to New Jersey. Years down the road, should I need to remind him who-is-who, saying "I changed your diaper" is a short and sweet way of doing so. Debby and I are leaving Wyoming today. So, last night was my return to diaper-changing. It's NOT "like riding a bike", although I learned decades ago that even riding a bike is not like riding a bike. But I was far more inept in this instance than in any of my old-guy bike rides. However, as Dirty Harry liked to say, "A man has to know his limitations", and so I had Debby with me in case expertise was needed.
When customers ask us which color WeatherWool will best disguise pet hair or mud, etc., the answer is Lynx Pattern, by a mile. And so I suited up in my Lynx CPO and carried Crater over to the changing table. I very much appreciate that he was cool, calm and collected through the entire process. He seemed to actually enjoy it ... looking at himself in the mirror and making those little sounds that newborns make in order to achieve complete control over adults.
It went fine at first. It seemed I was going to get off very lightly, and that he merely needed a change of a wet diaper. So I wiped him down and was about to suit him up when I noticed the tiniest bit of ... l'll call it lava. So I took care of that. Not bad at all, there were plenty of baby-supplies at hand, and I was starting to feel competent. But Crater read my mind, and evidently decided he was going to make me earn my 'changed your diapers' line, because he turned into a volcano. Repeatedly. I mean about four or five times. He maintained his calm, self-satisfied demeanor, cooing to me as I scrambled to keep up with him. I needed a lot of Debby's help. And even four hands didn't really seem adequate. Each of his eruptions had Debby laughing more than the last.
At one point, I knew Crater's room was monitored somehow. But it was not at all in my mind that Carla and Zack were watching the entire proceeding in realtime from downstairs. And it was all actually recorded, too! When the area (not just the volcano itself, but the surroundings, as well) had been thoroughly cleaned (thanks again for the mountain of supplies), I buttoned him up all clean and fresh and Debby took him downstairs while I cleaned myself.
Rejoining the group, I was puzzled to hear peals of laughter as I approached. It was then I learned of the very detailed audio/video, with the camera at the best/worst possible angle. Carla and Zack had been having a grand time watching the entire proceeding, and each of Crater's eruptions had everyone laughing louder and deeper the second time through. I suppose next I'll be hearing Crater and Granpa have gone viral.
We did it!!
2022-08-13 ... Collaboration!
Our most-significant collaboration yet is scheduled to be announced today by Nicks Handmade Boots. Our friends Jordan and Tyler Lang, founders of Heat Straps, designed The Patriot Jacket, which features an inner lining of our Lynx Pattern Fabric. This website has a page detailing our Collaboration with Heat Straps.
The Patriot Jacket!
2022-08-12 ... On TV ... Burning Clothing
Really nice seeing our wool on TV again last night (details in yesterday's blog). But we were not shown on ALONE: SKILLS, as expected by Amós. It's interesting that "the talent" doesn't know what the editors and producers will actually put on the air until they watch the shows.
One of the things I love about wool is that it is actually classed as non-flammable. And there is a centuries-old market for used wool, which can be recycled into shoddy clothing, among other things. There are more and more companies offering shoddy. And of course wool is completely bio-degradable, so even without shoddy, wool does not pose a waste problem.
It's a very very different situation with synthetic clothing. Most of us don't need to think about our clothing burning. But it's a huge factor for some of us, particularly Military (incendiary weapons) and the many folks who enjoy campfires and outdoor cooking. Several of our customers even wear the wool for metalsmithing. The contrasts between wool and synthetics were underscored by a lead story in today's APPAREL INSIDER about burning synthetic clothing for fuel:
LONDON – A joint investigation by the Daily Mail and Unearthed, Greenpeace’s journalism arm, has discovered that garment waste from major high street fashion brands is being incinerated in Cambodia to fuel brick kilns. It was found that warehouses are burning used clothing for fuel as it is cheaper than wood. Garment waste from Nike, Reebok, H&M, Michael Kors, Diesel, Next, River Island and Ralph Lauren were found among the mountain of offcuts awaiting incineration.
This paragraph from Apparel Insider is reproduced with THANKS!!
I've read many times that mountains of old synthetic garments are a significant environmental and waste-disposal problem. But I never thought they'd wind up being burned on an industrial scale for fuel. The article has information about the pollution caused by the burning and the health hazards to people in the area. I was also surprised to read that the makers of the synthetic garments actually have contractual agreements with their business partners regarding acceptable methods of disposal! Our garments will last a long time -- I have not yet heard of our clothes winding up in the trash -- and we have an active Lending Library for used and repaired WeatherWool.
2022-08-11 ... ALONE, again! ... and ALONE, THE SKILLS
For several years, The History Channel has been airing ALONE, a solo survival competition. At least five contestants have purchased our garments to help them outlast the other competitors.
Only a week ago, JP Quiñonez won $500,000 for outlasting nine other Season 9 contestants. Tonight, ALONE: FROZEN, an entirely new competition, begins, and two of the six competitors have included our Anorak (FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric) in their kit. All of the FROZEN competitors were previous contestants, invited back by History.
Callie Russell purchased an Anorak and Neck Gaiter from us in August 2021. I enjoyed a long phone call with Callile last month. Callie told me that Amós Rodriguez, another contestant on the new series, also chose to wear our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Anorak. Checking our records, I found that Amós purchased his Rak in September of 2021. Amós returned my phone call only an hour before the premiere! We talked for a half-hour and then I let him go so he could settle in to watch the show. He doesn't know what footage will air, so, a lot of what appears on TV will be a surprise even to him!
After tonight's series premiere will another series premiere, ALONE: THE SKILLS. Amós will also be featured in this series ... again wearing his Anorak. We may work together to create a garment specifically for this type of activity.
For two reasons, it's a little bit surprising and funny to me that five ALONE contestants have worn our Anorak (four chose FullWeight Lynx):
- I did not design the Anorak for serious cold. Our Anorak is designed for active wear in relatively moderate conditions ... from typical room temperatures to well-below freezing, over one or two base layers. But for a cold-weather survival contest, a different neck closure would surely be more appropriate. We would probably have changed the hood and probably have added storm flaps over the side zips. However, these changes might have changed how the Anorak was classified by the rules of the competition, which are very strict and specific.
- Our Fabric is very capable of withstanding ferocious weather, but ALONE is, among other things, a conservation-of-calories contest. Our Fabrics breathe, meaning there is significant exchange of air. This is by design. Felted Wool is extremely tight -- windproof -- but we design for breathability, which is vital for active use. But in extreme conditions, the wisest course of action may be no action. JP chose to virtually hibernate like a bear, expending as few calories as possible. He did not attempt to find food, nor did he attempt to even build a fire, for many days. For such a strategy, our Fabric would be a great mid-layer, but the outer layer would preferably virtually eliminate air exchange. We do offer our Mouton Jacket and Hood, both of which offer extreme warmth and wind resistance, because these are lined with Mouton Pelts. Benji Hill had our Mouton (and Anorak) in Season 9, but he developed a life-threatening infection before the weather turned really cold. He wore the Anorak (FullWeight Duff) almost constantly before the illness.
This contest is somewhat different than Season 9. The prize is still $500,000, but the goal is to survive 50 days. The pot will be shared equally by all who remain at Day 50. Previous competitions have been scheduled so the participants will have a couple of weeks of warm days that will help them get situated. FROZEN takes the opposite approach. The contestants are turned out when the weather is already cold. Polar bears are expected!
Best of luck to all tonight's contestants! And of course we will be pulling for Callie and Amós!
2022-08-10 ... "It's Always With Me"
Many times, people have said "If I'm not wearing your wool, it's in the truck. It's always with me." We love hearing that! And this is very much what we have been trying to achieve. Of course, it holds true for us, too.
About 3AM today, Debby and I decided to drive up over the top of Casper Mountain to see the stars and hopefully catch the Perseids. It's a little early for the meteors, and we are having a full supermoon right now -- a negative for meteor-sightings.
Living in the NYC suburbs, our air is not as clear as here in Wyoming, but mainly, our night sky in Jersey has huge "light pollution", as skywatchers refer to manmade light. But in Wyoming, there is a lot less light pollution, particularly if you drive onto the backside of Casper Mountain, which is undeveloped.
At home, you can literally count the visible stars. This morning wasn't nearly as good as I've seen it here, but still hundreds of times more stars than back home, even with the full moon. It's always a treat to see the Milky Way, which is invisible at my place.
We didn't see any meteors, but we did get to watch the supermoon set over (I think) the Wind River Range, about 150 miles to the West. I can't remember ever watching moonset before. It was interesting that the moon changed color from the familiar bright-white to a sort of orange as it approached the horizon.
As for the wool, it was a soft summer night (morning) in Casper, and a little cooler ... 55 or 60F (14C) on the mountain, which is about 6000 feet (1800 meters) above sea level. With a steady wind I estimated at 15 mph (24 kph), our CPOs were perfect over summer clothes.
"It's always with me" ... Even in summer!
Hopefully, we get another clear night soon. We'll go up the mountain a little later ... between moonset and sunrise, which is spectacular from the Mountain!
2022-08-09 ... Adding to (Cleaning Up) Last Week's Entries
I am back in Casper, Wyoming now, at my son's house (baby is 12 days old!), and can edit the website more effectively. So I will revisit some of the posts and events from last week in the coming days.
When I pulled into Bozeman, Montana on the evening of July 31st, I joined Advisor Bill McConnell and some local friends and I watched the premiere of Discovery Channel's Naked and Afraid FROZEN survival challenge. Another friend of WeatherWool, Ky Furneaux of Australia, is a contestant. Ky is an inspirational character. She was seriously injured in an auto accident, and never walking again was a possibility. Ky went the opposite route, becoming an athlete, top-tier stuntwoman for the film industry, and heavy-duty survival expert and contestant. So it was pretty cool watching Ky on the screen, knowing that Bill had interacted with her, and then seeing Bill get his first official credit, with a title of SURVIVAL PRODUCER.
Ky and Calem O'Grady were the subjects of the Corona-inspired series Outback Lockdown, seen on Discovery Channel, NetFlixUK and NITV Australia. It was pretty cool how Ky and Calem rode out Corona while living off the land on an enormous and remote sheep station in Australia. Our wool saw some use while they hunted feral goats with traditional archery gear. I also got a kick out of texting with Calem while watching him on TV. Don't remember ever having done that before or since.
Below is a quick-vid I did with Bill in the Gallatin National Forest, where Bill has spent a lot of time. The Gallatin more-or-less forms the Southern border of Bozeman.
Bill and Ralph on the first time we were in touch.
2022-08-06 ... Visiting Ron Spomer
On Thursday, I made it to the ranch of Advisor Ron Spomer and his wife, Betsy. Betsy visited Debby and me a few years ago, but until this trip, I had never met Ron face to face. Ron has published an enormous amount of outdoors related material and I have actually been reading his work for over 40 years!
It was really great visiting with Betsy and Ron and daughter Sarah, and huge thanks for their hospitality!
I will have more to say about this before long, but right now it's 5:00 a.m. Saturday and I would like to get to the West Gate of Yellowstone National Park by about 6:00 so I need to get moving!
2022-08-04 ... JP Quiñonez Wins!!!
JP is the winner of season 9 of History Channel's ALONE survival competition. We are proud that JP chose WeatherWool as part of his kit!
There is a detailed account of the series finale at this link.
Huge congratulations to JP. What a demonstration of intelligence, resourcefulness, and resolve!
2022-08-03 Again ... NOT WOOL-RELATED
Today I drove from the South end of Sun Valley to Boise, the long way ... headed North through the Sawtooth National Forest, through the little town of Stanley, the Salmon-Challis National Forest and the Boise National Forest. It takes twice as long that way, but it is spectacular. It was new ground for me and I'm glad I took that route.
Shortly after I started driving, I noticed someone hitch-hiking. Having done a whole lot of thumbing (50 years ago), I will usually pick up hitch-hikers when I am alone. The decision to offer a ride or not needs to be made in a fraction of a second. This guy was unusual in that I figured him to be in his 60s. He looked a little bit crazy, and I took him to be homeless, but his pack was large and neat. His name is Aul ... which is short for Paul. Never met anyone who felt the need to shorten Paul, at least until now. Aul is about to turn 60. Around 10 years ago, when his children became self-sufficient, he and his Mrs split, Paul gave away all his possessions except what he could fit in a big backpack, and chose to be homeless. He's a well-informed guy ... in addition to the roads through the National Forests, which he knew well, we talked about politics, history, natural history, current events and music in particular. He rode with me about three hours.
Aul thumbs his way from one musical event to the next, at least in summer. He is a guest of many venues ... they give him room and board for the length of an event ... usually a couple of days. In return, he brings love and joy and dancing. Bringing Love and Joy and Dancing is his Mission in Life.
Aul has been seriously dancing since 2nd grade. And he looks it. He's about 5'4 inches tall (163 cm) and about 100 pounds (45 kg) of pure sinew. He looks like he could dance all night. And dancing is what he is there for. He's supposed to get everyone moving!
Aul mentioned at one point that sometimes people are afraid of him. My thought was that many homeless people are ... crazy. He didn't like that, but not for himself, and he wasn't angry with me. He explained he'd spent time in homeless encampments (not government-sponsored homeless shelters, but rather, people living outdoors on their own, in a group, without what most would call a home), and that many homeless people know they have mental problems, and don't want to frighten others, but are unable to get the treatment they want and need. But he also said he didn't believe apparent mental issues were what made people uneasy. Aul thought what actually bothered people was that they saw in him what they could become within a short time if something went wrong. He felt they looked at him and were frightened for themselves.
Aul's only regret, it seems, is that the ladies don't favor him as much as they once did. They like having an old dog around, he said, but in the end they usually -- but not always! -- bring a pup home.
After about three hours, Aul decided he would climb up the mountain, find a private spot, camp, have some smoke and spend the night. He needed to cover another couple hundred miles (maybe 330 km) to his next event, but he has until Saturday to get there. As we parted, he told me to spend as much time as possible with my new (6 days old) grandson, particularly in his first five years, which Aul said are the years family can have the most influence.
OKAY ... A "little-bit" wool related. A gent who bought a CPO in Drab last week just ordered another one in Lynx. I love when people do that. Makes me feel like we are doing something right!
2022-08-03 ... Montana, Idaho
Yesterday, my ineptitude ruined the plan for a video interview with Advisor Bill McConnell. Still, it's always good to talk with Bill. Standing next to The Gallatin River, while I fiddled fruitlessly with my microphones, Bill pointed out some fireweed, an edible plant he uses for cordage for fishing line and bow strings.
Clear proof of how bad I am with this! That's Bill laughing a little behind me. And the beautiful flowers are the fireweed.
Next stop was the Wool Lab at Montana State University. Bill teaches anthropology at MSU, and so he hoped to join me at the lab but unfortunately had to excuse himself after the first few minutes. On the other hand, lab manager Liz Deurmeier was kind enough to show me around, answer all my questions and listen to me jabber about WeatherWool for 3 hours! Thank you very much, Liz! We will be in touch again, and there will be more about the MSU Wool Lab coming on this site.
Yesterday afternoon I left Bozeman, headed for Boise, Idaho, via the old US highways. Some very very striking and amazingly beautiful country. Passing through the Targhee National Forest reminded me that the US Department of Agriculture has a sheep research station in Idaho, where they developed the Targhee breed. We use a lot of Targhee fiber, which is Merino-class, but usually a little thicker. The Targhee is bred with slightly more emphasis on meat, and fiber slightly thicker than traditional merino. The additional bit of thickness, in general, adds strength to the fiber. But as always, there are various factors that interact with each other, affecting the fiber as well as the meat. But anyway, I was thinking the sheep research station might be near the Targhee National Forest, but no dice. About 500 miles (800 km) away. Too much of a detour!
An unexpected surprise was the Craters of the Moon National Monument. I had never heard of this place before, and the landscape is truly otherworldly! At first I thought there had been a prairie fire because there was almost no vegatation and everything was black. But in fact the it's just crazy jumbles of black rock left from volcanic activity. The terrain is so broken and uneven I don't think it would be possible to really walk through without putting hands on the ground a lot of the time! And I just read on the Park Service website that two of the caves are closed because late snowfall created icy conditions. This is quite surprising as it was extremely warm when I passed through.
Parts of Southern Idaho are amazingly empty. Although there were a lot of farms, some of which look extremely fertile, at least with irrigation, there were long distances between towns. I think I traveled about 200 miles (320 km) without passing a gas station!
And last but certainly not least, Debby wanted me to post a photo of our 6-day-old grandson, Carter Ross DiMeo, in a WeatherWool Swaddle Blanket. Carter is doing great! And Mom and Dad are experiencing the rigors of newborn care, with a big assist from Grandmom. The Blanket is made from a few yards of Undyed Fabric that we have had for years.
2022-08-01 ... Montana
Yesterday, I left Casper headed toward Montana. I took the old US highways for the most part, through the Wind River Range and up into Montana. Wow wow wow what a beautiful stretch!
Since arriving in Bozeman, I've been spending time with advisor Bill McConnell. Bill is actually the first person who ever wore WeatherWool on TV (for Dual Survival). Way back in 2014, Bill phoned me and told me he was going to a cold place where he would need to survive outdoors for an extended period. I think he also told me he was going to be filmed, but I don't remember for sure. What I do remember clearly is he said he is a big wool believer, and would be wearing wool for his adventure. He also said he was getting in touch with all the makers of wool outerwear, and would wear the best he could get his hands on. A few days later he called back and said something like "I'm going to be wearing your stuff. I know no one has anything better."
We have really enjoyed working with Bill over the years. Debby and I spent quite a bit of time with him here in Bozeman 2 years ago.
Bill has an amazing knowledge of the outdoor world. His knowledge comes both from book study as well as a lifetime spent outdoors in many different environments. Plus, really the main thing, is that he loves Nature, and particularly likes to experience it in the way of the ancients. He is actually an instructor of anthropology at Montana State University.
Last night, Bill and some local friends and I watched the premiere of Discovery Channel's Naked and Afraid FROZEN survival challenge. Bill did a great deal of work on this contest, and his name appeared in the credits at the end as SURVIVAL PRODUCER. Bill has been behind the scenes many times, but this was, I think, the first time he was credited. Another friend of WeatherWool, Ky Furneaux of Australia, is a contestant.
I didn't leave Casper until our new grandson was 3 days old and thriving. As I write this he is turning 100 ... 100 hours old, that is. Official Grandpa rules say that after 100 hours then you count his age in days until he is a month or so old, then you switch to weeks. Another Official Grandpa rule is that Grandpas can call their grandkids whatever they like. My present working name for Carter is King Carter, although it's not final. It took me three or four years to settle on Zabz for Isabelle, my granddaughter, so there's no hurry!
A nice little tidbit is that Carter was born on Bill McConnell's birthday!
2022-07-29 ... CARTER DiMeo!!
Carter Ross DiMeo joined the family at 14:59 yesterday!! All is very very well. Carter is the first child of my younger son, Zack, and his wife, Carla. They live in Casper, Wyoming. Debby and I timed this road trip just right for Carter.
Fun fact: Zabz came up with the name Carter. Zack loved the name so much that they decided to change it just 1 month before the baby was to be born. Alex's wife, Cecy, had sent some baby clothes to Carla. The baby clothes were made by a company named Carter, and Zabz may have thought that was the baby's name ... Which it did become when she told Zack about it!
2022-07-27 ... Rabbit Hole
More than one person has likened a visit to this website to a trip down the rabbit hole ... meaning the site is conducive to following links from one topic to another for a while, and before long getting sort of lost. It's the same with editing. I don't actually remember which page I set out to edit today. But I wound up touching a bunch of pages, including Testing, Scouring, Weaving, Chargeurs, Innes Ranch, Jewell Ranch, Corn Ranch, PM Ranch, Advisor Pages for Padula and Corn, Batch 9, Combing.
2022-07-26 ... Testing Greasy Wool ... Innes Ranch
Updating the page on Testing Greasy Wool caused me to create a page on the Innes Ranch. We'll add more info to both pages over time. But a good start for both.
2022-07-25 ... Power Fully Restored ... Callie from ALONE
Friday morning, a tree fell across the power lines and the utility company had some troubles getting power back to normal. Power has been up and down since Friday, and so we've been a bit ragged. Sorry for any inconvenience. It seems power is fully restored, but the internet connection may still not be right. I'm in Wyoming, and Alex is in the office in New Jersey, getting things back to normal. The off-and-on-and-off-again outage may have done some damage to our wiring. The joke is that in the 38 years we've had our house, we've never had this kind of problem from a power outage. And Debby and I are away from home for the longest stretch in all those years.
What is kind of interesting, but not related to WeatherWool, is the circumstance of the outage. There is a creek -- really just a trickle -- running behind our house. But if there is a storm, the flow skyrockets. It seems the stormwater eroded some tree roots, and because the power lines run along the creek, the falling tree took out the power for our block. The interesting part is that the little creek used to be substantial enough that it provided a travel route for trappers. In the 1600s, a trading post was established just a stone's throw from where our house was built 200+ years later. The old trading post is the 2nd oldest building in New Jersey, dating from around 1660, although now all that is left is the foundation, with other buildings having been put up over the top, I don't know why the water flow in the creek has been so reduced over the centuries, but it is nice to reflect that around 350 years ago, trappers in canoes -- maybe birchbark? -- would paddle up the stream and trade furs for powder, shot, whiskey and WOOL BLANKETS, which comprised the majority of trade goods. The furs would then go to New York City, only a few miles away. And the trappers would return to the frontier, which at that point was (guessing) maybe only a few days paddling and portage from NYC. ... And we are not the first wool traders on the block!
Last night, Debby and I spoke for a while with the delightful Callie Russell, a contestant on the upcoming ALONE: FROZEN survival competition on History Channel. Callie is a really warm (oh, that's a bad pun but i didn't intend it!) energetic and engaging telephone personality! I have not seen her on TV yet.. (Maybe we can find her on YouTube this afternoon.) Callie gave us some interesting background info. The rules of the ALONE competition allow the contestants to bring a sweater and a parka. Because our Anorak is unlined, it counts as a sweater ... and so contestants can then also bring a fully insulated, lined, wind-stopper type of parka which enables them to sit still, conserving calories in the cold. Callie also used our Neck Gaiter. She explained the use of a Neck Gaiter is also permitted, and she chose ours because she could use it not only as a neck gaiter, but also as a scarf, kidney warmer, cushion and even as a skirt over her leggings!! AND ... Callie also gave us a really nice piece of news: another contestant, Amos Rodriguez, will also be wearing a Lynx Pattern Anorak. Amos phoned about a year ago, telling me he wanted the Anorak for a trip.
2022-07-23 ... Does Macy tell Gimbel?
That was something people would say often when I was a kid in the 1960s. Macy's department store is still around but Gimbel's shut down in 1987 after more than 100 years in operation. The question referred to business practices and secrets and the presumed answer was that Macy would never tell arch rival Gimbel.
The subject of secrecy comes up pretty frequently for WeatherWool. People tell me there is too much information on the website ... that it can help others to copy us and to do business with our Partners. And, I agree. But that may not be a bad thing.
We want our Partners to thrive. And at this point, except perhaps for some Ranchers (and then only for the wool -- they all have other streams of income) we are not the major portion of income for any of them. We hope our website brings more business their way.
Regarding The specifications of our fiber, yarn, weaving, etc, I am really tempted to add more info, which has so far been pretty well vetoed by others that I rely on very strongly. And it wouldn't be very hard to reverse engineer what we are doing. Plus, I think a major company coming along, and trying to do just what we are trying to do, might be a very good thing! As it stands now, I don't think we have a true direct competitor. That is, I am not aware of anyone else making Hardcore Luxury woolens. I am guessing that if a large maker wanted to do it, it would be good for the ranchers and they would publicize the capabilities of their products. We don't advertise, but a major company would, and it would be great if more people understood what woolen outerwear can offer if hardcore luxury is the only objective.
The worldwide annual clothing market is about 2 trillion US dollars. Our primary customer base is USA and Canada, which I believe totals about $500 billion. (We are very happy to have customers all over the world, but in most countries exchange rates are very unfavorable lately and import tariffs, duties, VATs and shipping costs add a lot of friction.) And so there is an astounding amount of room for the hardcore luxury woolen concept to grow.
Plus, one of my very favorite things is how frequently I am confounded. And how frequently so-called experts are confounded. Professionals analyze and plan, and wind up big-time wrong quite often.
Decades ago, Debby gave me a book titled The Experts Speak by Cerf and Navasky. It's filled with examples of spectacular errors from hitherto respected sources. And we have certainly seen some humdingers in recent years. So it might well be good for us and our customers if we were more forthcoming, despite the opinions of the experts. Plus, I just don't like secrecy.
2022-07-22 ... Innes Ranch
Before we could actually buy the clip that completes Batch 9, we needed test results, which came in yesterday. We're very happy the data fully supports the sterling reputation of the Innes Ranch fiber.
Debby and I visited Innes Ranch on Sunday -- our first Wyoming stop of the trip.
Thanks to Bob and Kirsten Innes for their hospitality and for permission to use this image of Kirsten in her CPO, checking stock on the magnificent Innes Ranch.
Bob Innes is 70 years old -- hope he won't mind my saying so -- and the ranch was founded by his grandfather, so it's been in the family over a century. And that's not at all unusual among American sheep ranching families. One of the things that we really like about what we are doing is that it does help support some generational lifestyles.
My own ancestors were on the land for as far back as we know, until my parents built their lives in the suburbs. My cousins sold their farm to New Jersey's Green Acres Program about 20 years ago. Selling to Green Acres meant that my cousins got only about half -- or less -- of what they could have gotten from real estate developers, but they wanted their farm to stay open space, and hopefully, a farm. They sold the farm because they had sort of aged out of farming and didn't have a younger generation who wanted to undertake the 7-day, 80 hours a week lifestyle. This is a very common story throughout American farming and ranching. But also, somewhat amazingly, in the 1920s when they bought the farm, there were no deer in the area. By the time they sold, it was almost impossible to grow their usual crops because the deer hammered the young plants right down to the ground. Sadly, the barn, which dates back to the 1700s, is about to be demolished. There is some tremendous timber -- huge beams, hand hewn -- if anyone would like to salvage. But any salvage has to happen very quickly. There is more info on the blog of September 30, 2021. My cousins and I had met at the farm for lunch, as we do once a year or so, and amazingly ran into historians hired by the government to do a thorough report on the barn in preparation for demolition!
This is the first time we have purchased a clip from Wyoming. I'm sure it won't be the last! It's interesting that ranchers in Wyoming normally do not submit samples for length and strength testing, which has always been critical to us. And so we had previous test results showing fineness (the diameter of the fiber) and the expected yield after scouring (cleaning). But the length and strength testing had not been performed until we asked for it.
Generally, the ranchers have a really good idea of the qualities of their fiber, and in this case the test results bore out the expectations and validated the reputation of the Innes clip. Nobody was surprised, except maybe pleasantly so, because length and strength were both beyond what I was realistically hoping for! Hats off to the Innes Family whose many decades of work have produced tremendous results!
We are still making garments (Hooded Jackets and hopefully Shemaghs and a few Blankets) from Batch 6. Batch 7 is being woven now, and Batch 8 has been dyed but not yet spun into yarn. So it will take us some time to produce Batch 9 Fabric, but we are thrilled to have the fiber nailed down for our largest Batch yet!
2022-07-21 ... "Concealed Carry"
2022-07-20 ... BIG PICTURE
There are many pieces to the WeatherWool puzzle ... a great many Partners that help us reach our goals. It's a very large team. A large ecosystem, if you will. And the parts of this ecosystem, the ranchers and their sheep, the mill workers and the garment workers have been reduced enormously over the last 20 to 50 years.
To us, very importantly, we hope to be part of the revival of America's Sheep, Wool, Textile and Garment Industries, all of which are only a tiny fraction of what they once were. We strongly believe that high quality woolens can help to support and grow ways of living and working that have centuries-old roots in the USA. And we believe superior garments for more people makes the effort a win all around!
2022-07-19 ... Preparation of Wool Clips
A "clip" is a harvest of wool. It could contain all of the wool sheared from all of the sheep on a ranch or the wool sheared from a group of similar sheep if a ranch has different types of sheep. The fleeces of mature sheep are usually regarded as a separate clip from the fleece of yearling sheep.
Having just spent a couple of days with ranchers, we have been learning a lot about sheep, and there's always more to learn than we suspected, and so we have picked up some information about how wool is sheared from the sheep and prepared for sale.
I look forward to putting together a website page summarizing just the highlights of the information in this booklet. But that will have to wait until I am back in the office in August because working the website from the mobile phone is so slow (for me, anyway!).
2022-07-18 ... Wyoming
Yesterday morning we left Pierre, headed west toward Wyoming. We spent several hours in northeastern Wyoming with a rancher that we'd never met before. We hope to buy some of his wool but we are still waiting for test results. We had a wonderful afternoon with some great people on a huge, gorgeous ranch!
We talked about many things and a lot of interesting ideas were exchanged. We talked about the wool certification programs that more and more people are interested in. There is some information about these programs elsewhere on this website. My view is mostly that the ranchers we work with are multi-generational and could not be more devoted to their land or their animals. But a new idea, which should have been obvious to me, came up yesterday. Our new rancher friend said something like ..... "I'm supposed to pay these guys money and they're going to certify that my animals are treated well, my land is respected, and that I know what I'm doing. Well that doesn't sound so good, does it? What if I don't want to pay them? What if somebody wants to pay them extra? And besides, who's going to certify them? How do I know that they are on the up and up and that they know what they ought to know?" INDEED!
It's great to be back in Wyoming! I love the smell of sage!! I haven't been here in 2 years, almost, since Zack and Carla got married. And now we are here because they are expecting in the next week or two. It was really Debby that they want here but I'm part of the package. I can still take the trash out and move things around a bit!
It's wonderful that our kids live in Wyoming. It's kind of funny how Zack came to live here and it is directly attributable to the wool business! Back in 2012, when we didn't yet have any fabric of our own, I was still selling off the inventory of the product line that had been my entry into the wool business. We had customers who were in the energy business out west, and I had spoken to them frequently about what was going on in Texas and Wyoming and North Dakota.
In the fall of 2012, Zack was working in New York City and really didn't like what he was doing and he's really not a Manhattan type of guy. I'd been telling him to check out the energy sector. Alex and I and a couple of friends had a Wyoming pronghorn hunt planned for late September. Alex would be driving out with his buddy. Two days before Alex's departure, a customer from Wyoming phoned and we got to talking, and he said they were really looking for people to work the oil fields in his area and he could get Zack an interview. So Zack threw his stuff in the truck, drove off with Alex and friend Rich, and Zack has been here since! And it has suited him awfully well. And that customer of ours from 10 years ago is a good friend of Zack's and interestingly enough they bumped into each other far out on the prairie in the middle of nowhere just a few days ago.
2022-07-16 ... Padula's PM Ranch
Yesterday, we made it to the ranch of Advisor Bob Padula in time for dinner (super leg of lamb!) and had a wonderful evening with Bob and his family. THANK YOU BOB AND SAMANTHA AND MADELAINE (French for WOOL!)!!
Today we spent several hours vaccinating, deworming and weighing Bob's flock of about 220 sheep. Bob keeps a mix of Merino and Targhee sheep, all growing Merino class wool, suitable for WeatherWool. (I don't think we have ever made a batch of Fabric without Bob's wool, except for our very first.) We got some interesting video and stills. It was a kick to see Debby pushing sheep through the chutes!
Debby coaxing a ram to advance through the chute, for a deworming treatment and weighing.
Bob also did some video for us which I will post after we get home.
After lunch Debby and I headed West. I had never been in this part of Eastern South Dakota and must say it was (is!!) stunningly beautiful and amazing in the richness of the agriculture! Tonight we are in Pierre, South Dakota, and tomorrow we visit a rancher in Eastern Wyoming from whom we expect to buy some wool very shortly.
2022-07-15 ... Wisconsin to Minnesota
Denali and Debby spent hours yesterday checking out the local landscape with particular regards to groceries and home-good and furnishing stores. Luckily, they decided this was not an outing where I was needed, and I spent time talking to customers and working on the website. The CPO Shirts are now fully stocked-up and available online or by phone. But we still need to make the 3X CPOs and the CPOs with extra sleeve length.
Today we leave Denali's home and head for Advisor Bob Padula's PM Ranch in Minnesota. Bob tells me we'll be de-worming! It's about 550 miles (880 km) and we'll be on roads we have not previously traveled.
2022-07-14 ... Wisconsin
After covering about 400 miles (640 km) yesterday, we arrived at the home of Denali and Aram, her husband, in Wisconsin. Denali is showing me how to do some audio-video. Now we have microphones that work remotely, in concert with the video recorder on my phone. Denali is not going to approve whatever video I create, but it will be better than nothing!
All of the CPO Shirts are available now. We didn't make any CPOs in size 3X, nor did we make any FullWeight CPOs. We are hoping to make some CPOs in size 3X soon ... and some CPOs with extra-long sleeves. We regard the CPO as a MidWeight item, and the ShirtJac as a FullWeight garment.
Denali tells me cheese curd and smoked whitefish are everywhere in Wisconsin so that will be my focus for the rest of today! The weather and the air are absolutely splendid!
2022-07-13 ... Ohio
We drove about 500 miles (800 km) yesterday. Denali's home in Wisconsin is another 400 miles (640 km), is the first destination of this trip.
Inflation was a big story on the news again today, along with the strong dollar. We don't import anything at all, and about 15% of our customers are overseas. So both inflation and the strong dollar inhibit WeatherWool.
Here in Fremont (Western), Ohio, the Comfort Inn was twice the price I expected. I have not had Pizza Hut in years. The $8 pepperoni pizza shocked me when it arrived at 5 inches (12 cm) diameter! It's looking like the New York City suburbs are a cheaper place to live than Fremont! Hopefully, we had an overpriced local experience.
2022-07-12 ... Road Trip
In a few hours, Debby and I will head West to visit Denali in Wisconsin and Zack in Wyoming. With the stop in Wisconsin, it will be about 2100 miles (3400 km). Zack is our younger son whose work with WeatherWool is mostly behind the scenes. We will be on the road three or four weeks, and doing some work almost every day. We plan to make several visits related to WeatherWool. If you are anywhere along the way between NYC and Milwaukee and Casper, Wyoming, maybe we can meet for a burger. Call anytime. I am hoping also to visit people in Idaho and Montana and Lander, Wyoming, but we'll have to see how things play out. And ... American Woolen is scheduled to complete some Batch 7 FullWeight Fabric about the time we return home!
2022-07-11 ... Inflation ... Exchange Rates ... Ebay: "No other words needed"
- Ebay: Alex noticed a listing for WeatherWool on ebay. We are concerned about 3rd-party sellers because we have had reports of WeatherWool being stolen. And the ebay listing claimed the item was latest production. It's hard for us to understand why latest production would be on ebay because if purchased from us, a 100% refund is available. We explained this to the ebay seller, who responded the item was NOT stolen and that we didn't need to blog about it. We've had some weird calls from people who purchased our garments elsewhere. One guy wanted to exchange sizes, saying something he bought off the web was smaller than it should have been. If he'd been nice instead of nasty, I might still have accommodated him. We have the Lending Library for people who want to trade in USED pieces. And we will always refund anyone who is not happy. But if the piece did not come directly from us, we'll decide on a case-be-case basis. The ebay description was pretty great, tho: "No other words needed. You know about them or you don’t…Featured on History Channel & Nat Geo Survival Shows."
- This morning Zack (our son in Wyoming, where we are headed tomorrow) notified me that the US$ is trading at parity with the Euro. A year or so ago, it was $1.20 for one Euro. The recent strength of the dollar makes purchases tough for our customers in other countries. A customer in South Korea wrote me this morning looking to lock in a rate for US$ to Korean Won conversion. The Won is trading at a 10-year low -- by a lot! -- against the US Dollar now, and falling rapidly, at least lately. We offered to lock in the current rate of 1309 KRW per USD for the next production of All-Around Jacket and Double Hood. Never thought WeatherWool would be doing anything like that.
- This morning we were also notified that our shipping insurance rates were increased 19%, effective today. Many of our Partners have notified us recently of big price hikes. Luckily (backwards-lucky, I guess), we have had so many delays in production that we mostly locked in our production prices a year ago, and don't have any plans to raise the prices of our own products.
2022-07-10 ... ALONE: FROZEN, Callie Russell
Two of our customers also noticed the ALONE: FROZEN (yesterday's blog) commercial, and Peter Wiltse also wondered who was wearing our stuff. So Peter Wiltse questioned the WeatherWool Group on Facebook and Kelley Nelson identified Callie Russell, a previous contestant on ALONE. Callie purchased an Anorak and Neck Gaiter from us in August 2021. Pretty neat stuff, and some more interesting TV coming up. Thanks to Peter and Kelley ... AND CALLIE!!!
2022-07-09 ... ALONE: FROZEN - Surprise!
The History Channel is advertising a new series, ALONE: FROZEN, premiering August 13th. History's website at this point only says "Coming Soon". But much to our surprise, the TV commercial we saw showed a woman wearing our Anorak in Lynx Pattern. The image was flashed for only a small fraction of a second, but we had it on DVR and watched several times. So we are convinced of what we saw, but we have no idea who the woman is. We kind of like the idea that we could turn up this way. It's a funny thing about the Anorak, tho ... I designed it for active wear in moderate temperatures. A bunch of people have suggested we make a true cold-weather Double Anorak. ALONE: FROZEN would have been a great reason to make one.
2022-07-08 ... Cover Girls
Last night I took the unprecedented step of putting myself on our Landing Page (the landing page aka Home Page, is "WeatherWool.com"). We are now shipping CPO Shirts in MidWeight Drab and Lynx, and we had a photo of Advisor Rob Stuart, who has been working with us since 2010, and myself out for dinner and drinks at a sidewalk cafe. We were both wearing CPOs, Rob's in Drab and mine in Lynx, so the photo was very appropriate. We don't want people thinking WeatherWool will make them look like me, so photos of yours truly are few on the website, and never-before prominent.
when 2022-07-07 ... Hooded Jacket TOP
Today, Alex took a drive into NYC to pick up the TOP of the Hooded Jacket at Factory8. TOP is short for Top (first) Of Production. After all the cutting is done, the sewing pros put one piece, the TOP, together. The TOP is our last chance to change any details of sewing. Debby had a couple of questions that we'll discuss tomorrow. I got a few photos of Alex in the TOP, and updated the Hooded Jacket page with what is basically the finished product.
2022-07-06 ... Testing Wool
I've been in touch with Padula a lot lately, talking about testing wool ... the techniques, the history and even the "politics" of it. This is another situation where it's not "just" ... meaning you don't "just test it" ... there is a lot going on. So I added some information to the Testing Greasy Wool page that I started about a year ago.
FOURTH OF JULY, 2022 ... American Made
Woke up a couple of hours before dawn, thinking The Fourth would be a good day to update our American Made page. We've always made pure-American products. And we've therefore always been compliant with the Berry Amendment, a law requiring the US Military to purchase Made in America goods, if possible. The textile business in the USA is now in such straits that Congress has created some new exceptions. We have never deviated from our fundamental concept of 100% American materials and labor.
At the end of the American Made page is a statement that I love seeing The Flag on our front porch. And so I went out front, well before first light, took this photo and added it o the page.
No "bombs bursting in air", but the early morning of the Fourth of July is a great time for a photo of Old Glory.
2022-07-03 ... Status of Liberty!
We took today for a little company outing to the Statue of Liberty! I wrote a couple of weeks ago that I hadn't been to Liberty Island since about 1960. And Debby had been only once when she was one of the Moms running herd on Alex's grade school class about 30 years ago. It's a weird standard thing that people who've grown up here have often never been to Liberty Island. But Alex's wife, Cecy, grew up in Monclova, Mexico, and Liberty State Park is a favorite place for Alex's family!
Lady Liberty and a Lynx Pattern Ball Cap.
I am just not made for being out in the summer sun!
2022-07-02 ... New Zealand Dustup
Following on from yesterday's column, Advisor Bob Padula thought I might be interested in some sheep-related fireworks (sorry, but it's 4th of July weekend) from NZ, where sheep are much more newsworthy than here in the USA.
Padula is a lifelong student of "all things sheep", and that includes the socioeconomic factors that influence the sheep business. These factors are influencing America's sheep business, but it seems they are magnified in NZ, due to the locally greater importance of sheep ranching.
Country Calendar, a very popular show about rural living, has been airing on TVNZ for 22 years. It's not available for streaming outside NZ, but YouTube has some episodes, and somebody will probably post this season's Episode 17 before long.
The nub of it is that Geoff Ross and Justine Troy, a couple of farm-raised kids, grow up, found a vodka company, and then buy Lake Hāwea Station, returning to their rural roots. But Geoff Ross and Justine Troy bring some new ways and ideas to their ranching. Net-Zero-Carbon and classical music for the sheep are examples.
Are those "LHS" jackets made of wool!?
For WeatherWool, the lesson here underscores what I wrote in yesterday's blog ... that we tell all our Partners what we are trying to achieve, we ask for their help and advice, but we don't tell them how to run their businesses.
2022-07-01 ... JULY! ... ALONE ... Politics
Watching ALONE last night, when they focused on JP at the end of the show, I thought he was going to pull out of the competition. But he didn't. JP brought our Anorak to Labrador, but so far I don't think it's been on the show. He's been wearing rain gear and sometimes a knitted sweater. The thick brush of Labrador does not look like a place where a knit would do well! Congrats to JP and the other six contestants for making it thru about 30 days!!
We try to keep WeatherWool and politics separate. But politics touches a lot of things these days.
- About a month ago, a woman bought two Anoraks, Small and Medium. That usually means one of them will fit better than the other, which will be returned for refund. And that was the case this time. This is routine for any company doing mail-order clothing. A lot of the time, rather than actually pay for the second item, people will ask us to send the 'try-on' for free. We don't mind doing that, except it creates extra bookkeeping. So when the customer returned the Small, we weren't surprised or disappointed. The box with the return contained a note asking for a credit toward future purchase rather than a refund. Our production over the last four years has been so disrupted that we really really don't want to carry credits on the books. So we refunded, and explained. But what was a real surprise was the customer sending a check for $150 because she felt she'd held the Anorak too long. She was right in that we count as USED any item that's been held by a customer for more than two weeks, even if the box was never opened. She was also right in that it will cost us at least $100 when a customer holds a garment too long. But in this case, the garment came back to us in time, and had not been used or worn outside. I spoke with the customer, thanked her for such careful, honorable behavior and explained that the Anorak was still new. And we tore up the check. People reading this paragraph shouldn't feel that we are reluctant to send try-ons. This story is related here because -- political warning -- I'd be willing to bet that whomever crosses paths with this customer benefits therefrom, and if more people were so considerate of others, politics would not extend to virtually all of American life.
- And here's another little bit of politics. Farming and ranching are now somewhat political in that various people have a lot to say about how sheep ranchers should run their business. The wool business in the USA is as old as the country, and WeatherWool is still new and very small. But people know we exist, and there has been some concern about our perspectives. ... I don't know anything about ranching. I'm a guy from the NYC suburbs who knows the kind of clothing he wants to make, and relies to an enormous degree on the help and advice of our Partners. The typical Sheep Rancher is operating a multi-generational Family Business and I'm not going to tell these folks how to do what they do.
WOW ... JULY!! ... I love the summer, even though it's the worst time of year for WeatherWool. People in the Northern Hemisphere don't think about woolens in July. But from our perspective October is tomorrow and there is an awful lot for us to do. The first half of 2022 is in the books. That was FAST! ... as usual!! ... Wishing everyone a great July and a great summer.
2022-06-30 ... ALONE ... Naked and Frozen ... Feedback from Yesterday
A new episode of ALONE airs tonight. Benji was knocked out of the contest last week by food poisoning. Juan Pablo Quiñonez (with some WeatherWool) and six other contestants remain going into Episode 6.
Advisor Bill McConnell was the first person to wear WeatherWool on TV. Based on Bill's Instagram Post from yesterday, it seems he is a Producer of a new episode (or series) of the long-running Naked and Afraid Series ... FROZEN. A previous episode of Frozen and Afraid is available on YouTube. I don't know how similar this will be to Bill's production. Bill's tough to get hold of but I ought to be able to get more info before long. I will likely see him in Bozeman right around the time of the July 31st premier. Advisors Don Nguyen and Melissa Miller have been in front of the camera on Naked and Afraid. Melissa has done at least three of these challenges, although in warm (relatively, anyway) weather. Melissa told me it took months for her skin to heal from the bug bites. It's kind of funny that WeatherWool Advisors have done a show where there are no clothes.
I mentioned yesterday a young lady who now has an Anorak courtesy of her Dad. She is only 7, but old enough to read the Blog and her Dad told me she got a real kick out of being mentioned! And we think that's great!!
2022-06-29 ... Family
WeatherWool is very much a family business, and we love that many families have WeatherWool for more than one family member. Customers tell us they're getting another garment for Husband, Wife, Dad, Mom, Sister, Brother, Son, Daughter. A bunch of times, people have told me they are replacing a garment because 'Dad won't give it back'. Today, a customer purchased a crazy-shrunken Anorak from the Lending Library. This Anorak used to be a size Large, but, I guess, someone washed and dried it in the machine, and it shrunk down to something like an XXXSmall (a size we actually don't make). But it worked for the customer's 7-year old Daughter, and still with room for her to grow. This really puts a smile on my face! THANKS!!
2022-06-28 ... Batch 7 Yarn Delivered
All Yarn for Batch 7 has been shipped from American Woolen Company in Connecticut and delivered to Material Technology and Logistics in Pennsylvania where it will be woven. MTL should have the FullWeight Lynx Pattern greige ready for finishing at AWC by mid-July.
2022-06-27 ... Blogging
We really appreciate that people read this blog. And we really appreciate any feedback we get. Yesterday, "Tim" texted a question that caused me to attempt clarification of what I'd just written about knitted cord.
This blog is a simple webpage. People cannot comment directly on the blog, and that is a major shortcoming.
Shopify, the platform upon which this site rests, offers a blogging application that supports comments. But, as usual, the blogging app seems intended for companies that occasionally post longer blogs. Each blog is a separate page, so reading multiple blogs requires clicking in and out of each one. Our blogs tend to be short and frequent, usually at least five times a week. So clicking onto our Shopify-style blog page would generate a large presentation of tiles, each with a photo and a title and link to a separate blog. If we started now, by the end of 2022 we'd have around 150 separate blogs. And then 2023 would be added on top of 2022.
I sure would like to make it more convenient for people to chime in. But I don't want all those separate pages. That's my present thinking, anyway. So for now, at least, it seems the blog is going to need to stay the way it is.
Any ideas would be much appreciated (as always)!
Blogging is evidently a hot topic these days. A couple of times a week, people contact us asking if we would post a guest blog. We never got these requests in past years. Nobody has ever wanted to guest-blog about anything related to WeatherWool. A few days ago, someone asked to guest-blog about beautiful lawns. The suggested topics are all over the place. How to prepare your home for selling. Tips on relocating. Self-help.
2022-06-26 ... Wool Cord Again
A few weeks ago, Debby worked with Fleck Knitwear to come up with a knitted wool draw cord that we want to use to replace the synthetic shock cord that we have used all along to adjust the Hoods of the Anorak. We like this first-version woolen cord quite a bit. BUT, we are never satisfied ...
Fleck's "string machine" was pushed pretty well to the limit knitting together two ends (two strands) of our weft yarn when we first did the woolen draw cord about a month ago. Debby is always thinking, and she wondered if the string machine could handle three ends of our warp yarn. The warp yarn is worsted. The weft yarn is "woolen", which is sort of confusing, but really just means "not worsted". And the worsted yarn is more compact. So, we paid another visit to Fleck.
Matt Fleck gave us a good look at the hooks on the string machine.
Below, the string machine in action knitting three ends of our warp:
And ... I recently realized I need to write a page about spinning. The "spinning page" will talk about worsted vs woolen (and yes, the terminology is confusing!). With WeatherWool it's ALL 100% WOOL!
2022-06-25 ... Trending Strong: Sustainability and Made in the USA
Speaking with our Partners recently, I keep hearing people want products sustainably made in the USA.
Demand for American manufacture, at least in the textile industry, is overwhelming capacity. Of course, this is largely due to production capacity being reduced much more than 90% from where it once was.
But manufacture is complex, and it isn't as if the factory lights can be turned back on and production quickly ramped up to where it was. This has been a long decline, stretching over decades, and the USA has little infrastructure left, and few experienced workers still of working age. In addition, textile manufacturers need to compete for workers with manufacturers, which generally can offer higher wages.
We used to work with the famous Woolrich Company, founded by John Rich in 1830 and, until 2018, operating around and in the town of Woolrich, Pennsylvania. In 2016 the Rich family sold control of Woolrich to W.P. Lavori, an Italian company that had licensed the John Rich name for use in Europe. In summer of 2018, Lavori sold to L-GAM (of Luxembourg) in summer of 2018, and L-GAM shut down all US operations of Woolrich. This set us back about 18 months, until we could get up to speed with American Woolen. Now, four years later, there are only four woolen mills still in operation in the USA. And they are all, I think, chronically short of personnel. But it's not just a personnel shortage. Our textile plants didn't just close and sit idle. The equipment was sold and shipped overseas.
Where there is demand, people will at least try to increase supply. But I keep hearing that all costs of operation are soaring -- all WeatherWool's costs have risen sharply -- and that in some parts of the USA, state and local governments are actually hostile to the textile industry.
As for sustainability, our woolens more-or-less speak for themselves. But New Mexico, which produces the lion's share of our wool, has been suffering drought for over a decade. The drought is so severe that ranchers are selling off their sheep because they cannot afford to buy the feed that no longer grows in adequate quantity on the parched range. Our ranchers have typically been on their land for generations (sustainable!!), but weather is a huge threat to their survival. People concerned with holistic agriculture will be impressed by the material from Advisor Andy McMurry. And everybody is impressed with Andy's fiber! (It's a little funny that Andy has provided a lot of information about his ranching, but I've been unable to get him to provide much info for his Advisor page.)
Whenever there is a trend or a buzz, there will be people looking to ride the wave. And "sustainability" has quickly attracted a group of companies that will certify the sustainability of producer operations. This is a topic for another day. But I'm cheered to note that surveys of consumers have found generally low levels of confidence in the ratings. Consumers seem to suspect claims and even certifications of sustainability are just another marketing gimmick.
2022-06-24 ... Beaver Fever?
At the end of last night's episode, after about 25 days in the Labrador wilderness, some kind of food- or water-borne infection knocked Benji out of the ALONE Competition. I have a lot of respect for anyone who even attempts to do this sort of stuff. So HATS OFF to Benji for surviving as long as he did! And I know he is fully recovered. Best of luck to JP, who remains in the competition.
2022-06-23 ... Yarns Scheduled for Trucking ... Carry-Designs
I've been trucking Batch 7 yarn from AWC to MTL myself in order to get weaving started ASAP. So MTL actually started working on our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric nearly a month ago. Today we got the great news that all remaining yarn for our Batch 7 has been scheduled for delivery to MTL next week. Batch 7 was bigger than any of our previous purchases. Batch 9 looks like it will be more than twice the size of Batch 7.
I don't understand exactly what today's Supreme Court 2nd Amendment ruling means, but I think it means that Americans who wish to carry a concealed firearm now have far fewer bureaucratic/legal hurdles to overcome. My only experience with firearms is with long guns, which are the only firearms legal for hunting in New Jersey. New Jersey grants carry permits only to Law Enforcement and those with "connections", and so we at WeatherWool have no carry experience. Today's ruling has us wondering if we should work on concealed-carry designs. If anyone has ideas, we'd love to hear them!
2022-06-22 ... JP's Book Coming Very Soon ... also SUMMERTIME!!
Juan Pablo Quiñonez (JP), who is wearing our Anorak during the current Alone Survival Competition on History Channel, is publishing a book. THRIVE, LONG-TERM WILDERNESS SURVIVAL GUIDE, will be available in early July. You can find more details on JP's website.
Summer is the worst season for WeatherWool sales, but it is also a time for us to get ready for Fall and Winter! And anyway, we LOVE SUMMER! Best wishes to all now that Summer has officially begun. And to our friends on the other half of Earth: Have a great Winter!!
2022-06-21 ... Men Shopping, Buyer Protection and Unwanted Compliments
When Debby read yesterday's Blog about my colleague Cliff, she told me Macy's and Costco place items likely to be purchased by men near the entrance. They know.
WeatherWool tries always to facilitate our customers. We accept trade-ins, returns, whatever, at terms that people almost always (maybe literally always, so far) find agreeable. And we're happy to do so. But we don't accept garments that have not been purchased directly from us because some people have acquired our garments improperly. Last night a customer phoned to replace an Anorak that had been taken in a smash-and-grab from his truck. And we have heard of other stolen WeatherWool. There are also outdoor pros who chose to work with other clothing companies but nevertheless decided to keep our wool. These are compliments we'd rather do without.
There is now on ebay a listing for an Anorak for $500 plus shipping. The seller seems to be an ebay professional, with 2000+ transactions. The listing states the Anorak is from Batch 6, which has only been available a few months. Whoever bought it from us could have gotten a 100% refund. So I wonder why it would be on ebay? Maybe (hope not!!) the original buyer passed away. Or it could have been acquired through WarriorWool, and then resold at a profit. This has happened. Hopefully nothing dishonorable in this case. Alex has requested info from the ebay seller.
2022-06-20 ... Unexpected
I really enjoy being surprised and learning new things. In particular, I like it (although sometimes ruefully) when my expectations and assumptions turn out wrong (not uncommon) or simplistic (still happens a lot!) or naive (shouldn't be naive at my age, but ...). And most of all I appreciate finding out what I "knew" just ain't so! This last really should never happen, but it does.
I always thought it was Mark Twain who wrote one of my favorite lines: "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." But I was thinking just now that maybe it was Will Rogers. Quickly checking the web, it seems nobody knows where that great line comes from. I did not expect THAT to be today's first lesson!
Some things I have learned lately. Mostly things I had not really thought about:
- There is no "just". This is actually a lesson that keeps coming up over and over and over! A few examples ...
- As someone who knows nothing about photography, I used to sometimes ask Denali, a professional photographer, to "just take a picture!". She won't do it. She very carefully creates images. I talked to my friend Dan, also a professional photographer, about this. Dan said "I know, she won't do it. Me neither." Once, I just wanted to get a post done, so I did it myself. Denali phoned me, saying, "You picked the first font right off the top of the list, didn't you?". She was right, and explained to me why that was a bad idea. OK. But minutes later, I heard from our friend, Trustin Timber, who is a WeatherWool Advisor and another professional photographer. And HE said "You picked the first font you saw, didn't you?". Trustin, at least, thought it was funny. (This reminds me of something even I thought was funny. Debby was watching one of the home-remodeling shows she loves, and I was surprised to see my colleague Cliff and his wife on the tube. Mrs Clifford was carefully planning and analyzing every minute detail of the work while Cliff was completely uninvolved. The TV-host wanted Cliff to have some input. So they decided Cliff would pick the stone for a spot next to the driveway where the trash cans would be placed. Mrs Clifford shrugged and told the TV-guy "He's just going to pick the first thing he sees." So Cliff goes to the stone yard, looks around for a couple of seconds and picks the first thing he saw. Mrs Clifford's use of just was perfect! So sometimes there IS a just! Mrs Clifford was OK with it, tho, because the trash cans were going to be in an enclosure anyway.) If you don't know, you don't know. But as I get older and supposedly wiser, more and more often at least I know I don't know.
- Lately, I've been talking more about the weaving, dyeing, knitting that is so vital to us. And all of these things are highly integrated with spinning, about which I know next to nothing. There is an enormous field of knowledge that has been built up regarding spinning fiber into yarn. The type of spinning used depends upon what you want to do downstream. I had given so little thought to spinning that I haven't even put up any info about it on the website. I need to fix that. There is woolen and worsted-spinning (very different!), and we use both types of yarn. Fiber can be dyed before or after spinning (we use both). The yarns can be spun thicker or thinner, with huge variations possible. The fibers can be twisted to greater or lesser degrees. And there is S-twist and Z-twist (we use both). Plus, the yarn goes through multiple stages in the spinning process ... there are slivers (pronounced with a long I), roving and other states. And even after you have yarn, we don't have the yarn that will go into production, because we use yarns that comprise more than one strand of otherwise-finished yarn. AND ... there are only a handful of companies in USA spinning yarn on industrial scale
- When yarn is spun and twisted into final form, it is spooled onto cones. Different types of cones are used depending upon, for one thing, whether the yarn will be dyed on the cone. Cones that are best-suited for dyeing are cylindrical. But conical cones are best for weaving. When MTL weaves our yarn into greige, they will likely need to "re-cone" our cone-dyed yarn to optimize compatibility with their looms.
- Someone who can turn fabric into a jacket is a TAILOR.
- Someone who works with components of a garment, sewing a pocket onto a shirt panel, for example, is an OPERATOR.
- Some aspects of garment production are handled very well by machines. Once the machine is set up, it can go very fast and with great precision. But the machines, and the technicians that maintain and program them, are very expensive. And so it usually doesn't make sense to automate garment production until you are making larger batches of garments ... well into the hundreds. We are just starting to get to this level of production, and it opens new avenues for us.
- The person who sews the pocket onto the left chest panel may not be the person who sews the pocket onto the right chest panel. These two steps may be totally separate, done at different times.
- As production volumes grow, you work with more specialized companies. Instead of having one shop go from concept to a handful of finished garments, a different company may handle each step of production. First a design and a pattern and perhaps four or five prototypes (sewn by a TAILOR). Then a final pattern is GRADED into the required sizes by a grading company. Instructions from the grading company and a cutting ticket (specifying how many sizes of each Fabric to make) are then printed onto large sheets of paper by computerized systems at a MARKING company. The markers are sent to CUTTERS that put Fabric onto long tables and cut the pattern pieces according to the instructions on the markers. The cut Fabric then goes to SEWING PROFESSIONALS (not sewers!) who put it all together, component by component, into garments
- Denali, my daughter, does the majority of social media posts now. So yesterday I was surprised to find she did a Father's Day post about me! I was also surprised that suddenly friends from high school were chiming in on WeatherWool posts. I don't know how/why this happened. Near as I can tell, Denali didn't do anything that would have brought these posts to the attention of my personal friends. Denali said they must have been following WeatherWool on social media all along.
- It's no surprise that among our customers are many very interesting and well-informed people. And I talk to a lot of them, and get written communication from many more:
- I don't remember exactly how this came up, but Todd S of Washington State told me that collagen might help with the pain in my knee ligaments. And it has helped a lot!! I still want to lose a bunch of weight, but there is much less discomfort since I started using the collagen about 6 weeks ago! THANKS TODD!
- Any plant growing where it's not supposed to be growing can be thought of as a weed. A rose is a weed in a tulip patch. And this may be stretching the point, but elk can be varmints. There are places where elk can legally be hunted without the paperwork and fees that are required almost everywhere elk are normally hunted.
- Compared to most fabrics, wool is tough on scissors. It dulls them quickly. But still, this post that appeared yesterday on YouTube surprised me. Someone with the handle Malkn_ commented on one of our videos: "Your wool is built tough. I tried using a heavy duty knife to practice cutting buttonholes on full-weight lynx samples... I gave up on the twentieth time- It's as if this fabric can mend itself, and resist lacerations." We certainly have tried to make our Fabric tough, but this was a shock.
- We feel very flattered to have customers in Australia and New Zealand because these countries are so serious about their wool. But the customers have told me the great majority of their wool is exported and they are very short of locally-made garments. This reminded me of my surprise at finding the price of seafood on the Maine coast was no better than here in the NYC suburbs. The Mainers told me their harvest normally is trucked to far-off markets as soon as the fishing boats come into port.
- When we decided on "100% American", we thought that would likely alienate people from other countries. And no doubt it sometimes does. But people from many countries have told me "100% American" is attractive. Some people feel it means quality, some feel it means fair-labor practices and respect for the environment. And some people have told me that in their country, consumers love "American" and want to buy American products! There is a great website, Radio Garden, that lets you tune into radio stations worldwide, live. And maybe it's a little off-topic, but there is an awful lot of American music being played around the world. Maybe Radio Garden over-samples stations that have American influence, but even so.
- People like what they like, and they DON'T want to read that there is something better than their favorite whatever. People who write about dogs will typically go to great lengths not to criticize any breed before discussing the breed they are actually writing about. I remember reading an article by a guy who was attacked by a vicious Labrador Retriever. It was amazing to me how he first praised Labs in general before talking about one Lab that really had a screw loose (or maybe just a bad tooth). But anyway, I know not to say our stuff is better than some specific other stuff -- although I will always say LET'S FIND OUT! I have seen people get indignant with various YouTube reviewers of WeatherWool because whatever they like has to be the best because ... This reminds me of another line that is typically, and probably incorrectly, attributed to Mark Twain: “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they’ve been fooled”. Sometimes I chime in on these written exchanges, informing people who don't know us that our customers are welcome to a refund, even after months of wear.
- I get the strong feeling sometimes that people think we are supposed to "pick a side" ... that we should either be a luxury product or a hardcore performance product, but not both. It was naive of me to not expect this! There are quite a few high-performance, luxury products. But it does appear we are the only woolens, or maybe the only garments, with this objective.
Denali just landed at Newark Liberty International Airport. Got to pick her up!!2022-06-19 ... Wedding, Father's Day, Juneteenth
Last night, Debby and I attended the wedding of our Cousin Sarah and her husband Gabe. It was a wonderful wedding! We had a great time ... THANK YOU ELLEN and GARY!
The venue was on Brooklyn's waterfront, opposite the Statue of Liberty, which is actually in New Jersey. Typical of the locals, I have never been to Liberty Island except once, when I was about 6, out-of-town relatives took me. Seven of Debby and my grandparents are immigrants, and Lady Liberty must have been among their first glimpses of the USA, circa 1900.
The Statue of Liberty highlighted by the setting sun
By pure lucky coincidence, there is actually a small connection between WeatherWool, the wedding, the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Tower. Captain Joel Milton, who skippers his vessel along the East Coast and in the Caribbean, always has an Anorak with him. I don't know if Joel was wearing one of his Anoraks last night (it was quite cool and windy for mid-June), but he was working New York Harbor while we were having dinner, and sent me this photo (copyright © Joel Milton):
Just left of center, low in the foreground, is the Statue of Liberty, and just right of center, reaching into the clouds, is The Freedom Tower. Photo courtesy and copyright © Captain Joel Milton.
It was a kick to receive this photo from Joel when we did. Joel had no idea where we were when he sent the text message with the photo. THANKS JOEL!
In 1980-1981, I worked on the 104th floor of the original One World Trade Center, and never tired of the view of New York Harbor from 1300 feet (450 meters) high. It's even more beautiful at night. The Freedom Tower, the new building at One World Trade Center, is 1776 feet (541 meters) and the tallest building in the USA.
Because of the Covid, the wedding had actually been postponed for two years, so there was a great deal of anticipation and pent-up emotion. As we danced the night away, Saturday turned to Sunday, Father's Day and Juneteenth.
2022-06-18 ... ALONE ... Lending Library
It was nice to see Benji wearing our Anorak on Thursday night's episode of History Channel's ALONE Survival Competition. Benji killed a good-sized beaver that provided some much-needed fat. Benji and JP, the contestants who have WeatherWool in their kit, are among the 8 (of the original 10) who remain alone as winter approaches Labrador.
Given the time of year, the Lending Library is pretty quiet now. Not many people want to test our garments in the warm weather. We started the Lending Library in summer of 2021, and it's great to report that EVERYONE has either returned or purchased the borrowed garments.
2022-06-17 ... Another "Collab"
Following on, coincidentally, from yesterday, today I heard from another person who is working with our Fabric! Steven Hill used our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric to cover a smoker (barbecue kettle) in which he smokes meats! Steve is still experimenting with different types of covers, and he is starting a company to manufacture and sell The Original Smoking Jacket. We love when people use our Fabric, and this use was completely unimagined by me. Steve is going to send a Smoking Jacket, and I will to smoke some meats and fish, something I really enjoy but haven't done in years!
The Original Smoking Jacket, made with WeatherWool FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric! Very Cool (HOT!) ... Thanks, Steve!!
Steve said the temperature, for purposes of smoking the food, should be between 200F/100C and 250F/121C. s far as I know, this range of temperature will not be any problem to the Fabric. And so far, it has not been. But this is very much an "off-label" use!
2022-06-16 ... Two Collaborations
Two nice things came up today. Our friends at Heat Straps USA called to plan a collaboration. Heat Straps was founded a few years ago by two young Jersey City, NJ firefighters, and they are making some sweet garments. In the coming weeks, we'll have more info regarding Heat Straps' ideas for our Fabric.
This afternoon I got a message from Advisor David Alexander that a couple who lives nearby are donating a 16-foot (almost 5 meters) canoe to the Essex County Environmental Center, where David is Senior Naturalist. Alex and I picked it up for David, and we'll get it over to the Center soon. The Center is just downstream from The Swamp, and we will be collaborating with David on some fish and wildlife surverys, wood duck houses and other projects along the Passaic and Rockaway Rivers in the Hatfield Swamp, less than 20 miles (30 km) from New York City.
THANKS to Scott and Roz Miller for donating this canoe to the Essex County Environmental Center!!
2022-06-15 ... Liners and Blended Fabrics
For sure, I'm a wool-believer. I talk to people frequently about wool and clothing. A key point about wool is that it is made by Nature to clothe an animal that is very similar to us. Wool enables sheep to maintain a constant body temperature across an amazing variety of conditions with minimal expenditure of energy. And that's what we want from our clothing. Nature has the most sophisticated tools, resulting in the most sophisticated designs. And Nature is a relentless and remorseless tester.
I was watching a video review of a wool jacket, and the reviewer was saying how he appreciated that the entire jacket was lined with a synthetic so that it slides on and off easily. And I agree easy-on and off is great. And that wool does not slide well over some base and mid-layers. In particular, wool doesn't slide over wool. But if your garment has an inner liner, you aren't wearing wool. You're wearing a liner, and the liner is wearing the wool. And this can drastically reduce the performance of the (so-called) wool garment. A few years ago, a company that caters to urban customers bought Fabric from us and made a Peacoat. We loved this, and we still have a great relationship with American Trench. I told them not to line the Peacoat, and they understood my thinking, but said their customers expect a liner. And I have no doubt they were correct. But what was really interesting was that we heard from a couple of customers who had some WeatherWool and the lined Peacoat; both garments made from our FullWeight Fabric. And they believed the liner of the Peacoat resulted in a garment that was actually less warm and less wind-resistant.
Another thing that comes up regularly is blending. Many garments presented as woolen are actually blends of wool and synthetic or cotton. The garment makers say this enables the best of both worlds, but as far as I'm concerned, this is nothing but a way to reduce production cost ... at the cost of producing an inferior garment.
When we began working on WeatherWool, we were surprised to learn that weaving with cotton warp (the yarn running lengthwise through a bolt of fabric) is normal for people making woolen jackets! And so the typical woolen jacket has significant cotton in the fabric and a liner fabric on the inside. It's not really a woolen jacket at all.
Similarly, there are a lot of woolen jackets "featuring" thick flannel on the inside. Much more than just a liner, the flannel is a large structural component of the garment. The classic old red-and-black "Pennsylvania Tuxedo" from Woolrich was a great example of this type of garment. A long time ago, flannel was wool. But now, flannel can be anything, so long as it is soft. My old Pennsylvania Tuxedo jacket, made in the 1940s or 1950s, had lots of cotton flannel on the inside. I never asked it to withstand much rain. Nor did I work hard in it. I just used it for walking around, and it was great for that ... until somebody smashed the window of my car and stole it one night in NYC. Probably a junkie who really needed it.
A woolen performance jacket needs to be nothing but wool.
2022-06-13 ... Road Trip July-August
Debby and I will be driving from our home, a few miles West of NYC, to Casper, Wyoming to see our son and his Mrs. The direct route is pretty much a straight shot on (mostly) I-80, although we'll detour to visit Denali near Milwaukee. From our home to Casper is around 1900 miles (3000 km), but we are hoping to meander North and South to also see friends and customers as we head both East and West. Plus I'm hoping to see people in Montana, Idaho and other parts of Wyoming, too. If you are anywhere near the cross-country route, maybe we can have a burger? Let me know!
As an older (I have to face it) American, I've seen the country get a lot smaller. Not just because flying is so commonplace, but also because the roads and the autos are so much better than they used to be.
In 1964, my Dad drove us from North Jersey to Key West. The 900 miles (1440 km) from our home to the Georgia-Florida border took about 3 days because I-95 was mostly not yet built and that meant traveling the old US Route 1, with traffic lights and intersections and stretches that went right through towns. Or, at least, that's how I remember it. In the 1990s, it was my turn to drive the gang to Florida ... every year to see the Grands. The roads were so much better. One year, I picked up the kids after school in a serious snowstorm, crossed into Florida around 6 the next morning, and a few hours later we were in semi-tropical South Florida. From real winter to coconut palms in 18 or 20 hours. And things have gotten much better since then!So ... please let me know if you are anywhere near the Interstate corridor!
2022-06-12 … Terminology Can Cause Problems
I spent a lot of years as a technical writer, and precise definitions were always important and often lacking. And not just in the telecom industry. In the wool industry, yarn is spooled onto CONES. I don’t know if, historically, cones were actually conical. But now, a cone can be a cylinder or a cone or maybe some other shape. Our warp fiber is prepared by Kentwool, who sends it to American Woolen Company, where it is dyed. AWC then sends the yarn to Material Technology and Logistics, where it is woven into Fabric. Kentwool uses cylindrical cones, which are fine for dyeing. But MTL’s equipment works far better with conical cones, because the MTL’s creels feed the looms much more smoothly when loaded with conical cones. So … MTL must re-cone our yarn before they can work with it efficiently. MTL is set up to re-cone … the problem is not at all unique to WeatherWool. But if cones were all conical, re-coning might not be necessary. On the other hand, maybe AWC would have problems dyeing on conical cones …
The other bit of terminology is WarriorWool™. We’ve been using the term WarriorWool for 10 years or so, and the WarriorWool plan goes back to the start of WeatherWool. But a few months ago I applied to register WarriorWool as a WeatherWool trademark. And that means we need to be very careful to always use the term properly, and exactly as we wish it to be registered. Some time ago, the WarriorWool page on this website was created with a SPACE – “Warrior Wool”. And I let that go for a long time, but now it needs fixing. But removing that space means updating every link on this website. Not a big deal, but not a swinging Saturday night, either. BrokenLinkCheck.com offers a nice, free utility to find broken links (THANK YOU!) and it was good that I ran it because for some reason a bunch of links for our CPO Shirt were also broken. I don’t understand that at all. Shopify, the company that maintains the platform upon which our website is built, probably has a utility that would have fixed all the WarriorWool links at once. I’m going to have to ask them!
One other thing I should have written 12 hours ago when I originally did this post ... WarriorWool is not a money-maker for us. The only reason we have applied to register WarriorWool™ as our trademark is to prevent anyone else from commercializing what we've been working on for years.
2022-06-11 ... The Feds
Quite a few people have asked me about WeatherWool and government contracts, so probably that means it's a good blog topic. I wouldn't be writing about it except that it comes up frequently.
Because of our WarriorWool Program, many people working for the US federal government are wearing WeatherWool. And sometimes this leads people to try get Uncle Sam to buy some wool from us for their unit. The same scenario has played out about 8 times so far.
I'll get a call or email from a unit in the Military or some other group (see the list on the WarriorWool page). Usually they say they're interested in 10 or 20 or maybe 30 Anoraks. And after a couple of weeks or a month, they'll tell me they can't afford it.
Recently, a I heard from a guy who wore our wool in Afghanistan, and wanted to get some for himself and another guy who are presently working for a large branch of the US government that spends a ton of money. (I guess that could be any branch of the federal government.) He asked me about pricing for two Anoraks, and I explained the WarriorWool Program (people spending personal funds for Anoraks to be worn on Active Duty get my break-even price of $395) and that Uncle Sam gets the regular retail price of $625. He asked about a discount for Uncle Sam, but that's not happening for only two Anoraks. A couple of weeks later he wrote me about a discount. And I said if Uncle Sam was paying, the price is the regular $625, and that was that.
Eventually, I suppose Uncle Sam will buy some wool. But so far, WeatherWool has sold a grand total of one All-Around Jacket to the feds. That jacket was purchased by the Air Force for a guy who was doing something I had no idea the Air Force did, and about which I may not have permission to post.
I am concerned about the morale of the guys who get turned down for garments they want. Given the expense of training and deploying the people who are permitted to wear garments of their own choosing, it seems odd these guys are repeatedly told the clothing they'd like to wear is out of the question. It has to be frustrating, but when we talk about it, they only say it's just another challenge to overcome. Part of their training is to adopt the attitude that they can overcome anything. But it seems to me (and them) they shouldn't need to overcome basic supply issues.
2022-06-10 ... Worthless Wool
This post is related to the post from two days ago, Snapshot of American Wool Production. On 31 May, Alex noticed an article in The Guardian about UK shepherds, who are raising sheep for meat, having no market for their wool. The wool produced by these sheep has so little value that it does not cover the cost of shearing.
Good morning Ralph --- One thing to keep in mind when talking about different breeds of sheep and the environment that they may have to live in? Fine wool breeds do not perform very well in high moisture areas as the wool will actually mildew on the backs of a sheep and for some reason the feet of of fine wool sheep will actually have higher cases of foot rot. New Zealand is a good example as a large percentage of the production in New Zealand is 30 to 34 micron Long stapled wool and being produced in the higher moisture areas of New Zealand.. Where as in the drier climate areas of New Zealand they actually have some very fine very high quality fine wool but it's only in small areas of New Zealand with much less precipitation.
Hope this helps with a couple of your questions ? --- Mike
Mike's input makes clear why we have always gotten a large portion of our fiber from New Mexico, one of America's most arid States.
An interesting point Padula brings out is that because wool is durable, in a way, it destroys its own market. Here is what Bob wrote:
For some breeds of sheep - the wool has limited demand - that is the case with most of the wool and breeds of sheep raised in the UK these days. (and they are not alone, there are many breeds world-wide, including the US). It’s economic driven and complex/complicated because there has always been “government interference” - wool is not freely traded in the “free market economy” and I don’t think it has been for centuries. The Spanish banned the export of Merino sheep for years to maintain their superiority and control of the supply of fine wool.
From a carcass, (depending on the size of the animal), there is 30-40-50 lbs of meat and a ewe can raise at least one, often times 2 or more lambs a year, but only shears 3-4-5 lbs of clean wool per year - so the emphasis is placed on the meat side, because you get more total $ revenue (income) from the meat side, than you do from the wool side.
Shearing is part of the problem, because it is a cost to harvest a product that has limited demand. Wages, prices for supplies, travel and it’s hard work.... then if you bring in “foreign labor” to shear - you are taking jobs away....
The UK sheep and wool industry dilemma is an interesting one - and something that goes back a long, long time. They have suffered with this problem of limited demand for their wool for years and have “ignored it.” Remember how the English/British (any country you want to consider) colonized the world and created an industrial complex to prosper - (including a textile industry) - They needed raw materials - and often times they “forced” the raw commodity back to the homeland to the keep themselves going. The Boston Tea Party - what better way to get back at them than to dump their “precious tea” into the harbor because “Tea Time” was a way to get back at the social elites. Tea was more of a symbolic dump, because the wool trade was very important at that time, and wool was too valuable to dump in the water. Remember, it was required to send wool back from the colonies, along with taxes and all the rest of it .... this is why we broke away.
Historically, the British (or anyone for that matter) - developed breeds or “strains” of sheep that survive in their local environments to provide raw materials for their requirements and then have excess for trade. People have to eat every day - and food is a single use item - whereas clothes can be worn multiple times and wool is durable. With the seasons, clothing was not always “required” - but people need to eat. So meat production has always tended to be a priority. So people made garments out of the sheep wool that survived and thrived in their local environments. Breeds of sheep were “named” after the regions they were raised/developed (Suffolk, Hampshire, Shropshire, Rambouillet, Lincoln, in the US - Columbia, Targhee ......) and wool was used more “locally” in the past. If you wanted something that was not available locally - trade was allowing it to be bought or imported from a region where it was in excess. Think of the penal colony known as “Australia”..... they had a few prisoners on the island and what sheep they didn’t need to eat to survive, the sheep would grow wool to send back to England for the Crown... Because they had enough “mutton” for the prisoners/convicts to eat - and they could send back wool types not grown back home ..... they were able to focus on sheep genetics more geared towards wool.
Add in “Government Meddling” ..... to keep the industrial complex going to provide jobs for the masses and $$$ for the “elites” - all sorts of barriers to the free market economy including tariffs, taxes, subsidies, quotas, bans, blockades - all have been used by countries around the world to protect themselves ....
The UK sheep producers are not immune to this - in fact, they created this mess themselves by focusing on raising sheep for meat production and not wool for consumer demand. For the wool they needed, they simply imported the wool from a colony or foreign country. As clothing designs, styles, consumer demand trends have changed over the years, the sheep producers have “clung to their favorite Breeds” and lobbied governments for protectionist policies to keep them and their neighbors employed. They have been doing since the 1600s ....
Bottom line, the UK sheep producers have been reliant on their government to keep them financially going for centuries. They have developed and clung to the breeds of sheep they are accustomed to raising for meat production in their environment, rather than looking at the wool grown on the animal and asking themselves - is this something someone wants? You can’t make a silk purse out of a sows’ ear..... but that is exactly what they are complaining about. No one wants “itchy, scratchy wool” any more - and it is far easier to lobby, complain, “play the victim card” that you are not getting paid for the wool, than it is to admit you are growing a wool product that no one wants.
The US is not immune to this.... we have many different breeds and crosses in the US that have wool that is difficult to find a “use” for and is of limited value commercially. And because wool is a commodity that is stable, it can be stored and shipped around the world - there is likely someone else in a “third world country” will fill the demand at a lower price - and some broker will make a $ doing it.
Some breeds of sheep are what I call “ornamental” - and raised because people like the looks of them. And we also have “dog and pony shows” in the US for sheep..... People get very, very “emotionally attached” to their breed of sheep - and if you make a comment someone thinks is disparaging or critical of their sheep breed, all hell breaks loose.
The consumer trends for wool are out there, but it takes time and effort to adjust your flock to growing that wool. Sometimes it means - selling the sheep you have and buying different ones. And then it is a balance with the meat side - which brings in more total $ revenue. But it is possible.
MANY THANKS TO BOB AND MIKE for a glimpse into the complexity of sheep ranching!
2022-06-08 Again ... Shepherd Humor
Sorry, I couldn't help myself ...
2022-06-08 ... Snapshot of American Wool Production
This is the cover of the latest issue of Sheep Industry News, the monthly magazine published by the American Sheep Industry Association, aka SheepUSA.
Within this issue is the chart below, showing US Wool production has fallen 75% since 1991. And imported wool doesn't have much to do with it. My perspective is that there's nowhere to go but up!!
Clean fiber production has fallen from about 48 million pounds (22 million kg) in 1991 to about 12 million (5.5 million kg) in 2021. Last year, about 3.2 million sheep were shorn in the USA. In 1820 or so, when the US population was under 10 million people, there were about 2 million Merino sheep in New England alone. Now, our population is 332 million (33 times more).
Of course, I don't hear from a representative cross-section of the USA -- or of the world, for that matter. (About 10% of our customers are Canadian and maybe 5% are not from North America.) But I hear over and over and over that people are surprised and delighted to discover wool outperforms the alternative garment materials. And that's without consideration of the many environmental and social factors that are trending so strongly in favor of wool.
We need to get the word out!
2022-06-07 … Guerilla Grazing
Customer Shane B sent a link to a very interesting YouTube video. It’s about 26 minutes. The focus of the video is Aaron Fletcher and his itinerant lifestyle made possible by his sheep and his micro-home-on-wheels. His four sheep provide transportation and food. He calls himself a guerilla grazer -- grazing his sheep wherever he can get permission – which seems to be wherever he asks. Fletcher relies on his sheep for clothing, milk, cheese and butter -- about half of his food. He has also made shelter from his sheep's wool. Fletcher even built an evaporative cooler that supplies enough refrigeration for his needs. And the cooler relies only on the interaction of wool and water. No electricity. Fletcher is a remarkably resourceful, articulate and friendly guy. Although many people would say Fletcher has almost nothing, it seems to suit him awfully well. He even has ideas about the applicability of his lifestyle to aid others who are, in the traditional sense of the word, homeless. Aaron says he is about SURTHRIVAL, not just survival. Advisor Daniel Vitalis would appreciate that. Daniel owns a company, Surthrival, that offers nutritional products. Thanks to Shane for thinking of us and sending this vid!!
2022-06-06 ... 78th Anniversary of D-Day
This post is not wool-related ... As a child of the WWII Generation, June 6th has always been a date to remember. Usually I watch The Longest Day. Seeing that movie in the theaters was a big deal when I was 8 years old in 1962. Seemed like everyone was talking about it. Actors really wanted to be in it. I don't know Hollywood much, but I know these names: Mel Ferrer, Edmond O'Brien, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Eddie Albert, John Wayne, Rod Steiger, Steve Forrest, Don Adams (I need to look again for "Maxwell Smart"), Stuart Whitman, Tom Tryon, Red Buttons, Sal Mineo, Roddy McDowall, George Segal, Robert Wagner, Paul Anka, Fabian, Peter Lawford, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe (Goldfinger).
2022-06-05 ... DOs and DON'Ts
A few months ago, I wrote up a page on WeatherWool's DOs and DON'Ts. And I could have sworn I'd already blogged about it, but evidently not. So today's entry links to our page of DOs and DON'Ts. A big reason why I wrote that page -- and the reason we often operate contrary to standard business practice -- is because of what I learned at my first white-collar job, way back in 1977.
2022-06-04 ... Good Delivery
It was a good trip yesterday, transporting yarn for Batch 7 from AWC to MTL, but unfortunately I couldn't quite fit all of the weft yarn for our FullWeight Duff run. But the rig easily handled the rest of the Lynx weft, all the Duff warp and a large potion of the Duff weft. I was tempted to load the open bed of the pickup, but Mee Lo reinforced my worries about rain. And sure enough, I did hit some pretty good rain on the way from AWC to MTL.
I'm standing around uselessly while Mee Lo, Keith and Stuart load my trailer. Keith was prominently featured on Mike Rowe's How America Works a couple of weeks ago, when the show detailed the operations of American Woolen. Now that Keith's a movie star, I will probably have to pay royalties or something for this video.
Shortly after I left American Woolen, Jacob Long, the owner, phoned. He'd wanted to see me. But I had about 350 miles to drive -- after only 2 or 3 hours sleep -- so I was on the road quick. Sorry, Jacob.
At MTL, I usually help unload, but a customer called just as we were getting started. We talked less than 3 minutes (my phone said 2:43!), but long enough for Charles and Mike Hillebrand (owner of MTL) and the crew to have the trailer unloaded and buttoned up for my trip home.
So ... yesterday the former longshoreman (in the 1970s) let other people do all the work. It was nice, but I'm not ready for that, either!
It's great that both Jacob and Mike routinely help me load, unload, catch me up on the latest news from their plants. At MTL, Brian and Rachele also came out to say Hello. Brian and Rachele both handle technical aspects of the weaving, and have been helping us for years. Brian said he reads this blog. All input welcome, Brian!
THANKS EVERYONE for your help. We'll do it again in about 3 weeks, I hope!
2022-06-03 ... On the Road (Posting a little early)
A few hours from now I will be on the road again, pretty much the same trip as one week ago. I will be picking up the last of the weft yarn for our FullWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric at American Woolen, where it was spun, and delivering it to MTL, where it will be woven into greige Fabric, which will go back to AWC for finishing. I'm also picking up warp yarn for our FullWeight Duff Fabric. If I have the capacity, I will also pick up the weft for the Duff. And then home. It’s about a 500-mile (800 km) trip. Doing it myself saves time and probably a few bucks. Last week it cost about $250 in gas and tolls (and 12 hours in my pickup) but I think the savings in time and freight cost was worth it.
2022-06-02 ... Weaving
MTL is preparing to weave Fabric for us now. I definitely do not understand much about the weaving process, except to say it's amazing that it works. This website has one page about weaving and another page about MTL, the company that has always done our weaving.
WeatherWool Lynx Pattern being woven on a Jacquard Loom at Material Technology and Logistics in Jessup, Pennsylvania
2022-06-01 ... Welcome to June! ... Plastic Perspective
For a long time, I've been amused by the incongruity of people wrapping themselves in plastic to enjoy Nature. There are a great many highly successful companies offering plastic garments, although their preferred term is technical, and they never say plastic. Sometimes they use brand-names for their plastics, although polypropylene and fleece (!!!) are also popular terms. I'm not going to claim garments worn by so many people aren't effective in some ways (although I also think the plastics-crowd don't know what they're missing), but I will say Icebreaker, in this image, has really captured what I see!
MANY THANKS TO ICEBREAKER FOR THIS IMAGE!
BTW, we have long recommended Icebreaker as a base layer under WeatherWool for warmer situations. Years ago, before WeatherWool took over our lives, we were Icebreaker dealers.
2022-05-31 ... Wild Foods Gone Mainstream!
My love for Wild Foods is what eventually led to WeatherWool. I still remember very clearly, back in about 1961, some of the fantastic, freely available wild foods in Lodi, NJ, the NYC suburban area where I grew up. Raspberries, blackberries, cherries, chokecherries, mulberries, apples, grapes ... all these greats fruits were available to anyone. And to my constant amazement, it seemed like I was the only one interested! I didn't know much at all about foraging or wild foods (and still know only a little bit). Berries, grapes, apples ... not heavy-duty stuff, but abundant and tremendous. With the help of my parents, our wild foods also included seafood and game.
During college days, I had an apartment with two other guys and a fairly constant flow of visitors. It seemed everyone was broke and hungry and virtually any kind of food would disappear fast. Whatever it was, you'd better chow down now or it would be gone. And so it was a huge kick for me to discover that NOBODY was interested in my dandelion greens!
Getting out into Nature, hoping to bring home some dinner, is the biggest factor behind my interest in All-Purpose Outerwear.
In 2016, my friend Dan and I got a huge surprise-indication of how interest in wild foods had grown (pun not intended). I had met Dan in summer of 2010. I was hiking in a local woodland and I saw three people scratching around in the weeds. Dan was teaching his friends about wild edible mushrooms, and they kindly didn't mind my intrusion. Dan invited me to join them again the next week, when he expected much better foraging. I told him I'd be in Maine the following week, and Dan said he loved Maine and wondered about my plans. When Dan heard I was going moose hunting, he was all over it. He'd long wanted to hunt, but hadn't quite gotten started because he didn't know any hunters. So, I helped Dan get started hunting at The Swamp, and he taught me a lot about wild mushrooms and wild plants that are great eating.
I don't remember how it happened, but one fine day in the Spring of 2016, Dan and I were foraging with a reporter from New Jersey's largest newspaper. Dan was the real host and I was just tagging along. But we had some fun and gathered some great stuff, mostly ramps. We were shocked when, a couple of days later, our little outing was given half the front page of New Jersey's largest newspaper! Dan is actually now a professional forager, with restaurants relying on him for wild produce and many retail customers at the local "farmer markets".
And foraging has really gone big-time! There are several TV Shows dedicated to Wild Foods ...
- WeatherWool Advisor Daniel Vitalis hosts WildFed on the Outdoor Channel
- Meat Eater with Steve Rinella is a primary one. But all the "hook and bullet" shows (and magazines) devote some space to food preparation
- Andrew Zimmern has a relatively new show focused on wild foods worldwide
- Gordon Ramsay has a TV show focused on wild foods and culture
- There are a TON of people on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook and books coming out constantly
But the reason for this entry today is my surprise at seeing both Woolrich and Canada Goose pitching clothing specifically to foragers! Canada Goose pictures a woman foraging on Staten Island (that's part of New York City)!
2022-05-30 ... Nice WWII Story ... MADE IN USA, Wool, too!
A couple of things that seem appropriate for Memorial Day.
More and more, Americans are looking for products that are MADE IN USA. We are hearing this from not only our customers but also our Partners who help us make WeatherWool. When we started working on WeatherWool, suppliers seemed surprised that we insisted on 100% American materials. And customers sometimes seemed to doubt that all our materials and labor are USA. The doubts and surprise are gone. Interestingly, it is not only Americans who are happy to buy a 100% American product. Some of our friends in Asia are very keen on American-made.
We also have heard there are some big-money people looking to integrate sheep and wool into large, diversified agribusinesses. Sounds great to me. Here's hoping! The US sheep industry can really use some investment.
And the nice World War II story ....... During the early days of WWII, the US Navy stationed my Dad in New York City, and he would hitchhike to get around. It worked really well for him because anyone in uniform would get a ride immediately. Pop thumbed a ride one day and didn't really notice the driver of the car that picked him up. But eventually he was startled to see on the steering wheel the most absolutely fearsome pair of hands ever. So he looked over at the driver and it was Jack Dempsey.
2022-05-29 ... Ancient, Fermented, Dyed, Knotted-Pile Wool Rug
This post doesn't directly relate to WeatherWool, except that some day we hope to use natural dye (or no dye) instead of the reactive chemical dye that is the best option for us now. I doubt we'd ever be involved with fermented wool dyeing, but ... maybe? And maybe someday we'll have a use for knotted pile, too!
Two of the main problems in dyeing wool are getting the wool to accept the color and getting the wool to hold the color over time. And it turns out that fermenting the wool prior to dyeing can be a fantastic solution to both those problems.
Alex found an article on the Pazyryk Carpet, one of the oldest carpets in the world, dating to about 2400 years ago. Just from the standpoint of archaeology, the article is interesting. Also interesting is way the carpet was made. I just learned (I'll forget by tomorrow, probably) that a knotted-pile carpet is a woven carpet with knots tied between the warp and weft. The knots cause parts of the surface of the rug to stand up (pile) above the rest of the weave. At MTL, who does our weaving, we learned there are many ways to weave. But knotted-pile is something I never even suspected. I wonder if MTL has a loom that can do it? The possibilities of weaving just go on and on and on ... which is not surprising after thousands of years of work among many separate cultures.
WeatherWool thanks Wikimedia Commons and the Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg, Russia, for this image of the ancient (about 2400 years ago) woolen Pazyryk Carpet, whose brilliant colors are attributed to a dyeing technique that involves fermenting the wool.
The fermenting process changes the wool in a way that enables the dye to penetrate more deeply, and bind more tightly, than it otherwise would. But the downside is the wool may be ruined if the fermenting is not done just right (to the surprise of no one!).
The Pazyryk Carpet features not only the fermented, dyed wool, but also an extreme level of pile, with about 360,000 knots per square meter (430,000 knots per square yard). Given that this carpet is 6 feet by 6'7" (183 x 200 cm), the rug has around 1.9 million knots.
WeatherWool thanks Wikipedia for a very clear explanation of what knotted-pile carpet is, and Wikimedia Commons for a diagram of knotted-pile carpet weaving
How long did it take to make this rug? What did it cost? And how many more similar rugs must have been made, given the slim chance of this one being preserved for 2400 years?
Lined from the article Alex found is an article from Nature, published in March 2021, with a lot more information.
2022-05-28 ... ALONE and a Review
Andy Nicholls, out of UK, runs a website, GearAssistant.com, dedicated to "provide you with everything you need to know in order to make informed decisions about your choice of camping and hiking gear." Andrew just published his list of favorite Anoraks, which included his review or our Anorak. Andy has not yet personally tested our Anorak, but I hope that will change soon! THANKS ANDY!
This morning, I spoke with Benji, one of the contestants of the ALONE Survival Competition that just began airing on History Channel. Benji is a really friendly and energetic guy, and very interesting to talk to. He surprised me by including a 3-pound block of salt in the very limited amount of food (it counted as a food item?) he was permitted to bring. Benji explained the salt would help his body keep electrolytes in balance. Benji is a former world-champion (220 pounds / 100 kg) powerlifter (!!!!), so he is very in tune with his body. He also surprised me when he said he'd worn his Anorak more than the Mouton Jacket in the photo. I didn't even remember he'd gotten an Anorak. Sometimes what I forget is distressing!
2022-05-27 … TV Last Night … On the Road Today
Five hours ago, I turned on the History Channel a few minutes before the season premiere of ALONE. As soon as the TV came on, it was really nice to see on the screen our friend Mountain Man Joshua Native Kirk in our All-Around Jacket.
We’ve been looking forward to ALONE because two of the contestants chose our wool. As it turned out, our garments didn’t appear in the first episode because it was so warm. So THANKS to Josh (and a MOUNTAIN MEN rerun!) for getting our wool on TV last night.
But winter comes early and hard in Labrador and the wool will soon be key.
Today I am on the road, picking up warp yarn at American Woolen and delivering it to MTL. And then home. MTL will need about a week for warping (basically winding the warp yarn on a gigantic spool), and I will make another run sometime next week to deliver the weft. It’s about a 500-mile (800 km) trip. Doing it myself saves time.
2022-05-26 ... ALONE (and other TV Shows)
We are very much looking forward to tonight's first episode of Season 9 of History Channel's ALONE $500k Survival Competition. Click the link for plenty of info.
Although we have never paid anyone to wear WeatherWool, we have been, and will be, on other television shows:
- National Geographic's LIFE BELOW ZERO, NEXT GENERATION
- History Channel's MOUNTAIN MEN
- Outdoor Channel's WILDFED
- Fox Business, THE LEGEND OF BEAR GULCH GOLD (I think filming is starting about now. I need to make a couple of phone calls for update.)
- Discovery Channel, DUAL SURVIVAL
Getting high-profile people to wear your garments is "a thing" in the garment industry. Two people who are admirers of WeatherWool have told me other companies are paying them well over $100k annually to wear only their camo garments when filming or appearing in public.
And it's a similar story with magazines. A buddy of mine is a magazine executive, and he's been a friend of WeatherWool since before we had any products. He wears our wool, and has given us a boost here and there in his pubs, but he explained that a magazine needs to take care of the companies that keep their lights on. He also told me a large clothing company will typically spend 10% of their annual sales on advertising.
I don't like the idea of paying, not only because it's far beyond WeatherWool's means, but also, I tend to believe people promote the product because of the pay, rather than because of the product. But lately I have realized the flip-side, also. SOMEBODY is going to pay well-known people, and we can hardly expect them to decline big money just for wearing something that they don't even have to explicitly endorse.
A few WeatherWool Advisors represent other companies and are not normally photographed in WeatherWool. One former Advisor had to separate from us because of an endorsement arrangement.
A guy I met as a result of the wool has become a good friend over the years, and he does some big work in Hollywood. My friend had been working on a very popular cable series, and when a woman on the show admired an outdoor clothing brand, I naively asked him about it. He laughingly told me that dialogue was doubtless the result of a bunch of money changing hands.
We feel really good that people who can wear anything they choose have chosen our wool.
2022-05-25 ... CPOs
We've been busy shipping CPO Shirts and trying to catch up with people who placed backorders. A few people have asked for CPOs with longer sleeves. If you would like a CPO with extra length in the sleeve, please let me know right away. I don't know the price yet, so it's not a commitment for anyone.
2022-05-24 ... American Woolen on TV ... CPOs in Stock
We now have MidWeight CPO Shirts in stock in almost all sizes. Better Team has done a great job on these and we will have all the sizes shortly. Website will accept payment for anything we have in stock. Anything not in stock is still priced at 0 to enable no-obligation backorder.
It was a kick last night seeing American Woolen Company on Mike Rowe's current show How America Works. I've been at AWC many times, and have met with all the people that were featured on the show. Kirk, the head of maintenance, is the only one I have not actually worked with. I was not aware how varied are Keith's responsibilities. It was not shown last night, but Keith also runs the loading dock, and helps me load/unload. Jay actually wrote the material that appears on our Finishing page. And I am in touch with Giuseppe a couple of times a week. Giuseppe and Jacob appear on our American Woolen page, and have given me some great material for the website.
What I like best about AWC -- besides they make fantastic Fabric for us -- is how Jacob Long (Owner) and Giuseppe Monteleone (Production Manager) truly value the entire AWC team. I don't think Jacob was even mentioned on the show last night. And whenever I speak with Giuseppe, he is always very emphatic about the contributions of his entire team.
Mainly, tho, without American Woolen, I do not think we would have a company. As stated in the intro to the show last night, there are only four woolen mills in the entire USA. Great show, great work AWC.
A roll of our MidWeight Drab Fabric as labeled by American Woolen
2022-05-23 ... Mountain Man Josh Kirk and Advisor Fisher Neal
Yesterday, Fisher and his Mrs stopped by with their new pup, an Irish Water Spaniel. Fisher loves waterfowling, and he's got some serious plans for the young "Snug"! Fisher also picked up a CPO Shirt. Yesterday was HOT and Fisher was comfortable (in the shade!) in the CPO without a base layer.
Last night I had a great talk with Mountain Man Joshua Kirk. Joshua operates out of Lander, Wyoming, and I'll probably be visiting Josh again this summer, when Debby and I will be in Wyoming. The new season of MOUNTAIN MEN on the History Channel will begin in late summer.
2022-05-22 ... American Woolen on HOW AMERICA WORKS
Mike Rowe has become very well known because of his TV Show Dirty Jobs. Mike has a newer show, How America Works, on Fox Business. Tomorrow (Monday 23 May 2022, 8PM Eastern time), How America Works will feature American Woolen Company, the mill that spins our yarn and finishes our Fabric. After having worked with American Woolen for almost four years, we've gotten to know them very well, they are friends, and we rely on them very heavily. We are really looking forward to seeing this show. VCR is set to tape it! Is it proper to say "Break A Leg" even though the footage was taped a few months ago?
MidWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric in "finishing" at American Woolen
The Wikipedia entry on Rowe that I linked above pretty well buries Rowe's current work with Fox, and does not provide a link to How America Works. Wikipedia is a fantastic source of information on a great many subjects, and we support and admire their goal of putting all human knowledge at everyone's fingertips. But even Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger knows Wiki is not always even-handed. And my apologies for a para that has nothing to do with wool, but it seems necessary.
2022-05-21 ... Armed Forces Day
I was out front filling the bird feeder when my friend Allison drove by. He pulled over to tell me about another neighbor he wanted to introduce to me because she is interested in our wool. And that is the only wool-connection to this Armed-Forces-Day-entry.
Perhaps because today is Armed Forces Day (SOMEONE at DoD needs to keep this page current???!!!), Allison was wearing a Tuskegee Airmen hat. I asked him if he knew our neighbor Fred is the son of a Tuskegee Airman, and the nephew of another. Allison knew Fred, but didn't know about Fred's Dad. Allison's own connection with the Airmen comes through his Mrs, who is the daughter of Army Colonel Thoedore Lumpkin, an intelligence officer who worked with the Tuskegee Airmen. One of Colonel Lumpkin's friends and contacts in the Airmen was General Charles McGee, the only pilot to fly in World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam. Allison's father-in-law passed away only lately. It's pretty great that children of these tremendous Veterans have lived and raised their families on our block!
Debby and I also have our own distant connection to the World War II flyers. We have some involvement with Seamans Airport (9N3), a small general aviation airport in Pennsylvania; Seamans Airport, on Seamans Road in Benton Township (Northeastern) Pennsylvania. We were told the Seamans Family was granted their land by William Penn himself. Sounds great, but I haven't tried to verify that. In any case, nearly 100 years ago, two of the Seamans boys got their hands on an airplane and began barnstorming in the area. Both of the boys eventually became very serious professional flyers. Bobby Seamans had a long career with Pan Am. Bobby died a few years before I ever visited Seamans field. But his brother, whom everyone called Uncle Bill, was still doing really well in the early 2000s. Uncle Bill was telling us stories about his days with the Flying Tigers, and as a Military flight instructor. Because of our neighbor, Debby asked if he'd trained any of the Tuskegee Airmen. Bill was a big guy, and he had a lot of steam well into his 90s. But he was very hard of hearing, so he didn't talk so much as shout. And he was always emphatic, so his response to Debby was HELL, I TRAINED ALL OF 'EM!!
And it turned out that Uncle Bill not only remembered my neighbor's Dad and Uncle, but Uncle Bill and Uncle Roscoe were friends and had stayed in touch, regularly corresponding via snail-mail. A great little circle that both my neighbors enjoyed hearing about.
Uncle Bill and Col Lumpkin both lived almost 100 years. General McGee died in January of this year at age 102.
2022-05-20 ... Shipping CPOs
We are now shipping MidWeight Lynx Pattern CPO Shirts in sizes Medium, Large, XLarge and 2XLarge, and website will accept payment for these items. The other MidWeight Lynx sizes should be completed next week, as well as the MidWeight Drab. When the rest of the CPOs come in, I will update the website to accept payment. Of course you can also order over the phone.
Some people have backorders as old as 2019, and we have raised prices since then. We will of course honor price at time of original order.
We have no plans to make FullWeight CPOs this year. We are really thinking of the CPO as a MidWeight garment and the ShirtJac as a FullWeight garment. We hope to make ShirtJacs a few months down the road ... but as usual, I can't promise anything not already in my possession.
2022-05-19 ... QR Code
QR (Quick Response) Codes have been around a long time, although I haven't paid much attention. But the cellphone-for-everything crowd, which grows every day, is very fond of them. And Alex decided to generate some QR Codes for us. From a few minutes reading on Wikipedia, a QR Code can contain a lot of information. Very sweet that QR Codes can be freely generated by anyone (THANKS to Denso Wave, the company that invented them!) and readable worldwide.
Alex decided we needed to experiment with QR Codes, and he made one that points to the page on this website that covers our Anorak:
I pointed my phone's camera at this image (here on the Blog), and my phone read it, displayed the Anorak link and brought up the Anorak page when I gave the OK. If anyone tests this and it doesn't work, please LMK!
Great work, Alex! ... Now we have to figure out how we might use the QR Codes. WeatherWool is not in retail stores, so we don't have hang tags. But I have been thinking about doing "trunk shows" (meaning you park your vehicle and pull things out of the trunk) on the sidewalks of NYC, and mannequins wearing garments with hang tags and QR Codes would be useful in that situation.
2022-05-18 ... Replacing Shock Cord with Wool!
We have Hooded Jackets in MidWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric coming in a couple of months. Until now, the cords that we have used to adjust the front of our Hoods have been make of synthetic shock cord. The shock cord worked well, but when the Hoods are snugged to the face, the shock cord, being somewhat stiff, sticks out and can be inconvenient. The wool cord is limp and will lie flat. Also, some people like to adjust the Hood by tying the left and right cords together under their chin. The wool cords will tie off much better than the shock cords. We will use the same cord locks as before.
This wool cord is made from the same fiber, same yarn, we used for garments. We had some brown (is Debby going to correct me on the color?) yarn left over, and we brought it to Fleck Knitwear. Peter did some work tuning his "string machine" so that it could handle our yarn, and by the end of the next day, we had enough wool cord for the run of Hooded Jackets. Great work, Peter!!
2022-05-17 ... Batch 7 Update
Just got a production schedule update for Batch 7. It looks like the first Fabric will be FullWeight Lynx Pattern, completed about 5 August. I also updated the overall story and background about Batch 7 production (and Batch 8). We still have not quite nailed down the purchase of the greasy wool for Batch 9.
As for Batch Numbers themselves ... WeatherWool believes it is important to share information with our customers, and identifying the specific Batch of our 100% Wool Merino Jacquard Fabric from which each garment was made is an interesting way to track any differences in wool, processing and tailoring. We strive to maintain our original standards, so these differences should be minimal, but we also always strive to improve. The Batch Number of each WeatherWool Merino Jacquard Fabric Batch has been sewn into every WeatherWool Garment beginning with Batch 5 in 2021. The Batch Number Tag is usually located under the Size Tag or the MADE IN USA Tag.
2022-05-16 ... Nice YouTube Review
Kirk, "Back In The Woods", just published a nice YouTube review of WeatherWool. About a year ago, Kirk bought an All-Around Jacket and Anorak for himself, and an Anorak for his Mrs. Until quite lately, I did not know (or maybe I forgot!) Kirk has a popular YouTube channel. Kirk is a longtime wool-lover, and that informs his review, because he is able to speak from long experience with other brands besides ours. And he does make some direct comparisons. The WeatherWool review is his Video #182. THANKS, KIRK, for the review, and for giving us a try in the first place!!
2022-05-15 ... THE BEST
Yesterday, Denali asked on Facebook and Instagram for people to name their favorite purchases. We didn't get many responses, partly because these companies (both owned by Meta) are not showing us to nearly as many people as they used to. That's probably because we don't advertise, and so I can't blame them. But I just reworded these posts to make it clear that we are wondering about people's favorite companies and products across the entire marketplace ... not restricted to WeatherWool or clothing. We'd like to know what companies and products are most-admired. Cars, trucks, boats, optics, breakfast cereal ... We want to be THE BEST at what we do and knowing what companies and products our customers see as THE BEST will help us. THANKS. A while back I created a page, With The Best, showing our garments with a handful of products that are often cited as The Best. I'd love to grow that page, and I'd love to look at the products that most inspire people.
2022-05-14 ... "It's awful"
We do everything we can think of to make garments people want to wear. And we regularly (gratefully!!) receive wonderful feedback from people who have our garments. But sometimes someone really surprised me, such as this note sent yesterday by Minnesotan Arrio Farugie: "I haven't been able to wear any WeatherWool for almost a week. It's awful. Should be back at it with lower night temps next week tho!" THANK YOU, ARRIO! ... Until I started working with woolens, I had no idea how many people love the cold and really look forward to winter.
2022-05-13 ... CPO Shirts and Hooded Jackets ... Sigma III and GI Bill
Better Team USA is hoping to finish work on the CPO Shirts next week, and we will ship as soon as we check them! The CPOs are being made in MidWeight Solid Drab Color and MidWeight Lynx Pattern. Factory8 has just shipped to us what is -- hopefully -- the last prototype of the Hooded Jacket. We will probably receive it on Monday.
Congratulations to longtime WeatherWool Friend and Advisor Rob Allen and Sigma III Survival School on the acceptance of their offerings into the GI Bill Training/Education!! Rob was working on this for four years!
2022-05-12 ... The Swamp
Something came up which caused me to re-read, and update, the page on The Swamp, our little bit of swampy heaven here in North Jersey. It's a great place and crazy that it is so close to NYC!
2022-05-11 ... Madrona and WeatherWool Fabric
We really like that other people enjoy working with our Fabric, and the Collaboration page shows some of what others have done. People interested in having custom garments made from our Fabric should get in touch with Ruby and West at Madrona Wear.
We loves what Ruby and West at Madrona Wear have done with our Fabrics!
2022-05-10 ... Inflation and Price Hikes -- Last Year
I guess to every cloud there is a silver lining. We have had so many delays in the last four years and so many cost increases in 2021 that we won't need to raise prices this year. And WOW! ... inflation is in the news now, but we saw a lot of this last year ... price-hikes of 10 or 15%. And shortages. And unusually long delivery times. But ordering last year set us up pretty well for this year.
ALSO ... many people have placed backorders with us in 2021, 2020 ... and even pre-Covid in 2019 and 2018. For all backorders, the original price at the time of the order remains in effect.
Stopping off at Costco this morning, the gas line was so long we had trouble getting into the parking lot. (And we didn't even want gas.)
2022-05-09 ... Delay
The flooding of Littlewood Dye House caused by Hurricane Ida is really hitting our calendar now. The floods delayed the dyeing of our fiber by about 6 months, and now it is looking like September before the Batch 7 Fabric is ready for the tailors. I was really hoping to get at least some of Batch 7 in June. And of course, once we do finally get the Fabric, the tailors need significant time.
2022-05-08 ... Mother's Day ... VE Day
Wishing all the Moms a super day!! Here at WeatherWool, we couldn't function without the help and support of Debby and Cecy!
We have always been a little bit distressed that WeatherWool is yet to offer anything designed specifically for women. We have made some prototypes, but never anything in production. This year, we fully intend to make our Women's Blanket Coat.
Today is also the Anniversary of VE Day. For people born in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, the end of World War II in Europe (Victory in Europe Day) in 1945 is never to be forgotten.
2022-05-07 ... Shoddy
We try to keep up with what other companies are doing. We're a tiny family business and we have a lot to learn. Watching what the big companies do seems like a good way to get some lessons. But actually, I usually wind up thinking WE'RE NOT GOING TO DO THAT! And that's my reaction when I see others offering shoddy.
SHODDY ... Noun ... "an inferior quality yarn or fabric made from the shredded fibre of waste woollen cloth or clippings". I've blogged about shoddy before; the word that is now synonymous with poor quality comes from 200 years ago, when relatively low-priced, inferior "shoddy" garments were well-known in London. The first time I saw shoddy was, amazingly, the line of woolens that were offered for a couple of years by the famous Weatherby, a company known for high-quality rifles. Of course, they didn't use the word shoddy, but the tags stated the garments were made from recycled wool, and they didn't feel like something I would want to wear.
In general, longer wool fiber makes nicer garments. Maybe there is another way now, but historically, recycling woolens involves chopping and shredding and therefore making the fibers shorter. And in some cases, the shoddy garments were actually glued together.
I bring this up now because I was surprised to see Canada Goose, surely a high-end brand, offering garments made mostly from recycled wool. They describe KIND FLEECE as "our next generation of fleece, an ultra-soft and breathable fabric made with 62% recycled wool, 18% wood-based TENCEL™ Lyocell, 13% partially bio-based Sorona® Polymer and 7% Polyamide." They are also featuring recycled polyester in some garments. They explain their motivation is sustainability, lowered carbon-footprint, fighting global warming ("keep the planet cold and the people on it warm"). And the garments are definitely not shoddy in the traditional sense of being inexpensive.
These products have been available for a few months, but very few reviews are published on the website. I'd be really interested to hear what people think.
2022-05-06 ... "Good as NOW?"
Yesterday a customer wrote me that the seam attaching the Hood to his Anorak had separated a little. I apologized for the failure, sent him a return shipping label, and explained that we'd get his Rak back to him quickly, "as good as now", which is a funny sort of typo. I don't really know if that even counts as a typo, given that the E (for NEW) and the O are typed with different hands. But in any case, it was a funny mistake.
The Hood seam failure is the only known problem with the Anorak, and we have really bolstered the construction at that spot, so, mostly a legacy issue. The Anorak in question yesterday had been shipped about three years ago. Nevertheless, we are still mindful of this, and we do suggest everyone doff the Anorak by pulling from the shoulders rather than the Hood. And fully unzip the sides first!
2022-05-04 ... "WeatherWool Wednesday"
@66grinch, a great customer in Chicago, tends to do Instagram posts in our wool on Wednesday, with the tag #WeatherWoolWednesday! THANKS GREG! ... or should I say THANKS GRINCH!! (I should ask Greg where the GRINCH handle comes from.) Greg has friends in the Chicago Fire Department, which is why a Chicago FD Truck is in the background. Here is the photo and text Greg posted today:
@weatherwool #chicago #chicagofiredepartment #supportfirstresponders #chicagobushcraft #urbanbushcraft #weatherwoolwednesday #weatherwool #weatherwoolarmy #weatherwooljapan #weatherwoolquality #weatherwoolanorak #weatherwoolwatchcap #madeinusa #madeinamerica #wearwool #wool #hardcoreluxury #lynxpattern #hikinggear #neckgaiter #mensstyle #ruggedstyle #ruggedworkwear @thewoolmaven #merinowool #supportsmallbusiness #bestwool #buyoncecryeonce
2022-05-03 ... "Are You Padula from WeatherWool?" ... AAJ "on skin"
I rarely wear my All-Around Jacket without a base layer, but when I arrived at The Swamp today, the temp was about 70F/21C, and AAJ-on-skin was the way to go. All good, except there was no sign of turkeys, a gobbler being the reason for my visit. The mosquitoes are just starting to feel their oats, and it's nice they can't bite through the wool. Funny thing happened. Something came up, and I needed to get to the tailors quickly, so I was in a hurry when I got back to the truck. I loaded up the pockets of the AAJ with everything I needed for the next turkey hunt, and THOUGHT I pulled out my phone and wallet. But when I got home, no wallet. I looked through the pockets, looked all through the truck, checked my clothes about 8 times, looked around the house ... no dice. So I went through the cargo pockets of the AAJ AGAIN, and there was my wallet, along with so much other stuff I had missed it the first time I checked. This AAJ is the original AAJ, the first garment made from Fabric that passed my field-testing, in 2012. The newer AAJs have bigger cargo pockets, plus a bunch of other pockets.
Advisor Bob Padula, upon whom we have always relied to guide our purchases of "greasy" wool, went to dinner last night with some long-time friends. But among the group was someone Bob had not met, a friend-of-a-friend. When they were introduced, the new guy said something like "Are you Bob Padula from WeatherWool?" ... "WOW, I'm meeting a celebrity!"
2022-05-02 ... No Pants or Woven Hats this Year
I'd been hoping to make more Pants, and more of our woven Hats this year, but there is too much else to do. And although we are making a large quantity (for us, at least) of Fabric, it's been so long since our production was really rolling that we need to focus on Jackets. Woven Hats and Pants will have to wait until 2023. We are working on knitted Watch Caps for October 2022. And we will make Double Hoods this year, because many people who order All-Around Jackets also order the Double Hood.
2022-05-01 ... WELCOME TO MAY! ... Testing Outerwear
Here in North Jersey, May is such a wonderful month!! Hope everyone has a great May!!
Searching online for "Best Winter Jackets" brings up lots of ads. But also, Outdoor Gear Lab. I really admire some elements of their approach. They conduct what seem to be thorough tests of outdoor clothing, and post the top-rated items. They don't accept advertisements or content from manufacturers. Nor do they accept free items for testing. They buy and test standard items. I also like that they are out of Cheyenne, Wyoming, where the weather is really serious and highly variable. My younger son has lived in Wyoming since 2012, and I've been there many times. Wyoming is mostly high plains, and the weather can change from mild to SEVERE very quickly.
Outdoor Gear Lab tested men's winter jackets, and posted their list of Best Winter Jackets for Men of 2022. Everything on their list is synthetic. And this is where many people would advise me not to bring up the comp, let alone point out a website where the comp is touted. But as usual, my perspective is we are happy to compete with anyone. (And actually, I still don't know of another company offering Hardcore Luxury ... so I'm not sure we really have a direct competitor.) In that spirit, about two weeks ago, I filled out the contact form at Outdoor Gear Lab (I did not see any actual email address or phone number), asking them if they ever test any woolens. I also wrote that I'd give them a week or so to respond before making this post. But I did not hear back from them. Their top-rated piece is Arc'teryx Camosum Parka: "This stylish jacket is the closest thing to perfection we have tested." I discuss their evaluation criteria toward the end of our Testing Outerwear page (which I just updated), and will only say here that I would love to test against Arc'teryx, or anyone else for that matter.
A few years ago, an official tester for Big Army did an unofficial test of our Anorak. (He told me an official test would require about 10 pieces and a bunch of money.) His unofficial results were that WeatherWool has too low a warmth:weight ratio. I asked him when is the ratio calculated? Not after a long, double-time march. And not after swimming across a river. But anyway, the bottom line in this case came from the casual side. He did not return the Rak, and told me he wears it every day.
2022-04-29 ... How Many Fibers in Yarn?
A few days ago, Barnes (the guy who made the Swamp Stew in the Blog of 24 April) asked me "How many fibers in a cross-section of your yarn?". And I was surprised that I'd never (as far as I remember) thought to ask this myself. So, I asked Giuseppe, Monteleone, Plant Manager at American Woolen. Giuseppe oversees the spinning of our yarn and the finishing of our Fabric.
A perfect section of woolen yarn is made with about 100 fibers. A perfect section of worsted yarn is made with about 60 fibers.
Update after some followup ... the situation is not as simple as the foregoing exchange presents it. Of course I have a lot more to learn!! Looking forward to posting more complete info.
2022-04-28 ... WeatherWool Trademark in Canada
Polson IP Law, on our behalf, has filed for registration of the WeatherWool trademark in Canada. The World Intellectual Property Organization has accepted our submission and the application will be forwarded to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office for processing.
2022-04-27 ... ALONE
Today Benji Hill told me the 9th Season of the $500,000 ALONE Survival Competition will debut May 26th, 9PM Eastern Time, on the History Channel. This Season, two of the contestants chose to wear WeatherWool. The contestants are very tight-lipped about the outcome of the contest. All I know now is that everyone survived.
We first heard from an ALONE contestant in 2018 (see following section on Brady Nicholls). And so when Benji phoned in summer of 2021, telling me about the situation he would be in, but unable to give particulars, it sounded familiar. I told Benji it sounded like he was going to be on ALONE, and that I understood he would not be able to comment. We talked a long time and decided a Mouton Jacket would work for Benji, who was most concerned about saving calories when the weather turned brutal. About a week later, Juan Pablo called, giving me the same basic info as Benji, and also wanting to wear Lynx Pattern. I told him it sounded to me like he was going to be on ALONE, and that I understood he couldn't really talk about it, but also telling him that I was pretty sure another contestant was going to be wearing Lynx and suggesting he check with the producers to make sure two people in Lynx would be OK. Juan Pablo called again a couple of days later and ordered the Anorak, along with Reversible Watch Cap and Neck Gaiter.
Benji and Juan Pablo purchased WeatherWool after a lot of research.
I didn't hear from anyone about the show until early February of 2022, when Teimojin Tan phoned. Teimojin, a medical doctor, was a contestant along with Benji and Juan Pablo, and had been impressed with the wool. So I knew the wool had performed well enough that Teimojin wanted to test it himself -- his medical specialty is survival -- and that all 10 contestants had survived the competition.
We will surely be watching History Channel 9PM on May 26th!
2022-04-26 ... Blankets
Suddenly we are doing a little work on Blankets. We had a few yards of MidWeight Undyed Fabric that had been left over from a several years ago, and we are making three Crib Blankets. If we like these enough, that may be sufficient reason to make Undyed Fabric again. We've also shipped a couple of other small Blankets in the last few days, and we're looking forward to any feedback.
2022-04-25 ... Advisor Leo Grizzaffi Among Veterans Honored
Honor Flight Southland is an organization that flies Veterans from Southern California to Washington, DC, where they tour the monuments erected to their service. This screen capture below is from KTLA TV (Los Angeles) coverage of the welcome ceremony given to the World War II and Korean War Vets upon their return to LA. Thanks for Honor Flight Southland for their great work. The emotion of the Veterans is clear, and I know Leo, who has previously spent a lot of time in DC, has been looking forward to this trip for weeks.
Advisor Leo Grizzaffi, 87, is a Veteran of the Korean War
Leo told me South Korea has a special program for those whose service prevented the country from being overrun.
2022-04-24 Again ... "Swamp Stew" for Dinner Tonight!!
My friend Barnes has been interested in wild foods for many years, but had never hunted until 2011, when he bagged a deer at The Swamp on his 2nd-ever hunt. Since then, he has become an avid hunter, and has added a great deal of meat to his wild menu. He also is an end-to-end wild foods guy. By that, I mean he butchers his animals himself, and then puts together some very seriously fine dining.
A few days ago, he stopped by with a meal he'd prepared for Debby and me. Wine, artisan bread, a tantalizingly-filled heavy enamel casserole dish (I think that's what it's called), and a beautifully printed explanatory sheet detailing the "Swamp Stew" and the final baking step that would make it table-ready.
The Swamp Stew is properly referred to as Cassoulet au Confit d'Oie Sauvage et Saucisses de Toulouse, "au Marais".
From the explanatory sheet: "Confit of Canada Goose legs, wings, gizzard & skin | Toulouse sausage, made with Canada Goose breast \ Coco Tarbais beans, braised in Canada Goose stock | Berkshire Part ventreche, poached in Canada Goose fat".
Barnes shot the geese at The Swamp, and I really admire his use of the wings, gizzard, skin and fat, parts of the goose that many people will discard. Some people even discard the legs. Barnes believes using as much of the animal as possible is a way of showing proper respect for, and appreciation of, the quarry.
The Cassoulet was super rich and delicious and my photograph does not do it justice by any means. THANK YOU BARNES!!
2022-04-24 ... 50th Reunion
Last night I had some fun seeing the old gang at my 50-Year High School Reunion. It was actually closer to 51 years ... Class of 1971 ... event postponed because of the virus.
Of course everyone asked each other what have you been doing and what are you doing now. Everybody is 68 or 69 and most are retired but quite a few still working. When asked, I told people I make clothing, which naturally enough leads to some other questions. I said I wasn't satisfied with the woolens that were available, so I decided to make my own. That led to more questions, and this is where I felt funny. Our goal, to make the best All-Purpose Outerwear ever, still sounds -- even to me! -- crazy and arrogant. So I didn't say anything like that.
Two days ago (yesterday's Blog) in posts seen by thousands of people, I asked on Instagram and Facebook what other companies make Luxury Garments with Hardcore Performance. So far, only one name has come up. The folks at Hardenco replied "We're working on it". They mostly work with cotton.
2022-04-23 ... Who Else?
I'm still not aware of another company offering Hardcore Luxury® garments, particularly woolens. Seems like there must be some, but I don't know who they are. And actually, this goes back to why I started WeatherWool in the first place. Last night I posted on Instagram and Facebook asking for names of companies offering luxury garments with hardcore performance. The folks at Hardenco replied "We're working on it". I was not familiar with their products, and took a look. They seem very different from us, and don't offer any woolens. But, like us, emphasize craftsmanship and quality. Some of the old-fashioned European makers of woolens offer garments that handle weather, and they are often pictured in a nice shirt and tie. But they always use tweed, from what I see. And tweed incorporates short, thick woolen fibers that are not comfortable on the skin. So I don't see that as luxury, regardless of how great the tailoring is.
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised by this situation, but it still amazes me. Why wouldn't a big-name fashion designer offering $3000 woolen jackets make something that can perform? If the big-name woolen companies offered luxury (and enhanced their performance), they have to raise their prices. But again, why not? When we started WeatherWool it was not at all clear that a soft, tough and highly weather-resistant woolen fabric could be made. We did it. Lots of others could have. Or at least I think they could have.
2022-04-22 ... Canvas Rebel Interview
The nice folks at Canvas Rebel e-Magazine published a very short written interview with me. And some photos showing both the Hardcore and Luxury aspects of WeatherWool. THANK YOU, Canvas Rebel!
2022-04-21 ... Power Out Again
Public Service predicts outage will last until late evening. We can't do much without power. I am writing this from my phone. Looks like shipping will not be possible today.
2022-04-20 ... Suggestions!
We love getting suggestions and ideas from our customers. We are grateful for all input! And we have a place in our filing system where we save every idea and suggestion. Ideas/suggs are filed/saved by garment, accessory (cord locks, zippers), Fabric, fiber, dyeing, customer service ... whatever the idea is, we probably already have a place where it belongs.
Whenever we prepare to make something, we evaluate and re-evaluate all the ideas we have stored away. We always implement any idea we think will improve our products or service, so long as it does not violate our 100% USA policy.
We've been doing this for 13 years, and we have received a great many suggestions. And so at this point, almost all the ideas people send in have already been considered. One giant suggestion we did implement was Slot Buttons, which we had never heard of until Shannon tipped us. Slots are the only buttons we have used since then.
Most ideas are good. BUT most ideas also have secondary effects, and so usually it's a question of whether the pluses outweigh the minuses. For example, people frequently suggest making our Fabric more wind-resistant, like the traditional Loden. And maybe someday we will make an additional Fabric that is tighter. But the "minus" of wind resistance is breathability. The more wind resistance, the less breathability. We want our Fabric to be highly breathable, because we prize versatility. Our MidWeight Fabric actually came from suggestions that we make something lighter and less wind-resistant than our original Fabric, which we started calling "FullWeight" once we had developed our MidWeight. And so we have never tried to make our Fabrics tighter than the original spec.
We also get suggestions about ways to make our garments warmer. And again, we appreciate the suggestions. But we don't necessarily want to make any particular garment warmer because that would almost surely mean the range of comfort for the garment would be shifted toward the colder end. If the suggestion expanded the range of comfort, THAT would be a great sugg. But we don't want to gain 5 or 10 or 15 degrees of comfort at the low end if we lose the comfort at the higher end of the temperature range. Instead, we would come up with another garment.
I doubt we have ever found a change that is both better and cheaper. It seems in this biz, better is always more expensive. That, and our 100% USA requirement means that costs mount. For a long time I've been saying that the only areas I can think of where costs are dropping and quality is increasing are electronics, computing, telecommunications. And sometimes I would add that, over the decades, the relative cost of chicken has dropped substantially. I once mentioned chickens to a caller who, unbeknownst to me, was in the chicken business. WOW!! I got an earful from him. He agreed you can get some remarkably inexpensive chicken, but he was adamant that these mass-produced birds are trash compared to a roaster than has been raised properly. So I don't talk about cheap chicken anymore. And I didn't have any suggestions for the chicken pro.
2022-04-19 ... Viking Wool and Sheep
I heard recently that the Vikings, whose historical impact is inseparable from their sailing ships, made some, and maybe most of their sails from wool. The Vikings were dominant for a few centuries, and well-traveled. So techniques and materials must have varied. Sheep do well in the difficult climate of the North Atlantic Coast, and have provided meat and woolen clothing in that area for thousands of years. But the use of wool in sail making is less understood, and something of a surprise. I would have guessed that the weight of woolen sails, up high on a mast, would not have been helpful. But the other choice of material, flax, rots. Also, people will use what is available, and wool was more available than flax. No Wool, No Vikings, written in 2016, is an aptly-titled article about the importance of wool to the Vikings, and about some Norwegians keeping alive the old ways of producing wool and woolen goods.
2022-04-18 ... NZWTA
Our greasy (raw) wool purchases will again rely upon the services of the New Zealand Testing Wool Testing Authority. Thanks to our friends in NZ!! We purchase greasy based on careful evaluation of extensive lab testing. For many years, the USA only had one lab doing the tests. This lab closed a couple of years ago when the proprietor, Angus McColl, finally retired at age 86 after 56 years in business. Angus had warned for years that he was planning to retire, but we (the American wool industry) still were not prepared. The fact that American Ranchers relied for many years on, basically, one individual for their testing is something of a shock. And now we must send samples to New Zealand for testing. Luckily, NZWTA has a great reputation. I'm very grateful they are there to help us. And for sure nothing against our colleagues on the other side of Earth! But the USA ought to be able to handle this work internally, and the fact that we cannot is indicative. We are growing some great fiber here, and potential for growth in the American market -- for clothing alone -- is huge. Americans spend about $400,000,000,000 (four hundred billion) dollars annually on clothing, and wool is only 2-3% of that. The global clothing market is over $2 trillion.
Doing testing in New Zealand goes against the grain of our 100% American philosophy, but, this is testing of samples, not production. The only thing that comes back from NZ is an email with the results of the tests.
2022-04-17 ... Happy Easter and Passover
2022-04-16 ... International Trademark and Intellectual Property Page
The WeatherWool® trademark has just been granted a big step forward toward international registration. We have received the Certificate of Registration from the International Bureau of the World Intellectual Property Organization for this international trademark registration. This trademark has an effective registration date of December 02, 2021. David Orms, attorney at Polson Intellectual Property Law, explained:
The Trademark Offices in the countries we designated in our application - Australia; EUIPO [European Intellectual Property Office]; Japan; United Kingdom - will now process the application as if we had filed it directly with their office. It could take up to eighteen months for these offices to process the application. If there is no refusal, then you will automatically receive the trademark rights.
As a result of this development, I have put up a page on our Intellectual Property. These two little stories appear at the end of the IP page:
When "Average Joe" starts a business, the usual situation is that more money goes out the door than comes in. So, from even before WeatherWool, I have interacted with USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) directly in an effort to cut costs. Their lawyers have been very helpful and friendly, and they tend to be animals working 60 and even 80 hours a week. I've spoken with two or three of them on Saturday nights. One night I was talking with a trademark lawyer, and he was really going out of his way to deal with me. But finally he said something like: "You really should retain an Intellectual Property Attorney. I promise you, it will be the best money you ever spent." So I took his advice.
But before I had routinely brought all my IP issues to Polson, I had registered WeatherWool on my own. The trademarks don't last indefinitely, tho, and need to be regularly renewed. At one point, the PTO sent me some kind of renewal notice, and I did not handle it properly and in a timely manner. So I was horrified to receive a notice from the PTO telling me that registration of the WeatherWool trademark was ABANDONED. At that point I asked Polson to re-register WeatherWool and to handle all my IP. The advice from the USPTO lawyer was spot-on!
2022-04-14 ... Outdoor Pro Cleans his Anorak
We posted on April 4th about how the wool fares when left out in the weather for a year or two. One of our customers, Brad, is an outdoor pro who wears his Anorak all over the world doing all kinds of stuff. He definitely is not worried about how he takes care of the wool. Brad thought I'd be amused to see how he cares for his Rak:
This is how I "wash" my anorak. I leave it hanging in a tree over night after I beat the dust out of it with a stick. Sometime the wind and snow blow it around and off the tree. It's like a cold dry spin cycle, hahaha! - I didn't really mean to leave it out [in the snow] but we had some freak squalls blowing around recently.
2022-04-13 ... New Jersey
This isn't wool-related, but some people will be amused. ... Yet another example of New Jersey's hostility toward taxpayers and business owners. WeatherWool is a partnership, and must file partnership tax returns with Jersey, which assesses a filing fee (!!) based on the number of partners. The pols here are not satisfied that partnerships have tax liability (congrats if you live in one of the 9 states that generally don't have income tax!), but a partnership is also assessed a $275 fee per partner, per year, for filing the required forms. WeatherWool has 7 partners (the five of us in my immediate family, plus two friends with tiny ownership), so the annual filing fee is $1575. Last year, I got signals confused with my accountant, and both of us paid the partnership filing fee. We notified the state, and got no response until now. New Jersey refunded the extra filing fee, but CHARGED INTEREST. It was only a few bucks, but they actually charged interest on an overpayment. I would love to hear the logic behind that law. I'm born and raised here in North Jersey, and Debby in NYC and Long Island, which is basically the same thing. It really seems like they are pushing people out of here.
2022-04-12 ... Nice Field Test
Dramatic photo from Michael Riddle, United States Marine Corps Veteran, who purchased through the WarriorWool Program when he was on Active Duty:
Michael testing our wool: “No gloves. No layers. Just a cotton shirt and the FullWeight Duff XL Anorak with your Watch Cap and Neck Gaiter, in a Utah squall at 5-10 degrees F [about -14C] with 35-40 mph [about 60 kph] gusts of wind and heavy snow. Stayed toasty and bone dry.”
Michael is a big guy, and has experienced severe conditions in the Military. Most people would not be comfortable in the weather and clothing he describes. And he clearly was not far from shelter. Michael's test illustrates a major goal of ours: We hope people will wear WeatherWool even in mild conditions because they like it, and if circumstances somehow get nasty, the wool can make a huge difference.
2022-04-11 ... CPOs, Hooded Jackets, FullWeight Fabric
The CPOs are well under way at Better Team USA, which is managing the process of turning our MidWeight Fabrics (both Solid Drab Color and Lynx Pattern) into CPO Shirts. We expect to ship these garments around the end of this month.
Factory8 is completing the 3rd prototype of our Hooded Jacket. We are hoping to ship these in late June. This run of Hooded Jackets will be made in MidWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric, which is the only Fabric we have available to work with now.
Giuseppe, production manager at American Woolen, tells me he expects to receive our dyed fiber from Tintoria Piana, the dye house in Georgia, next week. Then .. spinning and weaving and finishing and tailoring! We will be making all four of our FullWeight Fabrics (Solid Colors Black, Drab, and Duff, plus Lynx Pattern).
2022-04-10 ... Collaboration
The great majority of companies that make garments don't also make fabric. We aren't unique in this regard, but we don't have a lot of company, either. For us, the Fabric is what it's all about, and years ago, the guys at American Trench, who made a Peacoat with our Fabric, told us they think of WeatherWool as a Fabric manufacturer who also makes garments. It is an apt description. There have been many people who bought a yard or two, and even a few companies that have bought larger quantities of Fabric. And we love to see what people do with our Fabric! So I should have put up the Collaboration page a long time ago. But ... I didn't do so until a few days ago. We hope to see a lot more people working with our Fabric, and THANKS to everyone who has taken a shot!
2022-04-09 ... Long-Overdue Welcome to Leo Grizzaffi
Leo has been a great friend to WeatherWool since about 2014. We met Leo way back when we were offering our earliest garments at "The Shows". Leo took an interest in what we were doing, and he's been helping us in various ways ever since. Because of his long career and significant involvement with much larger companies, I somehow automatically assumed he wouldn't want to be formally (to the extent we are "formal") involved with us. I should have known better. WELCOME, ADVISOR LEO, and THANKS for your thoughts and for introducing WeatherWool into some very interesting places!
2022-04-08 ... Advisor Daniel Vitalis and WildFed TV Show
My love for Wild Foods is what led me, eventually and indirectly, to start WeatherWool, and so I love that with WildFed, Daniel is "reconnecting people with wildness through food". And I also love having a Wild Foods Professional as an Advisor!
In this episode, airing Monday night, Daniel and a friend turn some Maine beaver into a great dinner!
Here, Daniel picks some wild Swamp Rose Hips that will lend some flavor -- and a lot of Vitamin C -- to the beaver dinner.
2022-04-07 ... Infrared
It's been a few years since we've seen infrared images of our garments. This morning, a customer in South Korea sent this IR photo of an All-Around Jacket. South Korea has a strict virus protocol/quarantine in effect and IR cameras are mandatory at the entrance of every building.
The image clearly maps the heat loss from the AAJ and the layers of wool from which the AAJ is constructed. Color tends toward orange with one layer of Fabric, and pink with three layers:
- The arms have a single layer of our FullWeight Fabric. Heat loss is reduced where the sleeves are folded/wrinkled
- Parts of the midsection of the AAJ also have just one layer of Fabric
- The top of the chest mostly has two layers because of the Double Yoke (cape)
- But the inside chest pockets are under the Double Yoke, making a 3rd layer in those places
- The Storm Flap forms a second and third layer of Fabric over the wool surrounding the Center Front Zipper
- The area of the Cargo Pockets mostly has four layers. We didn't really want this much Fabric, but we very much wanted Cargo Pockets, Handwarmer Pockets and Inner Pockets, and all this wool creates the brightest pink in the photo
Best wishes to our customers and everyone in South Korea (and elsewhere!) still fighting the virus. And MANY THANKS to our customer in South Korea for a really cool (hot!) photo!!
2022-04-06 ... Some humor from 2019
This Instagram post from @bushcrap101 is actually from 2019, but I just stumbled across it again. We felt they wouldn't have lampooned us unless we were pretty well known in the Bushcraft Community ... sort of a validation.
We got a good laugh over being lampooned by @bushcrap101 on Instagram
@bushcrap101 is a private account on Instagram, so you'll need their permission to see posts. And on March 28 of 2022, we did post Drew Gray's "ice-covered lake" test!
2022-04-05 ... Terrible ... and Terrific
A little bit ago a customer notified me that he had two Anoraks that had a problem with the Hood separated from the back of the Anorak. This is the only known problem with the Anorak, and we've been addressing it steadily while at the same time trying hard not to add more bulk to the hood-shoulders seams than necessary. The fail-rate is about 3%. And of course we will always, replace, reimburse, repair ... whatever the customer would like. But this was the first time I'd ever heard of a customer having TWO Anoraks that failed. I sent back an email as soon as I'd read the customer's note. And I phoned him a little later. Luckily for me, the customer was quite understanding and not upset at all. Still TERRIBLE, tho, that one customer had experienced two failures! This customer and his wife actually have three Anoraks. The TERRIFIC part is that the original email also said he wanted a fourth Anorak, which will be delivered tomorrow.
2022-04-04 ... Weathered Wool
In late 2020, or maybe even 2019, just out of curiosity I put a little pile of wool scraps under the trees in the backyard. I wanted to see what would happen over time. I thought animals would probably carry them off for nesting material. And that may have happened a little, but not much. The scraps were definitely moved around, but only a few feet (a meter) at most, and I am guessing that was from the wind. The surprising thing to me is that these scraps do not seem to have been affected at all by full exposure to the elements for at least 16 months, and two winters. I expected the colors to fade (not a lot of sun under the trees, tho, even in winter) and the Fabric to seem brittle or weak or rough. But it is indistinguishable from the tailor-remnants we use for Sample Packs. I am really surprised and admit this makes me happy!
This WeatherWool Fabric seems unaffected after at least 16 months outdoors, on the ground, fully exposed to the weather in Northern New Jersey.
I have just begun another experiment. I've read that when buried, wool will completely decompose within a few months ... we'll see!
2022-04-03 ... Wool and Fire
In winter, we burn close to two cords of wood a month. We keep the house pretty cool, at least by typical American standards, at about 57F/14C. But I crank up the fireplace in the office, where I spend a lot of time, so the temp is about 75F/24C and sometimes even 82F/28C. If the temp is below about 70F/21C my fingers slow down and I can't type well. How do musicians manage to play outdoors in cold weather? This time of year, with outdoor temps roughly the same as the usual setting on the thermostat, it's tempting for me to kill the central heat entirely, and just rely on the fireplace.
We burn wood in a large, open fireplace. It's nowhere near as efficient as a stove. BUT the fireplace makes a real fire part of the room ... accessible to us. We feed it a lot. And we can hear it, fiddle with it, and occasionally must deal with an ember that pops out.
People who come into the office like to sit in low chairs placed close to the fireplace, soaking up the warmth. But it's more than heat. People love and are enchanted by a fire. Even in hot summer. All over the world, and for thousands of years. If you want to provide a focal point for a gathering, start a fire.
And what I'm getting around to is ... watching people creep right up to my fires really drives home that wool and fire are very compatible. Recently, a reviewer posted video of himself standing with his feet nearly in a campfire, and his Anorak opened and spread out directly over the fire. He said the Anorak was capturing the rising heat and casting it onto his body. The way wool handles fire is a gigantic advantage sometimes. And the flip side ... the way some materials burn or melt very easily, can lead to horrors.
I need to do a video comparing the fire-behavior of wool, cotton, and some typical synthetics. But here are three professionally-made videos on the same subject:
- About three years ago I posted a link to an IMPRESSIVE video on YouTube showing how amazingly fast a single match can create a disaster if dropped on a synthetic couch ... and showing how a match (or even a blazing paper) dropped onto a woolen couch is a non-event. Many thanks to the government of New Zealand (in maybe the 1960s?) for this video.
- Thanks to the government of Great Britain for a similar video made in 2014, this one focused on bedding.
- A year or two earlier, the Brits produced another video along the same lines, but with more drama.
2022-04-02 ... WeatherWool On the Water
I've mentioned a couple of times lately that wool doesn't get out on the water as much as I think it should. Generations ago, sailors relied on wool to an amazing degree. Wool (and astounding fortitude and resourcefulness) enabled Shackleton and his team to survive near-impossible trials on their famous Antarctic expedition. One of the people who wears WeatherWool regularly on the water is Tug Captain Joel Milton, who also does a lot of photography. Joel works up and down America's East Coast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Captains can't sleep the way most people do, so Joel has sent us some great photos taken at unusual hours. This morning, Joel sent Alex and I some commentary, and this beautiful shot:
Joel captured this image of "Gotham's Sixth Borough" (local mariner’s slang for New York Harbor) last night. Photo copyright © Joel Milton. Used with permission and THANKS!!Joel describes his work as "a hands-on conventional tug captain, constantly going from inside to outside and back for varying periods of time in all weather in variable climate zones (to observe, inspect, supervise, teach, etc. on both the tug and barge). The Anorak is the single most versatile, and therefore valuable, 3-season (fall-winter-spring) clothing item I have. On duty and off." He added "At some point soon I'll write up a proper, detailed gear review for the anorak." But this is pretty great just as it is! I think Joel actually has three of our Raks. THANK YOU for the kind words, Joel! And for choosing WeatherWool!
2022-04-01 ... No Joke!
Today may be April Fool's Day but what I am hearing from our Partners is extremely encouraging and no joke! The demand for MADE IN USA is booming. People are looking to make fabric and sew garments in America. Since our founding in 2009, WeatherWool has always been 100% USA in materials and labor.
2022-03-31 ... Kosher?
Not long ago we were contacted by a guy who wanted to know if our products are Kosher. This was a surprise question for sure, but we learned wool is Kosher unless it is mixed with linen. Another customer was focused on the frequency of wool. He said wool fiber vibrates at a frequency that is compatible with people. When we mentioned to him about the wool-linen Biblical prohibition, he said that made sense because their frequencies would cancel each other out. He also believes the frequency of synthetic clothing is not at all in harmony with the human body. I guess vibration frequencies are something to look into ...
2022-03-30 ... Just In Case Ordering
I was speaking with Rancher and Advisor Bob Padula a few days ago. Although Bob spends a great deal of time with his flock, he also works full-time-plus for a large company that builds modular homes. Part of Bob's job includes making sure components are on-hand when needed. Bob says supply chains now are so disrupted that he is ordering more than he needs, and months in advance. He said everyone is switching from Just-In-Time inventory to Just-In-Case ordering. And that is certainly what we have been doing. Some of our components normally have long lead times, so we are used to ordering well in advance. But now we have on-hand and on-order more than ever before. It takes a few months, at best, for us to make our Fabric. And once we have the Fabric, we may need to wait weeks before the tailors are ready for us. It would drive me right up the wall if, after all that, our production was held up because we didn't have buttons or thread. So ... we have a LOT of buttons and thread on hand. In fact, a couple of months ago, we bought all the Slot Buttons that US Button had available.
2022-03-29 ... Replace Shock Cords? (And More Video)
We use synthetic elastic shock cords to adjust the our hoods and waist cinches. Yesterday we were at Fleck Knitwear, working with Peter and Matt Fleck on custom knitted cuffs for our Hooded Jacket. Debby spent many days with her Dad in his factory, and she always loves to visit the people who make things for us and see how they do what they do. And she is always trying to figure out new things for them to do for WeatherWool. So when she saw some knitted "strings" hanging on Fleck's wall, she asked about them.
Peter explained these "strings" are small cylindrical knits, very much like shoestrings. Debby asked if the strings could be woven with our yarn, and if they might be used to replace the synthetic-elastic shock cords we've been using for years. So Matt and Peter immediately put some of our yarn on the machine ...
After we handled some of the string-knit, Peter and Matt showed us a little more of how the string-machine operates and what it can do:
Matt and Peter quickly made enough of the string-knit in our own yarn for us to do a little testing:
This is a very intriguing development. The string-knits have enough elasticity and strength to replace the shock cords. The string-knits are less bulky, and would lie flat against the garment instead of sticking out conspicuously (to me, anyway) like the shock cords. We will need to experiment and test for a while. But at this early stage it certainly looks really good. This was totally unexpected ... we were supposed to be working on cuffs. Debby's curiosity and imagination just might lead to a really nice enhancement!
2022-03-28 ... OK, Another Video!
Drew Gray, an Interior and Architectural Photographer from Minnesota, purchased an Anorak in mid-February. Yesterday he surprised us with a very thorough video review, which he has kindly given us permission to use. Drew is a family man, a gentleman and a real beast. In some of this footage, he pushes the MidWeight well beyond my design parameters. So this video comes with a "don't try this on your own" warning.
Huge Thanks to Drew for this video!!
Drew brought up a couple of points in the vid that I can address here. He mentioned the cuff adjustments don't hit the sweet spot for him. It is possible to flip the strip in the other direction for additional cuff sizes. Drew also mentioned that maybe the side zips could go all the way up the side ... a few inches longer than they are. We have considered this, and we may even do it. Our concern is that if a zipper fails, the side of the Rak may be left wide open. And the longer the zipper, the worse the failure. We have hears of only a handful of few zipper failures (which kind of amazes me), but that is our concern. If we had zips running the entire length of the sides, we'd probably add Slot Button backup, which could be uncomfortable when people lie on their sides.
We've used Drew's video in a few places ...
- the Performance Videos page on this website
- the Civilian Anorak Reviews page on this website
- Our YouTube Channel
- Our Facebook Page
- Our Rumble Channel
- We'll probably also use a little of it on Instagram and Facebook
So, again, BIG TIME THANKS to Drew for taking a shot with us (didn't mean that pun!) and for making and offering to us a great vid that must have taken a lot of time and effort, even for a pro!!
2022-03-27 ... Not Terrible!?
The experts all believe people are demanding more and more video. And video does convey information in ways the printed word cannot. So we will be working to put more and more video on the website.
Because we are on television, it seems like we should have a little video from those TV shows. So here is a (not terrible?!!) video I took off the TV screen with my phone:
The guy on screen is Alex Javor. We have a still shot of Alex among the carousel of photos on this website's Landing Page. Alex wrote me that his All-Around Jacket is the best garment he's ever had, and he gave me some review material that's posted on this website. The video is from an episode of National Geographic Television's Life Below Zero, Next Generation that is airing this week. [The original link to Nat Geo's site has been taken down.]
We will appear on other TV Shows before long, and I'll post about it when they begin to air.
We have never paid anyone to wear WeatherWool. Although clothing makers will sometimes pay big money for "influencers" to wear their products, we are worn only by people who choose us. Alex did get his WeatherWool free of charge. But he could have gotten any brand he wanted free of charge.
2022-03-26 ... Confusing Terminology!
It's really important to know how much Fabric is needed to make any given garment in each size. And of course everyone tries to reduce waste as much as possible. So it's a surprise to me that when the tailors tell me they have reduced the yield, it's good news. The tailoring is computer-aided now, and their systems know the shapes and dimensions of all the pieces of any given garment, in all the sizes. The software arranges all these pieces to minimize waste. In our case the software also understands that our Fabric has an "up and down" because our nap runs downward to help water flow off our garments. Great stuff and really important. But what's odd is that decreasing waste also decreases (in tailor jargon) yield. If we go from 2.6 yards to 2.5 yards to make a given garment, the tailors tell me the yield has gone down. I'm not aware of any other field where decreasing the yield is good news.
Another confusing bit of terminology is the way people usually quote the weight of woolen fabric. Unless the weight of something is specified along with the quantity, it doesn't mean anything. Woolen mills will normally refer to "22-ounce" or "26-ounce" fabric. But they are referring to "running yards", which are always 1 yard long but unspecified width. This terminology makes sense within a specific mill, where everyone knew the equipment. But in general practice, 22-ounce wool can actually be heavier than 26-ounce wool, if the 22-ounce wool is on a narrower bolt. Unless the fabric weight is stated as gsm (grams per square meter) or opsy (ounces per square yard), comparison is misleading. But also, weight is NOT an indicator of the performance of woolen fabric. Our goal is to reduce weight while increasing performance by using superior fiber, spinning, weaving and finishing.
2021-03-25 ... Like a BIG Company
A customer wrote wondered why we hadn't shipped his Anorak, given that I'd told him it would be shipped right away. Turns out we had two customer with the same name and the same order! That seems like the kind of problem that would only happen with a BIG company.
We had a similar incident years ago. I asked Alex to send something to Mike Cramer but Alex sent it to Mike Kramer. We didn't figure that one out until Cramer followed up months later. And it took some real head-scratching. I guess you could say we had a Kramer vs Cramer story of our own. (Kramer vs Kramer was a pretty big movie in 1980 or so.)
In about 1983 I was going over some software designs at Bell Labs. The guy who was running the project was going to great lengths to make sure the software could handle situations that I thought were just crazy-unlikely. He told me his software needed to handle anything short of fire or flood. Big companies safeguard against even very unlikely events. In our case, I checked off both orders from the like-named customers without comparing the email addresses and phone numbers. My mistake!
2021-03-24 ... Spamming Getting Worse
For a while it seemed like the spammers, at least the telephone spammers, were easing up. But it's worse than ever now, with more kinds of spam than ever ...
- Phone Call Spam: I try to always answer phone calls, but I do have a spam warning set, so I can decline calls flagged as spam. I get a couple of these per hour during the day. At least they don't call all through the night
- Voice-Mail Spam: Spammers use SlyDial (ShyDial), an app that lets them bypass the actual phone call and go directly to voice-mail. My voice-mail got so bad with spammers I haven't listened to a message in years. The rare caller that gets my recorded message is asked to phone again later or send a text (973-943-3110)
- Text-Message Spam: This is a more-recent trend among the spammers. Probably a dozen or so of these daily
- Email Spam: Dozens of these every day. Haven't been hearing much from the "Nigerian Ambassadors". The main spammers now are people claiming various kinds of expertise ... they can boost our search rankings, make our website much more attractive, triple our "conversion rate" (the rate at which website visitors place orders) ... We get a lot of people telling us they are wizards at advertising and pay-per-click strategies (we don't advertise at all). Almost all these spammers are writing from gmail, yahoo and outlook accounts. Nothing shouts "credibility" like someone claiming technical expertise and using a free email account
- Contact Form Spam: Our Contact Form supports an option that requires people to prove they are human by clicking a NOT-A-ROBOT button or maybe identifying all the photos that show a car. But I disabled that test for the convenience of our customers. So now we get 10 or 20 spam contact forms per day.
All this spamming must be achieving something positive for the spammers, because they surely seem committed to the strategy.
We really really REALLY don't ever want to be seen as spammers, so we send only a few emails a year. Less than one blast-mail per month.
A couple of days ago, I sent text messages to the many people who had Anoraks on backorder. (Most backorders are frivolous. I don't know why they bother.) I had already emailed this group of people, and didn't want to delete their orders without being sure they knew the garment they were supposedly waiting for is available. One of the recipients of my text replied STOP. I wonder if he also flagged me as a spammer.
2021-03-22 ... Fishing (Again) ... and Big Camo
Advisor Bill McConnell was wearing our CPO Shirt in Lynx Pattern when he recently caught a beautiful rainbow trout. Bill posted this photo to his Instagram account the day after I wrote here that I'd like to see more people fishing in wool.
Bill has been an outdoors professional for decades, working with the Military, television and feature-film production, and running his own Primitive Skills school. He is a great flintknapper and on my desk I keep an arrowhead he made for me. Bill is under contract with a large camo-clothing company, but they said it's OK if he appears in WeatherWool because we do not make camo. One of the other large camo companies said the same thing to another of our contacts. This might mean that Lynx Pattern is officially "camo-camo" ... But it might also mean that the big players don't want to step on us. Either way, we appreciate it because they could certainly have prohibited their representatives from appearing in WeatherWool.
2021-03-21 ... Shipping!
Since we picked up the MidWeight Lynx Pattern Anoraks at Factory8 2 days ago, we've been really busy shipping. Yesterday, I sat down at my desk early, and it was nice to see the Forsythia bushes across the street seemed to be showing just a little hint of yellow. Here in North Jersey, Forsythias are the first spectacular flower show of spring. But I was kind of shocked to actually watch the yellow become more pronounced through the day. First time I ever watched a plant grow.
Zabz (Alex's daughter) is a hard worker and loves to help however she can. When the UPS truck backs into the driveway, there are lots of packages going out. As soon as Zabz saw Alex and I ferrying packages to the porch, she pitched in without being asked. Zabz can carry two Anorak-boxes at once!
2022-03-20 again ... WarriorWool Purchase Limit Removed
It's a giant kick to me that some Military people have wanted to buy for themselves more than one WarriorWool Anorak. These are the same Anoraks offered to the entire world, but WarriorWool is priced at break-even for those purchasing with personal funds Anoraks to be worn for Active Duty in service of the USA and our Allies. Now that we have our production rolling again, I'm really happy to be able to remove the one-per-person limit. Anyone can donate as many Anoraks as they'd like -- there's never been a limit on that -- and there is a separate page that shows WarriorWool Donations. I've also noted on that page some instances where people purchased for themselves. It's on my mind now because we filled a bunch of such backorders today.
2022-03-20 ... Salmon
Wool doesn't get out on the water as much as I think it should. My guess is this is another situation where most people don't know how well serious wool performs. So I do love it when we hear from anglers. These (delicious!!) California Salmon were taken only an hour North of the Golden Gate Bridge.
2022-03-19 ... Garment District Drop-off and Pickup!
First thing this morning, I made a run to Factory8 in Manhattan's Garment District to drop off Fabric and notions (zippers, cord, cord locks, etc.) to make Hooded Jackets and to pick up MidWeight Lynx Pattern Anoraks. And now we are shipping the Raks!
2022-03-18 ..."Rustique, Increvable" (Indestructible Rustic)
This is from an Instagram "story" posted by @BenoitWo ...
We have never described ourselves as RUSTIC or INDESTRUCTIBLE, but we are not complaining and we definitely THANK Benoit Wojtenka!
2022-03-17 ... Pennsylvania State Troopers ... St Patrick's Day
We love that our wool is appreciated by a Pennsylvania State Trooper! And actually we have four Advisors who are Law Enforcement Officers.
Today we were surprised and honored to receive Patches and a Challenge Coin from a Pennsylvania State Trooper!
We can really use the LE connection, too, because Zabz is convinced leprechauns are snooping around WeatherWool HQ. She is finding tracks all over the house and really wants to figure out exactly what is going on!
Happy St. Patrick's Day to all!!
2022-03-16 ... MidWeight Lynx Pattern Anoraks to ship March 19th
Factory8 is doing final Quality Control checks on MidWeight Lynx Pattern Anoraks. I will pick them up in New York City's Garment District on Saturday the 19th and we will begin shipping Saturday afternoon, as soon as we complete our own QC. If we do not already have your SHIP ASAP order, please place a "live order" now. Website will accept payment. Thank You!
Rows and rows of Anoraks! Photos courtesy Factory8
2022-03-15 ... More about Fleece
This post continues a topic started on the Blog of the 12th.
We operate out of New Jersey, but Americans raise sheep in all 50 States. We would be happy to work with local ranchers, but ranchers in the Eastern States tend to have smaller flocks and focus on the fiber-arts market, selling their "clips" in small quantities to many individual buyers. We need relatively large quantities of wool having very specific qualities, which requires careful sampling of the wool followed by detailed lab testing. Ranchers with smaller flocks are not as geared toward this approach as are the Western States ranchers where some very large flocks are located. But we'll see what we can turn up.
Also, the economic and political situation in the world now is a huge concern, and really must be factored into any decisions we make. It seems to me that our customers have suddenly become much more cautious.
On the lighter side, our sugar-season (maple syrup season) in North Jersey ended a few days ago ... meaning the sap stopped running. A little early, but with no freezing nights in the 10-day forecast I decided to pull our taps. We have only 9 taps on our little suburban "sugar bush", so it's not a big chore. But this was the first time I pulled the taps at 3:30AM. I was wide awake and the full moon gave me plenty of light. Something special! We usually get between 1 and 1.5 gallons (around 5 liters) and that's plenty. For us, sugaring is mostly a way to watch Winter turn to Spring, and I love that.
2022-03-14 ... More info from Padula
Following on the posts from the last two days ... Rancher Padula told me this pictured fleece is from one of his new rams. Bob never stops working to improve his flock's genetics, and we are lucky WeatherWool's future needs are among his priorities. The fleece from this ram weighed over 20 pounds (over 9 kg), and Bob planning/hoping to use this ram for the fineness of his fleece ... and that he will be the start of a line that WeatherWool can use for manufacture of base layers.
Base layers have long been on my mind because the base layer is so important and because the base layer influences the way people perceive our outerwear.
For us, there are two problems with making base layers. First, base layers need to be somewhat elastic, which means they are knitted. We don't do much in the way of knits, and base layers would be very different from the knitting we do. But also, we accept returns for any reason, even months after receipt. I don't know how we could make this return policy work with base layers, and I don't want to have a different return policy based on the product.
2022-03-13 ... REAL FLEECE COMES FROM SHEEP!!!
The people selling synthetic petrochemical fabrics and clothing have done so much advertising and pushed so deep into media that some people think that the petrochemical polymer fluff the manufacturers call 'fleece' really is FLEECE! The gorgeous, pasture-grown, natural product pictured below is REAL FLEECE, from yesterday's shearing at PM Ranch in Minnesota (see previous Blog).
REAL FLEECE is grown by SHEEP!
(and NOT manufactured in a chemical plant!)
2022-03-12 ... Shearing Begins at PM Ranch
Advisor Bob Padula tells me he is shearing at his family's PM Ranch in Minnesota! We will probably be buying PM's entire clip. Even though we need to await the results of actual lab tests, the lab mostly confirms what the Ranchers usually predict with great accuracy from knowledge of their flock, the conditions of the previous year and the way the fleece feels in their hands.
2022-03-11 ... NGLBZNG ... Crazy Cold MidWeight Anorak
We really like it when people tell us they saw WeatherWool somewhere. Today we got a note from a customer telling us he saw our All-Around Jacket on National Geographic's Life Below Zero Next Generation last night. We've been on the show for a couple of winters now, but I had lost track of the airings because the virus caused the footage to be shown out of sequence. So we'll need to watch what Alex Javor has been up to! Alex is currently shown on one of this website's Landing Pages, and he gave me an extremely strong review to publish, which I have linked above. Alex deals with some frightful conditions. It is a little bit funny though because now he is a TV personality with a production crew, so his situation isn't as dangerous as when he was doing the same things in the same extremely cold winter, but completely alone, living far from other people.
Speaking of brutal weather, I got another note today from a customer in Minnesota. He said he's been testing his new MidWeight Anorak and has been out for hours in -15F/-26C (including windchill). I've gotten reports from this gent before, and he usually wears two base layers, but three wool base layers in this case. He said when the wind kicked up to 20mph/32kph he felt a chill. But the Anorak, particularly the MidWeight Anorak, was designed for much more moderate temps with one or maybe two light base layers. So it's nice to hear from people who push it. He also has a FullWeight 'Rak, but wanted to see what the MidWeight could do. I'm going to add this info to the FullWeight-MidWeight page, but I'm not so sure it's a good idea because few people are as cold-tolerant as today's correspondent.
2022-03-10 ... Semi-Open House
This Sunday will be the last Open House of the season. For this Open House we are asking anyone who wants to come to please let us know in advance. Usually, we don't request any advance notice on Open House days. And you are still welcome to make an appointment to visit almost any time/day that is convenient for you. The monthly Open House Days will resume Sunday, August 28th.
2022-03-09 ... Outage Damage
Although our power was restored after about 12 hours, some of our electronics were damaged and we're a little behind processing orders and responding to emails. We need to replace some hardware. We should be back to normal within a few days. Thanks/Sorry -- Ralph
2022-03-08 ... Power Out
We lost electric power about 10:00 p.m. Monday night and Public Service tells us we'll be without power until about 7:00 p.m. tonight. So we may not be shipping today. Thank you.
HAHA ... Power was restored about 10AM ... the moment I ran a line from my neighbor's house! An occasional loss of electric power really gives some perspective on how important it is!!
2022-03-07 ... Hooded Jacket Sample Approved
Today we pretty-well approved the Sample of the new Hooded Jacket. Only minimal changes from previously. We made the Hood bigger, with adjustments similar to the Anorak. We are adding longer cuffs, with a thumb-hole ("Monkey-Paw" in US Army lingo). And the inside pockets will be made from our own Fabric, rather than the mil-spec wool-poly blend we had used previously. We use the blended fabric solely to reduce bulk, but I decided in this case -- MidWeight Hooded Jacket -- we can use nothing but our Fabric. I'm not sure we'll be able to do that later this year when we make FullWeight Hooded Jackets. The present run of Hooded Jackets will be MidWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric only, because that's the only Fabric we have on hand now. There is a lot of Fabric in the works, tho!
Also yesterday, another customer returned his MidWeight Anorak because he felt his All-Around Jacket was just as comfortable as the MidWeight Rak in warm weather.
We strive for versatility in our Fabrics and garments, and we try to make every garment significantly different from the others, avoiding "overlap". And so these two returns, expressing somewhat opposite viewpoints, surprised me ... but only a little, because we've heard the same things previously.
2022-03-05 ... Samples!
Been out of the office for a couple of days during which our tailors delivered Samples of the Hooded Jacket and CPO Shirt. This brings us a bunch closer to putting these items into production! We have only MidWeight Fabric on hand now, but it's a start ... We'll make these pieces in FullWeight also, but the next run of FullWeight Fabric is still three months or so away.
2022-03-02 (Again) ... Mark In the Wild Podcast
Mark Greene bought some wool from us in 2018, and in 2022 he began his Mark In the Wild Podcasts. WeatherWool is the subject of his fourth podcast, released today. THANKS MARK!
2022-03-02 ... New Advisor
We are delighted to welcome Noah Neigh as our newest Advisor. Noah is a Law Enforcement Officer in Pennsylvania, as well as an all-around outdoors lover, runner and triathlete. Noah will give us feedback on our wool in the course of his LE work, and will also help us develop the Runner, which I am looking forward to putting into production. Great to have you, Noah!!
Also, I have just updated the Advisor News page with some really nice items!
2022-02-28 ... Mail List
A few hours ago I added a Mail List Signup widget to our Home Page. Probably should have done this a long time ago. But at this point 2022 looks like it will be our most productive year yet (I admit to choking a little as I write that), so sending out an update every couple of weeks seems like a good idea.
The first person to sign up is from Barrow, Alaska, which is pretty great. Barrow is "serious Alaska", as far North as you can go on the North American mainland.
2022-02-27 ... MidWeight Boonie Hats
Our Boonie Hats have been made only in FullWeight Fabric, but we've been thinking about offering MidWeight Boonie Hats and I just put them on the menu.
I'm tempted to say we'll also make MidWeight Big Brim Boonie Hats, but I'm concerned the brim will not have enough stiffness in MidWeight Fabric. I will say we'll give it a try ...
2022-02-26 ... Camo-Camo, according to Big-Camo
Over the years we have worked with people who have exclusive contracts with major camouflage companies. Interestingly, the Big-Camo people do not see WeatherWool as camo, and have told our contacts it is therefore OK to work with us. Of course, we have always thought of our Lynx Pattern as "camo-camo", meaning most people will not even realize a major part of the design of Lynx Pattern IS to function as highly versatile camo.
But large companies have been so nice to us that I can't help but wonder if the Big-Camo guys took the stance they did at least partly because they don't want to stomp a startup.
2022-02-25 ... Import Yeti
Denali found an interesting website, ImportYeti.com, that lets anyone look up a company and see what it imports.The site was created by David Applegate (THANK YOU!), and here is how he describes it:
ImportYeti is the combination of some downtime created by the Corona Virus and my desire to give back to the eCom community that has given me so much.
Bill of ladings are public information that every large eCom owner or FBA seller I know uses but they are too cost prohibitive, challenging to obtain and difficult to use for the average joe. ImportYeti's goal is to solve that problem.
There is a lot of information and a lot of detail available at ImportYeti. A search for WeatherWool turns up nothing. Some of the big makers of outdoors-oriented apparel are also big importers.
I checked one American company that offers wool base layers. This company states on their own website that their products are all made in China, but ImportYeti has no info on their imports. It may be that they import under different names. Or maybe something else is going on. There is a crazy amount of import data and this site is new.
2022-02-23 ... WarriorWool for US Law Enforcement
We now offer WarriorWool to US Law Enforcement Officers.
We just sent a WarriorWool Donation to a pilot who services the Antarctic Research Stations. Some interesting info at today's entry on the WarriorWool Donations Page.
2022-02-21 ... Unboxing
THANKS to Beni from Switzerland for posting to Instagram a photo of his "unboxing". I don't know if this is a new "thing" or not, but people who analyze e-commerce all stress that the "unboxing experience" is very important. Here at WeatherWool, I'm regarded as terrible at everything to do with boxing: properly folding garments; wrapping them nicely in heavy brown protective paper; choosing the right-sized box; taping the box neatly and securely; and most importantly, doing a final (usually third) Quality-Control inspection.
And so everyone is fine with me being generally forbidden to do any boxing. But on the rare occasions when I do some packing, I include a note of apology and explanation, which has been a source of amusement.
Beni's Instagram post was a "story", which I think means it disappears in a day. But Denali captured it:
I definitely did not handle Beni's package. Here's hoping Beni's Anorak works for him long-term!
2022-02-20 ... First Review On Website
I'm relieved to see that the "review widget" (yesterday's Blog) seems to function properly. Shopify HELP pages made it very easy to add "Product Review" functionality, but I didn't want to put up a dummy review myself in order to test. The first customer-review was posted in the last few hours and so far, so good!
I get emails, text messages and phone calls every day from customers (THANK YOU ALL FOR THESE!!!), and I suggested to two or three of the people who have contacted me in the last 24 hours that it would be great if they put up a review. And the first review did come from one of those people. And although the review contains the same info he gave me directly, I feel like I cheated a little by encouraging the review (but not the content). BIG THANKS to MG for choosing WeatherWool, for posting the All-Around Jacket review and for testing/proofing the new website feature!
2022-02-19 ... Customer Product Reviews
I just added, I hope, a widget to our website to enable people to post their own reviews at the bottom of our product pages. Reviews can be added to any of our products. Will have to wait and see if this works!
2022-02-15 (again) ... Shipping
MidWeight Drab Anoraks are on hand. Now we need to double-check all the counts and inspect all the garments and ship them out!
2022-02-15 ... GOOGLE PAY
Today, a customer was having a problem when trying to enter payment on our website. So I went through the customer experience of putting things in the shopping cart and going to the checkout. I should do this more often. I was surprised to see a GOOGLE PAY button. I don't know how long that has been there or what is involved. One of our customers told us he absolutely loves using PayPal. So maybe there are people who really want Google Pay. If nobody tells me Google Pay is important, I will probably get rid of that button. The add-on processors impose additional fees. And of course the additional fee, 1% or so above what the credit card/banks already levy, applies to the entire transaction, so it is a significant hit.
Things like the Google Pay button can appear on our website without me being aware because our website sits on the Shopify platform, which hosts over a million web-stores. Shopify probably notified us, and I either forgot or didn't read the message or perhaps, because Debby is the store owner, the message was not sent to me. It could also be the "Terms of Service Agreement" permits them to add the Google Pay button without notice. It was actually Debby who got us started on Shopify, and she is the primary contact. And now that I'm writing about Shopify, I realize I should long ago have put up a Shopify page on this website because a number of people have wanted to speak with me about using Shopify themselves. So the page linked above is my 1-minute start on a Shopify page.
2022-02-14 ... Shipping MidWeight Drab Anoraks
Plenty of MidWeight Drab Anoraks will be headed off to customers today. THANKS ALL for your patience! We hope you love them but if there are any issues, my direct contact info is just above.
The Sheep People are happy -- except maybe for the ones from Ohio -- because the Rams won the big game.
Happy Valentine's Day to all!!
2022-02-13 ... Wasted Clothing
Here in North Jersey, there are many bins where people deposit unwanted clothing. Alex found a very interesting very not-good YouTube video on what happens to clothing that is donated. I didn't notice any mention of wool. And one great thing about wool is that it is an animal product and therefore completely biodegradable. Thanks to BUSINESS INSIDER for the video!
2022-02-12 ... Pickup MidWeight Drab Anoraks
Saturday morning in Manhattan has about 90% less traffic than a weekday, so I can get into the Garment District in Midtown and pull up right in front of Factory8. Loading is a snap! We'll be spending the next few days inspecting and shipping MidWeight Drab Anoraks.
One thing that's interesting about Saturdays is that the city will help the construction projects by closing lanes on the Avenues and even entire Streets so cranes can be operated. This morning, 37st Street just west of Factory8 was closed. I always like watching the cranes! The amount of building going on in NYC is amazing. Cranes everywhere!
Mostly, I'm a Midtown and Downtown guy. But with the trailer, I need to cross the Hudson River via the George Washington Bridge, which is very much Uptown, and it's nice cruising parts of NYC I haven't visited regularly since high school. One of these days I've got to spend some time at the old graveyards on Broadway. It's been decades since I walked (or jogged) across the GWBridge, and I need to do that again. It's impressive in a motor vehicle but much more so on foot.
2022-02-11 ... Second Post Today. Not Wool-Related (Sorry!)
I already posted today but I thought maybe I should post again, regarding "The Big Game", the Super Bowl, which I mentioned here yesterday. Way back in the 1950s and '60s, when my folks taught me manners that I didn't learn well enough, it was common knowledge that religion or politics were spoken of only with your closest friends and family. WeatherWool is an activity we carry on with the general public, worldwide, so politics and religion really don't belong on our website in my opinion, although anyone who wants to know how I think needs only ask. Some of the people I like best will put their politics and religion front-and-center, even with their businesses, and I am surely OK with that, for them.
Mom and Dad also taught that sports and weather were appropriate topics for small-talk. Well, times have changed and now sports and weather are both quite political.
I hear from a lot of people who quit watching NFL (the National Football League presents extremely popular American/Canadian style football that is very big in the USA) because of the politics. I understand that, and for a couple of years I was one of them. But I grew up playing football and basketball pretty-much year-round, and baseball or stickball almost half the year. I dearly love these sports. I don't understand why American sports leagues honor some of the ideas and some of the people they do. But I'll ignore what I must and still enjoy the sports as much as I can.
2022-02-11 ... Hooded Jacket and Raks and Fabric
We are hoping to start a run of Hooded Jackets in MidWeight Lynx Fabric soon, but not quite ready yet. This is the only Fabric we have on hand, and although we are getting going on FullWeight Fabric, that will take a few months.
First thing tomorrow morning we will be at Factory8 in Manhattan's Garment District to pick up MidWeight Drab Anoraks. Both Lincoln and Holland Tunnels prohibit trailers, so I will need to loop North to take the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson River into NYC. It will be nice to drive 15 miles on Broadway.
2022-02-10 ... Super Bowl
We were talking about the Big Game on Sunday and it so happens we have an Open House scheduled for the same day. I mentioned I'm not really pulling for either team and I think it was Alex who said we need to root for Los Angeles because we are sheep-people. OK. GO RAMS!!
2022-02-09 ... YouTube Review
Yesterday we received a wonderful note and a great YouTube review from "P", who teaches US Military Personnel how to handle cold weather. P had long been an ardent advocate for synthetics, and he tells a funny story about how he came to test a WeatherWool Anorak.
2022-02-08 ... Samples Again ... Sugar Season
I'm really happy to be shipping Fabric Samples again. We ran out a week or so ago but Denali has put together another 200 or so Sample Packs. This latest batch of Samples also has a card with a Slot Button Assembly. Slots are not familiar to most people, and are an important feature of our garments. So we decided the Fabric Sample Pack should include a Slot Button mounted on a bit of Anchor Ribbon (Blog of 2022-02-04).
Also, today is the first day that really felt like Spring is coming. Usually, I start our Maple Sugar Season in January, but this year we didn't have the weather for it. So, we tap our Maples today. If, as usual, Sugar Season ends here in North Jersey in mid-March, this will be our shortest season ever. We will see!
2022-02-06 ... Water Beads Up, Sits There
A couple of weeks ago I was meeting with Giuseppe Monteleone, Plant Manager at American Woolen Company. AWC takes the lead in turning our clean fiber into Fabric. Giuseppe had just received samples from a company offering DWR -- Durable Water Repellent -- Finish. Giuseppe poured some water onto the DWR-treated fabric, and it beaded up real nice. And you could roll it around on the fabric, kind of like mercury. Nice stuff.
I took off my Lynx-Pattern All-Around Jacket, put it on Giuseppe's desk, and we poured a little water on the AAJ. The water beaded up and rolled around, just like we had seen on the treated synthetic sample from the vendor. We also poured some water on an old sample of our Duff Fabric that Giuseppe had handy. Same result.
Giuseppe and I were happy to see this behavior, and continued our meeting. Twenty or thirty minutes later, we looked at the samples again. The DWR and the old Duff had soaked through a little bit, but the new Lynx Fabric still looked as if we'd just poured the water.
Wool naturally repels liquid water, I think the ability of the Lynx to withstand the water longer than the DWR or the older Duff Fabric lies in the napping. Napping is a physical process, somewhat like brushing, that makes the surface of the Fabric fuzzy. We use a directional nap to help conduct water downward off our garments. Over time, the nap lies down, and this may have been why the Duff didn't perform as well as the Lynx. It may also be that the Duff simply hadn't been napped as much as the Lynx. We are always experimenting.
Other places on this website have more information about how wool handles water.
2022-02-05 ... A Poem and a Great Idea!
We love when customers give us ideas! And we are grateful for all of them. We carefully consider every single one. Mostly, the idea is not new, and we have already considered it. But we have never gotten a poem as a tease, and THEN the idea! And a great idea, at that! Today, Jim MacDougall in Ontario sent a poem via Instagram Direct Message:
Imagine there’s no membrane (nylon),
It’s easy if you try,
No down or feathers,
You may wonder why?
Imagine all the people
Staying warm and dry
Ooooh hooo oooo oooo oooo
You may say that I’m a dreamer
Mmm mmm mmm
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll build one
And the outdoors world can live as one.
I guess Jim is something of a Lennon fan, and that John would be happy to have helped inspire imaginings of all kinds.
And then the tease: "When you respond I’ll tell you what might be a great idea.”
Jim obviously has a flair for advertising, or promotions, or public relations. I responded right away.
“The WeatherWool Wool Puffy Vest, raw wool baffled, in place of down, medium wool lining, medium wool outer. The collar a combination of the two coming together. Two layers of wool protection with raw wool for insulation … unparalleled warmth and protection with a relative lightness and unhindered maneuverability”
This is very, VERY interesting!! A lot to think about here. Right off, tho, this is one of the "Well, DUH!" moments ... meaning, now that someone has pointed it out, this seems like such an obvious thing to do. And usually that means it's a really good idea! What I can say now for sure is that we will see where this leads! We owe you, Mr Jim!!
Holy Smokes! ... There is a PS here, or, really, an "Ante Script". Debby tells me Alex offered this same idea a year or two ago, but I don't remember at all and can't find any notes. Maybe because then we didn't have any Fabric to work with, and remnants weren't on my mind either. But in any case ... Alex ... I'm sorry I forgot and didn't give your idea the attention it deserves. That will change!
2022-02-04 ... Sample Packs in Progress, with an Update
We're happy to receive a few requests for Sample Packs each day. Putting the packs together takes a great deal of time. We ran out of Sample Packs a couple of days ago and we'll need several more days to complete the next batch. Sorry for the delay.
We (really just me) have decided to add a Slot Button to the Sample Packs. We have not decided the best way to do this, and I'm sure whatever we settle on for this batch will change. Right now I am thinking to thread a Slot Button onto the anchor ribbon, and staple the ribbon and some of our specialized Thread onto a card that describes the components. We have not yet created the card or written the descriptive text, but I think it will look like this:
Any ideas very welcome! --- Ralph (& Denali with some misgivings)
"A bit chilly at 5AM. I get to do morning chores. Part of the morning chores is making sure no sheep are frozen down on the snow/ice or stuck on a metal hay feeder."
"Good thing we have WeatherWool. At 40 below windchill (both Celsius and Fahrenheit) we tend to dress in layers and cover up - no one runs around naked in this weather up here. Serious 'shrinkage' weather (for Seinfeld fans)." ...
Bob has previously explained to me that if a sheep lies down and melts snow or ice with body heat, it is possible that a drop in temperature can "freeze the sheep to the ground". And if anyone is wondering whether folks run around naked in summer in central Minnesota, Debby and I visited PM Ranch in July 2011. The locals were fully clothed, even tho temperatures were well over 100F/38C.
2022-02-02 ... (Or should that be 2-2-22!) ... Remnants
We sent out about 10 bags of Remnants (Blog of Jan 30), which was what I was hoping for. I decided there is enough interest to make the Remnants a standard offering. If people find uses for remnants, that's great!
There are always buyers for fabric scraps of any kind. And we could certainly sell our remnants. Old woolens and woolen remnants have been combined into new garments for hundreds of years. Re-used wool became widespread in London about 200 years ago. Garments made from recycled wool were known as shoddy, and although few people know the origin, everyone knows shoddy means second-rate. It surprises me that some well-known companies are touting making garments from recycled wool. I would guess today's shoddy is still wildly preferable to the clothing made from re-cycled plastic soda bottles. I have handled -- but not worn -- modern shoddy. It was not appealing. As for the recycled-soda-bottle-clothing, I have not examined it at all.
2022-02-01 ... It's a GO!
Our production chain looks to be intact again!
On Thursday, September 2nd, our production chain was broken when Hurricane Ida destroyed Littlewood Dye House on Main Street, Philadelphia. Littlewood was the only dye house in the USA that was dyeing wool fiber. (Amazing and distressing American production capacity has fallen so far!) There are other ways to dye wool, but dyeing the wool as fiber -- "stock dyeing" -- prior to spinning and weaving, gives the best results. Tintoria Piana, a dye house in Georgia, has a great deal of experience with stock dyeing, but until now, Tintoria did not work with wool. Giuseppe Monteleone, Plant Manager at American Woolen Company, which takes the lead in turning our fiber into Fabric, has been working with Tintoria since shortly after Ida. I knew Giuseppe was getting pretty comfortable with Tintoria, but I was still surprised when I learned early today that Giuseppe has decided we are ready to roll with Tintoria! Not sure of the timing, but this is great news!! We have a lot of fiber ready to be dyed!!
2022-01-31 ... Import Prices Rising Faster
Debby bought some more Slot Buttons this morning. She was working with Russell Breiter of US Buttons (Emsig). Russell aka "The Button King", works out of US Button's Manhattan/Garment District offices, where they handle a huge range of buttons sourced from many places as well as buttons of their own manufacture. We buy only American-made components, and the Slot Buttons we get from Russell are made by US Button in Connecticut. Russell told Debby that pricing will be a steeper next time, and that prices of everything are going up. The one bit of good news, I suppose, is that Russell said the prices of imported items are rising much faster than US-made. So, I guess that is a cloud with a silver lining.
2022-01-30 ... Wool Pillow, Anyone?
A few months ago, I stuffed a pillow case with Fabric remnants from our tailors. I think it's a great pillow, but Debby disagrees completely. If you'd like to try this yourself, let me know and I'll send some remnants to the first bunch who request them. Please, I would like to know your thoughts after you try the pillow. We have a lot of remnants and we'd love to find some uses for them!
2022-01-28 ... "Granpa can really talk!!"
That was Zabz whispering to Debby while I was on the phone with a customer. Zabz (Isabelle) is almost 6, and she is here every day after kindergarten, which means she hears me on the phone every day.
I try to provide the phone call the customer wants ... some people have a series of questions they want answered, and they want to get off the phone as soon as possible. But sometimes the answers lead in all sorts of directions, and that's fine with me. Other callers seem more interested in getting a sense of the character of the people they are considering dealing with. Some people are really interested in the details of what we are doing, or wondering why we are doing it.
People with backorders will frequently call for an ETA, and that often leads to discussions that are much bigger-picture than making woolens. Those talks can go on for a long time.
Some calls last under a minute, and some over an hour. A lot of times, a call is interrupted by another incoming call, and that often "breaks the spell". When I ask the first caller if he (90% male callers) can hold for a minute, he'll decide it's time to get back to work. It reminds me of how a few neighbors might stand in the cold, talking in front of someone's house. This can go on a long time, but if somebody says "Let's go inside and sit down", it breaks the spell and suddenly everybody goes home.
People can tell pretty easily from our website that we are a tiny family company still struggling for survival. We make no attempt to hide that. Or, for that matter, we don't want to hide anything. So when people want to talk, I'm usually up for it. Particularly if they catch me on the road.
All the calls are good by me. The phone, the website and all forms of customer contact are primarily my responsibility and are easily a full-time job.
Now is probably a good time to confess that I mostly don't remember the details of phone calls. The only thing I'm good at remembering is the stories people tell me. But usually I will forget who told me the story. I suppose another 5 or 10 years down the road I will start telling other people's stories, believing they are my own. But I don't think I've gotten to that point yet.
Hope to speak with you one of these day!
PS -- A couple of hours after I wrote the above, I got a call from Sam in BC. The weatherfolk are predicting a serious blizzard for NYC, and so I toted a massive amount of wood into the house while I spoke with Sam. The phone call was a perfect diversion from the thoughtless task of carrying firewood. Sam was walking his dog and I'm pretty sure he didn't mind I was also getting something else done.
2022-01-26 ... TOP Approved
Today we approved the MidWeight Lynx Anorak TOP (Top Of Production). The TOP is the first Anorak sewn together after all the cutting is done. If we needed to change anything about the way the Anorak was put together, this would be our last chance. But we were very happy with the TOP, and very happy with the Fabric, too. We'd seen the MidWeight Lynx before, but somehow the Fabric always seems different when made into an actual garment. Here's a quick-pic from the backyard:
We expect to ship the MidWeight Lynx Raks at the end of March and the MidWeight Drab Raks in February.
2022-01-25 ... Bronze Slot Buttons!
Mose O'Griffin sent us some more Sample Custom Slot Buttons yesterday! THANK YOU!!
First of all ... I somehow spaced-out on the material ... Mose at APROE has been working on Bronze Slot Buttons all along, but somehow I confused this with brass. Both Bronze and Brass are alloys of copper. Bronze has Tin and Brass has Zinc. Both alloys can also have some other things mixed in. And not to imply that I know anything about this ... I just looked it up.
APROE has designed and produced the first handful of Bronze Slots, but actual production will be handled by Dutch Ressler and the team at Dutchware Gear. We will apply a darker finish for the final versions.
I will say that I am happy to find out that the buttons are bronze because, at least in terms of sculpture, bronze can be very, very beautiful. When I worked at Telerate Systems in the now-destroyed World Trade Center in NYC, the 105th Floor lobby of Cantor, Fitzgerald, with whom we shared office space, featured an original Rodin's The Thinker ... a very dramatic, impressive, beautiful piece.
If The Thinker reminds you of Dobie Gillis, you've got some miles behind you! Sadly, Dwayne Hickman, who played Dobie, passed away on the 9th of this month, aged 87. As for the statue at my old workplace, it somehow survived the 9/11 atrocity but disappeared afterward.
2022-01-24 ... Thanks for Dinner!
Today, a visiting customer tried on an item from the Lending Library and found $35 in the pocket! Oddly, this item wasn't tagged or listed on the website. An XLarge Duff Anorak. I did a quick search through our records but couldn't see who might have sent us this piece. Our customers being the wonderful folks they are, I would not be surprised if someone deliberately left the cash in the pocket knowing the Lending Library is a little bit of a loser for us. If that's the case, MANY THANKS and sorry for losing track! If it's your $35 and you want it back, please give me a call! If I don't hear from anyone, which I am guessing will be the case, Debby and I will thank our lucky stars for a free dinner. And I now realize Jimmie, the customer who found the cash, is entitled to a nice big sub sandwich, too! I know really large businesses eventually need to account for money that people have lost or left behind, but did not expect that situation to come up for us!!
2022-01-23 ... Testing Greasy Wool in 2022
We are in the early planning stages of our 2022 Greasy (Raw) Wool purchase. We had thought the new lab in the USA would be ready to perform the testing for this year, but now I am hearing we will need to rely on testing services in New Zealand one more year.
2022-01-22 ... On the Road Yesterday
Yesterday I was on the road by about 5AM, headed up to American Woolen to pick up some MidWeight Lynx Pattern Fabric. So long as I get through NYC by 6AM or so, that's the way to go ... shortest and fastest. Owner Jacob Long helped me load the trailer in temp of 8F/-13C, so we worked double-time. Then I went inside and we had some great meetings, which I will say more about soon. BUT I lingered a little too long, particularly given that it was a Friday, and by the time I got back into the New York City area, even though I detoured around the city, the traffic was still the usual metro-rush-hour mess. The upshot was that I didn't do much else yesterday besides some phone calls and a few mails, and now I'm about 150 mails behind. Plus some more phone calls, text messages, Facebook messages and Instagram messages. Hoping to dig out somewhat today, but this is also Debby and my Anniversary, and Denali's birthday -- she was born on our 5th Anniversary!! So Jan 22 is always a special day for us!
2022-01-20 ... Books from Royal Rob
When Advisor Rob Stuart, "Royal Rob", visited us in October, he gave us some textbooks about wool, yarn and weaving.
When turning wool into fabric, there is an amazing amount to know and there are a great many possibilities to choose from. As might be expected, near as I can tell, making a better product always costs more. Also worth noting that these books don't go beyond fabric. Turning fabric into clothing is another whole world of knowledge and judgment, technique and finesse.
2022-01-19 ... Production Update
Anoraks in MidWeight Fabrics Drab and Lynx Pattern are coming along. Factory8 is cutting and sewing Anoraks in both Fabrics, and American Woolen is completing the last pieces of Batch 6 MidWeight Lynx.
MidWeight Lynx Fabric in the finishing department at American Woolen (photo courtesy Jacob Long, owner of American Woolen)
The "marker" shows the pieces of the pattern for each size. The Fabric is cut according to the marker. The marker is a very long sheet of paper that is laid out on the cutting table on top of the stacked sheets of Fabric. (Photo courtesy of JR Morrissey, owner of Factory8)
Fabric is stacked and then cut into the pattern pieces, size-by-size. The paper on top of the Fabric is the marker, which is cut along with the Fabric. (Photo courtesy of JR Morrissey, owner of Factory8)
Sometimes the Fabric is stacked pretty high! (Photo courtesy of JR Morrissey, owner of Factory8)
The pattern pieces are cut and then finished separately. The finished pieces are sewn into Anoraks as a final step. This is a stack of sleeves. The buttons and tape are sewn on, then the cuff is created and then the flat piece of Fabric is sewn into a tube that becomes a sleeve. (Photo courtesy of JR Morrissey, owner of Factory8)
2022-01-18 ... International
We love that we have customers in many countries. About 10% of our orders are shipped to Canada, where Americans woolens do not attract any duty. Today, two people from Shanghai, China, ordered All-Around Jackets. We've only shipped to Shanghai once before, as far as I can remember, so this was surprising. One of them wrote that he felt WeatherWool would be very welcome in stores in Shanghai. We don't intend to be in any stores at all, but it was still really nice to read that!
2022-01-17 ... Sheep History in New England
A customer tipped us to this great video that describes the significance of sheep and wool in the history of New England. I had no idea there were millions of Merino Sheep in New England in 1840 or so. But that surely explains why there is so much wool-industry history, and so many traces of the wool industry still in New England. Tom Wessels, the narrator/host of the video, is talking sheep in the first 5 or 6 minutes, but the whole video, about interpreting the history of the landscape, was very interesting to me. Thanks for the tip, Andy!!
2022-01-16 ... Thanks to the Slimeballs?
Last year, and again this year, the same ads for $50 Anoraks have appeared in many places. The ads are run by a bunch of different companies, presumably all part of one operation. They use pirated material showing our Anorak as well as some others. Quite a few of our customers have alerted me to the ads, and even left some highly critical feedback on the web! THANKS ALL! Funny thing, tho ... some people recognized the impossibility of the claims made by the sleazebags, somehow managed to figure out whose garments were actually shown in the ads, and contacted us about getting some wool!
2022-01-15 ... My Mistake ... Melbourne Closed!!??
Too good to be true. I thought MidWeight Lynx Anoraks were scheduled for completion on 15 February, along with the MidWeight Drab Anoraks. But I've just been informed the projected completion date is 28 March, the Monday before April Fool's Day. UGH! HEAVY-DUTY APOLOGIES to everyone I misled and if springtime (prospective) delivery changes your plans, it's entirely understandable. Again, I'm really happy we do not accept deposits or advance payments.
It's great to have customers in Australia. And not just because Oz is the wool capitol of the world, but also because their seasons are the opposite of ours here in North America. We just tried to send some wool to a customer in Australia and the USPS refused the package, saying Australia is closed. In fact, the USPS website does say that Melbourne is closed to international shipments, but that packages can be routed through Sydney. Our customer wrote us that none of this is correct. DHL accepted the package.
2022-01-14 ... Enjoying Nature, Wrapped in Plastic ... Purple Fat
It's interesting and kind of amazing that searching the web for jackets for Hiking, Backpacking, Camping, Hunting, Fishing, Skiing, Birding and Wildlife Photography turns up almost nothing made of wool. I'm not surprised because I already knew this, but thought I should look again before doing this Blog entry.
For example, Simms offers quite a selection of jackets made for fishing, and they can be sorted by composition:
- Down Blend
- Nylon Blend
- Polyester Blend
- Water Resistant
Anyone reading this Blog probably already knows that I believe wool easily earns a place among all these offerings based solely on performance. And is in fact worn by many fisherman. But aside from performance considerations, it has always seemed really remarkable, strange, even crazy that so many people set out to enjoy Nature wrapped in plastic.
As for PURPLE FAT ... I was speaking a few hours ago with customer Dave, who lives in Alaska and is a very serious meat hunter. Dave and his wife prize the black bear for both meat and fat. Black bear fat has been used for many things over the centuries. I was very surprised when Dave said a bear that has been eating berries will actually have purple fat!2022-01-13 ... Military Clothing
We have very lately been contacted by three instructors in the US Military who are interested in getting some WeatherWool for cold-weather training. We sent WarriorWool donations to two of them, and we hope we can come up with something for the third, but our inventory of "Military-sized" Anoraks is basically zero. About a month ago, within a couple of days, we also heard from a Navy SEAL, a Royal Marine and a guy in Canadian Special Forces. All of these men, and many, many others, have said the same thing: that the Military does not prioritize (to put it euphemistically) providing highest-quality clothing.
Customer James surprised me with a must-do suggestion. He pointed out that when someone is wearing our Double Hood, the tags are visible only is when the Hood is down ... when it is hanging upside-down on the back of the wearer. And in that position, the American Flag is also upside-down! We will flip all the labels next time we make Hoods! MANY THANKS FOR THIS, JAMES!!
We receive customer feedback every day. Usually a few times a day, and we are really grateful for all of it! THANKS EVERYONE!!
You absolutely may! Please don’t post my email address.
Also, it is great purchasing from American companies who source & manufacture their products here at home.
(Funny ... Even I never wanted to post anyone's email address!)
Click to jump to the collection of Watch Cap Reviews.
2022-01-09 ... It's Trade Show Season (but not for us)
People often ask if we attend any trade shows. We don't. We did quite a few shows between 2012 and 2017, but none since. I actually enjoyed the shows, and miss them. It's a pleasure meeting so many people, old friends and new friends and checking out all the other booths. But the shows are very expensive, very time-consuming and disruptive to our normal business. And every show was a financial loss. Probably the ultimate kicker was the sales tax authorities in the various venues became very aggressive, to the point even of demanding we file regular reports and billing us based on their estimate of what our sales should have been.
Dropping off MidWeight Lynx Fabric at Factory8 in NYC's Garment District. More Anoraks coming up!
As we all know well, the US Textile and Garment Industries are much smaller than in the 1990s, let alone the 1950s. A big reason for this decline is the cost of labor in the USA versus many other countries where this type of work can be done. Relatively high American labor costs have led to difficulties for us getting our warp (worsted) yarn spun in the Carolinas.
2022-01-06 ... Ralph's Rapid Transport
We have some Natural-color (cream color) Neck Gaiters that Debby wasn't fully satisfied with. We just decided to offer these on our Specials page at $55 instead of the usual $85. [But they are sold out.]
Our friend Mose over at APROE sent me some photos of Bronze Slot Button prototypes. With luck, Dutchware Gear will be able to make the Bronze and the Titanium Slots (Blog of 2021-12-27).
Mose O’Griffin of APROE has been helping WeatherWool with the fabrication of Bronze Slot Buttons. The design belongs to Mose, used with permission and THANKS!
We are always looking to improve our products in any way we can. And the little widgets that we use for adjustment of hoods and waist cinches have been a sore spot for me since Day 1. They work well, but they are plastic, kind of clunky, and just don't float my boat. There is a huge variety of these clips, but they are all quite a bit alike, and all sold in the same way ... fifteen or twenty cents apiece with a minimum order of 1000 for the small selection made in the USA. (There are tons more made overseas.) We have thousands of these things lying around. Let me know if you need any!