THANKS FOR BEING HERE!
-- Ralph@WeatherWool.com / 973-943-3110 (mobile)
2023-09-02 ... Labor Day Weekend
I say this all the time, but appropriate to repeat for Labor Day Weekend ... WeatherWool is the result of a collaboration of a great many Partners. The biggest players are the Ranchers, Millers and Tailors. But all told, we rely upon dozens of companies with many thousands of employees. THANK YOU to everyone!
2023-09-01 ... MidWeight Drab Green Basic Vests
Factory8 just told me they will complete work on MidWeight Drab Basic Vests next week. This will be the first time we've offered the Basic Vest in a MidWeight Fabric.
2023-08-31 ... "On Trend"?!!
I'm yielding to pressure to make the website look more like the better-known websites that offer garments. But that's just the website look and feel, not the content. This website is very, VERY not-usual in terms of content (lot of info!) and style (very personal). Some of our fundamental principles contravene the received wisdom.
More and more companies have been highlighting "American", although most of them are "fine-printing" it ... meaning they are using "American" as a hook but then it turns out they are only part-American. I even saw one company touting "designed in USA".
Last night, Debby spotted an ad from a company offering woolen jackets without a liner. They said this requires finer tailoring ... YEP .. but the ad also said "no-liner" is "on-trend". This surprised me! We've always insisted on "no liners" and this has led to absolute disbelief on the part of some of the tailors. But now, making woolen jackets without liners is the trend!?
In 2018, we started offering detailed source (Fabric Batch) information on our raw materials (make that singular -- 'raw material') -- greasy wool. And we've long been transparent regarding our Partners ... the people who process our greasy into garments. And so I like the first paragraphs in the latest Texworld Newsletter:
Why Traceability Should Be Your Top Concern—Regardless of Your Job Title
Traceability is the word on everyone's lips. And given the raft of both enacted and proposed ESG-related regulations in both the U.S. and EU, there's no question why. As governments, investors, and consumers turn a sharp eye toward raw material provenance, worker's rights and fashion's waste problem, the industry is under an increasing amount of pressure to track, analyze, and document its practices—tasks traditional apparel supply chains were not built to perform.
The mobilization around traceability kicked into high gear thanks to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which prohibits importing goods made with forced labor from China's Xinjiang region from entering the United States. Through June, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has reportedly detained more than $1.3 billion worth of goods suspected of violating the law.
2023-08-30 ... Toxic Clothing
If anyone has input, I'd love to hear it!!
Toxic clothing is a subject that's come up a couple of times lately, and I don't know anything about it. Clara Parkes (The Wool Channel) has focused me on it again.
As for WeatherWool, we don't use much in the way of chemicals. Some of our fiber is dyed, and some lubricating oil is applied during spinning and weaving. Our Fabric is not "treated" with anything. We believe we remove everything we apply, except the dyes, before the Fabric goes to the tailors. At the end of the finishing processes, just before American Woolen completes the Fabric, they wash it in a mild soap that leaves the Fabric clean of everything but the dye. I have never tested our Fabric for chemical residue, so I can't offer additional information except that nobody feels uncomfortable in our clothing.
And comfort is actually what got my attention when Clara Parkes mentioned toxic clothing. There are some shirts and T-Shirts that I really dislike wearing. As soon as I put them on, particularly in warm weather, my skin says NO! GET THIS STUFF OFF!! And so I've avoided wearing these garments unless (cooler weather) I had a base layer keeping them off my skin. But I didn't wonder WHY the garments were uncomfortable, and suddenly I am suspecting that discomfort is a way that the body warns against harm. Sour milk and spoiled meat smell BAD, and it's sort of instinctive to avoid consuming them. Maybe skin has a similar warning mechanism. Skin is well-known to absorb all sorts of things from clothing and the environment. There are many instances of clothing causing health problems. Polyester fabrics have many additives. I've long avoided polyester against my skin, and always thought it was the polyester that was uncomfortable. Now I suspect the chemical additives are a big part of the discomfort.
And WOW, just thinking about it a little ... we wear clothes maybe 16 hours a day ... head-to-toe ... plenty of opportunity to absorb whatever the clothes put up against us. And then all night long, more fabrics ...
A web search-engine returned over 39,000,000 results for "toxic clothing materials". Clara Parkes cited a book, HOW TOXIC FASHION IS MAKING US SICK -- AND HOW WE CAN FIGHT BACK, by Alden Wicker. And now my bookshelf has yet-another must-read. Skipping around the book, it's very readable, fairly horrifying at times, and well-researched. Wicker has done a lot of interviewing and traveling to see things first-hand. You can click into Wicker's website, EcoCult, and freely see what she is about.
Now that I think about it, during my days working in trucking and in chemical plants, I did see myself some of the very nasty stuff that was used in the textile industry. That was 1969-1976, from age 15 to age 22. The really bad places I only visited for a matter of an hour or two when I was out with a trucker, helping load/unload. I remember thinking that working in those places would put you in an early grave.
Fire-retardant chemicals are among the nasties regularly added to clothing. But wool is non-flammable, so fire-retardants are not relevant for 100% wool fabric such as ours. On the other hand, if a fabric is half-wool and half-polyester, I am guessing the fire-retardants are added. Makes me wonder about the many fabrics that are marketed as wool, but in fact are not pure wool, or not even half-wool.
2023-08-28 ... Wool Fabric Weights
People who make woolens quote the weights of their fabrics in different ways. A new page on this website talks about how to interpret such quotes. Here is the text of that new page:
Wool Fabric Weights
The weight of wool fabrics is quoted by everyone offering woolens. But there is significant fuzziness in the terminology, and this leads to confusion.
I didn't appreciate it at the time, but my high school instructors in chemistry (in particular!) but also in physics really focused on UNITS. You always had to make sure that you presented data in the correct units, and they taught that when making calculations, the units of measure are subject to the same manipulations as are the numbers.
The American woolen industry, particularly the outerwear industry, often forgets or ignores UNITS. But the situation is improving.
People making base layers, especially in Europe, will likely present the weight of their fabrics in GRAMS PER SQUARE METER. The consumer knows exactly what 200 gsm means.
(Digression: Weight is a poor indicator of performance. HEAVIER does not mean BETTER or WARMER. Choice of fiber, preparation, spinning, weaving and finishing are all important factors that cannot be inferred from weight.)
Here at WeatherWool, we specify our fabric weights in gsm and in opsy (ounces per square yard), so there is no question about how much fabric we are talking about.
(Another digression: We have standard weights that we aim for. But making woolen fabric involves juggling a lot of variables and in practice our Fabric weights can be as much as 5% or -- a couple of times -- 10% higher or lower than the standard.)
But makers of American outerwear usually specify weights of wool fabric by the lineal yard, an incomplete bit of information which only creates confusion outside the circle of people familiar with the equipment that produced the fabric. A lineal yard (thanks to my son Zack for bringing this term to my attention) is always a yard long (91 cm) but carries an implied width that is particular to a given mill or loom. Two people working with the same equipment know the width of their bolts of fabric, so it's not necessary for them to specify 26 ounces per running yard of 60-inch width.
Confusion results when the mill workers tell customers "it's 26-ounce wool", but the customers don't know and don't ask the width of the bolt of fabric. This drove me crazy when we first started working with wool. (It's still nuts.) And a great many of our customers don't understand. They'll ask how our 19.4 opsy (658 gsm) Fabric compares to 26-ounce wool from someone else. And they are surprised when I start yakking ...
So ... the nomenclature in the woolen industry:
- GSM = grams per square meter (hooray!)
- OPSY = Ounces per square yard (not used as frequently as it should be)
- Linear Yard = 1 yard (91 cm) in length, width unknown
- Lineal Yard = 1 yard in length, width not specified, but assumed by those with inside knowledge
(Conversion Factor ... 33.9 gsm = 1 opsy)
In the USA, we have a somewhat similar situation that causes no confusion. "We got here quick. We were doing 75 the whole way." Americans will understand this means "75 miles per hour", and we all have a good feel for it because we are all accustomed to measuring driving speeds in miles per hour.
But with woolens, the width of the looms varies widely. And actually, the width of a loom can normally be adjusted -- significantly -- to achieve a specific result. The team at MTL, who does our weaving, had to do make some large adjustments to weave a greige Fabric width that would be compatible with the finishing equipment at American Woolen. Adjustments to the width of a loom are not undertaken lightly and are time-consuming and expensive. Plus, in manufacture, it's always risky to depart from the standard routines. MTL, lucky for us, welcomes customers with unusual requirements.
One more tidbit that might as well be tossed in here ... it's not even the width of the loom that is the decisive factor. Our greige Fabric coming off the looms at MTL is about 65 inches (165 cm), but the finishing processes at American Woolen shrink it (full it) down to about 54 inches (137 cm). That is, the finishing processes reduce the width by about 17%.
It's maybe not surprising we have such sloppy nomenclature. Whoever decided that ounces would be used as measures of both volume and weight should be keelhauled.
I'd like to stress again, if you don't mind, that WEIGHT is not all that indicative a number anyway. Most people don't want weight for its own sake, although some people do want a hefty winter coat. Generally, people seek better performance with less weight. And a lighter fabric can definitely outperform a significantly heavier fabric if excellence is sought in the selection of the greasy wool and in every step of the manufacturing process.
THANKS to Chris B, whose email this morning nudged me into creating this long-overdue page!
27 August 2023 --- Ralph
2023-08-27 ... Big Army Test Followup ... "The Mrs!" ... Sunday Morn ... Ads
Another morning/night of wakefulness. Awake at 1AM, wide awake, might as well get some work done. Splendid morning!! This time of night/morning, 4AM now, our neighborhood is quiet as a crypt, at least as far as human sounds go. The crickets are tuning up, but not like they will be next month.
Sometimes it seems like I can work better when there is noise around me -- probably because of working so many years on the zoo that is a financial trading floor -- so I turned on tube -- and there is that guy with his pillows and slippers and sheets. Nothing against the dude, but I'm tired of seeing him. But he's on the next station, too ... and the next! Whether or not WeatherWool should advertise is something we consider frequently. We have spent a total of about $3000 on ads -- all Facebook -- and nothing since 2016. Near as I could tell, the Facebook ads got us some LIKES, but no sales. A few days ago, we did send email telling about today's Open House. I guess that's advertising. The email system at GoDaddy costs about $40/month. But I think that's all we've done. Maybe someday we'll advertise. Maybe even soon. But I don't like the way so many companies advertise. The pillow fellow is always offering enormous discounts (is it even a discount when it's constantly offered?), and he must spend prodigious amounts running so many ads. What does it actually cost to make the pillow?
But in any case, TV ads would seem out of our reach, even if I wanted. So, what about online ads? When I search "men's wool jackets", the search engine returns 22 (!!) companies that are paying for "clicks" at or near the top of the results. And I know the cost-per-click can exceed $1.
Evidently google has just changed the way they present results for such a search. Now, if I keep scrolling down, google keeps refreshing, so I can scroll through a huge number of results. Used to be you'd scroll to the bottom, and then request the next page if you wanted more. Now, the next results are continuously offered. WeatherWool turns up on what would have been page 2 or 3, I am guessing. Pretty good, except I think google presents WeatherWool with higher priority here than it would elsewhere. Google learns and remembers. When I do similar searches at hotels, for example, the results are much less encouraging.
I REALLY don't want our customers wondering about how much of their purchase price goes into advertising. It seems a little perverse to charge a customer extra so you can toot your own horn. But, that's the way it is. A friend who has done a lot of work for "big camo" once told me a shirt they make for ten bucks in a low-cost country retails for $100 in the USA.
We've also shied away from "flash sales" (a sudden announcement on social media or email that a short-lived sale is happening NOW) and holiday sales. No offense to those run operate this way, but I just like the idea of a steady-state.
There is no question we need to find ways to become better known!
"The Mrs Test" ... A guy ordered from us Thursday night and received his package Saturday. (Nice going UPS!) And he phoned me pretty quickly thereafter because his Mrs wanted an Anorak for herself. I feel like "The Mrs Test" is the most important test of all ... the biggest endorsement we can earn.
This actually reminds me of the Big Army test I mentioned here a few days ago. I forgot to include the end of that story. Although we were deemed undesirable for Big Army, the tester kept the Anorak for himself. He told me he wears it all the time, and has sent photos ... RUEFUL SMILE
No telling if anyone will come to today's Open House. The weather is forecast hot, which is not our weather. The most we've ever had on an Open House day was about 15. Usually we have about five or six or eight. More and more people are coming by appointment, and that's AOK with us. A few days ago we had two guys for lunch, by coincidence both from Philadelphia. I've just put up some venison chili ... the deer came from The Swamp this past December, and I added some homemade maple syrup. The sweet syrup with the spice of red pepper is a great combination!
2023-08-25 ... FullWeight Drab Pickup ... Another Real-World Lesson
Today I made a run up to American Woolen to pick up the Batch 8 FullWeight Drab Green Fabric. The only Batch 8 Fabric not yet completed is a small amount of "extra" MidWeight Drab.
American Woolen is not very far from here, 160 miles (256 km) or so, but there is no good way to get there. It's interstate highways almost all the way, but traffic can be crazy -- at any time. First-world problems, for sure. This morning, there was a truck fire just East of the George Washington Bridge, where I-95 goes under some high-rise apartments (kind of amazing in itself). The traffic was backed up for miles at 5AM ... backed up farther than I expected, even though I knew what was coming. I thought it would help to take the old US Route 46, but that was also waaaay backed up. I got lucky tho and snuck off the highway through a gas station that I noticed connected to a side street. I meandered my way to old Route US 9W, which parallels the Hudson River up to the Tappan Zee Bridge. Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo renamed the bridge after his father, also a former Gov of New York, but the public refuses to call it the Cuomo Bridge, and there is a political battle to change the name back to Tappan Zee. The Tappan Zee is a stretch where the Hudson gets very wide (3 miles/5 km) and relatively shallow, so it's a good place to build a bridge. The name comes from the Dutch word for SEA and the Tappan First Nations Tribe.
As usual, Jacob Long, who runs American Woolen, helped me load the trailer. After doing the "real work", we spent a couple of hours talking about the business. Jacob and I are such cheerleaders for America's wool industry, we ought to travel with pom-poms. (Sorry, bad image.)
For the last few weeks I've been trying to spec exactly what we can make with the Batch 9 fiber ... and I'm getting awfully confused about the yield. So, I'll keep working to understand everything, but will also sit back somewhat and let American Woolen execute my general instructions. One real-world lesson I had not thought about until now is how the size of a bale of wool factors into what can be made. Bales of wool ("top" in this case) weigh about 600 pounds (273 kg), and we had 34 bales. My spreadsheets did not take into consideration that you mostly need to work with whole bales. Chargeurs, the company that turned our greasy (raw) wool into top, will ship bales -- even specific bales -- wherever we ask, but they ship whole bales, so at that point we are working with units of 600 pounds. Something of a "WELL, DUH" moment for me. As Denali likes to say, "There's always more to it."
But at least the slush factors as implemented by American Woolen tend toward "extra" Fabric at the end of it all. And usually there will be some extra yarn ... it's not possible to match-up exactly the amounts of warp and weft and various colors. So today I picked up more FullWeight Drab Green than originally planned. And we're also working up some more FullWeight Fabric from various leftover weft yarns. We'll divert some Batch 9 warp to use up the weft on hand from previous Batches. And I need to come up with a Batch Number for this collection of bonus Fabric.
On the way home from AWC I had a long talk with Rancher Bob Innes, whose Wyoming clips (purchased in 2022 and secured for Batch 10, this year) are the largest single clips we've ever purchased. As mentioned a week ago, Bob is very pleased to finally, after decades, hold something in his hands made with his own wool. (We sent him an early Batch 9 Scarf made by Debby.) All of the Ranchers wish for this, and I admit this makes me happy to have a hand in making it happen. Jacob Long was also really gratified to be involved in this source-identifiable Fabric.
2023-08-23 ... Testing Wool (completing on 2023-08-24)
People ask us occasionally about alpaca fiber. We have very little experience or knowledge of alpaca. We've worked a little bit with alpaca yarn (trim around our first Scarves), but that was really just decorative, and we don't plan on using it again.
The alpaca folks are very high on their products, and sometimes they compare alpaca fiber to sheep wool. Debby noticed a claim from the alpaca team that alpaca fiber is three times warmer than sheep wool. That got me thinking again about exactly how to determine such things. Not only with alpaca, but in general ... how do you determine what is warmer? And how much warmer? It seems, to me at least, it's a really complicated question.
A few years ago, a tester for the US Army did some casual testing of WeatherWool. An official test would have required about 10 pieces, and the tester told me right up front that our stuff is too expensive for "Big Army" (meaning 600,000 soldiers). But I was still quite interested to hear what he had to say, so was happy to provide an Anorak to him.
He did test thoroughly, but gave us a THUMBS DOWN because, he said, the warmth:weight ratio is too low. And that, of course, is one of the standard knocks against wool. It's relatively heavy. And bulky, too. But ... how/when do you calculate the warmth:weight ratio? Weather conditions and people's activities vary so widely, how many ratios do you consider? And how do you weight (sorry!) those ratios? The Army tested warmth:weight when garment was dry. Things will look very different when the garment and the soldier is wet (including wet from sweat).
I think testing and comparing is complicated, and I don't think anything is gained by pretending it isn't. For starters, you have to consider the base layer ... and people usually do not. It's important to remember that your base layer is what you are wearing. And it's your base layer that is wearing your garments! (This is the biggest reason why I am sooooo hoping to make base layers eventually!) In most cases with WeatherWool, it's true (maybe pushing the point, tho) that our outerwear is almost always a 2nd or 3rd layer. The base- and mid-layers are critical, and cannot be ignored during testing. But also, I even wonder if some outer layers perform better with some mid- and base-layers than others. Could be?! But before you can really test outerwear, you need to determine that the choice of base layer does not prejudice the test for or against any of the outerwear being tested.
Different fabrics (even different woolens!) are going to perform differently as conditions as activities change. We certainly learned this lesson when we were developing our Fabric. Varying the weave made huge differences in the way the Fabric performed. That's not even talking about the spinning or the finishing ...
But back to the statement/claim that caught Debby's interest ... that alpaca is three times warmer than wool. We need to find out what are the standards (if any) or at least the procedures for testing. I'm guessing that means a 3-pound wool jacket offers the same insulation as a 1-pound alpaca?
The alpaca crew emphasized that alpaca does not pick up water. This was presented as an alpaca advantage. So of course I wondered if they "warmth testing" took place on a humid day. From my point of view, the warmth of wool is most appreciated in humid-cold, which pulls heat from the body much more quickly than does dry-cold. And, as we've been working to show, wool even produces heat when exposed to humidity.
All of this is a long way of saying (Debby tells me I always say it "the long way") is that we need to try to find some more serious testing done not only by lab scientists but in particular by scientists working with people doing various things in actual weather.
And actually, I have just begun to communicate with Drs Email DenHartog and Faisal Abedin at the University of North Carolina. Dr DenHartog is Professor, Clothing Biophysics, Personal Protection and Textile Testing
Dept. Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science. Dr Abedin is a post-doctoral researcher who has been working in Dr DenHartog's lab. Abedin and DenHartog coauthored a paper:
The Exothermic Effects of Textile Fibers during Changes in Environmental Humidity: A Comparison between ISO:16533 and Dynamic Hot Plate Test Method published in FIBERS (2023) This paper examines the heat released by various fibers in response to changes humidity. And this line really grabbed my attention (emphasis mine):
The exothermic effects of high regain fiber types have been described before; yet, there have not been reliable tests to demonstrate these effects on the human body.
WeatherWool needs to work with these guys!!
2023-08-19 ... The Cost of the Wool!
This space has lately (entries from yesterday, August 7 and August 5) presented my yakyak on companies that feature wool in products that are only part wool, or even using wool as click-bait for products that don't have any wool. I think that speaks very highly of wool.
But if you are going to feature the wool, what are the reasons to offer a product that is less than 100% wool? I don't really know for sure. I have seen where companies say they add nylon for durability, polyester for wicking of moisture. As a total wool-lover, I suspect the main reason is the cost of wool. It is definitely more expensive than typical polyester or cotton or the newer biological (plant-based) yarns. Although I would guess there are specialty-yarns made from many types of fiber, natural or synthetic or blended, that are very expensive.
Something that I don't remember presenting elsewhere on this website is ... what is the cost of the wool in our garments. That is, how much do we pay for the wool? How much does the Rancher earn for the wool?
There are different types of wool, and the historical price data (International Monetary Fund data presented by the United States Federal Reserve Bank) may not accurately reflect our experience. But my memory agrees with the chart ... that our purchases in 2011 (our first) and 2018 were the most costly. Current pricing is 30% lower! Pricing in the chart is kilograms of fine, clean Australian fiber, with AUD converted to USD (presumably at the appropriate historical exchange rate).
Sorry the legends are so small, but the graph tells the story.
Pricing was around US $16.50 in 2011 and 2018, and now $11.50, off 30%. No wonder Ranchers are hurting! This data is copyrighted but sharing is permitted. Thanks to the IMF and the Fed!
What is the cost of greasy (raw) wool that goes into our garments? Let's say a garment weighs 3 pounds. Factoring in the losses during processing (Blog from 2 days ago, also Production Losses page) and the losses of Fabric during tailoring, a 3-pound (1.36 kg) garment represents about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of greasy. In 2023, our purchases averaged about $2.33 per pound, including broker commissions. So purchasing the greasy wool necessary to make the 3-pound garment was under $25. Almost all of our cost goes into processing. If that 3-pound garment cost $655 (our Anorak), the credit card processing costs as much as the greasy wool. The shipping (including labor) costs more than the greasy. Our biggest costs, by far, are tailoring and processing the greasy into Fabric. It's kind of amazing and somewhat tragic that the wool itself is such a small cost factor.
Back to the "wool" fabrics that turn out to be 50% wool, or even 25% wool ... I am guessing that:
- the synthetic materials hiding behind the "wool-in-the-fabric-name" products are much-much cheaper to get into a finished garment than wool
- that there is very little product enhancement due to the synthetic fibers
- that cost-reduction is by far the biggest factor in a decision to go 50% or more synthetic
I will emphasize that the above bullets are my guesses. We'd love to test with some synthetics folks. Such testing is a big project that we do intend to undertake, and film, eventually.
Lastly ... back to the Ranches. As mentioned in yesterday's entry, Jacob Long, whose company, American Woolen, has primary responsibility in producing our Fabric, just spent time with important figures in the Wyoming wool business. Their primary focus was figuring ways to keep American wool in the USA. This would surely result in better clothing for Americans and better days for our Ranchers and all the rest of our huge team of Partners.
2023-08-19 ... Wool as the "Draw" ... Socks ... Keep It Home!
Earlier this month, the Blog had a couple of entries about products offered as WOOL that have half, or more, polyester or other synthetic. I'd love to know if anyone ever sees a product named for the synthetic component that turns out to be half-wool. Is anyone offering garments made from "Poly-Tech Fabric" that turns out to be half-wool? If anyone knows of examples where synthetic is the marquee and wool turns up in the fine print, I'd like to know.
Searching the web now for "pure wool socks USA", I see "American Made Merino Wool Socks - Sustainably Made in the USA" a sponsored listing from Zkano a "Small Family Business, Owned & Operated in Alabama." OK, but a search of their website finds neither "wool" nor "merino". Maybe I didn't do the search right, or maybe these folks didn't create the pay-per-click routines themselves. But even so, it seems someone thought it was a good idea to use Merino Wool to get people looking at cotton socks.
The same search turns up another company that's all about merino "DESIGNED IN SEATTLE". I could be completely wrong, but I would guess that means the design is about the only USA-part.
If anyone knows some top-notch, pure-wool, heavy/thick socks please LMK! The socks don't need to be merino-class, or soft. Coarser wool is OK for socks, for me.
Actually, what I intended to blog for today ...
Jacob Long, who runs American Woolen, the company with primary responsibility for making our Fabric, is in Wyoming now, meeting with figures in that State's wool business. Wyoming grows a lot of great wool, and the University of Wyoming's Wool Initiative is looking to increase the amount of Wyoming/American wool that "stays home".
Way back in 2011, before we had made any production Fabric, Alex and I were in New Mexico, meeting with Rancher Mike Corn. Mike has been advising us and, through Roswell Wool, assisting our wool acquisitions, since we started. I had never thought about how Ranchers might view our drawing-board plans, but I still remember clearly, over dinner, Mike told us how America's wool growers would be absolutely delighted to have a jacket made from their own wool. The people growing wool for large, commercial-scale processing rarely know exactly what happens to their fiber. It usually goes to China, but even when it stays in USA, it's typically purchased by professional wool buyers and brokers, mixed with lots of other fiber and the ranchers lose track of it. Mike Corn and Bob Padula have been wearing their own wool for maybe 10 years now, and I know this is meaningful to them. Enabling our Ranchers to track their own fiber is one of the reasons we have been adding Fabric Batch tags to our garments since the greasy purchases of 2018.
Our largest single greasy purchases in 2022 and 2023 were from the Innes Ranch of Gillette, Wyoming. I've been in touch a lot with Bob Innes over the past year. Bob is well-known for producing one of America's very finest clips. A few days ago, Bob texted me that he's been asking for feedback on his fiber for decades -- Bob has spent all of his 70+ years raising sheep on his family's ranch -- and in his entire lifetime has never received any info from a final stage processor. I'm happy to say that yesterday he got a first look at some of his own fiber in a finished piece when he received a Scarf we'd sent. (He likes it.) A Scarf was particularly nice to send because Debby cuts the scarves, creates the fringes on the ends, and serges the sides herself.
As of now, it is WeatherWool policy to send a piece to each Rancher so the family has something with their own wool.
2023-08-18 ... Charges, Losses and Fudge Factors
Everyone whose work involves putting paper/theoretical values into practice knows about fudge factors ... (In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is. -- Yogi Berra)
On 24 July of this year, the Blog was about Production Losses. Basically, how each step in the process of turning raw wool into finished garments has a loss factor ... fiber is lost. You can count on losing. The only question is "how much?".
Today, I learned that weaving loss is 10% ... if there are no problems with the yarn. If the the yarn is weak, it's worse. I'd thought weaving loss was about 5%.
But also, here's a sweet detail that I should have thought about before. Looking over the invoice and yield information from Chargeurs, the company that turns our greasy wool into top, the processing charge is based on the wool having 15% water content. Immediately after processing, we had 20,586 pounds of top, which was conditioned (need to find out what that means, too!) to 22,073 pounds. But at 15% water content, the weight would have been 21,466 pounds, and that's what the processing charge is based on.
When scouring greasy into clean fiber (and not top), the cost is based on the weight of greasy before processing. But with top, the cost is based on the weight of top at the end of processing. Interesting.
I'm going to need to talk to Chargeurs about all this one of these days. Diego, plant manager at Chargeurs, may well have explained all this to me years ago. Debby and I spent a couple of hours with him in 2010 ...
But anyway, this reminded me of wool's famous capacity to exchange water with the air. Wool does this constantly, gaining or losing water depending upon the moisture content of the wool and the moisture content of the air. But that means the weight of the wool is constantly changing. How much does a jacket weigh? How much does a box of yarn weigh? It depends on the humidity. In practice, except for Chargeurs, it seems everyone ignores the humidity-related weight changes. It would be interesting to see if we can detect weight changes in our garments based strictly on humidity.
A couple of weeks ago, Debby spent two long days at Fleck Knitwear, reconing end-of-spool warp yarns. Here are some of the fruits of Debby's labor. In the lower left, cord that we will use for Anoraks and Hooded Jackets. In the upper left, "ribs" that we will use for cuffs on our Hoodeds. It's important that Debby imagined and then executed these cords and ribs, because American-made 100% wool cuffs and cords are not otherwise available! And the box of coned yarn will be knitted into Watch Caps and Neck Gaiters, we hope.
2023-08-14 ... CPO, NMDC, Blanket Coat
Better Team is about to make some CPOs for us, and we met today with Martin DiBattista, who runs the company, to make some final plans for the upcoming production run. We'll make about 10 of the CPOs in MidWeight Natural White (Cream), which will be "a first" for us. The bulk of the run will be in Drab Green, but we will also make Lynx Pattern CPOs. CPOs are offered only in our MidWeight Fabrics.
We also met today with Anya Ferring, the right-hand woman of Advisor JR Morrissey, proprietor of TheFactory8. Factory8 will soon complete some Anoraks in FullWeight and MidWeight Drab Green. Factory8 will also make just a few Anoraks in Natural White (Cream), which we expect to ship in September. Sometime in October, we expect Factory8 to complete Basic Vests in MidWeight Drab Green. Today's meeting focused on the North Maine Double Coat and Women's Blanket Coat. We worked with fit models to make final adjustments to the garments. We'll make yet another sample of each of them and hopefully we'll soon be going forward with (much-delayed!!) production runs!
If you want an Anorak, CPO or Scarf in Natural White (Cream), please reserve soon because we have only a very small amount of Fabric to work with now.
2023-08-13 ... Fake-Blogging
Today I received an emailed ad from an company offering to do all my blogging for $29 per month. ChatGPT, plus their user interface, will automatically write and even post the blog to this website, so I won't have to I do anything. WOW!
We wouldn't be interested in something like this in any case. BUT ... A blog, by definition, is personal. ChatGPT cannot blog.
2023-08-12 ... Looking for Land
The loss of a loved one (Debby's sister on Sunday) triggers a lot of things, not least of which is re-assessment of one's own situation. Debby and I are 69 years old. If we are going to "do things", we need to get going. We've been wondering about a WeatherWool Family farm/ranch within a few hours drive of our mills and tailors. So today, I'll be taking Debby's and my son Zack, along with his wife Carla and their son Carter (Kong!) for a look at Wyoming County, Pennsylvania. A little bit of a funny coincidence, because the kids live in Wyoming -- the State of Wyoming -- where Carla was born and raised.
2023-08-11 ... New Partners
WeatherWool is a collective work that embodies the efforts and expertise of our many Partners. This week we are pleased to welcome two new partners to our team.
We are working to bring this website to a higher level. The website has a lot of info, and a friendly, first-person presentation. I want to keep all that, but the site needs to be more professional. We are adding product images created by Elysian Pro Studios and size-chart drawings by Rachael Kranick.
The work of our newest Partners is "live" for the Hooded Jacket. Elysian has done the primary images (in Drab Green) of the Hooded Jacket. Rachael's drawings make the Hooded Jacket Sizing easier to interpret.
We have commissioned much more work from Rachael and Elysian.
2023-08-09 ... Off-Balance a Few More Days
Debby's sister passed very unexpectedly on Sunday. We'll be back to normal work next week, and we'll have a lot to catch up on. Thanks to all for the condolences and good wishes.
2023-08-08 ... Rapid Response Unit, a New WarriorWool Donation Choice
WeatherWool is honored to add the Rapid Response Unit (long-range reconnaissance) to the list of WarriorWool donation recipients. For more information, please click over to RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses.
I've been communicating irregularly with Dr Christian Nellemann, Executive Director of the Rapid Response Unit, since early 2021. Rapid Response Unit personnel are typically highly experienced and trained Veterans of the Military Forces of numerous member countries. The Rapid Response Unit stands ready to deploy immediately, almost anywhere in the world, in all kinds of weather in all types of environments ... desert, jungle, mountain, arctic ... Their work is often dangerous and physically difficult. They need All-Purpose Outerwear, and Dr Nellemann has pushed WeatherWool to extremes
2023-08-07 ... Nano Wool from Origin
[Following from previous Blog entry.]
The techno-snoops are good at what they do. The spyware reported to the advertising-bots that I had been looking at ORIGIN Stealth Wool™ and so this morning Instagram showed me an ad for "ORIGIN NanoWool™", which, according to the website, "is a proprietary textile built on the Origin Factory Blockchain. Raw Fiber, Knitted, Printed, Cut, Sewn and Finished 100% in America, without compromise. Triple-blended, ORIGIN NanoWool™ features fine micron wool fiber sheared from Merino sheep farmed in the American west. This premium wool is then blended with Origin PolySynth™ recycled fiber for moisture management, and intimate blended with long-staple, ultra-soft Tencel™ (cellulosic fibers of botanic origin), for strength, durability, odor control and natural anti-microbial properties." The composition is "25% American Merino Wool, 50% ORIGIN PolySynth™ Polyester, 25% Tencel™ (beech wood pulp)".
I wrote the previous Blog entry because I thought it was impressive that people call a fabric WOOL when it is only 50% wool. Or, in this case, 25% wool.
I've never tested or examined NanoWool ... cannot comment on the performance. But I love that wool is obviously the "draw", even for an item that is only 25% wool.
2023-08-05 ... Stealth Wool from Origin
The folks at Origin have been doing a really good job of building a name and a brand and promoting American-made. People frequently mention them to me as a company from which we can learn a lot. I've never examined any of their products, but I love that Origin very much emphasizes US manufacture.
I noticed an ad today about their Stealth Wool, and took a quick look at their website ... "ORIGIN Stealth Wool™ is a proprietary textile built on the Origin Factory Blockchain". Their website says Stealth Wool is "50% American Merino Wool, 50% ORIGIN PolySynth™ Polyester", designed for hunters. It's interesting to me that a 50% polyester fabric would be called "wool". I mean, it seems it could equally-well be called Stealth Polyester. I don't mean to knock the product, it might be tremendous.
Marketing a fabric as "wool" when it has lots of poly (or other stuff) is very common. Perhaps it's even "the norm". Advisor Cody Bokshowan (Trustin Timber), upon whom we are relying more and more, recently bought a base layer from a company that touts their woolens. After wearing it, and being underwhelmed by the performance, he found it is 50% polyester.
It never seems to be the case that a company features a polyester, nylon or cotton garment that turns out to be 50% wool. I admit to being an insufferable wool-snob. But it's instructive that so many companies feature woolens that turn out to be only part-wool ... but ... near as I can tell, nobody features poly or nylon or cotton garments that turn out to have a large woolen component.
2023-08-04 ... Pants for Donation ... Miles of Ribbon ... Barefoot Tradbow
We have a pair of Pants (size 38 or 40) in the Lending Library that was donated, with the request the recipient be a Veteran. This is a situation I did not envision! Advisor Matt Ballantine has been with us a long time, and has had these Pants since 2015 or so. He sent them to us to offer for sale/borrow in the usual way ... BUT ... Matt had added about 3 inches of "someone else's wool" to the cuffs. So ... because of that foreign wool, I told Matt we can't work with these Pants. To which Matt replied that we should donate them to a Veteran.
Every choice we make is intended to make a better product ... as a result, every choice we make raises costs. The only semi-exception involves VOLUME. If we make large production runs, tailoring costs will drop slightly, but of course our up-front costs rise much higher. Similarly, if we buy large quantities of notions (zippers, buttons, cord locks, etc.), the unit costs will drop. Today, Debby told me she ordered ribbon at half the usual per-yard cost. The catch? She had to order 6000 yards, which is 3.4 miles (5.49 km) ... in each of two colors. We use this ribbon to secure Slot Buttons and to tape some seams. But I have a feeling it's going to take quite a while before 6 or 7 miles of ribbon looks like a savings.
A lot of people know I really enjoy talks with customers. Today, I again spoke with Lance from Michigan. Lance likes to do some old-fashioned living, and he likes to do some things "the hard way". Nobody who runs ultra-marathons is looking for "easy". But also, Lance believes typical American shoes/sneakers are bad for the feet. So he goes barefoot whenever possible. Lance believes barefoot-walking exercises foot-muscles and ligaments that are not really even used when wearing shoes. He also believes the barefoot style allows the bones to assume their natural position in the foot, non-compressed by shoes. Lance wears very minimal footwear when it is cold. In warmer weather, he'll be barefoot wherever it's socially acceptable unless he's concerned about nasty sorts of litter such as in cities. Lance phoned to tell me he is very happy with his Shemagh, the only piece of WeatherWool he has so far. He's very pleased with the texture and performance of the Fabric. He's used it many hours in traditional ways, but he also had a new use .. as a filter to strain water prior to boiling! Along the lines of his barefoot-is-best philosophy, he sleeps on a thin pad on the floor or on the ground. The closer to Mother-Earth, the better. Typical pillows are not on Lance's list. But he likes the Shemagh as a pillow. Folded up, it's only an inch (2 or 3 cm) or so thick, and Lance thinks that's the old-old-old-fashioned Natural way of sleeping. We talked a long time, and Lance asked us to consider a new product. He is a traditional bowhunter, which means he hunts with a wooden longbow or recurve, and shoots instinctively, without any sort of sight. But he also hunts from the ground, stalking up very close to deer. Bare feet are a big advantage here, if your feet are tough enough, because you can feel the ground without looking, and can move much more quietly than in typical boots. The new product Lance had in mind is shorts for hunting. Lance is the first person to tell me he hunts in shorts. He said nothing is quieter, or smoother for moving through the forest than shorts. And that nobody makes good wool shorts.2023-08-02 ... Crossing Oz ... Deleting Backorders
Because we have been so long between production runs, and because backorders can be placed without obligation, we have a great many backorders that go stale. And probably there are other reasons, too. The bottom line is we have many orders that lead nowhere. But they are actual orders ... so when we prepare a production run, I take all backorders orders into account, although I know the majority will be dead-ends. When we have product, after the SHIP ASAPs have been filled, I let everyone know by email. I used to carry old orders on the books longer, and send two or three notes to let people know they can get their wool. The great majority of these notes elicit no response. I don't want to pester people, but I have been reluctant to disregard (delete!) actual orders. Response rates are so low from the first "your wool is available" mail that from now on I will send only one email and then delete the backorder unless it comes from an established customer.
About three weeks ago we were contacted by a gent who is undertaking a fundraising adventure on behalf of Australia's Riding for the Disabled Association. Tom Mullinar, his wife, Sascha Yeomans, and Sascha's son, Angel Cropley, will soon attempt to complete, on horseback, Australia's National Trail. Australian TV created a video, linked from the family's @roughandstumble Instagram account, describing their plan. The National Trail is 5330 km (3313 miles). Nature will present a great many obstacles! This will definitely be the biggest adventure for anything from the Lending Library, and probably the longest single outing ever undertaken in WeatherWool!
2023-07-31 ... 58F/14C ... Bad Reviews ... Goodbye July
At 3:30AM, the outside temp is 58F/14C. Only a few degrees above the record low (just west of New York City). I do love the summer, but by this time of year, I've had enough of the bugs, although the singing of the late-summer night-time bugs is wonderful. I suppose they know their time is short, and they are doing all the living they can. Their intense nights will come later ... mid-September. This morning, the bugs are silent.
I've been searching the web for bad reviews of WeatherWool, and I'm happy to say I'm not finding them. Plenty of people who don't have any experience with our products express very strong opinions that it can't be any better than name-the-brand, that's it's overpriced, that we must be getting rich off rich fools. It's great to read the responses our customers make to those kinds of comments. There were people claiming the only reason to buy WeatherWool is for the prestige of the label! That really surprised me -- made me laugh, too -- because we are virtually unknown, and our garments bear no external identification. Except for attendees at outdoors-related events, I know of only a handful of times when WeatherWool was recognized. And actually, adding in outdoor-events, still under twenty times that WeatherWool has been recognized.
Public interest in wool bottoms out in July (in the Northern Hemisphere). But tomorrow is August, and what I think of as "wool season" kicks off the last few days of the month. We'll have more inventory this fall than ever before, but still, nowhere near where I hope we will be in 2024 and 2025!
2023-07-30 ... "A Better Life", by/from Cody Bokshowan (@TrustinTimber)
Advisor Cody Bokshowan, known online as @TrustinTimber, is helping us in several ways. This morning he sent a very nice little video that highlights one of the unexpected ways that wool can make life better.
He asked for the go-ahead to add this vid to the page on the Hooded Jacket. I doubt he'll be surprised when I tell him it's also today's Blog:
2023-07-29 ... FOURTH State of Water
This is getting kind of far afield ... talking about the states of water ...
We've done some experiments on how wool handles water, and some people were skeptical of our results. Or, at least, skeptical of the overall effect on the wearer of the behavior of wool. It is well-established that wool plus water, particularly water vapor, creates heat. But skeptics, citing the laws of thermodynamics, maintained that even if heat is generated initially, the wool would eventually consume heat in order to dry out. I'm not saying that doesn't happen, but I, and the others who tested this, did not feel as if the wool was pulling heat from us at any point.
I am guessing that wool has some other surprising tricks to be discovered. Maybe something tells the wool to hold onto the water until conditions are favorable to the sheep (us)? One of the main sources of heat generation was the absorption of vapor, which condenses inside the wool, releasing a lot of heat. If the water was excreted as liquid instead of vapor, that would be a big win.
I sometimes read an anonymous column, The Forgotten Side of Medicine, written by A MIDWESTERN DOCTOR. On 4 March 2023, he published What is The Forgotten Side of Water? ... A few days ago, for completed unrelated reasons, I happened upon this column. The author, and many others, evidently, contend that water exists not only in solid, liquid and vapor, but also as gel:
Hydrogels (water gels which can sometimes be composed of 99.9% water) exist throughout nature, and this viscous form of water is vital to biology and the normal function of the human body.
Could this be part of an explanation of how it is that wool handles water in such wonderful ways? The article didn't go there. But a little web-searching shows that a lot of work has been done on the properties and uses of wool hydrogels. I didn't see anything addressing wool clothing, but maybe??!!!
2024-07-27 ... More Salvageable Losses
I just returned from a run to MTL to pick up some of the yarn mentioned in yesterday's entry. MTL had 300+ pounds (maybe 160 kg) of extra cones that Alex is now delivering to Tailored Industry to make Drab Green Watch Caps and Neck Gaiters.
One thing I didn't mention yesterday is still another type of loss.
Weaving, especially Jacquard weaving, is crazy complex, at least to me, who is not used to it. Our Fabric has about 60 warp yarns per inch ... about 24 per centimeter. (The warp yarn runs lengthwise through a bolt of Fabric). And our Fabric is about 53 inches (135 cm) across. So ... around 3000 warp yarns across a bolt.
The warp is prepared in bundles (not the right term) of something like 200 strands of yarn, then the bundles are spooled onto a warp drum that holds all 3000 strands of yarn. But spooling even 200 strands of yarn onto the giant warp drum requires a crazy array of racks full of cones of warp yarn, with each strand monitored individually. (If one strand breaks or has a problem, everything stops.) The cones of yarn weigh a kilogram (a couple of pounds) each, I think. When the cone is used up, the end of the yarn is knotted to another cone that continues to feed the warping process. A gigantic number of cones and knot-tying is involved! This warping generates hundreds of cones with small amounts of yarn remaining. This is good yarn, and very expensive! But when there is just a small amount left on a cone, particularly at the end of a run, it's basically waste.
So ... in addition to the boxes of full cones of warp yarn that we'll use for Watch Caps and Gaiters, this morning I also picked up hundreds of cones with small amounts of the warp yarn remaining.
WeatherWool knits drawcords and cuffs from the same fiber as the WeatherWool garments. The cuffs and drawcords are made from partial cones left over after weaving. Thanks to Debby's ingenuity and imagination, we make some great stuff from what would otherwise be waste. Not only that, but I much prefer the woolen drawcords to the synthetic.
Fleck Knitwear is very kind in letting us (that means Debby) use their equipment to recone this yarn, which Fleck will then use to knit our drawcords and cuffs. As far as we know, making our own woolen cords and cuffs (ribs) is the only way. Last time we searched, suitable materials were not commercially offered.
2023-07-26 ... Salvageable Production Losses
Two days ago the Blog was about the dead-losses incurred in the production cycle from greasy (raw) wool through finished Fabric. But there are other losses. The tailors are efficient, but there are nevertheless large amounts of Fabric that wind up as waste. Visit us and pick up a few hundreds pounds of free Tailor Remnants!
Another large source of waste ("deferred-use" is more accurate) is mismatch between quantities of warp and weft yarn. Because of the logistics of weaving and dyeing, unused/extra cones of yarn accumulate. It's much too valuable to throw away, but also very expensive to process into Fabric. And making small quantities of Fabric is much more expensive than bulk quantities.
However, we'd gotten to the point of having about 3000 pounds (1360 kg) of extra yarn ... several different colors and types of yarn. But an appreciable amount of very valuable yarn:
- After the greige for the original Batch 8 Purchase Orders was fully woven, MTL had enough extra warp and weft to make a bonus 300 yards (273 meters) of additional Batch 8 Drab Green Fabric, mostly MidWeight.
- After all the Batch 8 weft was used, MTL was left with about 300 pounds of Drab Green warp. We'll use this warp to make Neck Gaiters and Watch Caps, roughly 300 of each. This is the yarn we would normally have used to make the knits, so, nothing new or different, just a nice surprise to have this yarn available. The Caps and Gaiters will be knitted at Tailored Industry
We also had 65 pounds (39 kg) of leftover warp that had been returned to American Woolen from MTL, around half Duff (our older light brown color) and half Khaki (one of the components of Lynx Pattern). We'll use this leftover warp to knit drawcords and ribs (for cuffs) at Fleck Knitwear.
Also ... we will combine Batch 9 warp with some extra weft from earlier Batches. Should be enough to make about 930 yards (846 meters) total, all FullWeight Fabric. We anticipate making:
- Black: 90 yards / 81 meters
- Brown: 150 yards / 135 meters
- Drab: 60 yards / 55 meters
- Duff: 240 yards / 215 meters. Much to my surprise, we will again have some Duff Fabric, which until just lately I thought would not be made again
I don't know what we'll do with this hybrid Fabric made from Batch 9 warp and weft from Batch 5 and Batch 7. The Fabric will be full production quality ... not at all inferior ... but I did not anticipate AGAIN making Fabric made from more than one Batch. So much for my plans, AGAIN ... Hurricane Ida forced us to mix the greasy from Batches 7 and 8.
2023-07-25 ... Looking at August!
A week from today is August First. While I do love the summer, people in the Northern Hemisphere don't "think wool" between April and late August. Someone from Australia just ordered an Anorak that we won't be able to ship for another 6 weeks or so, when he'll be at the end of winter and we'll be at the end of summer. Here in New Jersey, something in the evening air brings a feel of Autumn in the last week or so of August. Everyone is sensitive to it, even if only subconsciously. Something triggers the plants, the animals and the animal-part of us, and "wool season" starts. About 25 years ago, I was speaking with Len Cardinale, one of America's foremost archers and bowhunters who operated a nationally known bow-shop nearby. Len remarked that the evening air was suddenly bearing a taste of Fall, and that his customers would, in the space of one day, switch their mindset from beach and fishing to archery. He said it happens every year.
Thinking of August, I just updated our "landing page carousel", the four images presented in rotation when someone views WeatherWool.com.
Presenting good images on the carousel can be tricky because the screen geography varies a great deal depending on the device a visitor is using. I put a new image of Advisor Trustin Timber in a Basic Vest as the first image. It looks great on a cell phone, but the orientation is bad on a desktop. Most visitors are using their phones, tho. It will take some fiddling to get the image working well on the desktops, but it's 4AM now and I'll put that off for a while. Maybe Trustin or Denali will work on it before I pick it up again!
The image in first place in the carousel for the past couple of months is now second. The guy wearing our All-Around Jacket is on the famous side of things. He is followed by millions of people on social media and YouTube, and it's a kick for us that he wears our stuff. He's popular enough that he can make impressive cash by endorsing products or collaborating with brands. He's a friend of Trustin's, and that's how he came to know about us. We've still never paid anyone to wear WeatherWool, but we did give this fellow the jacket. He actually did some photography for us, also, as a favor to Trustin.
The first Open House of the Fall Season is scheduled for Sunday, 27 August, and that's close enough that I put the Open House into the 4th slot of the rotation, where it will probably stay until April.
Yesterday, we got an order from a gent in Thailand. That's unusual in that it might actually be the first order from Thailand. But also, the man's name is KONG. Fortunately for me, he has great English-skills, so in our correspondence I remarked that I have been calling my little grandson KONG because he is, so far (he's just turning 1 year old), extremely tall. Our customer responded that KONG is his nickname, also bestowed by his grandfather. He was a noisy youngster, and KONG means LOUD in Thai. We'll see whether my Kong runs with his grandpa-name.
2023-07-24 ... Production Losses
In planning Batch 9 production, I realized it's time to put together a spreadsheet showing the amount (by weight) of material that is lost at each step of production. I was pretty well aware of how many pounds of raw wool are needed to create how many yards of Fabric, and how many garments. But there are a lot of slosh and fudge factors that come into play, and it's good to have a spreadsheet where the variables can be fine-tuned.
Then I thought I'd put up a basic page showing the average numbers. Production Losses shows the loss (by weight) of material beginning with greasy (raw) wool and moving through finished Fabric, ready for the tailors. Loss totals about 60%, although the first 50% is cleaning and combing the greasy, rather than loss of valuable fiber.
For those interested in the steps of production, there are other pages that may be of interest:
- Timeline --- elapsed calendar time from start to finish
- How WeatherWool is Made --- The steps of production and the people involved
2023-07-22 ... Sunburn
Given that it's mid-summer in the Northern Hemisphere, where the great majority our customers live, I was thinking about wool and sunburn.
Everyone (as far as I found on the web) agrees that wool naturally provides a significant amount of protection from the potentially harmful (skin cancer) ultraviolet radiation of the sun. Wool protects more than most other clothing, and enough that woolens typically provide a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) of 30 or more, which is quite good for what is a sort of bonus benefit. "UPF 30" means unprotected skin would be subjected to 30 times more UV.
We have a page on Sunburn, but the the gist of it is that wool is effective protection against sun ... regardless of season.
PS --- It was almost exactly a year ago that Debby and I spent an afternoon on the Innes Ranch in Wyoming. Here is a photo and some text from the blog entry of that day (apologies for quoting myself):
Innes sheep need to be very robust to handle the difficult Wyoming range conditions. High winds and serious cold in winter (-20F/-29C is routine, and it gets as cold as -40F/-40C) and real heat in summer (100F/38C) is to be expected. Their wool enables the sheep to withstand these conditions without shelter.
Kirsten Innes, on the Innes Ranch, in her WeatherWool CPO Shirt in MidWeight Lynx Pattern. When this photo was taken, the temp was about 104F/40C, and Kirsten said she felt less heat when she put the CPO over her regular summer shirt. Wool does a creditable job of keeping heat out and providing shelter from the strength of the sun's rays. It also provides significant UV protection.
2023-07-21 ... Knaves and Thieves
We are solicited daily by service providers of various stripes. I get a note at least once a day from self-styled "SEO experts" (Search Engine Optimization) who claim they can get us to the top of the search-engine rankings. Usually, these notes come from a gmail or hotmail (generic, free-email) account that certainly does not suggest expertise or substance. And never a phone number. I suppose people must respond, tho, or I wouldn't get so many such notes.
Some of them look more substantial. A few days ago, a fellow claimed a friend wears our wool, speaks highly of it, and so he spent some time on our site, and could tell us all sorts of ways to improve. Out of respect for our customer, I thought I should give him a chance, but first wanted a name. "Well, it was just a casual conversation a couple of weeks ago, can't remember the name ..." That was a bit of a relief, actually.
I've heard from several customers that their WeatherWool was stolen. Earlier this week, a customer ordered a replacement CPO because of theft. He said the WeatherWool was the only thing stolen! Several years ago, a customer suffered a large loss through theft, and he marveled that the thieves only took the most valuable pieces. The police -- the RCMP, actually -- told him the thieves frequently take only the best.
Recently, a guy called, wanting me to buy back some wool because it didn't fit him. But he wasn't our customer. He claimed he'd bought the wool from someone on an anonymous internet forum, so he couldn't give me the name.
We will facilitate our customers -- buy-back / exchange / refund -- but only our customers.
2023-07-20 ... Correcting Entry of 2023-07-02 Regarding Denim
I was confused about the construction of planned 100% wool denim.
The Fabrics we've been making all along are woven with yarns that are spun differently. Warp yarns, which run lengthwise through a bolt of fabric, are worsted-spun. The weft yarns, which run sideways, and which USUALLY impart the lion's share of a fabric's character, are woolen-spun. Woolen spun yarns are fuzzier and thicker. Worsted yarns are smoother and thinner than woolen yarns.
Yesterday, Debby and I were discussing with Arthur and Giuseppe (of American Woolen) the allocation of Batch 9 fiber. And when we considered denim, I was surprised to learn we'll make our denim entirely from yarns we would normally use only for our weft.
Sorry for the misinformation of two weeks ago!
2023-07-19 ... Holy Cow (sorry!)
Today I won the lottery. Not THAT kind of lottery, but a good lottery nonetheless.
Our love of Natural Foods (fish, game, berries, greens, mushrooms) led us on a crazy winding road to WeatherWool. And although I spend more time at a desk now than ever, we still get out in the woods. Venison for dinner is pretty normal here.
America's northeastern States (Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont) hold significant numbers of moose, and moose hunting tags are awarded by lottery. These tags are much-desired and the lottery odds are relatively tough. Many people have applied for decades and never been drawn. For whatever reason, my sons and I have been very lucky. And our luck jumped up again today. I drew a Cow Moose tag in the Vermont Moose Lottery. We absolutely love moose meat, and I'll need to re-arrange my October to get up to Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.
For WeatherWool, this is a bit of a weird thing. We make All-Purpose Outerwear ... woolens intended to serve anyone who faces weather. Although we do not make clothing specifically for hunters, the majority of our customers are outdoorsmen (we are happy to have some outdoorswomen, too) and our wool is used a lot for hunting. But we understand hunting is distasteful to many, so we don't talk about it much. On the other hand, I certainly make no apologies for it.
So, if I (or Alex and I) can create some space in October, during our busiest time of year, a moose hunt will be on the agenda.
2023-07-18 ... MidWeight Drab Green Basic Vests
Debby and I made a quick run into NYC this afternoon to drop off some Fabric and thread at Factory8. A while back, we decided to make, for the first time, some MidWeight Basic Vests. As of now, they are underway. Probably ship in mid-September.
2023-07-17 ... Don't say THAT!
We invite comparison of our Fabric and garments to any others. Regardless of what I might think, I don't say WeatherWool is better than anything else, let alone "the best". We make the best we can figure out, and it is certainly our goal to make the best All-Purpose Outerwear there is. But I'll leave it to others to bandy how good we are.
For several months, Advisor Trustin Timber has been helping us with branding, marketing, imagery, social media. Trustin wrote some copy about WeatherWool being the best, and I stopped him, because I don't want to say that. He observed that we have trademarked "Best Wool in the Woods". I explained that trademark originates from 2005 or so, when we were distributors for another company making woolens and I did feel they (a hunting line) made the best wool in the woods. We have kept the trademark, and that line has been in my email sig-block for years, without me really thinking about it.
Trustin pointed out the humor that I was OK saying another brand was "best" (we love being compared to that stuff!) back when I was their biggest distro, but now I don't want Trustin saying WeatherWool is the best. Great point, and kind of funny. Trustin also pointed out his belief that WeatherWool is best is why he wanted to work with us in the first place (going back a few years). But when Trustin is generating material on our behalf, he won't say WeatherWool is best.
I would love to hear what people think is best!
2023-07-16 ... Nice Update from Chile
A couple of days ago, someone in the US Army sent me a photo and nice comments from his training at 10,000 feet (3048 meters) in the Andes Mountains of Chile, where it is mid-winter now.
MANY THANKS to XXX and his Brothers for doing what they do!
The sender of this photo told me the locals all wear wool. After examining the Anorak they stated they had not previously encountered such wool.
Although WarriorWool was one of the reasons for the founding of WeatherWool, the WarriorWool Program coalesced around the Anorak in 2015, which is when we first made it, because Military people gravitate to that design.
Alex and I were doing a show in Nashville and I noticed a couple of guys staring at the prototype Anorak as they approached from 75 yards/70 meters. Although dressed in plain clothes, I knew these guys were Military before they reached our booth. One of them opened with "I'm going to Afghanistan in September and I'd love to bring one of those [Lynx Pattern] with me." And so our first actual production Anorak was a single WarriorWool piece commissioned (meaning pushed thru production as run of one unit) by a Green Beret. This soldier is now retired, and I'm still in touch now and then with his Mrs, who tells me he wears the Rak all the time, for all situations and weather.
Originally we used the term WarWool, but an Admiral in the US Navy preferred WarriorWool.
WarriorWool is worn by members of all branches of the US Military except Space Force. WarriorWool is available to Allies of the USA, and there are a few Brits also wearing. A couple more Allied Countries will be added to the list when the next run of Anoraks is completed in a month or two.
At this writing, there are hundreds of WarriorWool Anoraks in service, I am pretty sure on all continents. Not sure about Australia, but definitely Antarctica. Not all those wearing WarriorWool are men.
I think around half the WarriorWool has been donated, and there is a page detailing donations, but I haven't done a great job keeping it comprehensive. A couple of years ago, an anonymous donor paid for 10 Anoraks! Veterans like to donate to their own branch of the service.
We received many requests from people outside traditional Military, and so we have broadened the program quite a bit. I'd never even heard of the Diplomatic Security Service nor the Office of Secure Transport until people in those organizations contacted us. Recently, we've made WarriorWool available to domestic First Responders and Law Enforcement.
Uncle Sam has never purchased any Anoraks, but there have been a bunch of steps in that direction. Five or ten times, I've been asked to prepare an invoice for 10 or 20 or 30 Anoraks, but it's never gone farther than that.
2023-07-15 ... Wood Duck Boxes at The Swamp with David Alexander
Advisor David Alexander is a professional Naturalist and another Jersey boy. He works only a few miles from my house, and his workplace is directly on the Passaic River, on the opposite side of the Hatfield Swamp from my little swamp spot (The WeatherWool Swamp).
In March, Advisor Trustin Timber was in town to do some photography, and he shot some footage of David installing a Wood Duck Nesting Box at what I've always just called The Swamp. Advisor Fisher Neal, a professional outdoorsman, sometimes takes his clients there, and started calling it "The WeatherWool Swamp". YEAH!
MUCHO THANKS to TRUSTIN and DAVID for this!
2023-07-14 ... Wool and Water and Theory and Practice
One reason I love wool is the way it handles water. We've published on that subject in our usual venues, and gotten some push-back. I think if people had worn serious wool all their lives, they'd probably be surprised that anyone would wear garments that did NOT handle water so well.
It's interesting to me that people will argue from the armchair -- strenuously -- that people's actual, real-life, in-the-weather experiences are misleading. (I hope I'm not one of them ...) I do love argument and conjecture but when it comes to clothing, the final word has to be personal field-testing.
So when people declare wool can't do what it does because that violates the laws of physics, I'm reminded of a great Yogi-ism (Yogi Berra, a beloved baseball player circa 1960): "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is." (Sorry to repeat that one again.) Of course I agree wool cannot violate physical law. I just think the skeptics don't understand how sophisticated biological systems can be ... that biological systems will have mechanisms to respond to physics in ways we do not anticipate and maybe not even understand when observed. But also, put down the book, get out in the weather and see for yourself.
I'm reminded of all this because of a YouTube comment on our Wool+Water=Heat video. @uncleberdo5706 wrote: "I ain't the smartest fella in the room but I think that wool does a great job when wet and in the field. My Army days have shown me that even when the wool is wet it can feel dry to the touch like Ralph stated. Crazy and it isn't a mind trick or illusion or anything silly like that, wool just does it naturally." The actual experience is all that matters! THANKS UNCLE BERDO!
2023-07-13 ... Wool and Sleep
Evidence increasingly shows wool can help people sleep better. If anyone has good info on this, please LMK. Not that this website needs another page, but ... we hope to build a good reference point at Wool and Sleep. As for WeatherWool, we'll keep offering Blankets, but we don't intend to produce other types of bedding.
2023-07-12 ... Linear, Lineal ... Additional Anoraks ... Notions
In the rag biz, the term "notions" refers to just about everything needed to make a garment other than "the goods" (the fabric). And we inevitably use a lot of notions ... buttons, thread, zippers, cords, cord locks, cord cannons, ribbon, tape ... And there are a bunch of different kinds of each of these notions. The Anoraks in production now have three sizes of zippers, which come in different colors and lengths. Exactly which zip is appropriate for a given garment depends on the garment size and color. Similarly, there are lots of variations of the other notions. Dealing with the notions would drive me up a wall, so I'm greatly indebted to the people who handle all this for me. Debby (IOU for this!!) handles notions from the WeatherWool side. So she has to order them (sometimes long in advance of actual need!), inventory them, and then get them ready for the tailors. Debby coordinates the notions needed for any given production run with the tailors. BIG THANKS Johnson, Keith and Ilinca at Better Team USA and to Anya at Factory8 for being on top of this! And I'm sure I'm not overstepping when extending THANKS to Debby from Anya, Johnson, Keith and Ilinca!
Alex just dropped off some additional Fabric (and "notions"!) at Factory8 in NYC. We decided to increase size of the "cutting ticket" on the run of MidWeight Drab Green Anoraks because some of the sizes on the original cutting ticket were already almost fully reserved (SHIP ASAP). Given these Anoraks won't be shipping until probably early September, and given that we are in the middle of July, it seems like we'll need the additional garments. The FullWeight Drab Green Anoraks have already been cut.
My son Zack phoned me this morning from Wyoming, asking if I knew the difference between LINEAL and LINEAR measurements. I did not, and don't even remember hearing of LINEAL measurements until today. So, I looked it up. But LINEAL is the word I've been looking for to describe the way American mills and garment makers usually present the weight of wool fabrics. If someone says "20-ounce wool", they mean a LINEAR yard (91 cm) will weigh 20 ounces (57 grams), but there is no standard width. That's where LINEAL is useful. People working together will know the standard width ... so when they refer to 20-ounce wool, both the length and the width are known. That's a LINEAL yard. But as the fabric is moved from the source, and people keep referring to 20-ounce wool, the knowledge of the width, the LINEAL YARD, is lost, and we're left with the confusing LINEAR YARD of mysterious width. On this site we try always to specify opsy (ounces per square yard) or gsm (grams per square meter). It's also important to remember that opsy and gsm specify weight, but not performance! Thanks to Z for helping me understand better the origin of the sloppy (IMNSHO) nomenclature!
2023-07-11 ... Passion
I'm surprised to see the last entry here was 3 days ago. I may have somehow clobbered the entry from Sunday the 9th. OOPS!
I'm working on an application for a revolving line of credit from the National Livestock Producers Association Sheep and Goat Innovation Fund. The appl asks about our Competitive Advantages. We strive to offer superior levels of Quality, Service, Transparency ... I had nine advantages in my list when I remembered something that comes up frequently when people review us, or even when people talk to me about what we're doing. PASSION. I hadn't thought of this myself, or, at least, not the word PASSION, until I heard it from others. I was well aware that I am "into" the wool, but hadn't thought of passion.
US Air Force SERE Instructor and television Survival Contestant (History Channel's ALONE) Brady Nicholls did a YouTube review of our Anorak in 2018. Brady stated (3:25 mark) that I'd spent 90 minutes PASSIONATELY telling him about what we're up to. I think this was the first time I'd heard that word applied to us/me. But it's accurate. And I think PASSION actually IS a competitive advantage.
Last night, I fell asleep about midnight, woke up at 2:30 and starting working. I'm writing this now at 7AM. It just feels good to do this. At age 69, I must admit my work history is on the long side. Debby too, although she left the paid workforce from 1984 until about 2006 to take care of the kids. Our work in technology and financial services was good stuff, relatively speaking. And for several years Debby and I worked together doing hedge fund research. It was great steering clients away from the occasional swindler -- and WOW!!, I wish somebody had asked me about Madoff! -- but we had to sort of force ourselves to do that stuff. Not so with the wool. If anything, it's the opposite.
WeatherWool isn't a job for us. And although it's an enormous amount of work, I don't really think of it as work, either. It's what we want to do. And even though Debby and I are both well past what Uncle Sam calls "full retirement age", we don't have any interest in retiring. We've found something that is meaningful for us. We're doing it together. We even have our son Alex working with us full-time.
2023-07-08 ... Names of our Colors
I admit to being a "wordy" guy, but I did want to keep the names of our colors and Fabrics short and indicative. So, we have FullWeight and MidWeight Fabric, and we have colors Black, Brown, Drab, Lynx Pattern.
Because I really wanted to get my hands on some Batch 9 Fabric as soon as possible, and because dyeing can take 3 months, we skipped any dyeing, and made some Undyed Fabric. I wanted only a little, but the minimal quantity for the mills turned out to be about 120 yards (about 108 meters) of each (Mid- and FullWeight) Undyed Fabric. So, we decided to add a few Undyed Anoraks, CPOs and Shemaghs to the work already underway at the tailors.
When I added the Undyed selection to the website, Advisor Trustin Timber, pointed out that Undyed sounds like "Unfinished". So then we thought of calling it Undyed Natural, which it is. However, we (OK, just me) are very keen on someday offering Naturally Colored Black, Brown, Gray. The Naturally Colored fleeces are extremely beautiful, but producing garments from Naturally Colored wool presents serious logistical challenges. And the easiest of those challenges starts now, on the website, because I don't want to have to change color-names again. So, it looks like the present Undyed will be referred to as Natural White, although it is really a cream/off-white. The industry refers to the sheep we work with as "white sheep".
Once we started debating the name of the Natural White, Trustin decided suggested we revisit all our color names. People often ask me if "Drab is Green", so the website will have "Drab Green" going forward. Debby has always told people our "Black is True Black", so ... True Black it is. Lynx Pattern doesn't change. Trustin had an imaginative name or two for Brown, but I pushed for Classic Brown, if we have to have an adjective.
Here is a look at our tentative new color palette:
I'm going to let Debby, Denali and Trustin battle over the order of the colors. They are agreed BLACK should be at the bottom because it is the "heaviest" color.
These color name-changes require a lot of updates on the website, and they will take time. I'll do the Anorak, CPO and Shemagh pages now, and maybe let the rest of it sit a little, in case we come up with more changes.
It's quite possible we may not touch Batch 10 fiber until next April (when shearing-time comes round again!) or even later, but I didn't want to chance needing fiber and not having it ... So, we bought, even though a lot of Batch 8 Fabric is still unused, and we are only just beginning work with Batch 9.
2023-07-07 ... Wool Facts
It's great that the wool-industry trade organizations are offering information on the benefits of wool.The IWTO (International Wool Trade Organization) offers a website, Real Wool Facts, that offers some interesting fact sheets. It continues to impress me that the wool folks do not lead with what I think of as wool's biggest virtues, all based on wool being clothing created by Nature. There are fact sheets on Sleep, Healthy Skin and Flame Resistance (great topics). But Real Wool Facts is mainly concerned with Sustainability and Animal Welfare. It still seems to me these topics would be irrelevant if woolens weren't great clothing in the first place. Hopefully more fact sheets coming.
The Sleep Fact Sheet presents evidence that people sleep better with wool bedding and sleepwear. I'd love to see more info on this. Better sleep and better rest would be (is?!) a big deal, to say the least. The fact sheet makes a bit of a jump by stating about 20% of car crashes are blamed on sleepy drivers. If wool actually could help reduce accidents, that would be huge. Industrial accidents are also often a result of overtired workers. And no matter what you are up to, a good night's rest is important. Judging from all the sleep-better with XXX ads, I guess it's a widespread problem. There is a bibliography on this (and the other) fact sheets. but I have not gone through it. I enjoy our WeatherWool blankets, No woolen sheets yet, tho.
The Wool & Skin Fact Sheet suggests that wool can provide significant relief to those who suffer Atopic Dermatitis.
2023-07-06 ... Street-Style and Fitting
I want the Hood of any garment we make to protect against weather coming from any direction. And to offer privacy if you just want to get some sleep (this comes up a lot!). So, the Hood needs to be large, and I've been saying the Anorak has a "Grim Reaper Hood". Although that moniker was applied humorously, it's still quite dismal. Lately, we're calling it a "Wyoming Hood". My son Zack lives in Wyoming with his family. We dearly love Wyoming, but it has notoriously difficult weather.
A couple of weeks ago I did a run into NYC for dropoff and pickup at Factory8, where Advisor JR Morrissey and his team are now making Anoraks that we expect to ship in about 2 months.
A few years back, JR was very camera-shy. But he's a natural! Here he shows the Wyoming Hood on the sidewalks of Manhattan's Garment District. I really enjoy these curbside meetings. JR and I are both deep-down New Yorkers!
2023-07-05 ... Pricing Up (Sorry)
Our production costs have gone up a lot over the last three years. The only cost that has not gone up is the greasy (raw) wool, which is a little crazy, given that the wool itself is obviously the basis of what we do. The costs for everything else have gone up, in some cases a lot. Also, labor shortages have slowed down all the processing, and this is a hidden cost. From the time we purchase greasy wool to the time we can offer a garment for sale can easily be year. (Click for a timeline of production.)
I'm in process of raising (no euphemism) prices on the website now. For backorders, we will honor the price in effect on the date of the order.
THANK YOU ALL for working with us!
2023-07-03 ... Our Previous Website, WeatherWool History
In 2017, Debby launched this website, built on Shopify, the most popular platform for e-commerce. The old website was far short of what we needed, and Debby took matters into her own hands.
I launched our previous website in 2011, but we didn't even have anything to sell until 2013. In 2011, the website was a place to chronicle development, and the first Blog was January 2012. The old Blogs have all been copied to this site. (Maybe I put up the website so I would have a place to Blog.)
Shopify makes it relatively easy to open a webstore, and there are a lot of consultants eager to help. This website needs something of a facelift (they tell me!) and we'll probably enlist a pro eventually. There are a couple of million shops built on Shopify, and it's become the standard for this sort of thing.
But before Debby prepared this site, I built another site using different and relatively crude tools that I did not understand. ("It's a poor artist who blames his tools", and I offer no defense.) I didn't know what I was doing, but, it was a start. This old site, renamed WeatherWool-info, is still online, but we'll be taking it down around the end of this month. The WeatherWool-info domain will then become a redirect to this site.
WeatherWool-info hasn't been updated since mid-2017, and looking it over is a little horrifying, somewhat amusing, and interesting. One of the biggest weaknesses is that the old site didn't have individually addressable pages ... to send someone to the page on the All-Around Jacket required specifying each menu-navigation choice.
It's interesting to compare pricing from six years ago to now. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator shows inflation has far outpaced WeatherWool pricing since July of 2017 and May of 2023, the most-recent month accepted by the calculator.
- In July of 2017, the Anorak was priced at $575, and the BLS calculator equates that to $714 as of May 2023. Current price of the Anorak is $625.
- The All-Around Jacket was $850, a CPI-adjusted price of $1,056. Current price is $885
- The calculator says the Basic Vest, at $350, inflates to $435. Current price is $395
- Pants were $500. Inflation adjusted price is $621. We plan to ship Pants in late 2023 at $545
2023-07-02 ... Trade Press, Advisor Input, Hallway Talk ... Another Trial
There is an astounding body of knowledge underlying the manufacture of just about anything, including WeatherWool. The essay I, Pencil (sorry to repeat!), discusses the amazing manufacture of a common pencil.
Making WeatherWool requires a very large team. And each member of the WeatherWool team is supported by additional teams. And again, this is typical of manufacture. The complexity is overwhelming. And although (I think!) I know what I want to do, I also know that I don't know how to do it. Finding people who do know how to do what we need has been a real stretch. Learning more than a tiny bit about what each of them does is about as far as I can go. This is why I always stress to our Partners that we need their thoughts, ideas and judgment as well as their get-this-done professional expertise.
And even though I think I know where I want to go, sometimes I don't know the questions to ask. And I will admit to having "knowledge" that just ain't so! Trouble is, I don't know what's wrong-headed until I get smacked with it somehow.
As a garment pro (still a shock to me!) I try to follow the trade press. Not long ago (Blog of 17 May 2023) I was startled to learn that I was completely wrong about denim. I’ve always enjoyed a good pair of blue jeans. And, I’d always had it in my head that my favorite jeans were denim (true). BUT I thought denim was a type of cotton. Turns out denim is a way of weaving, 100% wool denim is entirely possible, and American Woolen, who has the lead in making our Fabric, is already making denim.
[This paragraph corrected on 20 July 2023.] ... I also had no idea that, in our case, at least, we would make denim entirely from yarn we normally would use only as weft. The weft yarn is woolen-spun, thicker, fuzzier yarn that is very different from our warp yarn, which is worsted-spun. So, we plan to make from our Batch 9 weft Yarn some WeatherWool denim … with “weft yarn” used as both warp and weft.
The denim will be very different from our original Fabrics. As Giuseppe explained to me, denim features the warp (the yarns that run lengthwise through a bolt of fabric), whereas woven fabrics typically feature the weft (which runs horizontally).
If I wasn't such a wool-believer, we wouldn't be doing WeatherWool. Our Fabric is pure wool. I'm always trying to eliminate anything but our wool from our garments. But in some places, such as pockets, our Fabric sometimes adds more bulk than I want. So, we reluctantly use minimal amounts of what we call COMBINATION FABRIC … a mil-spec wool-nylon blend favored by the US Military. But I’ve always disliked this stuff because it’s not 100% wool, and the wool it does have is not “ours”. About two weeks ago, I was making a dropoff/pickup in NYC at Factory8, and remarked to Advisor JR Morrissey that we were going to take a shot at denim. JR liked the overall garment possibilities, but he also said MAYBE YOU CAN USE THE DENIM INSTEAD OF COMBINATION?!
I'd already been told to expect the denim to be about the weight of our MidWeight Fabric ... heavier than I wanted for the combination. But JR’s thought finally turned the light on in my head, a little bit, and I decided to bring a sample of the Combination Fabric to American Woolen on 21 June and ask CEO Jacob Long about it. But when Debby and I walked into American Woolen, we bumped into Director of Operations, Giuseppe Monteleone, and Arthur Lam, Vice President of Business Operations, and I got their thoughts (and some footage). Arthur and Giuseppe are explaining to me how we can use our warp to make something very different from what I'm used to. In our FullWeight and MidWeight Fabrics, there are 60 warp yarns per inch (24 per cm) across the width of the Fabric. The (test) "liner" (substitute for the combination) fabric will be made only from this very fine yarn. [I later named this potential new fabric UTILITY FABRIC.]
BINGO … we will take a shot at replacing the combination fabric with something of our own … pure wool, our wool. We’ll find out! I love the way Giuseppe refers to the synthetic as “stain”. Wool-snob lingo!
2023-07-01 ... Reviews
Reviews of products or professionals or services are interesting and, at least potentially, important. People "review the reviews" as part of their decision-making process. The most trusted reviews come from family or friends. But those are much harder to find than are the online reviews.
Since March of 2022, this website has enabled anyone to add a Review of any product. And so far, we have 60 reviews in total. We have one 3-star review (Shemagh too thick) and 59 5-star reviews.
A couple of interesting points:
- People provide reviews directly to me at least 10-times more frequently than they put reviews on the website. I don't know why. The direct-to-me reviews are almost all terrif.
- If people have a problem with a garment, they don't leave a website review. I think people are reluctant to say anything negative because they know we're a small family company and everything is very personal. [The most-common problems we have are stitching around buttonholes (working on this!) and Anorak hoods ripping near the seam that connects the hood to the body. (We eliminated that seam by moving to one-piece construction.) We are very committed to solving any "issues", and people understand "stuff happens". Handling problems properly is huge.]
I frequently see companies stating they have "thousands of 5-star reviews". And doubtless some of them do. But I automatically wonder how many customers they must have in order to have so many reviews.
I often see a "verified buyer" label attached to a review. I don't know who does the verification, or how. Seems like verification could be difficult/expensive.
I'm writing this entry because I just stumbled across an article from the Washington Post, available on MSN.com. Online reviews have become a big business, with a lot of "funny business" going on. I guess that's not surprising. Companies are buying and selling fake reviews. The article says "... Amazon last year sued leaders of more than 10,000 fake-review groups." That's amazing to me ... and what a nightmare to deal with (for everyone except the lawyers, I guess).
According to the article, the US Government, through the Federal Trade Commission, is getting involved. Stiff penalties possible for fake reviews. [Looks like more work for the lawyers.] And ... FakeReviewWatch.com ...
I can't help but wonder ... if someone is going through the time, effort, expense of creating a fake-review company, why not try an honest business? Seems like it would actually be easier!
We believe every review on this site is from an actual buyer!
We very very much appreciate everyone who creates a review! THANK YOU.
2023-06-30 ... Workplace Sheep
More and more, I'm hearing about sheep doing landscape work ... that is, sheep being "employed" to keep vegetation in check. Sometimes the sheep are used because lawnmowers aren't suitable, or just because sheep get the job done cheaper, with the bonuses of wool, meat, milk and fertilizer.
Advisor Bob Padula, like so many Ranchers, has an off-ranch job. Bob takes some specifically-chosen sheep to work, where they replace lawnmowers and landscapers. The sheep happily eat some noxious invasive plants, nourish the soil, and everyone likes having them around.
2023-06-29 ... Word of Mouth (Social Media)
Very nice phone call just now, from someone who had never heard of us. He wrote on a Facebook forum that he was thinking about purchasing from one of the best-known makers of woolens. But a couple of people on the forum suggested he look into WeatherWool. He was reluctant to pull the trigger, given that he was not familiar with us. Then someone in the forum told him to check out our Lending Library. His CPO will ship today!
2023-06-28 ... AI
I was speaking with Rancher John Jewell a few days ago. We've been sourcing from John for a long time, and in 2016, I visited John. I remember very clearly the extremely detailed records John showed us as he explained how he evaluates each individual sheep. John focuses on breeding, size, growth, lambing ... and of course the fiber in particular.
John's analyses are long-term, and involve a great deal of detailed numerical data across individual animals. So when John mentioned AI, it was not surprising. Artificial Intelligence is being applied everywhere lately, and knowing how John crunches a bunch of numbers a bunch of different ways, it made sense that John would be using some AI. But as we spoke, I was getting confused. Sometimes, his AI references didn't make any sense to me. ..... He was talking about Artificial Insemination.
2023-06-27 ... BACK IN THE OFFICE
Congratulations to Steven Martinez, our IT guy! Steven and his longtime sweetheart, Arely, were married Friday, in Maine, and that's why we were away for a bit. Alex's wife, Cecilia (who also handles our Spanish needs), was Maid of Honor! Great wedding in a great place and we wish Arely and Steven every happiness!!!
On the way home from Maine, Debby and I stopped off in New Hampshire, hoping for fierce weather at the summit of Mount Washington to enable testing of the new Undyed Batch 9 Fabric. No dice. But I guess everyone else was happy to have mild weather. I'm not at all worried about the Fabric tho. We'll make some garments with the Undyed (let me know if you want something ... or some Fabric) and we'll manufacture Batch 9 colored (Black, Brown, Drab, Lynx Pattern) as quickly as we can.
On the way home from Mount Washington we picked up the rest of the Batch 8 MidWeight Drab and the rest of the Batch 9 Undyed Fabric. MTL is working on the Batch 8 FullWeight Drab and some of this has already been shipped to American Woolen for finishing. Please LMK if you'd like anything made in Drab.
Debby and I got home last night, and we are working! It seems to take two weeks to catch up after a week out of town ... but we're on it!
THANKS to customer Daniel B for pointing out a couple of glitches on the website!! I very much appreciate hearing about any problems on the website!!
2023-06-22 … Peacoats Shipping … Batch 9 … Tech!!
So … I have this iPhone now for about two months and I’m still not used to it. But I am at the hotel in Bar Harbor Maine and I decided to try and download the Shopify application so I can get a little bit of work done. I must say it worked amazingly well. I think it took maybe one minute to download the app and login for the first time! And so here I am blogging from a room overlooking the ocean in northern Maine.
We made it to American Woolen yesterday morning and spent a couple of hours talking to the crew there. We picked up the first pieces of our new batch nine fabric. I will have more to say about that later, but we wanted to pick up a couple of pieces so that we could at least form something of a cape and test the fabric a little bit. We will be here in warm Bar Harbor until Saturday the 24th and then we will head to New Hampshire‘s Mount Washington, which has some of the coldest and windiest weather anywhere. And I do mean anywhere. Even at the end of June the temperatures may not be much above freezing, and strong winds are likely. I hope so!
I’m very happy that Better Team immediately put their whole crew to work making a small adjustment on the pockets of the Peacoats that we returned to them on Monday and by the end of business Tuesday Alex was able to get over there with our trailer and pick up all of the Peacoats! So Alex, who stayed in the office one day later than me, was working and shipping Peacoats yesterday, Wednesday the 21st.
We can’t really do much in the way of testing until we get some cooler weather, but it was interesting to wrap some fabric around myself and see how it felt in the warm sunshine. The temperature is probably about 70F/20C …
I packed up the truck about 3:30 AM yesterday and I forgot to bring any wool with me. And so the only WeatherWool I have now, besides the new fabric, is my ancient original All-Around Jacket. And I have that only because it’s always in the truck. So today it was my base layer in bathing suit weather. But it was really nice to know that even in such warm weather, I could wear the All-Around Jacket and wrap some of this new fabric around myself and still be comfortable. That same combination would be fine — I bet— in temperatures well below freezing.
2023-06-20 ... Peacoats ... Heading Out until Monday
We weren't fully satisfied with the way the inner pouch of the handwarmer pockets of the Peacoats were sewn. The pouches seemed too large, and Better Team will adjust. Not sure how long this will take, but given this is June, it probably doesn't matter much. I'll be contacting people directly, today, where appropriate.
Very early tomorrow morning, Debby and I will be headed North to American Woolen, then to a wedding in Bar Harbor, Maine. Alex will be in the office a little bit on Wednesday. We expect to be working normally again on Monday.
I spoke with Leo (previous entry) and he definitely had things to say about how Congress works, and who to speak with. Leo has really been around, and always a pleasure.
A few days ago I was speaking with someone who is prominent in the wool business and I mentioned WeatherWool being a tiny, nearly-unknown company in the overall wool industry. His reply surprised me ... something to the effect that everyone buying wool or making woolens in the USA knows about WeatherWool. And indeed, Advisor Trustin Timber (and Mrs T) were doing a little research/testing on web-search terms. They said a bunch of other companies have added WeatherWool as a search term for their pay-per-click ad campaigns ... meaning that when someone searches our name, pay-per-click ads for these other companies will be displayed.
A woman in Asunción, Paraguay requested Samples today. I think that's the first time we've heard from Paraguay. We very rarely hear from anyone in South or Central America.
Yesterday at 10AM, as I left the house headed for NYC, I got a call from Rancher Bob Innes. Bob's Ranch was the source of the biggest clips for both Batch 9 and Batch 10. We discussed details of how we'll work together. We also talked wool storage, market conditions, weather, elk hunting ... I was pulling up to my destination 40 minutes later when we finished the call ... Bob on the prairie in Wyoming and me in midtown Manhattan. Great stuff!
I was in NYC to pick up MidWeight Drab Hooded Jackets (now live on the website) at Factory8. Advisor JR was there, as usual, to load the truck himself. THANKS for getting these Hoodeds finished ahead of schedule. Anoraks (MidWeight and FullWeight Drab) up next!
It was a splendid morning to be in NYC, and I was almost disappointed to be loaded up and on my way back to Jersey within an hour of leaving home!
JR Morrissey, Founder of TheFactory8, used to be camera-shy ...
On the way home, I got a call from another of our Partners, who wanted to discuss details of the Farm Bill currently being worked in the US Congress. Do I know anyone who can help persuade legislators? WOW, never thought I'd be getting a call like that! ... But ... I did think of a couple of people. One of them will definitely make contact with some of the right people.
Leo served in the US Military in North Africa and in Korea. Here, Leo appears with Veterans of the Korean War.
I try to call someone every day ... not an email or a text ... a phone call ... because ... and this is a great reason to call Leo.
2023-06-14 ... Stubborn on Flag Day ...
... and every other day, too, I guess ...
When my cousins sold their New Jersey farm to the township with the promise it would remain open space, the ultimate fate of the old barn, dating from the mid-1700s, was not discussed. A couple of years back, the town decided to tear it down, but it was old enough that a historical study was commissioned. (We coincidentally were there when the historians visited ... Blog from 2021-09-30.)
We hated to see the barn destroyed, so we tried to at least have the fantastic old timber salvaged. The town wouldn't go along with that, for murky reasons, but in the course of trying to arrange salvage, I met Anthony Saraceno of Real Antique Wood, a business all about salvaging old wood. Turns out that Anthony had been interested in WeatherWool for a while, and we got to talking about my button-quest. Anthony thought we might be able to make buttons from antique wood. Anthony put me in touch with Dave Rentas, who loves turning Anthony's Antique Wood on his lathe. And Dave made a few button-blanks for us. Dave's equipment isn't suitable for making the slots, tho ... so ... back to Dutch at Dutchware Gear ... and Dutch wants to give it a go!
The Antique Wood is something else. We were at Anthony's shop recently, and the whole place had the magical aroma of fatwood. Anthony was working on some 200-year old pine beams. In the 1800s, the pine used to build houses was nothing like the pine of today. The old pine was forest-grown ... meaning it grew very slowly. It's packed with resin, HARD like rock and HEAVY! The growth rings are tiny. It's magical stuff.
Dave has made some button-blanks for us from several Antique Woods ... Pine, Beech, Oak, Walnut. I like the pine the best, and that's what we'll test first.
I put the arm on Dave for a front-porch, with-the-Flag photo ...
2023-06-13 ... Items
June, July and August are the months when people have the least interest in wool. And we can use the lull because there are a lot of things going on now and I really feel like October is tomorrow!
- Final arrangements and greasy wool test data coming in for Batch 10
- Batch 8 processing (all Drab) continues ... will finish before October
- Batch 9 processing getting under way, with some new ideas ... such as making a tiny bit of 100% wool denim for testing
- Next week we will hopefully be picking up for testing some Batch 9 Undyed MidWeight and Undyed FullWeight.
- Better Team should finish up the last of the Peacoats this week (but our QC will take quite a bit of time!)
- Debby is busy making Shemaghs ... more orders than we expected ... sorry to keep some people waiting! ... We would love feedback on the Shemaghs, please
- Factory8 just told me we can pick up MidWeight Drab Hooded Jackets in Thursday the 15th! Our own Quality Control Inspections will take some time but we will be filling orders by the weekend
- Factory8 is going into production with Anoraks in MidWeight and FullWeight Drab, hopefully complete mid-August
- Better Team will hopefully have another run of CPOs complete in August
- Steven Martinez, who handles our IT, will marry his longtime sweetheart, Arely Sanchez, next week in Bar Harbor, Maine. Alex's wife, Cecy, is Maid of Honor, so we will be shut down for several days. I'm trying to work in a trip to the top of Mount Washington during the drive to or from the wedding. I want to get the Batch 9 Fabric someplace cool/cold, and the summit of Mount Washington is likely to give us the weather we need. Temps average 40-50F/4-10C in June and it is always windy. The strongest wind speed ever measured on the surface of the earth (excluding, just barely, cyclones and tornadoes), 231mph/372kph was recorded on Mount Washington
2023-06-11 ... Advertise or Not?
We tried a very little bit of paid advertising in 2015/2016, and it didn't produce. But we barely scratched the surface.
People tell me that only about 10% of consumers will buy a product on its actual merits, and about 90% buy because of repetitive ads. If that's true, advertising becomes something of an enemy of quality ... there would be enormous pressure to cut costs to fund ad campaigns. A friend with a great deal of experience in media and advertising tells me larger clothing companies budget 10% of sales for advertising. For us, every way we have seen to reduce the cost of materials or production (with one exception) would reduce quality. The only exception is that tailoring costs will drop slightly with larger production runs.
Our own margins are below industry norms, and I can't really picture raising prices to fund advertising.
For the foreseeable future, we will stick with free "advertising" of social media, this website, YouTube and occasional emails. Of course, word-of-mouth is the most effective ad, and people tell me regularly they recommend us. Military people routinely tell me they are ordering because of someone in their unit. But civilians rarely say so.
2023-06-10 ... Peacoats Shipping and Correction ... Catbird, not Robin
We picked up the first bunch of Peacoats yesterday, and we are inspecting and shipping.
Two days ago, I mis-identified a bird nest. It is the nest of a Gray Catbird. Sorry!
2023-06-08 ... PEACOATS ... and a Catbird (not Robin!) Nest
Peacoats are in final inspection at Better Team, and we plan to ship in the next few days, after our own inspection. Wow, these have been a "long time coming". If you want a Peacoat, please get in touch.
Not wool-related, but I was impressed by this Gray Catbird Nest in the grapevines behind WeatherWool HQ (aka Debby and my house). The birds actually built this nest with a plastic roof!! Catbirds are known to use pieces of trash for their nests!
2023-06-07 ... THANK YOU, MEN'S HEALTH!!
This morning I received a congratulatory email from Men's Health Magazine. They have awarded ours the "Best Shirt Jacket" of 2023. I'd no idea Men's Health had ever heard of us, let alone that they'd been testing our ShirtJac.
The 2023 Men's Health Outdoor Awards was published yesterday, and obviously we are delighted and honored (and proud, actually) to have been selected. There are a great many magazines, websites, podcasts, YouTubers, etc., who publish awards and rankings and "best of" listings. We've never been contacted by any of them. Generally, to appear in these places requires establishment of some sort of affiliation whereby the reviewer can be paid by the manufacturer. We don't have any such arrangement with any of these folks. And, as mentioned, we had no idea Men's Health had ever even heard of us.
In their research, Men's Health "chatted" with Advisor Don Nguyen, and they gave us the top spot strictly on Don's say-so. Don is in the midst of mountaineering season. His most common work is guiding groups attempting to summit Mount Rainier (14,411 feet / 4392 meters). I just spoke with Don, and asked how many times he's summited Rainier ... he said about 40. But he's led many more expeditions than that. It's very common for people to need to turn back before the summit because of health problems, inadequate conditioning or gear, altitude sickness, etc.
Anyhow ... this is our first award from a well-known magazine, so ... this is great! BIG THANKS to DON and MEN'S HEALTH!
2023-06-06 ... Army Ranger
Last night, a US Army Ranger ordered a WarriorWool Anorak. WarriorWool orders are always a thrill for us, but last night was particularly nice. Today is the Anniversary of D-Day, and I always watch The Longest Day at this time of year. I was watching last night when the Ranger called. He is in the 75th Ranger Regiment, and his very regiment was on screen at that moment famously assaulting a heavily fortified cliff. Here is a YouTube video featuring Rangers from the 75th scaling the same cliffs on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
When I was a little guy in 1962, everybody "went to the movies" to see The Longest Day. But the Ranger with whom I was speaking was not at all familiar with the film. I told him what a big deal it was at the time, and how it seemed everyone in Hollywood wanted to have a part. He remarked that Hollywood must have been very different then than now.
The Ranger called because other guys in his unit are wearing our wool!
The Hoodeds are already cut, and the tailors sent us the TOP (Top Of Production) for review on Saturday. The TOP is the last chance for us to make any changes. The Fabric has already been cut, but it is still possible to change the way the garment is sewn together. And indeed, Debby is changing a couple of details of sewing. But that won't slow things for more than a couple of days.
If you want one of these MidWeight Drab Hoodeds, it's a good idea to have a SHIP ASAP order (a reservation), plus, having payment details in advance makes shipping a lot more efficient. We have in stock already some FullWeight Hoodeds in Black and in Drab.
2023-06-03 ... Walker Hats like Base Layers?
As mentioned here two days ago, we're offering the last of our Walker Hats at closeout ($65) pricing, with, please, no returns. I feel weird writing that, because we (otherwise) always accept refunds and returns. And we would actually do so even on the closeouts, if it was important to someone.
People frequently ask us about base layers, and I would love to make them. We have our hands very full doing other things, tho, so base layers are very much on the back burner. But I do think about them frequently, and offering the Walker Hats as "no returns, please" reminds me of my quandary regarding base layers. With our outerwear, accepting exchanges is not a problem, and even items that have been with a customer for an extended period are good for the Lending Library. But base layers can't be sent on to a second home. Any base layers that came back would have to go to a Used Clothing Donation bin, of which there are a great many hereabouts. (I have serious doubts about what actually happens to most of the donated clothes, tho. But that's another topic.)
Hopefully the Walker-Closeout will teach us something about how we might handle base layers when the time comes. I did not expect that!
2023-06-02 ... Advertising and "Mister Rogers of the Woods"
This website is our primary advertisement. Next is social media, mostly Instagram, but also Facebook. It's always a mystery to me what material will get attention. It's partly a question of what content Instagram and Facebook decide to put in front of people (I don't understand that) and it's partly a question of what people will "like", and what will cause them to "follow" us (and I don't understand that, either).
When Advisor Trustin Timber visited us in March, we spent some time at The Swamp with Advisor David Alexander, and Trustin filmed David putting up a wood duck nesting box. Afterward, we were about to drive off in the truck when David grabbed a couple of weeds. It's great that Trustin kept filming!
This video of "Mister Rogers of the Woods" making a little cordage has quickly turned into our most-watched -- by far -- post on social media. BIG THANKS to David and Trustin.
We'll put up the video of the nesting box before long.
2023-06-01 ... Walker Closeout ... Welcome to June!
I do love the summer, but it's not the season for WeatherWool. Gives us opportunity to catch up on a lot of things, tho, and I feel like October is tomorrow ...
We have a couple dozen Walker Hats still on hand, and we've decided to offer them on Closeout for $65 -- no returns, please.
2023-05-30 ... Upgrade of Wednesday Post ... Dad's Colors
Yesterday, Debby decided to reframe my Dad's World War II Colors. Pop was 22 when the war ended in 1945. The cloth is a section of Flag that flew over the ship (USS Seekonk) on which he served as Machinist and Hard Hat Diver. The Diver Patch is on the left. Divers were required to know how to swim, and Dad couldn't, but somehow he was certified anyway. By the time the Navy realized he couldn't swim, he was already a working diver, there was a war to fight and they just let it go. Hard hat divers wore very heavy boots and heavy helmet, and air supplied from "topside". Swimming was irrelevant. After "VJ Day", Dad served in China, clearing mines from the Yangtze River. His Coast Guard ID was issued after that.
All of those guys had their war stories, but it wasn't until after Dad died that other people told me some of the things he did. He never breathed a word to any of the family about saving lives. One story he did like to tell, a nice story, was about when he was stationed in New York City, diving in the Hudson River helping to raise the Normandie ocean liner, which had been destroyed by fire and had to be removed from the harbor. Dad would hitchhike around town regularly, and it was normal for anyone in uniform to get a ride immediately. One day he jumped in a car, paying no attention to the driver until on the steering wheel he noticed the gnarliest, scariest-looking pair of hands he'd ever seen. The driver was Jack Dempsey.
And Debby didn't like the photo from Wednesday's Blog, so she picked up a display case for the patches and challenge coins people have given us as a result of WarriorWool. We really appreciate these!!! The challenge coin in the lower right is from Denali, who is a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician.
2023-05-29 ... MEMORIAL DAY
Posting my thoughts on Memorial Day is inadequate and impertinent. Sorry. And I’ve never served. But I will relay thoughts from the many Veterans and Active Duty personnel – mostly American, but also Canadian and European – with whom I speak regularly.
- They feel we must live our best lives in honor and appreciation of those who have fallen to enable and preserve what we have
- They feel the politicians and the top officers don’t support them. Those presently serving accept this with sardonic humor. The Vets are angry on behalf of those who still serve
- They feel the struggle is on the homefront now … that the places they serve (or served) to protect have changed in distressing ways
Although Memorial Day is an American holiday, I will emphasize these same sentiments have been expressed to me by citizens of many countries.
2023-05-28 ... The Downside of Inconspicuous Labeling!?
This morning I was notified of a chargeback, which means a customer disputed a charge, and the bank took the money back from our account and refunded the customer. There is also a service charge against us, but the main thing is that a chargeback is a very serious blemish on the merchant account.
The standard way to dispute/resolve a chargeback is to contact the customer. I can actually remember only one other chargeback, when, against everyone's advice, I filled an order from Morocco. The standard advice for American businesses like ours is to decline any orders from the entire continent of Africa because fraud is so widespread. I felt bad about nixing an entire country, let alone an entire continent. Given that the shipping and billing addresses matched, I thought it was probably OK. Wrong. The bank said there was clear evidence of fraud, but didn't explain what it was, or why the wool was received but not returned. That was a total loss for us, but a small one.
There are other countries which are also considered too risky for credit card transactions, but in these places we can still use Western Union.
In today's case, I phoned the customer who readily acknowledged the order, said her guy was happy with the wool and guessed he opened the chargeback. It's my guess that our inconspicuous label caused him to not recognize the source of the charge on his account.
2023-05-27 ... Reconing at Fleck (Guest Blog from Debby)
One of the first steps in weaving our Fabric at MTL is "warping" -- transferring the warp yarn from the small cones that arrive at MTL to the huge warp beam. Our Fabric has about 60 strands of warp yarn per inch (2.54 cm), and our bolts are about 53 inches (132 cm) across. So, the warp beam holds 3000+ strands of yarn. A great many cones are needed! And a lot of cones with relatively short lengths of yarn are left over when the warping is finished.
We do everything we can to eliminate the use of anything other than wool in our garments. And now we are making Hooded Jackets and Anoraks. Both Hoodeds and Anoraks have, at each side of the Hood, cords that are used to adjust the fit of the Hood. The Hooded Jacket also has knitted cuffs. In the spirit of “zero waste”, we use the leftover warp yarn to make the cords and the cuffs.
Cords and cuffs are knitted, not woven. (Knits and wovens are very different!) The knitting machines can’t efficiently use these "leftover" spools both because of the small amount of yarn on each spool and because the size and shape of the cones -- and even the yarn itself -- are not fully compatible. So the "remnant" warp needs to be transferred to larger cones, and lubricated to aid in the knitting.
To help speed production, I had the "opportunity" to learn back-winding from the pros at Fleck Knitwear, where the cuffs and cords will be knitted.
I spent Friday rewinding and waxing the yarn from 150(!) small warp cones onto 10 cones sized for the knitting machines. The beginning of the warp yarn needs to be fed from the warp-spool through a few stations on the rewind machine, and then affixed to the spool that will feed the knitting machines. When the yarn on each warp cone was played out, the next cone had to be mounted on the rewinding machine, the yarn again fed through the machine and tied to the end of the previous strand. And the knot needs to be tight and trimmed so that it will not catch in the knitting needles.
This type of rewinding is extremely tedious and time-consuming, but the rewinding saved days on the production calendar because no one would normally stay at the rewinding machine an entire day.
Our Hooded Jackets are being sewn now, and the ribs and cords will be available by the time the Factory8 sewing pros are ready for them. The work flow will continue without interruption.
As far as we know, cuffs and cords that meet our specs (pure Merino-class wool and 100% USA) are not made by anyone else. Making them ourselves is the only way. We have never even considered using the synthetic cuffs that can be purchased.
The small warp-cones are at the bottom of the re-winding machine, and the larger cones at the top are sized and shaped for the knitting machines. The warp yarn is waxed after it is drawn from the warp-cones and before it is wound onto the knitting cones.
After reconing and waxing, the warp yarn will be plied. In this case, four strands of warp yarn will be twisted into one 4-ply strand ... then knitting can begin.
The cuffs and cords are knitted on completely different equipment that can be seen on the Fleck Knitwear page linked above.
We appreciate MTL and American Woolen making the leftover warp available to us, and we appreciate that Fleck will help us with this sort of irregular and relatively unimportant (to Fleck!) work!
[This is Ralph] ... And BIG THANKS to Debby for realizing that Fleck could likely use our yarn to make cuffs, and then imagineering they could likely also make cords! Also, THANKS to the crew at Fleck for working with Debby to develop the knits she envisioned!! HATS OFF to Debby for getting the rewinding done on short notice, all at once!! I think the guys at Fleck were mostly joking when they said it would be fine with them for Debby to do the rewinding. Now they know Debby better, and for sure they got a kick out of their customer and temp-worker.
2023-05-26 ... PB Abbate ... Lending Library ... Burning Clothing
Today's issue of Apparel Insider headline:
The European Union has agreed to ban the destruction of unsold clothing as part of a drive towards reducing waste through greater reuse and recycling.
From our tiny point of view, it's kind of amazing to think major makers of apparel have this sort of issue, and that the EU feels the need to take legal action. (Parliament still needs to actually pass the legislation.)
I just thought of another use for the Lending Library! As explained on our Customer Service page, we have (previously) had to tell some people we just can't work with them anymore. We don't make such a decision lightly, but when people return for full refund multiple (sometimes even USED) garments, for example, we can't keep going like that. But I just realized we can at least tell such folks to check out the Lending Library. I'll feel better about that than cutting them off entirely.
And an important entry, particularly as Monday is Memorial Day ... I've known for quite a while about the heartbreaking rate at which American Veterans take their own lives. About 20 a day, although some estimates are much higher. Last night, through the courtesy of Augustus, a Friend of WeatherWool, I was afforded the honor of attending in NYC a fund raiser for Patrol Base Abbate.
From the website: Patrol Base Abbate provides a space for all veterans and service members to reconnect around shared interests. We aim to facilitate a rediscovery of purpose so our members can reclaim the best version of themselves in service to their families and their communities.
One of the speakers explained that the great majority of Veterans' support organizations focus on those who have served in combat and/or special operations, and yet the great majority of veterans who perish at their own hand have not seen combat nor served in special forces. I had no idea.
Please take a look at what PB Abbate is doing. And if you are a US Veteran, then PB Abbate would be happy to hear from you.
PB Abbate was named in honor of Sergeant Matt Abbate.
THANKS, GUS and THANKS, PB ABBATE!
2023-05-24 ... Patches and Challenge Coins
Since early days, we have offered Anoraks at cost for Active Duty Military use by those paying with personal funds. The WarriorWool Program is now also available to First Responders. The wool is also often donated. Some of the WarriorWool recipients send us Patches or Challenge Coins.
THANKS TO ALL WHO SENT THESE PIECES!
2023-05-23 ... Peacoat Vid
We are shipping a couple of early Peacoats now, and we did a quick video of the Lynx Pattern Peacoat before sending it off to a guy who's starting a new life as a sailor next week!
(I self-identify as young and athletic, with a full head of dark hair ...)
2023-05-21 ... Input!
We've put out some video lately and people have liked it. It would be great to hear ideas for additional material, whether video or written. Any input welcome. Thank You. -- Ralph@WeatherWool.com / 973-943-3110 (mobile)
2023-05-20 ... Custom Input: No Base Layer; "Sheep's Back to Mine"
This afternoon a customer sent a nice note, to which this entry is a response.
By the way my CPO in MidWeight Drab is a daily wear. It hangs on my bedpost and is the first thing I put on every morning. I wear it while making coffee, letting the dogs out and always without a base layer, no need for an undershirt.
Keep up the blogs too! I really enjoy the insight of what it takes to get from the sheep’s back to mine! …maybe that’s what a page needs to be, “From the Sheep’s back to yours”?
A few days ago, on the 15th, I wrote that more frequently I'm hearing from people who wear the wool without any base layer, and today's note underscored that. The second part of the note is already addressed on this website, in two different ways:
- Start to Finish is a timeline of the steps involved in making our clothing. It takes us (WeatherWool) about a year, but our Ranchers start working on the wool about three years before we get involved
- How WeatherWool Is Made is a list, in order of their involvement, of the entire WeatherWool team
- There is a third page, Partner Relations, that also talks about all of the people we work with, and how we all view those relationships
This information would have surprised me before we started our company. Maybe it will surprise (and hopefully interest) others, too. Probably we should make this info more public (video, social media). THANKS to John R for making me think about this!
2023-05-19 ... Factory8 Video with Advisor JR Morrissey
Advisor JR Morrissey has been helping us design and produce our garments since 2013. Together with Advisor Trustin Timber, we visited JR on 21 March 2023. Here is a short video covering that visit.
THANKS to JR and Anya for hosting us and Trustin for the video!
2023-05-18 ... "The Sheep's Only Got So Much To Give"
I was speaking with one of our Ranchers last week, and that's what he said.
This time of year, late April and into May, is the time we normally buy greasy wool (wool as sheared from the sheep). And it's also the time of year I speak most with our Ranchers.
On the Blog of 2021-04-21 (below), I mentioned that John Jewell had phoned me to offer his clip to us. Definitely an honor, and my perception was underscored in speaking with other Ranchers, who related to me how impressed they are with Jewell wool.
All the Ranchers we work with are growing "wool sheep" -- sheep that are bred and raised to produce wool as well as meat. But as woolen clothing has fallen out of favor over the last few decades (but coming back!!), the sale of wool has become less and less of a factor in the business decisions Ranchers must make. The financial realities are difficult. A Rancher may realize $100 for a sheep to be processed into meat, but perhaps only $10 or less for the wool. Because the price of wool is so relatively low, and because of the additional expense of raising wool sheep, many Ranchers raise "hair sheep", which are bred and raised strictly for the meat.
A Rancher we know who produces some fine fiber told me that he is about ready to switch to hair sheep because he can make more money. He didn't mean "more money" to renovate a vacation home in Hawaii ... he meant "more money" for typical living expenses. He'd love to continue to raising wool sheep, as his family has been doing since the 1800s. But the more energy the sheep devotes to wool, the less energy is devoted to growth (meat). "The sheep's only got so much to give."
All wool ranchers sell their sheep for meat eventually. Meat is important to our ranchers, but their sheep -- independently developed mixes of well-known breeds -- are focused on the fiber.
It may seem strange, but we (WeatherWool) are hoping the market for fine fiber strengthens. We need our Ranchers to realize higher prices. A rough example: our FullWeight Anorak in size Large weighs about 3.5 pounds (around 1.6kg) and retails at $625. The greasy wool required to make that Anorak costs us about $20. It's startling to think the credit card processor is as big an expense for us as is the Rancher. AND, we are paying "top dollar" for top fiber. Our biggest expenses -- by far -- are turning the fiber into Fabric, and turning the Fabric into garments. (Delivering an Anorak to a customer costs us about $400, as explained a little more on the WarriorWool page.)
2023-05-17 ... DENIM??!!!!?
Somehow, I had the idea -- without ever thinking about how or why I had the idea -- that denim is made of cotton. And indeed, here is the definition from Wikipedia:
Denim is a sturdy cotton warp-faced textile in which the weft passes under two or more warp threads. This twill weaving produces a diagonal ribbing that distinguishes it from cotton duck. While a denim predecessor known as dungaree has been produced in India for hundreds of years, denim as it is recognized today was first produced in Nîmes, France. 'Denim' originated as a contraction of the French phrase serge de Nîmes ('serge from Nîmes').
Denim is available in a range of colors, but the most common denim is indigo denim in which the warp thread is dyed while the weft thread is left white. As a result of the warp-faced twill weaving, one side of the textile is dominated by the blue warp threads and the other side is dominated by the white weft threads. Jeans fabricated from this cloth are thus predominantly white on the inside. Denim is used to create a wide variety of garments, accessories, and furniture
But others have different definitions. The IWTO (International Wool Trade Organization) this morning posted on Instagram that denim can be a wool/cotton blend.
It seems regardless of composition, denim is a twill weave. And this has me thinking about the possibilities of pure wool denim.
We shall see!
2023-05-15 ... Seasonal, For Sure ... No Base Layer Needed
Now that the weather is warming in the Northern Hemisphere, we've been hearing more from people about wearing WeatherWool over a base with short sleeves, or even with no base layer at all. This is the normal way for our Pants (I sure hope Pants this year!), but it's unusual to wear our tops without a base. However, as the weather warms, and people are out in mild temp with rain, the wool all by itself gets tested more. Also, experience with our Blankets will naturally lead people to realize base layers are comfortably omitted.
The next three months, we will see the lowest amount of customer interest as the warm weather holds in North America. I don't look at website analytics very often, but ... this morning the website had more visitors from Sydney, Australia and Calgary, Alberta, than anywhere else. Winter is on the doorstep for our friends in Oz!
2023-05-14 ... Testing Greasy Wool
Given that we are in the midst of our annual purchase of greasy wool, the subject of testing greasy wool has been front and center lately. In the past couple of days I've learned some more about this testing, and have updated that web page. It was nice to learn that some commercial testing is again performed in the USA, although not all the tests we need. And it was interesting to learn that there are a bunch of labs that are certified capable of doing all the tests we need, but none of them are in North America.
2023-05-13 ... Lambing and Predation
Predation, particularly of lambs, is a huge problem for the Ranchers we work with. The ewes are lambing at this time of year, and things can be very difficult. Most ewes can give birth without assistance, but sometimes they need assistance. Depending on the size of the ranch and number of ewes, lambing-time can be extremely demanding, even without predators.
Weather, of course, is also a huge factor. The goal is to lamb early enough that the lambs are ready to withstand cold weather a few months down the road, but late enough that the lambs are not born into wintry-weather. And the lambing needs to be coordinated with shearing, too. It's important to delay shearing until the real cold has (hopefully) past, but shearing can't be delayed too long because it's also important to avoid handling the ewes too near the end of their pregnancy.
In the American West, ranchers need to protect the sheep from bears, bobcats, cougars, coyotes, crows, eagles and wolves. A tall order. And some ranches have all these predators. Guard dogs help, but are most effective when the sheep are bunched together. But the ewes prefer to lamb in private, and will separate for lambing, which makes it much more difficult for the guard dogs.
Some ranchers will try to shelter the ewes during lambing (shed-lambing), but this requires the sheds, supplemental feed and extra labor, which are all very costly. If the lambs are born on the range, one rancher just told me he expects to lose 15-20% of his lambs to predation.
Predation is such a significant factor that neighboring ranchers may coordinate their lambing so that predators can't focus as much attention on one set of lambs. Wild populations are well-known to birth their young in a very short span of time, with the result that predators have limited opportunity to kill the newborns. Ranchers will adopt the same stance. But it also depends upon the habits of the predators. One of the ranchers has huge seasonal problems with eagles (which are completely protected by law), so he delayed his lambing a little to happen in warmer weather when the eagles preferred to stay higher in the mountains. But that resulted in lambing during coyote pupping time, which was probably worse.
Coyotes have a well-earned reputation for intelligence. They are smart enough to organize. One or two coyotes are a losing match against the guard dogs. But a group of coyotes may decoy the dogs in one direction and kill sheep or lambs while the dogs have been lured elsewhere. And even though the dogs are bigger and stronger, packs of coyotes can still seriously injure or kill guard dogs. Dogs have no chance against a pack of wolves. Bears and cats are deterred by the presence of dogs, but some of the ranches are so large the dogs may be far away.
2023-05-12 ... Customer Service and the Lending Library
We've always tried to provide a high level of Customer Service. Frequently, someone will order a garment and, after trying it on, wonder about sizing up or down. So we send another size. Most people will return one of the garments really quickly. But people have lots to do and sometimes we don't get a garment back for a month or more. Or sometimes people will tell us they needed to go hiking or something in both of them to really be sure of the sizing. For us, any garment that's been worn outdoors is USED. Also, any garment that's been in the possession of a customer longer than 10 days or so is USED, even if it was never worn.
Covering all the postage, and classing an essentially new garment as USED in the Lending Library seems an obvious unwelcome expense. But I don't know any other way of handling the situation, the original customer is now certain of the best size, and eventually someone gets a bargain on the piece in the Lending Library.
What I did not realize until lately, tho, is that these pieces that I list in the Library as New/Used are particularly interesting to first-time customers. I regularly see ads offering "20% off your first order". Doesn't this mean those companies will sometimes have to say "You've been our customer for years, so you pay full price."? I don't understand how that would work. Treating newbies better than established seems improper and insane.
And so although never intended, the Lending Library has been a way for new customers to get 20% off. I love being surprised and/or confounded, especially in pleasant ways like this.
2023-05-10 ... Sustainability Video
Andy McMurry, who is an Advisor as well as a Rancher from whom we have acquired wool, posted the link to this (13-minute) 2020 video from Savory Institute: The Story of Wool | Regenerative Agriculture Documentary. Sustainability, science, a holistic and humane approach are what Andy's work is all about. The vid puts forth some interesting and surprising stats (and I'm not vouching for the numbers):
- one in six workers is involved in fashion/clothing
- 20% of water is used in garment production (Water is still water afterward, tho. It's not consumed like fuel, for example.)
Whenever I watch a video like this, I pay attention to the clothing worn by the people in the vid. It does not look to me like anyone is wearing wool! I actually once wrote to the American Sheep Industry Association (SheepUSA) that member ranchers ought to get out of their canvas workwear and into some woolens, at least for the cool- and cold-weather photos they run in the monthly Sheep Industry News.
2023-05-08 ... Garment Tags
A couple of times lately people have asked about our garment tags. We experimented some with "hang tags", the kind of tags that hang off the outside of a garment in a retail shop. They didn't seem to make sense for us, so we have stopped using them.
There are also "inside tags", the tags that specify materials, place of manufacture, size, care and maker. And we also have Batch Tags. These tags are (mostly) required by law. But the placement of these tags is not specified (as far as I know, anyway). From our point of view, any material other than our own Fabric is a weakness. In a bad situation -- lost in a cold, freezing rain -- even a small thing like wet garment tags will make the situation worse, and so we minimize the tags we sew in, and we place them where any potential negative impact is minimized. In particular, people are surprised that we don't place our WeatherWool label at the back of the neck, the traditional place. But we can't make our tags from wool (can't make them small but still legible). And I'd love to eliminate everything but wool from our garments. Because we can't do that, we minimize the use of other materials and we place our label and tags where they will cause the least (potential) trouble if the situation is difficult.
There is one other thing ... people are so accustomed to seeing a maker's label at the back of the neck that I think NOT having a label there is memorable, and can maybe become something of a trademark of WeatherWool.
And!! ... we're not going to have external labels at all. Of course, to every rule there is an exception, and our exception here is that we will add an external tag by special request. We have a couple of customers that want a label on the outside, and we are flattered. One guy in particular ... good customer, really good guy ... I've never met him face to face, but he calls specifically asking us to sew a label on the outside of the garment, at the bottom of the left side. OK!!
2023-05-07 ... Wool and Eczema
Debby found some info that wool is beneficial to those with eczema. Here is a quote from MedicalXpress.com: “The researchers found when children switched to wool after wearing cotton, they showed a significant decrease in eczema severity whereas eczema worsened when those [who] wore wool changed to cotton.” Woolmark, the research and education and marketing arm of the Australian Sheep Industry, has made an article available online: Treating Eczema with Superfine Wool | The Woolmark Company This is actually a really, really big deal for some people.
Here is a quote from the article: "Whether it’s hot, cold, humid or dry, Merino wool garments are the most breathable of the common apparel types because of wool’s ability to absorb and release twice as much moisture vapour as cotton, and 30 times as much as polyester. When worn next to the skin, super fine Merino wool works as a dynamic buffer, helping to stabilise the humidity levels and temperature of the micro-climate between the fabric and the skin. It appears super fine Merino wool acts like a second skin for people whose ‘first’ skin is too dry."
WeatherWool is made mostly with 21-micron fiber. (A micron is a millionth of a meter. For sake of reference, the thickness of human hair varies widely, depending on a great many factors, and can be anywhere from 17 microns to 180 microns. Typical scalp hair is about 50 microns, but also varies greatly depending on the color of the hair and the ancestry of the individual. And there is a lot of info available on this!) Almost all our fiber is between 19 and 22 microns. However, our 2023 purchase includes the 17.5 micron "lamb clip" from the Jewell Ranch. This clip will be only about 1200 pounds (544 kg) and we will keep it separate from the rest of our fiber. We're trying to figure out something special to do with it!
2023-05-06 ... SMOKEJUMPER
A couple of days ago I finished reading SMOKEJUMPER, by Jason A Ramos (and Julian Smith). Jason has been wearing and testing WeatherWool at least 2.5 years, and over this time we've spoken a lot, and, I would like to think, friends. Jason is also now a WeatherWool Advisor, although we've been very lax about this and still have not gotten his Advisor Page on the website.
For those not familiar, smokejumpers are wildland firefighters who parachute into the area where they are needed. This work can be extremely difficult physically and obviously can be extremely dangerous. You won't qualify as a smokejumper unless you are in truly great physical condition.
Jason has been fighting fire since his teen years, and he's now spent most of his life as a smokejumper, which is a very elite level of firefighting. He finds smokejumping extremely rewarding and challenging, and it has led him into some other fields. He works a great deal with drones and SAR (Search and Rescue). Smokejumpers are of necessity gear-freaks, and Jason is one of the gear-guys that his smokejumping colleagues and many other groups rely upon for research and consulting. Jason has even formed Product Research Gear, a company dedicated to equipment. It's defo a huge compliment that Jason works with us! Jason is very gear-oriented, and he talks about his personal gear as well as the aircraft transporting the jumpers. Some of the gear is old and low-tech, such as the ever-present pulaski (invented by a firefighter), but the emergency shelters and communications equipment are leading-edge.
Before reading Jason's book, I had a general idea of what smokejumpers do, but SMOKEJUMPER filled in a whole lot more. Right off, one of my questions and concerns is/was: To what extent should the life and limb of the smokejumpers be at risk to put out a fire? I was happy and relieved to learn that the philosophy in this area has changed, and that smokejumpers will no longer intentionally put themselves at serious risk unless the life of another person is in jeopardy. (Jason doesn't seem to think jumping from a plane into the area of a forest fire is all that risky. I'm not completely convinced!)
The book covers Jason's own professional history, as well as the history of smokejumping, which goes back nearly 100 years in the USA. Jason also discusses the many ways fire can act and react, how it creates its own weather, how it can be seemingly so fickle (melting metal yet leaving nearby bushes intact), how quickly it can move, how it is influenced by terrain and even how it can modify terrain (by burning everything on the forest floor, causing rocks to roll downhill and even cracking boulders).
Of course, there are many opinions on how forests (and fires) should be managed (or not), and how that type of management affects fires. The various views on climate change are a big part of the management-discussion, and Jason covers that, as well.
The types of fires are highly dependent upon the available fuel and terrain, recent and current weather. All firefighters are extremely focused on current weather and weather forecasts, particularly wind, which can be a friend or a deadly foe, and can change from one to the other quickly.
SMOKEJUMPER is a great read and highly recommended! THANKS, Jason!!
2023-05-05 ... Z and S Twist ... Strong and Weak Yarn ... Point Roberts ... and Two Great Sayings ...
We (mostly me) like to see where our wool goes. I also have an interest in unusual places. Islands, places that are remote or hard to get to or in strange political/governmental situations. So it was nice to see a Hooded Jacket going to Point Roberts, Washington. Point Roberts is a tiny speck of America at the end of the peninsula just South of Vancouver, Canada. Driving to Point Roberts from elsewhere in Washington requires a Canadian transit.
Yesterday we drove to Fleck Knitwear to see about making some cuffs and cords for the upcoming run of Anoraks and Hooded Jackets. (The Anoraks will be FullWeight and MidWeight Drab, and the Hoodeds MidWeight Drab. Hope to have by end of July or earlier.) We've been getting some yarn spun lately, and the yarn specs confuse me ... I need to spend some time focused on it. But anyway, I know (I think I know) our yarns are one ply for the weft. Our knits use 2-ply yarn. I know that yarns can be twisted Z or S. So I asked Peter Fleck about this, and he showed us what that means. Here is a drawing from Wikipedia, which I think means it is property/courtesy (THANK YOU!!) of Creative Commons:
Shown this way, it's pretty clear what it means, and why the directions are referred to as Z and S. How much they are twisted is hugely important. Also, if the individual strands of yarn are twisted Z (the usual), then when plied together they would normally be twisted S. Or vice versa. And it is normal that the warp and weft are twisted the same. I think.
So anyway ... the yarn we had with us was our weft, and we needed our warp. The warp is spun worsted (old hands may say WOOSTERED) and the weft is spun woolen (yeah, it's ALL WOOL, so what kind of crazy-talk is that?). Because of the way the warp is prepared and spun, the warp yarn has much more strength than the weft yarn. I knew they were different, but I did not realize the warp is so much stronger than the weft. If I had not been working with our Fabric and wearing our garments for so long, I would have been distressed at how relatively weak (pre-finishing) is the weft compared to the warp. But I know that somehow, when woven together, the weft becomes much stronger than the warp. If you cut our Fabric a little bit with a scissor, and then yank, you can actually tear it neatly across the warp. But it won't tear at all across the weft. I don't know how that makes sense. I'll get Giuseppe to explain it to me one day. He did explain that we could make our weft much stronger, but that we would then lose softness and warmth.
Anyway ... we need the warp yarn for making the cuffs and cords. My fault for picking up the wrong stuff on Tuesday.
When I wrote a customer yesterday that the more I learn the more I feel like I am almost going backwards, he replied with an old saying that is new to me: "the more you know, the less you know you know". Indeed! This reminded me of a line from Donald Rumsfeld, who has held some big jobs. He was talking about risks, and he said ... there things that you know about ... things that you don't know about, but you know that you at least know that don't know about them ... and then the most troublesome ... there are things that you don't know and that you don't know you don't know. He called these last UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS, and boy have I run into a lot of those! The Unknown Unknowns are the tenured professors in the School of Hard Knocks. Click here for a short clip of Rumsfeld on Knowns and Unknowns.
Unknown Unknowns are actually among my favorite things, tho. They don't have to be bad. For a lot of people, the fact that adding water to wool will produce heat was a really good Unknown Unknown.
2023-05-03 ...Anoraks, CPOs, Hooded Jackets
Now that we have some Batch 8 MidWeight Drab Fabric, we will get busy with it. Better Team will be making some CPO Shirts in the MidWeight Drab as well as the last of the MidWeight Lynx from Batch 6. Factory8 will be making Anoraks in both MidWeight Drab (Batch 8) and FullWeight Drab (the last of Batch 7). Factory8 will also make some MidWeight Drab Hooded Jackets.
If you want any of these items and you haven't already placed a SHIP ASAP order, now is the time. They will be completed in 2 to 3 months.
The rest of the Batch 8 MidWeight Drab Fabric is scheduled for completion in early June.
2023-05-02 ... Batch 8 MidWeight Drab
Yesterday, Jacob and Wendy from American Woolen phoned me at about 8AM to give me a look at the first finished pieces of our Batch 8 MidWeight Fabric. It's quite common for me to sleep a few hours, be wakeful for another few hours then get back to sleep at 5 or 6 or even 7AM. When Jacob called yesterday, I was "out cold". But I'm used to being awakened by the phone ... it's fine, no problem. The surprise, tho, was when Jacob asked me to accept the Facetime so I could see the Fabric. He immediately realized my situation and it was a little funny. We spoke briefly and agreed I'd be at American Woolen around 7:30 AM today to pick up the first piece of MidWeight Drab Fabric of Batch 8. This morning, my weird hours were useful. I woke up around 2AM and left the house at 2:30. There is a small dirt turnout in a wooded patch just a minute away from AWC, and I grabbed an hour of shuteye there (as I have previously done several times). Then I did some work via cellphone and got to AWC right on time.
2023-05-01 ... New Video on American Woolen ... Welcome to May!
We have released a new video on spinning and finishing at American Woolen Company in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. This footage was mostly shot on St Patrick's Day. Advisor Trustin Timber condensed over three hours of interviews and factory tour into about 28 minutes. Some of the video was shot previously by Plant Manager Giuseppe Monteleone. The video can be watched here, and there is a lot more information on the page dedicated to American Woolen.
Giuseppe could probably have talked for a week and not repeated
Also, WELCOME to the SPLENDID MONTH OF MAY! If you are thinking of visiting us or the NYC area, the months of May and October have the nicest weather and are the prettiest. NYC is probably at its best the week or so before Christmas.
In the last few days, we've put together most of the Batch 10 greasy. Details on the Batch 10 page.
2023-04-29 ... WarriorWool for a Married Couple ... Coast Guardsman Visit
Yesterday, two Law Enforcement Officers, a married couple, ordered Anoraks. I remember two other WarriorWool orders from a husband/wife, but the others were Military. We didn't have the XLarge for the husband in stock, tho.
Two days ago, we were honored by a long dinner-visit with a United States Coast Guardsman and his boys. The Guardsman flew helos out of Air Station Kodiak (Alaska). The extreme weather and cold ocean in that area make AirSta Kodiak perhaps the most difficult and dangerous place to serve in the Coast Guard.
2023-04-28 ... Recycled Plastic Clothing
A couple of weeks ago, a customer told Debby and I that at least one company that claims to recycle plastic water bottles into clothing makes their fabric from never-used plastic water bottles. The customer was quite certain of his ground. Today, for some reason, I was thinking about that and spent a few minutes searching the web for confirmation. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I did find something else that was interesting. It turns out that a lot of people are against recycling plastic water bottles into clothing.
From the info turned up in my 5-minute search, the idea is that plastic water bottles can be recycled (into plastic water bottles) up to ten times. (I have no idea how the recyclers know they've reached the 10-time limit.) But if a water bottle is turned into clothing, the recycling stops. And the plastic-water-bottle clothes are not kept long or worn very much before they are discarded. The plastic clothing never decomposes, but it does break up into tiny bits of plastic that have worked their way into virtually everything, including our bodies.
2023-04-27 ... Japanese Registration ... Wool Fashion Awards
Yesterday, we received from the JAPAN PATENT OFFICE a CERTIFICATE OF TRADEMARK REGISTRATION for our mark WeatherWool.
WeatherWool is registered in several countries. We also have a few additional marks registered in the USA (all registrations listed here). We have a similar certificate for each of the registrations, and I've been trying to convince The Big Boss that they ought to be framed and hung in our showroom ... No Dice (so far)
2023-04-26 ... Experience Wool Post About Us
Today, @ExperienceWool, the Facebook and Instagram accounts of the American Wool Council, put up a post about our Lending Library. The AWC is a division of the American Sheep Industry Association (SheepUSA), which “works to improve the American wool industry and to promote the usage of American wool–both in domestic and international markets.” It’s their business to know the wool business, but it still kind of knocks me out they know who we are, even to the point of knowing about our Anorak and the Lending Library!
The great thing about working with American craftsman is their ingenuity. We’re huge fans of Al’s Anorak from @weatherwool. And so are multiple participants on the @history Channel's’ survival series “Alone.”
Now, the WeatherWool team has come up with a brilliant idea to help people feel 100% comfortable with the $625 price–they’ll lend you one. It’s true for just $30 and a promise to return the item they’ll encourage you to try it out, put it through your paces and see what you think. See what's in their lending library today, link in bio.
I don't know about 'brilliant', but the Lending Library has helped a lot of people get to know our stuff, and it has helped a lot of people get something at a savings.
We feel the best way to help the wool industry grow is to educate the consumer. We wouldn't be doing WeatherWool if we weren't huge believers in the capabilities and virtues of woolen garments. We also believe strongly that very few people understand what wool can do. And (apologies for repeating!) ... even garment-industry professionals don't know. So, why should the general public know? The folks at Experience Wool really have their work cut out for them ... and so do we at WeatherWool. But all that's another subject.
BIG THANKS FOR THE POST and for the recognition!!
2023-04-25 ... Exporting Wool
I estimate about 15%, maybe a little more, of our garments are exported, mostly to Canada but also many other countries (and we love that!!). We have a page, Countries, that lists places we know our wool has been, whether because we shipped it there, or we were told it was worn there.
But today was something new. This year, because we are testing some new ideas with Batch 9 (I will explain fully soon!), we put our greasy (raw wool) through some additional processing, which separated out shorter fibers -- noils -- from the rest of our fiber. It isn't that there is anything bad about noils ... they are valuable, in fact, but not to us. We could definitely save money by using our own noils, and that is an example of one of the many ways we could save money. But, of course, using our noils would reduce our quality, so it is not a consideration.
Our greasy is cleaned at Chargeurs, and Diego, plant manager, had previously told me Chargeurs would sell our noils if we wanted. This morning, Diego got in touch, and we happily sold our noils, for which we have no use, to Chargeurs. Our noils will be combined with the noils from others and shipped overseas, where they will be used to make a variety of woolens.
Selling the noils is a nice little boost for us! THANKS, Diego and Chargeurs!!
2023-04-24 ... Danish Military ... Batch 9 ... Batch 10
Today we received a WarriorWool inquiry/backorder from an officer in the Danish Military. We won't have the Anorak for a few months, but nevertheless an honor!
The spinning of the warp yarn for the first test pieces of Batch 9 won't be completed for another three or four weeks. We have a very long way to go before Batch 9 becomes Fabric. I'm afraid it will be 2024 before we have Batch 9 garments completed.
Over the weekend I spoke with Advisor Mike Corn, whose Corn Ranch has been a steady supplier of fiber for us since we began. Mike is also a partner of Roswell Wool, which offers auction and brokerage services through which we have always purchased our greasy. Mike said because of the atrocious weather in the American West this spring (people are telling me it's a 'non-spring'), everything is delayed and it looks like our Batch 10 acquisitions will be pushed back into May, at least in part.
2023-04-21 Again ... Skeptic
On the 19th, I posted a link to an exchange between me and someone who didn't believe wetting wool would generate heat. We added to that exchange, so there is an update. One new detail is that the skeptic owns and All-Around Jacket, and stated it's his favorite jacket ever!
2023-04-21 ... Update from Jewell Ranch
Yesterday, it was great to receive a phone call from Rancher John Jewell, whose focus is breeding sheep that produce great wool. Of course, Jewell Ranch does produce wool, and it's an honor that John offered his clip to us (for our Batch 10). This year, Jewell will have about 1200 pounds (544 kg) of ewe wool that John estimates will test at 19.5 micron with a yield of 70%. John has a similar amount of lamb's wool that he expects will test at 17.5 micron and 70%. Last year, Jewell Ranch produced the finest, cleanest, longest, and strongest (tied with Innes Ranch) of all the Batch 9 fiber. It's crazy that John's wool would lead in all categories, particularly in that all the greasy we purchase is truly premium fiber.
2023-04-20 ... New Video on Weaving ... Kong and Me!
Thanks to Mike and Tom Hillebrand and the crew at MTL, we just put up a video (made by Advisor Trustin Timber) about how WeatherWool is woven. This video has been added to our collection of videos, but can also be viewed here:
Our younger son, Zack, lives in Wyoming with his family. Zack's wife, Carla, and their 9-month old boy, Carter, are with us for a few days, so I may not get as much work done as I should. I haven't yet settled on my own name for him, but I'm using Kong for now ...
Kong getting a tour of the Showroom. He likes the axes and bison skull
2023-04-19 ... More Skepticism Regarding Wool and Water
The manner in which wool handles weather is fundamental to us, and, despite the perspective of most folks in the garment industry, I think actual garment performance ought to be huge factor in the selection of clothing. And so we have been at pains to try to present info about how wool handles water. Lately, we've released video showing an easy home-experiment that we thought would help convince people. But, I think because people are so used to the behavior of cotton and synthetic clothing, it seems strong skepticism remains. So I responded today to a skeptic, and I thought the info useful enough to also put it here on the website at the foregoing link. I am guessing my skeptical friend (I don't know who it is) will have more to say ... we'll see!
2023-04-18 ... Nice Tidbits
Customers tell me some really nice stuff. A couple recent ones that I really liked ...
We've had the US Military flirt with us a bunch of times. Ask for quotes, delivery schedules, etc. Never a real military-size order, which we couldn't handle anyway, but 10 or 20 or 30 pieces. But always (almost) my contact will eventually get back to me saying an officer somewhere higher in the chain of command stomped on the idea. The only time Uncle Sam has dug into his pockets was to buy one piece for a guy who was part of the team protecting Trump and Pence. There is another eval of WeatherWool underway now (at least I hope it's still underway). The guy who is my contact told me a couple of weeks ago that his Mrs hot-washed-and-dried his Anorak, and shrunk it waaaaay down. He said he'd be buying a replacement as soon as he got his tax refund. His first Anorak was a WarriorWool donation.
Earlier this week, a woman told me that she'd given an Anorak to her brother, and that he was happy enough with it that he'd sold several other garments. The new wrinkle is that he travels a great deal, often with long layovers in airports. The Anorak is comfortable enough to sleep in (which a lot of people do), and the Hood is big enough to hide the head and face. Military people have told me the Hood is really good for catching some Z's, but this was the first time I'd heard that sleeping in the Anorak enabled someone to stay in airports instead of paying for a short night in a hotel.
Oh ... one more ... We hear almost every day from people who tell us they regularly get compliments on the wool, even from strangers. A week or so ago, a well-known gent (not sure he'd want me to use his name here) wore his Lynx Pattern All-Around Jacket to deliver a sermon at his church. I loved that he felt the jacket was nice enough for such a setting. Afterward, a woman approached him. She didn't talk about what he'd said ... she was interested in the AAJ.
Some of the stuff customers tell me is 2023-04-17 ... Start to Finish Timeline
Now is the time of year we normally buy greasy (raw) wool, and so I updated the Start to Finish page. This page presents a timeline from when the Ranchers begin planning and working on the greasy we buy until our customers finally purchase finished garments. The Ranchers are actually working for three years before we come into the picture. Then another year or more from the time we buy until we have garments for our customers. WeatherWool incurs significant expenses beginning a full year (at least) prior to any sale of garments.
This year's purchase (which is not definite yet) will be Batch 10. We need to see the test results and find out what is available that meets our specs.
We have only just begun processing Batch 9, and I won't be taking delivery of the first tranche of Batch 8 Fabric until next month. So, we are way out in front of things with Batch 10 at this point. But the greasy is available only once per year, our Ranchers are counting on us, and I would go nuts if we ran out of Fabric and I had to wait another year to get more greasy wool!!
THANKS to Advisor Bob Padula for the Rancher-section of the timeline.
2023-04-16 ... Mailing ... Perspective on cotton?
We try to do a "WeatherWool Update" mailing every month or so. If you didn't get a mail from us today, and you'd like to, please let me know. For technical and legal reasons, this website has a separate mail list from the Godaddy email service we use. It's an issue I need to fix.
We definitely don't want to overload people's mailboxes. But we also do want to keep in touch, so once a month seems OK. Today's mail includes the usual stuff about inventory on hand and Open House (a week from today), but leads with a blurb and link about the "Wool + Water = Heat" video we just released. We'll try to have something interesting in the lead of future monthly mails.
Almost everyone is surprised, and even disbelieving, that wool will produce heat when water is added. But I was just wondering ... what if wool was all we had ever worn? Imagine people not familiar with cotton clothing performing a similar test. I guess they would be surprised that cotton does NOT generate heat, and makes you feel even cooler/colder than you otherwise would. (And wet cotton chafes!!)
2023-04-14 ... Wool + Water = Heat (and no Batteries!)
We've gotten some strenuous pushback for citing personal experience as well as actual research showing that wool will generate heat when water is added. So ... we did a basic kitchen-table experiment that I think anyone can duplicate at home, at least well enough to see that wool really does warm up when water is added. We added a video of this experiment to our Performance Videos page. Thanks to Advisor Trustin Timber for producing this video! And a tip of the hat to Tim L for being in our corner!
2023-04-13 ... City-Fishing
Advisor JR Morrissey, the proprietor of Factory8, has guided the production of WeatherWool garments for about 10 years. In response to some of the fishing photos we've been using, JR sent me this snap from a few days ago in Manhattan. JR was out "city-fishing" -- sushi dinner at Yama Sushi in Gramercy Park. I love that people wear WeatherWool in cities ... whether out to dinner, walking the pooch, commuting, or similar. All our garments -- due to our Fabric -- are suitable for city-wear and professional settings. JR remarked how comfortable the All-Around Jacket is, even in the mild weather at the time (sneakers with no socks!). Thanks JR, for a really nice photo!!
2023-04-12 ... AAJs, Double Hoods, Hooded Jackets, Basic Vests
If you have placed a SHIP ASAP order for:
- All-Around Jacket in FullWeight Black or Drab
- Double Hood in FullWeight Black, Brown or Drab
- Hooded Jacket in FullWeight Black or Drab
- Basic Vest in FullWeight Black or Drab
you should have received by now a notice that your order has shipped, or is being prepared to ship. We'll need another day or two to get the last of the SHIP ASAP orders boxed and sent on their way. If you haven't received notice (or the garment!), please get in touch!
Although some sizes/Fabrics are sold out, we still have inventory in all these items.
2023-04-10 ... Random Bits
A by-product of the wool industry is lanolin. By weight, a typical fleece contains about 10% lanolin, also known as "sheep grease" and "wool grease". Lanolin has a lot of uses, and is an ingredient of many cosmetics. I use a track-ball mouse on my desktop machine. I like the track-ball because the pointer is moved by rotating the ball with my thumb. It's a great type of mouse for someone with shoulder pain. Just now, the ball was not moving properly, but a very small amount of lanolin provided the lubrication that restored smooth movement.
Because we've just been restocked with some garments (previous Blog), we have been filling a lot of backorders. And so right now we're sending wool to several countries ... Australia ("wool season" starting in the Southern Hemisphere), Belgium, Canada (a big part of our business), Denmark, Germany (many customers there), Hong Kong, Indonesia (first shipment), Japan, Korea, Taiwan and probably a couple more that I can't think of right now. This is kind of amazing to me!
An unexpected benefit of the wool business has been friendship with some people in the outdoor media industry. In a short spell of reading yesterday and this morning, I came across articles and even an entire magazine from friends.
Over the coming weeks, we'll be releasing some video on a few topics. Here is a 90-second video from our recent visit to American Woolen, which has primary responsibility for turning our fiber into Fabric. The clip features Giuseppe Monteleone, Operations Manager, and it's a great glimpse into Giuseppe's personality and dedication to his colleagues, his work and the wool industry.
Giuseppe Monteleone, Operations Manager at American Woolen, looking over our Batch 9 top (clean fiber)
Yesterday, Advisor Leo Grizzaffi sent a note describing his interaction with a group from Taiwan who had come to the USA seeking experience with firearms. Given the Taiwan-China unease (at best), it is shocking to read that Taiwan's military has virtually zero firearms training. Leo's description of his work with the Taiwanese group is described at the end of his Advisor page (linked above).
2023-04-08 ... Basic Vests ... Inspiration ... Sighting
This morning I made a run to Factory8 in NYC's Garment District to pick up Basic Vests in FullWeight Black and FullWeight Drab. The website is updated to accept payment for these. We'll be filling the SHIP ASAP backorders very shortly. But a few days ago we got our All-Around Jackets, Double Hoods and Hooded Jackets, and we're still working on those, too. We'll do what we can today. Tomorrow (Easter) is a bit of a family day, so we may not get much shipped.
Sometimes people tell me they've been saving $10 a week to buy some wool, or maybe working overtime. A teenager was saving his wages from tending an apple orchard. Other customers ask about payment plans. This sort of thing makes me feel even more responsibility than usual. Ranchers have told me some special things, too. But a few days ago, a customer said he'd planned to reward himself with some wool if he achieved his goal of losing 100 pounds (45 kg). He still had about 15 pounds to go, but he wanted to discuss sizing. Given that I also ought to lose 100 pounds, that call was particularly inspiring.
A few days ago a customer ordered some wool, and told me he wore some of our stuff to a party in Virginia Beach. Another of our customers was there, and recognized WeatherWool. We're still so small that we've heard this type of story only a handful of times.
2023-04-07 ... Base Layers ... Wool & Prince
It's always been on my mind to someday make base layers because they are so important and because we'd love for people to be able to dress completely in our products. But that "someday" is still far off because we have so much still to do with our core business and because base layers are so different from our woven outerwear. I also can't figure out how we could offer the same level of Customer Service with base layers. We always accept returns because we can't have anyone feeling like they are stuck with our garments. But outerwear retains value. Base layers, even if they've never been worn except for "try on", are at a dead-end, and can only go to charity. So, we'd have to have a different level of Service, and I don't want that.
Today, I'm wearing a Wool & Prince Henley Shirt base layer. Right out of the box, with the house cool in the morning, it was extremely comfortable. A little less so now, in the office, with the fireplace going. The temp now is about 73F/23C, and maybe it's just my imagination, but I think I can feel the 22% nylon. Actually, I thought the Henleys were 100% Merino when I bought them. If I'd known about the nylon I would have passed. I also didn't know they were made in Korea. For some reason, I thought Wool & Prince was made in UK, where the company is based. The woven garments are made in China and the knits in Korea.
Looking over the Wool & Prince website a little more, I know this. If we ever offer base layers, we will NOT use photos of men in briefs.
2023-04-06 ... Lending Library Items
We've been working with our tailors for a long time. In the course of production and development, we naturally leave garments with the tailors to aid them in their work. Mostly, we collect things when the work is done, but sometimes things are misplace or covered up. In the last few days, we've gotten back several garments that had been left with the tailors for weeks or months or even years. So the Lending Library has been stocked up a bit.
2023-04-05 ... NYC Pickup ... New Phone
With my trailer at American Woolen, Alex and I had to use our pickup and hatchback to get the Hooded Jackets, All-Around Jackets and Double Hoods at Factory8 in NYC's Garment District. We needed two round trips to with two vehicles to accomplish what would have been easily done in one trip with the trailer. BUT, then I wouldn't have had the chance three weeks ago to tell Advisor Trustin Timber that we would "spot the box at American and bobtail home". So ... But also, with the trailer I would have had to wait until Saturday. Now we can get started inspecting and shipping on Thursday (tomorrow). We won't get much more done today because we're hosting Passover Seder shortly.
Here's a 17-second video from this morning's load with Alex and Advisor JR Morrissey, who oversaw production of the garments (and then helped load the truck, as usual) ... 37st Street, Manhattan
I'm learning to use my new iPhone. I've definitely got all the young people shaking their heads at my cluelessness, but I am learning! Still carrying my Android, tho, because I haven't migrated everything over yet. The iPhone is reputed to be fantastic at photography and video. I'm not discerning enough to know the difference. But I took a short video when Alex and I were in NYC this morning, and Denali told how to upload video from my phone. That was definitely one of those WELL, DUH moments. Won't be the last!
If you have an All-Around Jacket, Hooded Jacket or Double Hood in Black or Drab on backorder, but have not set up SHIP ASAP, you might want to get in touch.
2023-04-04 ... Garments Coming ... Blizzard for Wyoming Shearing
Tomorrow, we pick up Hooded Jackets, All-Around Jackets and Double Hoods at Factory8 in NYC. We'll need to do some Quality Control and prep work before we can send these garments on their way, but we'll get rolling on the SHIP ASAPs probably Thursday (the 6th).
Shearing started Sunday afternoon on the Innes Ranch in Wyoming. Bob Innes, whose clip is the biggest in Batch 9, sent me the video below, and told me they would push to finish shearing quickly, ahead of a major storm predicted for Wyoming on Tuesday (today). Bob's ranch isn't far from Casper, which experienced the biggest single-day snowstorm on record. Roads are closed.
Indeed, Bob's shearing crew managed to complete their work on Sunday night, allowing Bob to prepare for the storm on Monday.
2023-04-02 ... Batch 10 planning ... Tradition as Predator ... NOT Joking!
Even though the first pieces of Batch 8 are just going into finishing, and the first nibbles of Batch 9 are just going into spinning, it’s time to think about Batch 10. Sheep are sheared annually, early in the year. The ranchers don’t want to shear when the weather is too cold, but they also don’t want to shear too close to spring lambing. Weather, lambing and availability of the shearing teams need to be balanced.
Yesterday I spoke with Rancher Bob Innes, whose Batch 9 clip was the largest single clip we’ve ever purchased. Bob, in his 70s, told me this has been the toughest Wyoming winter he’s ever seen. But he had plenty of hay, and he was able to get it to the sheep on the range. Many other Wyoming ranchers and their livestock have suffered a great deal this winter. The need for supplemental feed was much greater than usual, and prices are much higher than last year. The Wyoming cold and wind hasn’t let up much at all since November. And even today, still plenty of winter going. Bob’s sheep handled winter in great shape, though, and Bob’s main concern is that his fiber may have coarsened (thickened) a little too much for us. We’ll know soon. Bob’s shearing crew was setting up as we spoke.
A couple of months ago I spoke with Advisor Mike Corn, whose Corn Ranch is a steady source of wool for us. Mike told me a couple of interesting stories. He started with a question: "What's the biggest predator of sheep?" I was thinking coyotes, at least in Mike's area. He said "TRADITION!". And he said this wasn't his own observation -- that another rancher had pointed this out to him. And then the example. Mike knew a guy who'd been losing a lot of sheep to coyotes. Mike uses guard dogs, the presence of which keeps coyotes away from the flock. So Mike gave two valuable guard dogs to the other rancher, and the dogs did their jobs very well. But one day, on this mixed ranch, they decided to bring cattle into the same area as the sheep. Because the dogs had not been habituated to cattle, the dogs wouldn't allow the cattle near the sheep. So the rancher shot the dogs, and the coyote predation resumed.
Being mindful of April Fool's Day, a couple of people thought I was joking yesterday about skewing toward photos of smiling people on our website. No joke!
2023-04-01 ... Maybe I'm the April Fool
Unless I'm on the road, my day usually starts with a review of the emails and media. Most important are items from customers and production-related. But I also read industry-press, which I still find kind of crazy. I still have a sort of SERIOUSLY??!! reaction whenever I reflect that I really am in the rag trade and really am a clothing designer.
One of the mails I look over is the free newsletter of the CFDA, the Council of Fashion Designers of America. I'm not a member of the CFDA, and probably not eligible, because members are America's "foremost" designers. But anyone can get the newsletter, and THANKS, CFDA!
Some of the stuff they publish really throws me off. And not just CFDA, but many other designers and clothing companies. I've gotten into the habit of looking at the designers and the models to see who looks happy. We're guilty here, too. Our models are mostly not smiling, either -- that's going to change -- but at least nobody looks dour. Denali really liked working with Advisor Fazon Gray because he is a professional model. I don't understand the subtleties of that. But what I liked is that Fazon is infectiously cheerful and grateful, and it shows in a lot of the photos. Going forward, we're going to have happier faces on this website. And I've just added that principle to our DOs and DON'Ts. If I'm the April Fool on this one, I don't care.
The latest CFDA newsletter featured Be-Spoke, a new book by Marylou Luther, who's been writing about fashion since 1953. I definitely count as OLD from most perspectives, and I was born in 1954. So Marylou has a long professional history, and she's seen some big names and companies since the beginning. I liked the line she offered from Coco Chanel (me quoting Chanel is pretty bizarre, I know ...) that "Fashion fades. Only style remains." WeatherWool is not fashion, and that definitely works in our favor. We can have the same design/style year after year.
I tried to order the book from Barnes & Noble. After I got about five error messages, I ordered through Amazon very easily at a significant discount from B&N. But a few minutes later, I got a confirmation email from B&N. So ... I tried to cancel, but again got error messages. There was no phone number that I could find. As usual with big companies (not us), the confirmation email came from a NO-REPLY mailer. So ... that's another big-company DON'T that we DO. We'll always be available by phone, etc.
If anyone would like the extra copy of Be-Spoke, let me know.
2023-03-31 Again ... Edison Quote
I just stumbled across this gem from Thomas Edison: "When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven't." Apropos of the previous Blog entry?
2023-03-31 ... Debby was Right
Debby has been telling me all along that Slot Buttons wouldn't work on the Peacoat. Not that she was against them. She believed the Peacoat design is not compatible with Slot Buttons. But I had to try ... and try ... and try. So, we tried a few approaches, but we were unable to achieve the results we required.
A couple of days ago I finally had to agree we'd need to employ a more-typical approach to the buttons. We'll be switching to 4-hole Corozo Buttons, which will lend function and interest. The Corozo Buttons are oversized (1.125 inch / 2.86 cm diameter) as usual with Peacoats, and we'll be offering them in Black (Black and Drab Peacoats) and Brown (Brown and Lynx).
As if to fully repudiate my stubbornness, our buddy Dutch (proprietor of Dutchware Gear), who loves making things, told me yesterday that he can't make any more Titanium or Bronze Slot Buttons for us. He said no matter how he tried to do it, the button-making process was too time-consuming and disruptive to his standard operations.
The Ti and Bronze Slots are gorgeous, tho, and I'm planning to use them for the North Maine Double Coat (I hope!). And we (really only me) are looking for other potential button materials and button-makers.
As for Debby being right, after 50 years together, I'm used to her being right and she's used to me having to run down the dead-end and see for myself.
2023-03-29 ... Wood Duck Boxes at The Swamp
About 10 days ago, when Advisor Trustin Timber was in town, we met Advisor David Alexander at The Swamp, our little spot in the Jersey swamps not far from New York City.
David and Trustin were well aware of each other through Instagram, but had never met until this month at The Swamp.
We met to get some imagery of David installing Wood Duck Nesting Boxes, but first, David surprised me with a very thoughtful gift ... some Taylor Ham made from venison harvested at The Swamp. Taylor Ham is a breakfast sausage and something of a New Jersey totem. It was fantastic! THANKS, DAVID!!
David is Senior Naturalist for Essex County, New Jersey, which is on the other side of the Rockaway River, which forms most of the border of The Swamp. David is a Naturalist all the time, whether working or not, and installing Wood Duck Nesting Boxes is a typical activity. The Swamp is used by a lot of "woodies", and so it's a great place for the boxes. Woodies, as the name suggests, love timber and water. Watching them maneuver through the forest at high speed is always a pleasure. The visual acuity and maneuverability are extreme, at least from my perspective. They seem as nimble as much smaller birds. David explained the nesting boxes will be a place for the hens to lay and incubate eggs, but will be abandoned very quickly after the ducklings are hatched. Woodies will normally nest in cavities in trees, but there aren't enough of those to go around, and hopefully, the nesting boxes will protect the nesting hen and her eggs somewhat better than natural spots, which are more accessible to predators.
Wood ducks were, not so long ago, endangered because the spectacular plumage of the males was prized for decorative uses. Now, they are the most common ducks at The Swamp ... a remarkable "back from the brink" conservation success story!
2023-03-28 ... Getting Back to Normal ... Accidental Experiment
The last two weeks we've spent some time on the road, and have had house guests as well. So, I've gotten very far behind in my usual work and correspondence, but I'll catch up.
Customer Tim has been doing some experiments regarding wool and water, and a couple of days ago he sent me a note detailing an accidental experiment:
Hello all of you!
The other evening it was cool and raining outside. I had let the fire die out in the stove because it was forecasted to [and did] get up into the 70's the next day. But the house was cool and therefore I put on one of my knit Wooly Pulley all wool sweaters over my lite Woolpower T shirt, and was comfortable. When the dogs needed to go out I simply went out in that same sweater. I did not get soaked but the sweater was wet, but not wet enough for me to think I needed to take it off once back inside. I sat down and within a few minutes thought,"What is going on? How did the house get this warm from when I got up to take out the dogs to now?" I thought this because I was getting too warm.....and walking the dogs had not been vigorous enough to get my body generating that much heat......partly because my dogs don't like getting wet and therefore they don't go very far with me to do their business when it is raining like it was. But then it occurred to me that I was experiencing, yet again, the fact that wool heats up when it gets wet!!! "Aha!", I thought, "I have experienced a "blind" study of the subjective fact about wool and water!" "Blind" because I wasn't even thinking about it and was caught off guard by how warm it got. I had to take the sweater off. Ha!
This is great stuff! THANK YOU TIM!!
2023-03-27 ... Random Advisor Encounter! ... SERE Comments
WeatherWool is still so small that whenever someone tells us of a WeatherWool sighting, we feel like it's another step forward. Yesterday, Advisor Heath Gunns was wearing his wool in the Seattle Airport when he was approached by Advisor Tanner Buller.
This morning I rec'd an inquiry about our WarriorWool Program. The note included this gem: "... I just got back from helping the fellas out at SERE training and they were all wearing your Anorak hoodies and raved about them."
2023-03-25 ... PS to yesterday's Blog
Mose would like three more CPOs ... in FullWeight Fabric. We'll try.
2023-03-24 ... Shirt Diary
Yesterday we got a great email from Mose O'Griffin, proprietor of APROE.com (used with permission):
Here's the breakdown of the life of the shirt:
- Shirt purchased on 4/24/2019
- Shirt worn for 1046 days continuously. Not washed. Bottom hems near pants pockets and sleeve edges fraying slightly. No button damage or any other visible damage.
- Repairs conducted and shirt resumed as a daily wearer on 5/2/2022.
- Shirt worn for another 324 days continuously. Left elbow blown out.
Overall, that's 1370 days of continuous use (3.75 years). It has been on so many adventures! That's about 3x the longevity of the Navy CPO shirt I was wearing when I met you guys.
THANKS MOSE for this amazing chronology!!
2023-03-22 ... Updating an Old Story on Polypro and Paint
We were visiting a designer/manufacturer back in about 2014, and on his racks were some lovely white wool jackets with random bits of RED. He explained that he'd helped design the jackets, and had handled the production. After the design phase was finished, the representatives from the customer, a very large clothing maker, basically signed off and let our pal handle the manufacturing. The customer not only sold clothing, but had a large woolen mill. So the wool fabric was shipped from the customer's mill straight to to the manufacturer, and the design team did not see the fabric until they showed up to inspect the finished jackets and take delivery. WELL ... the jackets were supposed to be pure white ... no red flecks. Our pal had no reason to suspect there was a problem with the fabric, because, after all, the fabric had been manufactured by the customer. So, he made the jackets with the fabric that had been delivered. But the design team had not actually SEEN the fabric, and did not know that the fabric was flecked ... prominently ... with bits of RED POLYPROPYLENE ....
The preceding is the story as I believed it until a few days ago, when I told it to Giuseppe Monteleone, production manager at American Woolen, and Giuseppe said what we had seen was almost certainly not polypro, but paint. Many ranchers paint their sheep as a sort of branding, so they can distinguish their sheep from other sheep. But Chargeurs, who scours our fiber, will not guarantee the paint can be removed. Indeed, Giuseppe told us he has many times seem paint in fiber that was delivered to him.
We have always purchased fiber from ranches that are free of both polypropylene and paint. These requirements, as usual, raise the cost of the fiber we purchase.
2023-03-21 ... NYC ... New Phone
My new Apple Phone arrived and I discovered that my old phone WILL ring but only if I have the volume turned OFF. I guess when electronic things break down, they get weird. Or ... it could be me ... So ... soon I will be making mistakes on a new phone. If I hang up on you, or don't answer, please give me another chance!
Today we dropped off the last of the Batch 7 Fabric (FullWeight Drab) at Factory8 in NYC's Garment District. We'll be making some Anoraks. Advisor Trustin Timber was on hand to get some footage giving a sense of the Midtown Manhattan hustle. Then, a long meeting with JR Morrissey, proprietor of Factory8, including a design session, a tour of his place and an interview. Trustin was pressed into service as a fit model, which he actually was, briefly, some years back!
It's been a great week with Trustin, and we got an awful lot on film (and still). Now it's time to pack up the equipment for the flight back to Toronto in the morning.
The new Big Button on the corner of 39th Street and Fashion (Seventh) Avenue in the Garment District in Midtown Manhattan, New York, New York. The monument to the people and industries of the Garment District stands 28 feet (10 meters) tall.
2023-03-20 ... The Past Few Days ... and SPRING
Advisor Trustin Timber has been here since Wednesday, and we've been working a lot with him, putting together video, stills, interviews, product shots. And yesterday was a busy Open House. So I'm hundreds of emails behind. I also need to respond to text messages, Chats, WhatsApp messages, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram ... SORRY if I have not responded to you yet. And tomorrow, son Zack and his family will fly in from Wyoming to visit for a week. I'll get caught up, but it will take a while.
Also ... as of a couple of days ago, my phone stopped ringing. I don't mean people stopped calling ... I mean the phone isn't working right. Unless I'm looking at it when a call comes in, I won't know. It's an old phone and it's been dying for a while. My new phone should be here tomorrow, and I'll be switching from Android to Apple. Customer MIKE, an Apple Consultant, will help me get going on the new device. THANKS MIKE!!
In the coming days and weeks, we'll be putting up a lot of material generated during Trustin's visit. Here, a couple of photos from our day filming at Material Technology and Logistics in Jessup, Pennsylvania. MTL has been doing our weaving for 11 years. THANKS to owner Mike Hillebrand and his team for their hospitality on Thursday, and for 11 years supporting WeatherWool.
Above, Debby and Ralph watching the loom create MidWeight Drab Fabric.
Below, Tom Hillebrand, son of MTL Founder Mike, with Ralph.
At MTL, as part of the visit, we picked up some greige Fabric that we delivered next day to American Woolen for finishing. As usual, owner Mike helped me load my trailer. This time, Trustin also helped, along with Tom Hillebrand and a few guys who work the loading dock and warehouse. So I was loaded up in nothing-flat!
And a big deal for some of us ... today is the First Day of Spring ... In 2023, the Vernal Equinox (here in the North) happens on March 20, at 5:24 P.M. EDT. This is also the start of Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. For WeatherWool this means the public's interest (in the North) in wool tapers off for a few months, and picks up again in August. We're delighted to have customers in Australia and New Zealand, and their interest in woolens will be picking up now. From our production point of view, tho, there is no lull, and we feel as if Fall will be here again in about 10 minutes.
2023-03-19 ... "What You Know That Just Ain't So"
"It ain't what you don't know that gets you in trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." A great line, whoever said it.
Following on the Blog entry from 20 February, Alex, Debby, Advisor Trustin Timber and I did some kitchen table experiments with wool and water. Does wool REALLY, ACTUALLY, GENERATE HEAT when exposed to water? It does. We'll post video soon. Here is the basic experiment:
- the temperature in the kitchen was 72F/22C
- we let some or our Fabric sit in the kitchen for a while, so it was room temp
- we had some water in a spray bottle. The water was deliberately a little cooler than the room, at 66F/19C
- we sprayed the wool with the water, and rolled it up around the thermometer's sensor
- the thermometer reading dropped to 66F/19C quickly -- same temp as the water
- the thermometer temp quickly began to rise, topping at 78.1F/25.6C within a few minutes
This was a quick table top experiment that just about everyone could replicate at home. We'll do some more experiments testing the behavior of wool in the presence of water and ambient humidity. It's easy to imagine a lot of different experiments that could be done. Some more difficult than others. All we were trying to show here is that when the wool was wetted, it did in fact generate significant heat.
This is really nice to know, but it's of secondary importance. The most important experiment is totally unscientific and 100% subjective. The most important experiment is what it feels like for a particular individual. And that can't be tested in a lab.
I forgot to thank customer TIM for getting this kitchen-test ball rolling!!
2023-03-17 ... Sighting!
It's been a busy couple of on the road. More about that later.
Every now and then we'll hear from someone who saw WeatherWool somewhere. And we've unexpectedly seen WeatherWool on TV, which is great. But until today, none of the family has ever encountered anyone wearing WeatherWool. This afternoon, in Milwaukee, Denali's husband, Aram, saw a guy wearing the same Lynx Hooded Jacket Aram was wearing at the time!
2023-03-15 ... Congratulations, Advisor David Alexander
WeatherWool Advisor David Alexander accepts the Employee of the Year Award from New Jersey Recreation & Parks Department. David is a Professional Naturalist and a Registered Guide in the State of New York and is also Senior Naturalist for Essex County, New Jersey (where WeatherWool is headquartered).
David's remarks at the acceptance ceremony:
This is no surprise to those of us who've seen David "doing his thing"! We're proud to have you with us as an Advisor to WeatherWool, and we're very glad to see Essex County publicly acknowledge your work!! Over 100,000 people (including my family!)!! WOW!! Congratulations, David!!
2023-03-14 ... Unaffected by Bank Failures
Shopify, the platform upon which this site rests, was, according to the news, one of the companies caught up in the failure of Silicon Valley Bank. According to Shopify, payouts to us will not be affected. So far, no problems. But also, I don't understand banking, let alone the details of the relationship between Shopify and SVB.
Our website accepts orders guaranteed by all the major credit cards, PayPal, and (a recent surprise to me!) ApplePay. When a customer orders a product from us, a PENDING charge is noted on the customer's account. But our website is set to accept payments individually, and only upon our explicit request. So when a customer places an order on WeatherWool.com, we are notified that funds are available, but the customer will not actually incur the charge until we box the order, at which point we accept that specific payment. If we've miscounted, or if an item fails final inspection, we don't accept the payment and there will be no debit from the customer's account.
The Lending Library relies on this procedure. When someone orders from the Library, but the item is already in possession of another customer (and this can be seen from the detail of each item in the Library), we let the new order sit. It we don't accept payment within a week or so (about 2 weeks with PayPal), the order expires and the customer never sees an actual charge.
There is 2-night "float" between when we accept a payment and when that payment is deposited in our account at Chase Bank. If there is any problem with us getting paid, we'll know pretty quickly. So unless Chase were to reverse previous payments into our accounts, any problems with SVB would affect only a couple of days worth of business ... I guess.
Anyway, so far, so good. And Shopify has specifically posted that our type of store is unaffected.
2023-03-13 ... Closing the Circle
Short entry, but I want to write it up now else I'll get distracted and forget. Debby was watching a YouTube review of our Anorak by 'P', and I heard P mention that he was wearing a WarriorWool Anorak that was one of TEN donated by one VERY generous guy. I couldn't remember if I'd ever told the donor about this review. It turns out I had NOT tipped him previously, and so I'm really glad Debby happened to be watching that review! I hope the donor enjoys the vid!! THANKS to the anonymous donor, and to P for making a great vid-review!!
2023-03-12 ... Hats (Someday)
We still very much want to make Hats, but there are a couple of big steps to be taken.
We haven't made Hats since 2017, when Ruby, our Hatmaker, passed away.
Ruby's company, Headwear Creations, is now operated by Goorin Brothers, an important customer of Ruby's, and one of which he was very proud. Cecilia, Ruby's right hand, is still heavily involved. When we spoke with Cecilia a year or so ago, the door was open for us.
Almost all our business is mail order, which means the wool can't be tried on until it arrives. This works pretty well with larger items like Jackets. But with Hats, "too small" and "too big" are not far apart, and "just right" is a tiny space in the middle.
But getting a good fit out of the box is only the beginning. After having worn our Hats for so long, one of the things I like best is the way the wool can handle hours of rain. I've worn my Big Brim Boonie in crazy rain in complete comfort. But it's important to "block" (hand-stretch) the Hat when it's brought back indoors. Same is true of a Jacket. Without blocking, the wool may tighten up a little. This isn't too much of a concern with a Jacket, but with a Hat, failure to block can ruin the fit. A Hat that is tight, even a little bit, is a headache-in-the-making.
So, we don't want to ship Hats again until we can enable adjustment of size upon receipt, and over time.
One method of enabling adjustment it to add spacing material within the hat band. The amount of material can be adjusted removed (or increased) to control the effective size of the Hat.
As we slowly move toward making Hats again, we'll experiment with sizing. But I don't want to start making Hats again until I'm confident that almost every Hat we ship can be sized by the customer upon receipt and over the years.
Suggestions welcome, as always!
2023-03-10 ... Advisor Trustin Timber Coming to Town
WeatherWool Advisor Trustin Timber will be staying with us here in South Orange from 15 March until 22 March. Trustin has a background in photography and media and the rag trade, and he'll be doing some video and photography for us. If anyone has any ideas for material, just let me know. Also, we'll have an Open House on Sunday the 19th, and Trustin will be helping us host. Trustin Timber has hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and YouTube ... some really fine content, particularly for people who like to build with logs.
2023-03-09 ... ULINE Again ... Batch 9 Update ... Jersey Deer Again
Debby officially likes ULINE ... ! They have a local distribution hub only 15 miles away. (One look at this photo and she'll tell me we've got to paint the porch this Spring ...)
Batch 9 has been Commission Scoured by Chargeurs and, near as I can tell, the results are what we had hoped for. But I don't fully understand the "Certificate of Quality" report, so I'll speak with Chargeurs again, and check with Padula before reporting more.
We now have 21,466 pounds (9,735 kg) conditioned at 15% of "21 Micron Wool Top" clean fiber to turn into garments! Next, we will make some yarn, but we (well, I) have some ideas that I want to test so we will start with just a minimal amount of yarn.
This last isn't wool-related, except that the view from my office is a constant companion. In winter, mostly, I feed the birds, primarily putting out sunflower seeds. It's nice to look at the office window and see all those little guys. Sometimes I'll also put out corn, which the squirrels and larger birds seem to appreciate. But even without any corn, the bird seed attracts the local deer. Last night these deer showed up well before dark. The deer don't fear people much at all. They take much more notice of dogs. When a neighbor walked by with a small dog, it was interesting to see one of the deer, rather than flee, stare down the leashed dog, which was only a few steps away. The doe held her ground and did not stop snuffling up the corn. These deer are so habituated to suburban life that I've seen them look both ways before crossing the street.
Deer seen from the window of the office at WeatherWool Headquarters in South Orange, New Jersey, 10 miles from Times Square, NYC. (Plus 3-year old Zabz in her ballerina tutu!)
Advisor David Alexander, Head Naturalist for Essex County (our County), manages an annual deer cull in the nearby South Mountain Reservation. Although the cull removes about 200 deer annually, it doesn't seem to affect the herd here, only about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away.
2023-03-06 ... "I saw WeatherWool in ... Brussels"
So far, none of my family has ever seen WeatherWool anywhere except a couple of outdoor shows when customers/friends were also on the scene. But that doesn't totally "count" as just randomly seeing someone wearing our wool. We still look forward to that happening! (We have unexpectedly seen people wearing our wool on TV, tho, and that was pretty great!)
Our customers have told us a few times they saw someone wearing our stuff. I remember this happening in Minnesota and in NYC. And sometimes, people contact us because they saw our wool somewhere. I've lately exchanged a few emails with a guy from Europe who met one of our customers wearing an All-Around Jacket in Brussels.
Speaking of Brussels and "Hostage Photos" (yesterday's Blog) ... about six months ago I did another Front-Porch-Landing-Page-Hostage-Photo with a customer who had just flown in from Brussels to visit friends.
2023-03-05 ... "Hostage" Photos ... Midtown Cleanup
Yesterday I picked up a load of Anoraks at Factory8 in NYC's Garment District. Advisor JR Morrissey tells me the mayor has lately sent in a lot of police and sanitation folks to make the neighborhood cleaner and safer. Sounds good to me. Since the early days of the virus shutdowns, midtown has not been what it should be. And it could be argued it hasn't been what it should be since ... But we (and that's not just WeatherWool) need Fashion Avenue to look the part. The Garment District has some great people, and these Anoraks are a small proof of that. Those folks deserve a safe, clean place to work, and I bet the safer and cleaner the more likely they are to continue to do what they do, and to improve.
And so we do have some more Anoraks on hand, all in Brown or Lynx Pattern. SHIP ASAP orders will be leaving here Monday and Tuesday.
Today, a customer stopped by to pick up an Anorak. He is from Minnesota, but was in Baltimore for a few weeks for work. He said he's been thinking about getting some wool for about three years, and his wife told him it's time to pull the trigger. So he drove up from Maryland (about 3.5 hours), and size Large fit him great. Just as he was leaving, I realized a photo announcing the availability of more Anoraks would be a good idea for the Landing Page of the website, and Jon was too gracious to refuse. THANKS to Jon for this Hostage photo, which also appears at present on our Landing Page. (It's not the first time I've done this to an unfortunate, friendly visitor!)
2023-03-03 ... Shipping Materials
We've been wanting to use American-made shipping materials (boxes, tape, brown wrapping paper, labels), but haven't really focused on it. The local Staples store is close and easy, but doesn't stock very much. And although we aren't truly big shippers (yet?!), Staples seems more geared toward the occasional retail shipper, at least based on their supply and prices. We have been using Amazon mostly because they deliver boxes, in bulk, within a few days. We were aware of ULINE but had not used them for boxes until Debby ordered this week. ULINE delivered next day, and the boxes are the best we've seen so far. The price is about the same as Amazon (average of $2 each, delivered), the selection is better, AND ... ULINE makes the boxes in Wisconsin.
ULINE was founded in 1980 by Liz and Dick Uihlein. Although Dick is a descendant of the Schlitz brewing family, ULINE was started in their Wisconsin basement because they saw a local need.
Debby checked them out partly, I think, because she knew I was aggravated to see "CLAER PACKING TAPE" on a case of tape imported from guess-where. I guess we try their tape next, but we've got a lot of the CLAER tape to use up first.
PS -- In response to this post, one of our customers wrote that in 25 years dealing with ULINE, his company has had no problems and ULINE service has been stellar.
2023-03-02 ... Sustainability ... Batch 8 ... Batch 9 ... Timing
I've not paid much attention to "sustainability", but it's extremely important to a lot of people. Our Fabric is pure wool, and thousands of years of history seems strong evidence of the sustainability of wool. But the fashion folk who largely drive the clothing industry (around $2 trillion in annual sales, globally) are all about sustainability these days. Today's issue of Apparel Insider was all about "green", "carbon-negative", and sustainability. The lead story cites a study published in the International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (I had no idea!) that asserts the number of times a garment is worn is the primary factor in determining environmental impact. The article focused on woolen garments and I am guessing at some point they're going to have troubles with sponsors if they keep heading down the road they are on now. It looks like the big money comes from synthetics, and they are not going to like this. Money is pouring into bio-tech clothing ... Eventually folks are going to figure out that Nature is the master technician, and wool is quite literally clothing made by Nature.
Batch 9 is being scoured now at Chargeurs. I spoke yesterday at length with Diego Paullier, who runs the scouring plant. The wool is looking great and Diego's testing shows the fiber matched the specs as determined by the New Zealand Wool Testing Authority. We based our purchase of the greasy wool on the findings of the NZWTA.
We are in the month of March. Interest in woolens tapers off steadily from February until August (with the exception of our customers in OZ and NZ!), when it begins to pick up again. But August is only 5 months away, and I feel like that's tomorrow. We won't be relaxing at all!
2023-03-01 ... John Hudson, British Military Chief SERE Instructor
Gee ... I thought I'd posted this a couple of months ago, but evidently I did not! ...
In December of 2022, we rec'd a very nice note from John Hudson, who is, among other things, the British Military's Chief SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Extraction) Instructor. Thanks to a generous, anonymous donation and through the connections of our Advisor Ziggy, who served many years with the British SAS, John received an Anorak through our WarriorWool Program. Take a look at John's website, and you'll know he's REALLY been around and tested a LOT of gear. John wrote a review of his experiences in our Anorak, and sent some photos, as well.
THANKS HUGE to the Anonymous Donor, Ziggy and John!!!!
2023-02-28 ... How Long Does It Last?
A question that reasonably comes up regularly is "How long will WeatherWool last?" ... And the answer, which might sound flippant, is that it depends on a lot of things. How it is worn/used, and how often. And of course whether FullWeight or MidWeight. Because WeatherWool is young company, I can't point to a long track record. The oldest WeatherWool garment is my own original All-Around Jacket, made from the first yards of Fabric that passed my field testing. I've been wearing that Jacket since 2012, and it doesn't show wear except on close examination. There are some pulls, where brambles got hold of it, but it's still in great shape despite a lot of abuse. Mostly, though, it just rides in my truck about 9 months of the year because I'm a desk jockey.
Today, I got a call from one of our first customers. Kerry bought an All-Around Jacket in 2014. Kerry sent that AAJ back to us a year or so ago, to see if we could patch it. It was very beat up, and I don't remember whether or not Debby was able to do anything with it. What I do remember is that Kerry very much wanted it back, and that Kerry bought another Lynx Pattern AAJ about the same time. Kerry has also purchased two other All-Around Jackets in solid colors. Kerry wears an All-Around Jacket all the time, wherever and whenever.
2023-02-27 ... The Wool Channel
As mentioned on the Blog of Feb 18, I've been looking around a little to see who is promoting wool and the wool industry to the "outside" world. I think wool would be MUCH bigger if more people knew what wool can do, what wool clothing can be.
One forum I found in the searching is The Wool Channel, Clara Parkes’ "publication and community dedicated to the extraordinary world of wool."
In 2019, Clara wrote Vanishing Fleece: Adventures in American Wool, about her experiences turning a bale of raw wool into ready-for-knitting yarn. We at WeatherWool very much enjoyed Clara's book, and we definitely had some of the same experiences.
Upon joining The Wool Channel, we were invited to say HELLO to the community. Clara was evidently already aware of WeatherWool, and responded that she looks forward to making something from our Fabric! We look forward to it, too!
2023-02-26 ... New Designer/Maker ... Hat Yes/Clothes No
We are shipping some Fabric to a gentleman who has been working in fashion for a few years and is starting his own line, and he is planning to introduce his work at a major show in Europe. We are quite honored that he has chosen to work with our Fabric, given the zillions of choices! We look forward to seeing what he comes up with.
Today, someone stopped by and gave us some feedback on his Watch Cap. He said he has many Watch Caps, but no longer wears any other. He hikes a lot in temps of 0F/-18C and finds the Watch Cap keeps him very comfortable in many different situations. He went on for quite a while about how he did not expect that Cap to be anywhere near as capable as it is, but it was a gift (he'd never have bought it because he believes in synthetics), so he tried it out. BUT THEN ... even after what were, to him, extremely surprising, favorable experiences with the Watch Cap, he gestured to a rack of our jackets: "But for a jacket, you just can't beat modern synthetics." What was/is most interesting to me is that even AFTER having been very happily impressed with the Watch Cap and never having tested what a serious wool jacket can do, he still "knew" plastics were the way to go.
2023-02-25 ... Trademark Refused in Canada
I thought we'd actually already been granted the rights to the mark "WeatherWool" in Canada, but today we received a notice of refusal. A Winnipeg company, Freed and Freed, registered "Weather Wool" in 1999. Looking at their website, it seems their current focus is clothing free of animal-products. Searching the site for "Weather Wool" turns up nothing.
I don't think being refused in Canada will change much, if anything. But about 10% of our product is purchased by our great friends to the North and the Canadian rights would have been nice.
This does make me glad that we've filed -- and in some cases received -- rights to WeatherWool in Australia, EU, Japan, UK. And of course USA!
2023-02-24 ... Clothing Evaluation Criteria
For a long time we've had a page on how to test/evaluate (All-Purpose) outerwear. Today, skimming through some of the trade pubs, I was again reminded how different my criteria are from the criteria used by other folks. I am going to have to update. I've been focused solely on performance and comfort. But other people are very much focused on other factors:
- Are the used clothes biodegradable?
- Is production energy intensive?
- Is the fabric synthetic or natural?
- How much water is used?
- How many pollutants are produced?
- How well are workers treated? Paid? Can they provide for a family?
- How are animals treated?
- How much waste is produced?
- What is the effect on the land and environment?
- How long do the clothes last? Both in terms of years and in terms of wear?
For some people, these are the DECISIVE factors; warmth and comfort are insignificant. Measured against these other criteria, wool looks better than ever.
2023-02-23 ... Interesting Call about FR
FR Ratings (Flame-Resistant Rating) are important to a lot of the people interested in our clothing. Most workers and Military know that wool is reluctant to burn. And wool is in fact classed as non-flammable. But a lot of people need clothing that is specifically rated as FR. We have looked into getting an FR Rating, but have not followed through ... getting a rating costs several thousand dollars annually. But today I got a call from a guy in Montana who loves wool for recreation, and wants to wear it for his work, which requires FR, and he said he thought our wool would automatically qualify. He'd seen an OSHA regulation saying that 100% wool fabric that is heavier than 11 ounces per square yard (409 grams per square meter) are generally flame and arc resistant. Definitely good news! But the regulations are dense and the ratings are situational ... that is, an FR Rating for one environment may not be valid or sufficient for another. We're not going to start claiming we are FR. But I probably will say, next time it comes up, that we SEEM to be FR, and I can refer to OSHA's website.
2023-02-22 ... Hard Knocks ... More ebay
Last night, Larry A (THANKS LARRY!) flagged another piece of WeatherWool sold on ebay. I don't understand why anyone would sell a NEW All-Around Jacket for $780 when he could have returned it to us for a full refund. If a garment was not purchased from us, we can't accept it for trade-in, or perform any repairs. We have heard of our stuff being stolen.
The old saw about "The School of Hard Knocks" has always made me smile. I think it's both literal and figurative. This morning I saw a different take, which I also like:
"Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward." ---- Vernon Law
This has definitely been my experience with WeatherWool ... and a lot of other stuff. I'm superstitious enough to be nervous writing this, but things have been going really well lately ... so maybe I'm due for another lesson.
We will start getting Batch 8 Fabric in late April. This Batch will be about 30% FullWeight Drab and about 70% MidWeight Drab. We'll be making Anoraks and CPOs for sure. Not yet sure what else we'll make.
2023-02-21 ... Flattering!
Alex noticed someone just sold one of our Anoraks (Small, MidWeight Lynx) on ebay for $580. The seller wrote it was 3 years old. Three years ago, the purchase price was $595. So a sale at $580 is quite flattering. It's also somewhat surprising in that used prices in our Lending Library are reduced a minimum of $100. And for us, "used" includes pieces that have never been used at all, but merely held longer than two weeks before being returned to us.
Alex pointed out that designer brands don't hold value anything like the aforementioned Anorak. Several years ago, I remember a little back-and-forth with a woman who wanted to buy an Anorak for her nephew. We didn't have a new one, but we did have a used one that was appropriate. The woman didn't mind the price of the new piece, but she felt the used piece should have been marked down A LOT. She wrote me that her business was high-end dresses, and that the value of a dress drops by at least 50% as soon as it's been worn, even just once.
2023-02-20 ... Experimental Evidence ... Batch 10 Talk
The winter-dunk video posted on our YouTube Channel a few days ago got some attention. One (anonymous) guy, in particular, was adamant in the COMMENTS section that wool absolutely does not generate heat when water is added. The exchange between "Joe Blow" and me is reproduced below, for the Blog of 17 Feb. A customer of ours, Tim, owns a company that produces products that measure temperature and pressure. Tim has the background, and was interested enough to run some experiments. With Tim's permission, we may include some of Tim's descriptive text to us. But the bottom line is that Tim's experiments totally convinced him wool generates significant heat when misted with water. But Joe Blow is adamant as ever! ... a little bit more of our exchange:
THANKS TIM!!! ... I fear you've unleashed a dragon, tho!
Today I spoke with Dirk Jones of the Jones Ranch in New Mexico. We plan to acquire more fiber from the Jones Family as we put together our Batch 10. The Jones clip is looking great, and really clean, but the drought and predators have the overall yield down at least 20%. Jones fiber is a big part of Batches 7, 8 and 9.
2023-02-18 ... Publish on Substack?
WeatherWool continues to be an adventure and a labor of love – and pride – for us. When we founded WeatherWool, we had no inkling how many people we would meet and work with, and how many people would be in our corner. We also did not expect our tiny business to show us the state of the American garment, textile and wool industries.
What we have seen and experienced has been rewarding, touching, inspiring, frustrating, instructive, surprising, amazing.
We knew before we started WeatherWool that Americans weren’t wearing much wool anymore, and that almost all our clothing is imported. But until we got involved, we didn’t really understand the meaning and extent of it. We also didn’t understand how the virtues of serious wool are so little-known. The more the public knows, the better for the everyone, from ranchers to tailors through customers.
I feel as if the entire industry needs advocacy. I’ve been looking around and there are some great sources of info out there. BUT it also looks as if the general public and even garment-industry insiders are not picking up. When the fashion-folk, whose work is highly dependent upon fabric, evidently have no inkling that wool is truly superior to the synthetics they almost always work with, somebody is missing something big.
So … I’ve been wondering about writing on Substack. For those not familiar, Substack is a platform freely available to anyone who wants to publish. Writers can make their material available for free or by paid subscription. Substack has millions of readers and the numbers are growing rapidly.
2023-02-17 ... Dunking and Disbelief ... ShirtJacs!
Advisor Trustin Timber made a cold-water dunking video that was the subject of the Blog of the 13th. He posted a slightly different version of the video on YouTube. One of the reasons for making a video like this (there are three "winter dunking" videos on this website) is to try to demonstrate the amazing and counter-intuitive sophistication of wool. Elsewhere on this website, we try to give some explanation and background about the behavior of wool with respect to water. One guy was quite adamantly expressed disbelief in the YouTube comments. Very likely, others hold the same thoughts without actually expressing them.
I've included my exchange with the skeptic. (It doesn't format well.):
People are used to wearing clothes made of cotton (a seed dispersal mechanism) and other plant-based fibers. Well ... Nature didn't make plants to protect mammals from weather. People are also used to wearing synthetic fibers, which, compared to wool, are not even up to the level of "child's play". It's not surprising that folks would have made some basic, subconscious assumptions about what clothing can do, and what wool can't do. And that's why Trustin made the vid.
I'll actually go a little farther, and say wool can generate heat without getting wet, or, without feeling wet, because water adsorbed and absorbed within a wool fiber is what generates the heat.
Along these lines, Customer Tim wrote us this morning about an experiment he's had in mind, and one we've been meaning to run in a careful and controlled manner. It's nice to see others thinking along the same lines. We also have a couple of other experiments we want to run using thermometers and hygrometers. But it needs to be stressed that lab tests are interesting and fun BUT the only test that really matters is the type of test in the video ... each person's own actual, in-the-weather experience (same root word!) is the experimental result that really counts.
People who don't know him will be surprised, but this is Alex smiling!
2023-02-16 ... ShirtJacs ... Video
Tomorrow Debby and Alex will be at Better Team to begin our own Quality Control on our first production run of ShirtJacs! And actually, we picked one up for inspection yesterday, and it's already in a box headed for Arizona.
About a month from now, Advisor Trustin Timber will be here to do some video. Trustin put together the video in the Blog from the 13th. We'll visit the tailors and the mills and do some filming/interviewing here. Please give me any ideas for videos.
2023-02-14 ... ShirtJacs: The Last Buttonhole
The techniques of garment construction just bounce off me, so mostly I stand aside and listen. My main contribution is to fuss whenever someone suggests life would be easier if we used something other than "self" (the fabric from which a garment is primarily constructed) every now and then. We try to use nothing but our own Fabric. By now, everyone is used to my monotonous insistence.
Today Debby and I visited Better Team USA, where our ShirtJacs are almost finished. We thought we'd have them a week or so ago, but Martin, the CEO, and Ilinca, his assistant, weren't completely happy with the center-front top buttonhole.
Our FullWeight Fabric is very thick, a lot of that Fabric comes together in this spot, and the collar stand (the ring of Fabric that connects the collar to the rest of the garment) doesn't leave much space for a buttonhole. The buttonhole was extremely tight, and the machine that sews the buttonholes didn't have much space or any extra Fabric to work with. The buttonhole was operable, but not well enough. Tighter than we wanted and we wanted more room for the stitching. So they decided to try a keyhole buttonhole.
A keyhole buttonhole is shaped something like an old-fashioned keyhole. Making the buttonhole longer would make it easier to for the wearer to operate, and give the machine more room to work and more Fabric to work with.
A mechanic had to be called in to adjust the keyhole-buttonhole machine to allow enough space to accept our thick collar stand. And stouter-than-usual needles were also needed.
The keyhole buttonhole worked to everyone's satisfaction. And ... that was the last, somewhat unexpected bit to be dealt with. All the ShirtJacs will get one keyhole buttonhole at the collar. Then they'll be cleaned of stray bits of fabric and thread by nippers, compressed air and vacuum, inspected by Better Team, then inspected by Debby and Alex ... then shipped.
2023-02-13 ... "... craziest thing I've ever done on behalf of a brand."
Advisor Trustin Timber has been wearing WeatherWool since 2017, and he's done a lot of stuff in our wool. He's also read a lot of this website, and listened to me yammering about the properties of wool. Recently, Trustin is helping improve the way we present ourselves. This kind of work is very much in keeping with his previous work in fashion and media.
If Trustin didn't feel really good about our woolens, he wouldn't be involved. He's been doing serious real-life testing for years. Lately, tho, he's been reviewing some technical literature to see if others made the same sorts of claims that I do. One of the things I always tell people is that lab tests and books are all well and good, but they don't really mean much. The only thing that really counts when evaluating clothing is subjective experience.
And so, we've decided to try to present some real-life demonstration videos, partly because, as a media pro, Trustin can put together some great material. But also because, as he explains in the vid, a media pro must speak from experience.
2023-02-12 ... WarriorWool ... ShirtJacs
Today we received two requests for WarriorWool from people who ordered because someone with whom they serve has an Anorak. Yeah, I like that.
ShirtJacs should begin shipping next week. Yay!! This is a new design for us. It's the first piece we've made with large inner drop pockets.
2023-02-10 ... Communication, Cooperation, Attention
WeatherWool products embody the cooperation of our many Partners -- companies, families and individuals. It is a marvel to me, a huge kick and extremely gratifying, to follow along on email chains among CEOs, Owners, COOs and Engineers as they step through the requirements, options and possibilities that must be addressed as we turn fiber from the back of a grazing sheep into WarriorWool serving in true extremes or a Blanket warming a Grandmother relaxing at home.
Our upcoming Batch 9, easily our largest Batch so far, requires more communication and decision-making among more Partners than anything else we've done. I expect I'm annoying these folks, at least a little bit, but there is a lifeboat mindset among those of us in the American wool, textile and garment space that creates mutual support. Plus, I think, there is amusement seeing a typical couple, well into their traditional retirement years, trying something out of left field.
I can only shake my head and smile (and ask sometimes-embarrassing questions) as I read through correspondence among CEOs and COOs of large companies as they conjure solutions for WeatherWool. We greatly appreciate the brain trust and the time. I hope we will soon grow enough to justify the attention.
2023-02-09 ... Homefront WarriorWool
An old friend who did very intense work for the US government said to me many times, "There are some truly EVIL people in this world." In the last few days, we've sent WarriorWool Anoraks to men who, here in the US mainland, are tasked with finding and destroying fentanyl labs and fighting human trafficking.
2023-02-08 ... A Few Things
- Online Anorak Sales Paused ...We have been shipping Anoraks for the past week and things have gotten a little ragged. So last night I stopped all "live" website orders for Anoraks. Backorders will go through, but the website won't let anyone pay for an Anorak. We will hopefully get the Anorak shipping done and remaining inventory counted by the end of today. Then we can update the website and offer whatever Anoraks are available. I will also notify the people who have placed backorders that are not SHIP ASAP (did not leave a credit card to reserve the garment). There are many of those, but 85% will not respond to my email. I will send only one email. People who have left a phone number only (no email) may not be notified because, as far as I know, I need to do that individually. After a couple of days I'll delete all the remaining backorders. Still trying to figure a better way to do this!
- Anorak Tailoring ... These Anoraks were put together under the direction of JR Morrissey and Anya Ferring of Factory8. There are actually a few separate companies involved ... pattern (Factory8), grading, marking, cutting and finally sewing. These are beautifully done and our internal QC inspections have turned up virtually nothing. Great work!
- Lanolin from Vitamin-D ... Following up from yesterday's mention of the many uses of lanolin ... Today, Debby ordered some Vitamin-D supplements from Surthrival, a company owned by Advisor Dan Vitalis. The Vitamin-D is made by exposing lanolin to sunlight!
- Speaking of Advisor Daniel Vitalis (previous item), Daniel's WildFed TV Show began its Season 3 this week on the Outdoor Channel. WildFed focuses on Daniel's (and friends) acquisition, preparation and consumption of Wild Foods. Chasing Wild Foods is what led me to found WeatherWool.
- ShirtJac Tailoring ... Better Team USA is finishing up the tailoring on our ShirtJacs. We expected to begin onsite (at Better Team) QC tomorrow, but Martin phoned to say he wasn't completely happy with a detail of the construction of the collar buttonhole, and had just tried something new that turned out better. Basically, the top button on the center front of the ShirtJac is considered part of the collar rather than part of the center front. So this one buttonhole is getting a different construction than all the others because so much Fabric comes together in this small area. If Martin gets a chance to write up exactly what his team did, I'll add it to the website. Modifying 200 ShirtJacs will take an extra couple of days! We appreciate the diligence and ingenuity from Better Team!
Wool as sheared from the sheep is called greasy because 10% of the weight is lanolin, aka "wool grease". Lanolin is great stuff with many uses.
Batch 9 is our first "full load" ... that is, our first batch that fills an entire trailer. We are very excited by the possibilities.
Filling orders for Anoraks this morning, and NONE of the credit cards were declined. That's a crazy and very welcome reversal from a few days ago (entry from Feb 3) when the majority of the cards were rejected.
2023-02-05 ... Well, THAT'S Embarrassing!
A few weeks ago I picked up some Weaving Selvedge at the mill. There were about 15 big boxes labeled WeatherWool, and I took several. Some of the stuff didn't look like mine, but I'm not used to seeing weaving selvedge in the first place, so ... But after looking it over, we were certain some of what I'd taken was not actually WeatherWool.
Since then, we've shipped to customers some BROWN SELVEDGE. When we used up the box of brown, we switched to a box of "Lynx" ... I didn't really like the looks of that stuff. It didn't seem quite right. But. The box was labeled WeatherWool at the mill, and the colors matched. Yesterday, though, I gave some of that selvedge the fire test, and it had synthetic in it! Some other customer's selvedge looked enough like mine that it created confusion. We've disposed of the wrong selvedge, and now we will contact the customers who bought Selvedge in the last week or two!! [Postscript: We later decided my confusion was caused by the fact that the mill adds lubricating oil and the oil will burn in a way the wool would not.]
From the mill's point of view, the selvedge is waste ... garbage ... there is normally no market for mixed selvedge, and they are happy a nearby school accepts it for their students to work with. There are also Amish groups who use the selvedge to make rugs. So I shouldn't be surprised that things got mixed up.
2023-02-04 ... ShirtJacs and Hooded Jackets
One goal of WeatherWool is eliminating from our garments anything but wool. Some components, such as zippers and buttons, cannot be wool. In the case of our Hooded Jackets, we have gone to great lengths to make the cuffs ourselves, because suitable (American Merino-class fiber) cuffs are not otherwise available. And just lately, Debby realized we could replace the synthetic cord that adjusts our Hoods with wool cord.
On Thursday stopped off at Fleck Knitwear to pick up some cord and some cuffs for our Hooded Jackets. The knitted cords and cuffs of these Jackets and the woven Fabric comprising the rest of the garment are all made from the same fiber, same yarn. These may be smallish details, fairly far down the development trail, but still quite satisfying for us. We wouldn't have offered Hooded Jackets if we couldn't make our own cuffs because Merino-class knitted cuffs (known as ribs!) are not commercially available.
The cuffs are generally known as ribs because of the knitting technique, which results in a fabric that is stretchy in one direction but not the other.
Yesterday I made a run into NYC to drop off cords and cuffs at Factory8, where JR is managing the production of a run of our Hooded Jackets in FullWeight Fabrics Black and Drab.
Next stop was Better Team, where Martin DiBattista and his Team are finishing up work on our ShirtJacs, which we expect to ship in mid-February. It's a kick to see so many people working on our garments!
I grabbed a Black ShirtJac and threw it on a mannequin for a quick photo, and was a little surprised by all the bits of thread and fabric adhering to the garment:
One of the final steps of garment production is cleaning. Black Fabric "shows everything" that is placed on it. And of course putting a garment together produces lots of little bits of threads and fabrics. Before we pick up the ShirtJacs, Better Team will go over every garment with compressed air and vacuum, removing all the superficial white bits seen in this photo. Cleaning up each garment is a completely necessary and time-consuming step that I had not really focused on before. But looking at the ShirtJac in Black really brought it to my attention. If this was a Lynx Pattern ShirtJac, you wouldn't see anything (but Better Team cleans the Lynx too, of course!). If I had buttoned the ShirtJac, it would have looked perfectly symmetrical. My bad.
Martin, below, usually wears his Jackets with the collar turned up, so that's the way he wanted the ShirtJac. If he gets a little time, Martin will prepare a write-up with the steps of garment production. There are important procedures that the general public would not otherwise be aware of.
2023-02-03 ... Nervous Credit Card Processors
We are shipping the Anoraks we picked up on Wednesday, and we've not previously experienced such a high rate of refusals (over 50%) from the credit card processors. It's as if something has suddenly changed and there is much more concern about fraud. I am guessing this is at least in part a result of a 100% defensive posture in the banking system. There really seems to be no effort to punish crooks. This reminds me of two bits of wisdom. An old saying: "Give them an inch and they'll take a mile." And a line from Frederick Douglass (roughly) ... What you tolerate will continue.
2023-02-01 ... Anoraks
I've always liked being up early, or, really late. This morning was nice, picking up Anoraks at Factory8 in the Garment District of NYC at sunup. It wasn't exactly early -- 6:30 -- but early enough that there was plenty of curbside available for my pickup and trailer. For years, I was at my desk on Broadway just North of Times Square by 7 or so every day. But that was a long time ago and my perspective has really changed. Now I feel like I was off to an early start!
It's a kick that almost all the Anoraks are already reserved by SHIP ASAP. And then there are a ton of people who have placed orders but didn't do SHIP ASAP. Once the ASAPs are processed, I'll send an email to the rest of the people who've backordered (About 80% of them will not respond.) and offer whatever is still available on the website.
Loading the trailer with Anoraks. The big construction project in the distance is Hudson Yards. It's gigantic and I keep hearing it's empty, but they keep building.
2023-01-31 ... Foraging Next Door .... Anoraks Tomorrow
Advisor Fisher Neal stopped by today, and pointed out that my neighbor's Copper Beech was hosting a very nice flush of Winter Oyster Mushrooms. For the last two or three years, the Oysters have been blooming every few months. Neighbor Paul doesn't want them, and told me to help myself whenever. So, into the pot they go. THANKS PAUL and THANKS FISHER!
Fisher is a serious Actor and serious Hunting Guide (here in New Jersey), and today he needed us to care for his young American Water Spaniel while he was in NYC to rehearse an upcoming one-man play. Fisher has guided 47 people on successful whitetail hunts this year, with his season not over yet. (New Jersey has too many deer and very long deer seasons.) Many of Fisher's clients are new to hunting and even new to the outdoors.
Debby makes fantastic Oyster Mushroom Soup!
This Copper Beech is about 4-feet (122 cm) in diameter.
Sadly, the Oysters presage the end of this tree. We've been told -- I have not researched this -- it was tradition in the time our neighborhood was developed (1880s through 1920s) to plant a tree, often a Copper Beech, when a house was built. Our own house was built at the end of the 19th Century, and our Copper Beech, the largest I've ever seen, died in 2003. A century or so is a typical lifespan for a Copper Beech. The neighbor's house was built in the 1920s, so, the tree may be counting things down. We'll see by mid-May how well it leafs out this year. Hate to see it go!
About 5:15 tomorrow morning, I'll be headed for the NYC Garment District and Factory8, to pick up Anoraks in FullWeight Fabrics Drab and Black. Almost all of these Anoraks are already reserved as SHIP ASAP. In Black, there may be one available in XLarge, and a few in 2X. In Drab: XXSmall (1); XSmall (1); Small (2); 2Xlarge (2).
2023-01-30 ... Random Bits
- We will be picking up FullWeight Drab and Black Anoraks early Wednesday morning. Almost all of them are already reserved. We'll ship them beginning Wednesday, as each piece passed Quality Control. Alex will have his hands full, literally and figuratively
- We'll start Quality Control inspections on ShirtJacs soon and ship in first half of February
- Yesterday, a youth of 16 came to the Open House and purchased for himself a Hooded Jacket for which he'd been saving a long time. I'm not sure we've ever had a customer who valued the wool more highly
- This afternoon, Alex and I took about three hours for a quick deer hunt at The Swamp. We'd not gotten out together all year, and the season is nearly over. The Swamp was pretty-well flooded, as it often is in winter, we only hunted about 90 minutes, and neither of us saw any deer. And actually, we both felt kind of like we were playing hooky. WeatherWool has gotten a strong hold of both of us. We stopped for burgers on the way home, just like we always did when the boys were little. It was a splendid afternoon and great to be out with Alex
- It seems we are getting better-known, and that has led to some of the Partners upon whom we rely for garment and Fabric production getting new customers. Advisor JR Morrissey was lately been in touch with three new clients who want to do their own American-made woolens
- Padula tells me people were asking him about us at the ASI (American Sheep Industry) Annual Meeting 10 days ago. It's kind of amazing to Debby and me that people would know about little-old-us!
- The website is still 99% me, and it's hard to keep everything up to date and keep up with the email, phone calls and production. But we believe the first-person style of the website is important, and a great many people have told us they appreciate that there is a lot of info available here. This is definitely contrary to industry-norms, but we do a lot of things we're not supposed to do. And we don't do a lot of things we are supposed to do. Being contrary in some fundamental ways is ... fundamental to us
- Our daughter Denali has been handling requests for Fabric Samples from her home in Wisconsin for the past 13 months. But the business founded by Denali and her husband is taking more and more of her time, and so we have decided to handle some of the Sample requests from here in Jersey. Samples have become very important to us and fulfilling all the requests (making the Sample Packs!) takes a great deal of time.
- AWA Certification. Padula tells me the importance of AWA (American Wool Assurance) certification is something we need to think more about, talk to our Ranchers about. I have complete confidence in our Ranchers, and the way they care for their animals and land. But consumers more and more want to see a 3rd party certification. Our friends in Australia have pioneered in this area, and they have made an impression on consumers. We've featured ranch-sourcing since we began, so no change there.
- As we grow and become better acquainted with more Ranchers and their operations, we are considering doing our own sampling (for testing) of raw wool at the ranches during and shortly after shearing.
- Knitting Sourcing ... Our knitted products, Watch Caps and Neck Gaiters, have been increasingly popular, and so we are working to make our own knitting yarn from raw wool, just as we do with the wool for our woven products
2023-01-29 ... Horse Power Heat ... New WarriorWool Recipient Group
A couple of days ago I received email from a soldier who is in the thick of things in Ukraine. He surprised me by observing that a Poncho is great kit for his present circumstances because it can envelop a rider and a good bit of his horse ... and a working horse generates a tremendous amount of heat. That was an unusual bit of info to add to the Poncho page. But probably no surprise to anyone who spends time with working horses.
On Wednesday I spoke with a couple of guys in the US Army National Guard Civil Support Team. I'd actually never heard of this group before, but one of their primary duties is detecting and neutralizing Weapons of Mass Destruction, mostly in the 48 States. The gents I spoke with explained a lot of their efforts are focused on fentanyl, which has become the leading cause of death of younger Americans, killing over 100,000 of us annually now. I asked if fentanyl is really as dangerous as I've heard, that even a very tiny amount can kill. It is. It's poisonous enough that dealing with the fentanyl labs -- aside from the people operating them -- can be extremely dangerous, requiring HazMat suits and medical teams (one of the guys I spoke with was a medic) standing by.
The 10th Civil Support Team is the newest addition to our WarriorWool Program. (It seems the crazy inflation has really affected donations.) The articles linked below describe the 10th CST:
2023-01-27 ... WeatherWool Mark Registered in Japan
Yesterday we received a Statement of Grant of Protection for our mark, WeatherWool, issued by the Japanese Patent Office. We are attracting more international interest, and have registered (or registration pending) our mark in Australia, Canada, EU, Japan and UK.
2023-01-26 ... It's a Little Bit Funny ...
We have had numerous Military units flirt with us ... ask for a quote on 20 or 30 pieces for some Special Forces Group. But someone higher up the food chain has always nixed an actual Uncle Sam order, except for ONCE. A guy working Explosive Ordnance Disposal for Trump and Pence wore one of our jackets, and the feds did pay. But we've always thought, eventually, some governmental body would buy some wool, given that hundreds of government employees have purchased from us -- with personal funds -- so they could wear our wool on Active Duty.
Well ... what's a little bit funny is that a Coroner's Office has lately purchased Watch Caps for the Coroner and his assistants. Their work is no laughing matter, of course, but it's not the government order we had envisioned.
I was reminded of the WeatherWool coroner-connection while watching a coroner describe the autopsy of Jeffrey Epstein, ultra-rich pervert whose supposed suicide while in max-security federal custody has been the subject of much disbelief. I am interested in the coroner report and the whole Epstein saga because I nearly became his assistant in 1979, when he was a whiz-kid at Wall Street firm Bear Stearns. We had a good interview, and I thought it would have been fine to have him as a boss. He was friendly and focused and seemed a very sharp guy. He'd impressed everyone at a place where it's not easy to impress people. The starting salary was kind of a lot, but I'd been self-employed and really didn't want the loss of freedom that comes with a trading-desk job. But I was tempted, and we stayed in touch for a couple of months. There was only one thing I remember that gave a hint of the personality that was to make Epstein famous and, I think, get him murdered. He asked me where I was living, and I said I had an apartment in Tarrytown with my girl (Debby). Considering we were 25 and 26 years old, this wasn't anything out of the ordinary. But Epstein was very excited by that info. Very weird. And memorable enough it was still fresh in my mind some 20 years later when he was becoming famous for wealth and perversion. The coroners wearing our Watch Caps have nothing to do with the Epstein autopsy (as far as I know), but made me think of it.
2023-01-24 ... Heat Straps Vest Coming
Most of the FullWeight Drab Fabric Alex and I picked up today at American Woolen will be used by Heat Straps in a new collaboration ... A Waxed Canvas Vest with Leather Trim, lined with our FullWeight Drab Fabric. Nicks Handmade Boots is providing the leather and managing the offering. Please note that our role is limited to providing the Fabric. Click here to get on the mailing list.
2023-01-23 ... Batch 7, Batch 8, Batch 9 and even Batch 10
Batch 7: American Woolen has finished the last processing of Batch 7, and we'll be picking it up tomorrow. Most of this pickup will immediately go to Jordan and Tyler at Heat Straps, who will use it to make a Vest, another collaboration among Nicks Boots, Heat Straps and us.
Trailer is hitched to the truck, gas tank is full and we will hopefully cross the George Washington Bridge by 5AM! ... Maybe I wrote this before ... but NYC is a huge tourist destination and I think one of the best things to do is walk across the GW Bridge. The air is great, tremendous views of New York City, the harbors and of the Palisades (cliffs) on the Jersey side, and it's kinda scary how solid the bridge ISN'T!, particularly when looking down on the Hudson River 213 feet (65 meters) below.
Batch 8: American Woolen is spinning Batch 8 now. Weaving should start in mid-March. Batch 8 is all Drab.
Batch 10: We hope to buy the Greasy for Batch 10 in April/May of 2023.
2023-01-22 ... Personal Side
The choice today was no entry here, or a personal entry.
Debby and I have been together since 1973, and officially were married on January 22nd, 1983. Forty years ago today.
In those days, getting hitched required passing a blood test and a physical exam, and a ceremony. If I remember, we were the 519th couple of 1983 to file our paperwork in City Hall, Manhattan, New York.
I'm certain that without Debby there would be no WeatherWool. And by now there probably would be no "me", either. A wife and children famously have a civilizing and stabilizing influence on a young guy, and very very much so in my case.
PS -- Our daughter, Denali, born on our 5th Anniversary, turns 35 today!
2023-01-21 ... Garment Industry Enviros
I've been watching with interest and bemusement the garment industry's dances with the folks who are trying to assess the environmental impact of clothing. Probably everyone will agree these efforts are in their infancy. Nevertheless, it's seemed to me all along that important considerations have been overlooked.
A couple of days ago, Apparel Insider published Location, not fibre type, impact fashion emissions (view for free), by Brett Matthews, that brought up points that needed to be addressed but had so far been ignored by the reviews I've seen.
[This article focuses on GHG -- Greenhouse Gas Emissions -- upon which the fashion-enviros are fixated. I try to keep politics as much as possible out of WeatherWool, so I won't get into it here except to say that the enviro-crowd seems completely unfazed or unaware of their sometimes-spectacular wrong-headedness in recent decades.]
The title of this piece tells the basic story. Some jurisdictions work much cleaner than others. And I'm not at all focused on or restricted to GHG when I write "cleaner". Generally, the poorer the country, the less concern for cleanliness. People who are barely surviving are going to dispose of their trash in the cheapest, most convenient way possible ... like throwing it in the river. But it isn't just a question of money. That's the way it was done in New Jersey in the early 1960s, when I was a little guy and Jersey was perhaps USA's wealthiest State. The older kids, in their mid-teens, remembered the 1950s, when people used to swim in the Saddle River, which was only a few hundred yards from my house in the town of Lodi . But by the time I was old enough to "go down the river", nobody was swimming anymore ... "too polluted". There were still plenty of turtles and frogs and snakes for us to catch, and we would wade in the water. But I don't remember anyone really swimming and diving or leaping off the Tarzan swings. There were factories upstream from where we mostly spent our time, and the factories had pipes coming out the back with multi-colored, foamy liquids simply discharging into the river. Other factories used the river bank as a garbage disposal. Throw trash out the back door and eventually it would wash down into the river and be carried away. There was no attempt to conceal these activities. I don't know how long that sort of thing had been going on, but by about 1970 it was no longer tolerated in Jersey.
I'm sure as (if!, hopefully) prosperity increases and people become more thoughtful, they'll work cleaner. Maybe the day is even coming when (more) people will view GHG/CO2 as plant food (oops, politics!).
The overall thrust of the article is that garments produced in UK do much less damage to the environment than garments produced in Indonesia or China (the examples from the article). This has always seemed obvious to me, and a head-scratcher as to why the enviro-monitors have not used country-of-origin as an input in their work.
The last para of the article touches on what I feel is the much bigger point, and the reason to wear wool in the first place.
It always jolts me to read an article by the fashion-folks and to find nary a word about the functionality of a garment. It's as if they regard all fabrics as equal.
But the last para of this article says "wears per garment produced" needs to be an input in sustainability calculations. HOORAY!!! They keep going down that road, and they are in danger of finding out that the durability and versatility of wool -- never mind the obvious enviro friendliness of sheep -- is a big reason why WOOL STOMPS THE COMP!
2023-01-20 ... ShirtJacs Soon
Spent some time today with Martin DiBattista, CEO of Better Team USA. Martin's team is making our ShirtJacs now. These are the "front panels" being put together. The ShirtJacs should be shipping in about two weeks.
2023-01-19 ... A Few Watch Caps
Debby was able to get a small quantity of Reversible Watch Caps made in Solid Colors Black and Natural Cream/White. The Watch Caps can be ordered online.
2023-01-17 ... WarriorWool® Registers
This morning the United States Patent and Trademark Office notified us that WarriorWool has been registered as a trademark of mine, to be used by WeatherWool.
Our WarriorWool Program was a primary reason for us to found the company. We have always felt strongly that our Military ought to be equipped to maximize performance. Probably nobody will disagree with that. But from talks with hundreds of Military (and now, Law Enforcement) personnel, it's clear that government agencies rarely provide the garments preferred by those in the field. From efforts that pre-date WeatherWool, we came to believe we could make clothing that would be preferred by our Military. And so WarriorWool has been part of WeatherWool since drawing-board days in 2009.
The basic idea of WarriorWool is to offer Anoraks at our cost of delivery to those who will purchase with personal funds and wear the Anorak as part of Active Duty kit.
We don't mean this program as a criticism of anyone in supply and procurement ... I've spoken with a bunch of those folks, too, and have heard their frustrations. But the "situation on the ground" is that people working at the points of engagement frequently (almost always!) feel inadequately equipped. Perhaps the craziest bit of info I've gotten was from a gent in LE who said he is required to purchase his own badge.
(This para is purely by way of explanation!) People are sometimes surprised the WarriorWool page states our cost of delivery of an Anorak as $395, on average, whether for WarriorWool or otherwise. It's the same product. Actually, our cost is higher. Time to update! Fabric costs us about $180, tailoring $175, zippers, thread, cord, cord locks, buttons, ribbons, packaging, postage, exchanges for different size, credit card breakage ... And then the hidden costs such as time, labor (Alex is salaried), cost of capital, risks, developmental costs, storage facilities, transportation ... Total costs are north of $425. The retail price of an Anorak, by industry standard pricing, should be at least $850.
None of the foregoing explains the trademark registration, tho. Registration will prevent others from using the term WarriorWool ... if that happened, it would have made me crazy (crazier).
2023-01-15 ... Treasure (Almost)
We've (really just me) have been hungering for the Bronze and Titanium Slot Buttons for a long time. We just received the first 500 Bronze Slot Buttons (thanks to Dutchware Gear!), and I feel like they are pirate's treasure.
The fire is typical for my office in cool and cold weather, and I thought it made a nice backdrop for this photo. The buttons are sitting on some of our Brown Fabric which is sitting on an ancient Indonesian Rice Mortar that was given to me by a local dealer of antique wood (Real Antique Wood) who has coincidentally been interested in WeatherWool for years. (Whew, long sentence!)
2023-01-14 ... Good Meeting!
Today, Debby and I were in NYC to work with Advisor JR Morrissey regarding production scheduling and some design details of our Basic Vest and North Maine Double Coat. We also got the great news that Anoraks in FullWeight Black and FullWeight Drab should be complete by end of January. About half the sizes/Fabrics are already completely reserved, so if you want one of these, please do SHIP ASAP right away.
When Debby and JR start in on the finer points of garment construction, I am happy to stand back and relax! Here, they work the waist adjustment on the Basic Vest
2023-01-13 ... Email Down
Well ... Closing in on midnight and there is more to do BUT my email has suddenly choked and that seems a good signal to call it a day. I asked Steven Martinez, our IT guy (and friend of the family) and Alex to check it out in the morning.
2023-01-12 ... Wool and the Flu!
We are flattered and inspired by customer feedback every day. Earlier today I was treated to a new angle on our Anorak. A customer phoned to give me his credit card info. He said he really likes our wool, and said he was in fact wearing his Anorak while we spoke. He's been wearing the Anorak continuously, for a week, with no base layer ... fighting the flu, but still working outdoors during the day, mending fences ... constant fever. He wears the Anorak without a base layer because everything else was less comfortable. Anyone who's had the flu will understand how miserable it can be. And will understand, also, trying to work through the flu, although in my case it would have been better if I hadn't worked, because I made so many mistakes. The caller said indoors, outdoors, working, dog-walking, relaxing or sleeping in bed, or just trying to get some rest on the couch, the wool was better than everything else he'd tried ... and he was no longer experimenting with anything else. Wool does famously seem to somehow understand what the body needs (another caller a few days ago said to me "God knows what He's doing!") but I'd never before heard from anyone wearing the wool for a week of fever!
2023-01-11 ... Advisor News
Two new Advisors have joined us lately. I haven't put their pages up yet. Soon, I hope.
Jason Ramos is joining us as an Advisor. Jason is a very heavy-duty gear-guy and has spent an enormous amount of time outdoors. He does a lot of training, consulting and product testing, review and recommendation. He has had a long career as a smokejumper and is still heavily involved in Search and Rescue in remote and rugged areas of Washington State. Check out Jason's book SMOKEJUMPER!
Brad Veis, Cameraman for Mountain Men and other TV and media work. As of Jan 1, Brad headed off to Alaska to begin filming a new season and new characters of The Mountain Men. Brad will definitely have some WeatherWool with him! Actually, we custom-made a Mouton Jacket and Mouton Hood for this trip. I haven't yet put up Brad's Advisor Page, but he has had a page on this website for a year or two already.
Advisor David Alexander is the Senior Naturalist for Essex County, New Jersey, the county of my residence (and WeatherWool, too). David is currently managing the annual deer cull in South Mountain Reservation, which is very near my home and where I often walk and hike. The deer meat is donated to homeless shelters. This part of New Jersey is too built-up for much normal hunting to take place. Even bowhunting is almost entirely prohibited around here for safety (and political, of course!) reasons. But the deer have so overrun the park and surrounding areas that a cull has been carefully managed for the last 10 years or so.
This photo was taken from my front lawn, 10 miles (16 km) from Times Square.
Hunting with David is interesting and different than hunting with anyone else I know. He has a professional naturalist's knowledge of the plants and animals, and is really good at sharing it. He is the only hunter I've met who carefully inspects the entrails of a kill to assess the health and condition of the animal. As manager of the cull, he inspects hundreds of deer per year, and records a great deal of data. But I was still surprised last month when he did his entrails-inspection at the WeatherWool Swamp!
The deer cull has been an amazing political battle. The county hired a series of foresters and naturalists to recommend management of the deer, which were clearly destroying the Reservation's forests, and starving. All the professionals recommended a cull, but the locals wouldn't accept that. So the county built a large enclosure at great cost, and baited it. Then occasionally they would shut the gates and tranquilize the deer trapped inside. The deer were shipped off to a deer farm in the Catskill Mountains, a couple hours drive away. People had been under the impression the deer would live out their lives peacefully at the deer farm. But it came to light the deer were being "finished" at the deer farm, then butchered and sold to restaurants in New York City. This caused a lot of hollering but finally everyone (almost) agreed to the cull. And the deer enclosure is now The Dog Park, which gets huge use.
2023-01-10 ... All-Around Jackets ... BUSY! ... THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
Wow, it's been really hopping here. I hope to post a blog almost every day, but haven't done so the last few days. I've just been hammered. When I worked at Morgan Stanley, my boss told me when you stop being busy, when the phone is NOT ringing, that's when you have a problem. Sure enough! Glad to not have that problem. No complaints!
As mentioned in the previous blog (from Friday the 6th), I was dropping off Fabric with Advisor JR Morrissey and picking up finished pieces (All-Around Jackets and Double Hoods) in the Garment District on Saturday. Processing the Jackets and Hoods takes some time. It's mostly Alex, lucky for me, but still takes my time, too. So, I've fallen behind in mails and website work. Really, really glad we have Advisor Trustin Timber doing social media for us now!
A great many of the NYC Garment Workers are Asian-born, and about a month ago, when I did the same routine, there was a tiny Asian woman who volunteered to help us unload. I mention Asian-born only because her limited English and my Zero-Chinese sharply limited our ability to speak. She was on the scene again Saturday, and remembered me. "HAPPY SEE YOU!" she said in a bright voice with a big smile that definitely brightened my morning. I thanked her for her help, and she thanked me for the tip from last time. It was JR who had tipped her, and she was being extra-courteous by thanking me. But I told her anyway TIP JR!
This time, besides JR and me, we had two guys from the cutting company (specialists whose work is cutting the rolls of Fabric into the pieces that will be assembled into garments) unloading the Fabric and bringing it straight to the cutting room.
The owner of the cutting company stopped by, and initially wanted to divert the Fabric to a storage facility on the next block. But JR explained to him all the Fabric would be cut immediately, and would be in and out of his shop quickly. The owner then THANKED ME for the business, and I THANKED HIM for his work.
As a little kid, I was very interested in what I have recently learned economists call the DOUBLE THANK YOU. As a little one, you learn/see a PLEASE/THANK YOU/WELCOME sequence. But I noticed when my parents bought something, or when someone paid my Dad for fixing a car, there was a DOUBLE THANK YOU!! We hope and strive that all WeatherWool transactions conclude with a DOUBLE THANK YOU.
That morning I also got a little lesson on the inside workings of the Garment District. JR explained to me why the cutting shop owner was initially reluctant to accept our Fabric. Being this is NYC, space is expensive. It's very common for garment makers to bring fabric to the cutting companies, claiming a "cutting ticket" will be coming right away. Without a cutting ticket telling the cutters how many to make, what sizes, colors, etc., they cannot work. And if the cutting ticket does not come for months or even years, the cutting company has a problem. And this happens frequently. Cutting companies are always fearful people will use them for storage!
2023-01-06 ... Garment District in the Morning
Tomorrow morning we'll be at Factory8 in the Garment District of NYC. We'll drop off FullWeight Black and Drab Fabric to make All-Around Jackets, Hooded Jackets, Double Hoods and Basic Vests.
I do the 'cutting tickets' that tell the tailors what to make. Factory8 estimates how much Fabric we'll need, and, along with Alex, I load the truck and trailer. Debby also works with the sewing pros to determine the needed zippers, buttons, cord locks, different types of thread, cuffs, ribbon, and some other items. I'm really glad Debby handles all this, because it would drive me crazy.
Putting everything together ALWAYS takes longer than I expect. So I allocate extra time, with the goal of being fully loaded hours before dark. I think that sort of prudent approach has something to do with being old. But also, it's really nice to get it done once and right.
Cool, clear night coming, with a full moon. It will be really fine, hitting the road right about sunrise, my favorite part of the day.
We should be picking up some All-Around Jackets and Double Hoods in Brown (formerly Duff) and Lynx Pattern. And then we'll be filling orders. There will be extras in some sizes, colors, but most of what we'll pick up has been reserved by SHIP ASAP.
2023-01-05 ... Blankets and ShirtJacs
This afternoon I stopped by Better Team USA, who is making Blankets and ShirtJacs for us now. Martin DiBattista, the CEO, gave me the welcome news that ShirtJacs should be finished by the end of the month. I dropped off some "notions" and brought home some finished Blankets.
Supply chains are still a mess. And considerably more shaky for us, because we use only American-made notions (zippers, buttons, thread, cord locks, shock cord, etc., etc.). I heard zippers are being rationed! I have also heard of one large production run (not ours ... a much larger run) that had to be postponed for lack of zippers. And that meant the tailor shop had to give people time off.
We bought a lot of extra notions over the last year or two, so we are well-prepared/well stocked ... for now. Debby and I have decided that although we might appear over-stocked, we will re-order notions as we use them, and try to keep our inventory of notions very flush. Being unable to make a production run because we couldn't lay our hands on cord locks or size tags or thread would drive me up a wall. Can't let that happen.
Instructions for the sewing pros working on our ShirtJacs at Better Team
A King Blanket in the making!
2023-01-04 ... Not Much to Sell
I just finished the year-end inventory, and was surprised we have so few garments available. We still need to grow -- a lot! -- before WeatherWool becomes what I have been hoping for. But it's tremendous to see how interest in what we do has picked up. We ended 2022 with some CPOs still on hand, and only a smattering of other garments. We have a lot more garments coming shortly, and we've got a lot more Fabric in the works, too.
2023-01-02 ... Great to Hear!
We had a long talk this morning with a US Navy Vet. He told us he was calling because he'd recently visited Quantico for a range event. In attendance were a couple of Green Berets who said they'd been wearing and relying upon our Anoraks (Lynx Pattern) for years in Afghanistan. That's the kind of feedback that keeps us going, and it really made our day!
2023-01-01 ... Happy Ending of '22 and Into 2023!
Wishing everyone the Best Year Yet!
We certainly have many people to thank for all the good things of 2022. Customers, Partners, Family, Friends. And it's very meaningful to us that a lot of people fall into more than one of those categories.
For '23, we hope to keep going as we have been, only more so ... the best Hardcore Luxury, 100% American, 100% Wool All-Purpose Outerwear that we can figure out how to make. With the best Customer Service we can figure. But also, more inventory, more production, more offerings. As for the website and social media and occasional mailings, we are aiming for more information presented more clearly and in a more polished way.
Since we began this odyssey in 2009, we have sought the input of experts, our Partners, in the many phases of production. But we've not sought outside, professional help with our presentation. We still have no plans to advertise, but we have just begun to work with Advisor Trustin Timber, who has worked for years in both fashion and media, and has been wearing our wool for five years. Trustin (his business name) is our main media guy. Here is what Trustin posted to his own Instagram account when he announced his work with us to his 210,000 followers:
Life works in mysterious ways. Six years ago I quit my job working in fashion to scratch a few things off my bucket list. I couldn’t take a chance my hands, knees, and back would still be up for the challenge when I retire and I’d rather go through life with these experiences defining me instead of a fading dream. It was certainly a risk to give up a great job for a canoe, and an axe and some dreams but looking back I don’t regret it. The adventures, the friends, and the things I have accomplished certainly filled a desire no young man can satisfy sitting behind a desk. And as life would have it, it’s all come full circle. My most trusted companion throughout all the backcountry canoe trips, winter camps, documentary film shoots, and most of the days building my cabin has been WeatherWool garments keeping me dry and comfortable. So it’s an incredible honour to announce that I’m now officially part of the @weatherwool team. There are so few companies left in the world that prioritize quality, craftsmanship, and customer service above all else so I’m really honoured to be part of this one. I really hope I can help this family-owned and operated company gain the credibility they deserve for their decade + commitment to making the softest and strongest wool garments possible.
In many ways, I get to keep doing what I’m doing, but even more importantly I will get the opportunity to take my camera on the road with WeatherWool and share some of the great stories of others out there that might not otherwise get told. So if you don’t already follow @weatherwool please do so to keep up with some of the adventures we’ll be getting up to over there in the new year.
As for my woodworking and building projects, not to worry. This is only a part-time gig so I’ll still be making plenty of sawdust. I just cleared an area for a 20x28 TimberFrame workshop with a loft and there are even a few more cabins in the pipeline. Should be a good start to 2023.
Trustin will create content, as well as curate and edit content produced by others. He'll be posting to our Instagram and Facebook accounts, and some of the photos and videos on our website will also come from Trustin. Thanks to Trustin for this sharp start to 2023:
Our new efforts at presentation will absolutely not divert attention from our production and service, nor will we compromise our goals of ever-improving quality and service. But we have heard many times that our website, imagery, marketing, branding, etc., are nowhere near the level of our products and service ... and that these shortcomings hurt us. So, we will be very seriously attempting to bring our image up to the level of our products. However, I'm completely against becoming a company that relies on marketing, advertising and presentation to move product. Instead, I hope our products always outshine our presentation. But it's time that our presentation stops hurting us.