Blog 2023 - Part Two
THANKS FOR BEING HERE!
-- Ralph@WeatherWool.com / 973-943-3110 (mobile)
2023-09-21 ... September Open House Semi-Canceled
Due to minor-emergency unscheduled maintenance work, we have to cancel the Open House of Sunday, 24 September. If you already have plans to come, just give me a call and we can still make it work!
Next Open House is 29 October, just before Halloween.
2023-09-20 ... Anoraks ... and Test Denim Coming!
We now have in stock some FullWeight Drab Green Anoraks tailored by Factory8. Alex picked them up yesterday. Sizes XXSmall up to Medium. Also XLarge. Large sold out in advance, but we have more Drab Green Anoraks coming soon (tailors have been working for a long time!), both FullWeight and MidWeight, all sizes. Any other Fabric is a few months away, although we are (always!) trying to make things happen as fast as we can.
Arthur Lam, Fabric Designer at American Woolen, just gave me a casual look (photo) at the first test pieces of WeatherWool Denim! We'll have about 40 yards (36 meters) here next week.
First look at WeatherWool 100% Wool Denim!
In the photo is Black Denim.
There will be more info on the Denim page. I'll try to get something useful there in the next couple of days. If we are happy with the denim, and we go into production, WOW, I am going to have to do a lot of writing and rewriting!!!
2023-09-19 ... Big Bellies and Great Timing
Yesterday, I heard from two women that the Anorak is great maternity wear!
Here is a photo I posted last summer just before my daughter-in-law, Carla, delivered her son Carter:
Carter was born in late summer, so Carla didn't wear the Anorak when she really needed the extra room. So I joked about "concealed carry" when I posted this photo on the blog of 2022-07-21. But the women who wrote about (one even posted on Instagram!) the Anorak yesterday will be carrying into the cold weather and plan to wear the Anorak daily! I guess we can also call it a "MamaRak". The Instagram post was a "story", and I hope Cody or Denali will show me how I can link a story from here.
This morning I spoke with a "big belly" that I can identify with. Chris C called to tell me the XLarge Basic Vest he'd ordered was too small. But he is unwilling to go up to a 2X, so he is returning the Vest and instructed me to donate a WarriorWool Anorak to SEAL Team 8 instead of refunding him. I got through to my contact in Team 8 immediately (surprise!) and we will send him an Anorak from today's pickup at Factory8! Great timing! As soon as we ship the Anorak, I'll update the Donations page.
2023-09-18 ... Production Timeline
Over the past couple of weeks I have had a bad miscommunication regarding delivery schedule of the Anoraks currently in production. I thought they would be completed this week. But now it seems I will be getting only a handful of them. I apologize for misleading people regarding the delivery schedule. If people want to cancel or change orders, just let me know. We have not accepted advance payments except in a very few cases. Although we appreciate and understand that many people would like to pay in advance, production timetables are too long and too shaky, and our policy of not accepting advance payments must remain. The only exceptions will be in cases where advance payment strongly facilitates our customer, such as when a receipt is needed for an insurance payment.
I have revised our Start-to-Finish timeline. We are running about 18 months from the purchase of raw wool until we can begin to offer the first finished garments from a Batch of Fabric. With such an extended timeline, we can't promise delivery dates until we have ready-to-ship pieces in our possession. I can only say we will continue to go as fast as we can, regardless of the calendar, and that we will look for ways to go faster.
2023-09-17 ... October Open House Reschedule ... FTC Rules
The October Open House has been rescheduled to October 29th because Alex and I will be in Vermont for the previously scheduled day. I guess we'll have some Halloween Candy on hand.
Occasionally someone will ask me about our compliance with FTC (America's Federal Trade Commission) rules for labeling our garments. It's relatively easy for us, near as I can tell, because our Fabric is always 100% wool. But, WOW! ... I'm looking over the FTC GUIDE --Threading Your Way Through the Labeling Requirements Under the Textile and Wool Acts -- and even that is complicated. The actual rules ... YIKES.
And this is completely separate from the TARIFFs that are applicable for importers. We don't import anything, so we don't need to worry about tariffs from that side, but we have customers in many countries, and they are seriously impacted by tariffs -- meaning the tariffs add a lot of extra cost. We have a little bit of info on this website, but the tariffs are, from my point of view, crazy complicated.
2023-09-16 ... Advisors Groo, Lawing and Olson
As mentioned in the previous entry, it had been a long time since I was in touch with Advisors Melissa Groo and Dane Lawing, both of whom do some serious Nature photo and video work. I got through to them by text yesterday. Dane sent his best wishes without telling me what he is up to. Sometimes he is working on projects that his clients was to keep under wraps until release. Melissa is currently "deep in the bush in Kenya". Yesterday she was getting video of cheetahs and lions. Melissa will be within driving distance again before long, tho, and we will hopefully see her this year. Dane is moving into my sister's neighborhood in a few months, so we should be able to sit down for a bit.
Yesterday, Advisor Jim Olson phoned me. I hadn't spoken to Jim for two or three years. So it was good to catch up! Jim is now retired and has a lot more time for his outdoor pursuits. We talked quite a while. Jim likes his wool more than ever. (And he has quite a basis for comparison, as can be seen on his Advisor page.) Jim sent me a couple of photos of his old WeatherWool. They've never seemed to get dirty, so Jim has never laundered them.. He merely puts them out in the fresh air once a year.
Above and below ... Advisor Jim Olson just sent a couple of photos of his 8-year old CPO that has been worn hundreds of times and his 5-year old All-Around Jacket that has been in rough field conditions about 100 times. Unless inspected closely, neither shows any wear. Also, Jim has never seen a need to clean them. He just airs them out every fall. Jim particularly likes the Double Hood (not in photo). Jim just ordered another AAJ and Double Hood, this time in Drab Green.
2023-09-14 ... Puma, Sheep, Dogs
Shepherds have been defending their sheep against predators for thousands of years. Predators are the biggest problem faced by the Ranchers with whom we work. Listed alphabetically ... bears, bobcats, cougars, coyotes, crows, eagles, vultures, wolves. Crows and vultures were quite a surprise to me. And I didn't expect Golden Eagles to be a serious problem either, but they are the worst threat in some parts of Wyoming.
Here is a link to some remarkable footage of guard dogs in Patagonia chasing off a cougar. The footage, taken at night with thermal imaging, is so perfect it makes me suspicious. But National Geographic is known for THE BEST photography ... THANKS to Nat Geo and Live Science, the excerpting service that sent the link to my inbox this morning.
And a great bit of dialogue ... It's a winter scene, cold. One of the photographers remarks that he wishes his coat were as warm as that worn by the sheep and the dogs!!
We love that two of our Advisors, Melissa Groo and Dane Lawing, do a lot of photography/videography for Nat Geo! This reminds me I haven't spoken with either of them in much too long ... If I remember correctly, Nat Geo has sent Melissa to Patagonia to photograph cougars ...
2023-09-13 ... Spinning
One of the steps in making our Fabric is the spinning of yarn. Actually, TWO STEPS, given that we use both woolen (I know, crazy terminology because we are ALL wool) and worsted yarns.
I've just updated the page on Spinning with some intro info, and a link to a great video. There is a library's worth of info on spinning easily available on the web, so our spinning page has only a little intro material and a little bit of info that is particular to WeatherWool. The main thing unusual about our spinning is that even our woolen-spun yarns have always used fiber that would normally be used only for worsted spinning.
2023-09-12 ... WOOL PRIMER
BIG THANKS to Customer Rick Pierson, who sent us this great booklet yesterday!!
A WOOL PRIMER was published in 1948 (75 years ago!) by Botany Mills of Passaic, New Jersey. Passaic is about 10 miles (16 km) from here, so … pretty-much in our back yard.
Botany states the establishment of their company in 1889 transformed Passaic from an agricultural area into the center of America’s fine woolens industry. Driving through Passaic now, the old industry is evident, particularly along the Passaic River. The agriculture is long gone, but that’s typical of the parts of New Jersey that are near to NYC or Philadelphia.
The Botany label is the signature which we place proudly on all Botany fabrics. It is a guarantee of our integrity in dealing with our customers, the American public. A couple of quotes:
We make fabrics which are necessary to the health, the comfort and the appearance of 90 per cent of the people of the country throughout the year.
In the selection of all our materials and equipment, we give preference to products of American origin because we regard it as our duty to support our American economy to the utmost by spending in our own markets the money the people entrust to us. There is a further, very practical, reason. Knowledge and experience have taught us that except for a few specialties, peculiar to their countries of origin, American product have no peer anywhere in the world.
Because wool is so vitally important to the health and comfort of every man, woman, and child in the country, we have prepared this Primer in the hope that it will be read with interest by people of all ages, but especially by children and students.
Some interesting statements from The Primer:
- Worldwide wool production was about 3 billion pounds (1.34 billion kg) in 1948 and, according to IWTO, about 4.3 billion pounds (1.95 billion kg) now. World population was about 2.5 billion in 1951, and about 8 billion now. So, world population has more than tripled, with wool production is up less than 50%. From my point of view (wishing people used more wool), this is dismal, but not nearly as dismal as I’d expected based on what I see people wearing here in the USA.
- In medieval times, it was an offense punishable by death to export a sheep from the British Isles. Spain famously prohibited export of Merino sheep until (various stories exist) the breed became established elsewhere.
- In 1948, the USA was the 3rd largest wool producer. Now, the top ten are (depending on source) China, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, UK, Morocco, Iran, Russia, South Africa, India. Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Argentina and Uzbekistan also product more wool than the USA.
- The USA was the largest consumer (per capita) of fine wool for apparel.
- All the sources claim that wool can absorb water up to 30% of its weight without feeling wet, and so does the Primer. But it also states wool can absorb 50% of its weight before it is saturated. This “30%” number is so often quoted that I’ve become suspicious of it and I hope/plan to test it myself. I would guess the number to be higher, at least if starting with truly dry wool.
- Lack of good wool clothing resulted in more World War II German casualties in the Russian campaign than did bullets or bombs.
In 1954, controlling interest in Botany was sold, and by 1955 Botany was no longer involved in wool, fabric or apparel.
2023-09-10 ... “Saw it in Afghanistan” … “They Want to Touch Lynx”
A little while ago we got an order from a guy who said he first became familiar with WeatherWool in Afghanistan. There are hundreds of people wearing WarriorWool now, and so we've heard from many people who became familiar with us as a result of Military service. But it still amazes me!
The "Our Colors" page on this website describes our colors (duh!). It felt both necessary and a little strange to update the Lynx Pattern info with what almost amounts to a warning … I think at least 10 guys have told me they have been approached by strangers – usually women – because they are wearing Lynx Pattern. The strangers want to know about the Fabric, and they want to touch it. Before we went into full production with Lynx, we’d tested it enough in places like shopping malls to know that it was well-accepted in public. But still, we are surprised, amused, pleased by some of the reports:
- One guy told me he was approached – in one day! -- by three separate women (all of them complete strangers)
- Another customer had been wanting to wear his Lynx someplace swanky, but was concerned it wouldn’t be accepted. He initially thought his fears were confirmed when the host stared at him and immediately approached. But the host said something like NICE JACKET!
- Brad Veis, world-traveling video pro, tells me the only problem with Lynx is that strangers keep asking to touch it. I've heard this from others, too
- A caller was interested in Lynx, but had some reservations about public acceptance. I told him the only problem would be that he'd be noticed. He said he's a preacher, and that he's used to attention. He called again months later, ordered some more wool, and affirmed that his Lynx had attracted a lot of positive attention, completely consistent with being a preacher. I should find out if he wears Lynx in the pulpit.
- Way back in about 2015, an outdoorsman wanted to get a Lynx All-Around Jacket, but was reluctant because he also wanted to wear the wool as his winter coat going to and from work as a lawyer in DC and NYC. He said his colleagues and clients would DISLIKE anything that suggested guns, hunting, Military ... I told him "social acceptance testing" is an important part of overall testing, and that any of our garments that fails testing should be returned for a full refund. He called back a couple of months later, saying the Lynx was admired and accepted everywhere. He even said he'd been on a corporate cruise on a wintry Chesapeake Bay, and not only been among the few who were comfortable in the weather, but women on the cruise asked who designed the Jacket! (The Other Ralph!)
- Advisor Ron Spomer and Mrs Betsy were in a supermarket. While they were briefly separated, an unknown woman approached Ron, chatting up the AAJ. Betsy's return put a sudden end to the conversation.
2023-09-09 Again ... Garden State Sheep Show
New Jersey has a long agricultural tradition, and I have always assumed that's why our license plates say "The Garden State". Winters are relatively mild, summers are warm and somewhat wet. Jersey has plenty of water. We really never have a drought.
There are quite a few people with sheep here, but I think all the flocks are on the small side, at least in comparison with the ranches from which we source.
But there is a Garden State Sheep Breeders Association, and their annual Sheep Show and Fiber Festival began today and continues tomorrow. We normally visit for a couple of hours and it's always a pleasure to see so many people -- particularly the youngsters -- and their animals. And there is some truly beautiful fleece, but all of it pointed toward the hobby trade.
2023-09-09 ... @RoughAndStumble is On The Trail!
(Following from the entry of 2 August.)
And they're off!! The journey has begun! Tom, Sascha and Angel will be posting updates to @RoughAndStumble, their Instagram account. The first photo on the page is "pinned", which means (Denali just told me) that photo will stay where it is, and the second photo will be the newest.
About two months 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, intend 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) long. 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!
2023-09-08 ... "I Don't Care" and 'Wool White'
Not long ago I posted a photo of a customer and myself on the front porch. I liked the photo, but I knew I was asking for trouble because the photo showed some wood-rot at the edge of the porch. Debby knew about the wood-rot, she doesn't miss anything like that. BUT, seeing it on the website put a bee in her bonnet. And while the porch is getting a little facelift, it only makes sense to paint the showroom ... (Debby's perspective!)
Debby loves TV Shows about home improvement, re-design, painting, decorating ... there are dozens of them. It's kind of amazing to me. I think there is actually a dedicated channel ... One of those shows portrayed the usual setup ... wife and husband remodeling their home. But the husband is a guy I used to work with! The home-improvement guy, the host of the show, is discussing all sorts of stuff with Mrs Clifford. And he wants input from Cliff, but Mrs Clifford explains ... "He doesn't care."
Debby CARES! There is no detail that she does not care about! And she knows that I'm in Cliff's camp. I can't really imagine Debby would do something that would bother me enough to object. But of course, she asked me if I had any preference for the paint color of the showroom.
Back on TV with Cliff, the host of the show and Mrs Clifford really want Cliff to choose something. They decide Cliff should choose the gravel that will go under the trash cans inside the trash-can enclosure (fencing surrounded by bushes!) next to the driveway. Mrs Clifford figures she can live with whatever Cliff comes up with, and he will have played a part. So Cliff goes off to the stoneyard, and Mrs Clifford predicts "He's just going to pick the first thing he sees." Sure enough, Cliff looks around for a couple of seconds ..."That stuff's good" ... and that was it for Cliff.
Cliff was more involved than me. Debby asked if I thought she should select a paint color that "went with" our wool. Sure ... it's the showroom (once known as our living room). Debby goes to the paint store with a sample of our Natural White Undyed Fabric!! I thought that was a little weird. HA! ... Debby came home with some Behr "Wool White" paint!
2023-09-07 ... Tonight's Mountain Men on History Channel ... Work Vehicle
A few years ago, Debby decided my beloved 2003 Chevy Avalanche was too far gone to keep around. I really didn't care about all the body-rot. Blackie was still running great, with tremendous power. But, My Girl doesn't INSIST all that often, so ... Not long before Blackie was sent off to a premature junkyard, Alex had purchased a used Nissan Titan. I think it had around 114,000 miles (around 182,000 km) on it. That truck has really performed so far ... now with about 180,000 miles (288,000 km). Blackie had about 270,000 (432,000). We try to buy American, but I hear that's become -- with autos anyway -- almost impossible/meaningless these days ... that parts are made everywhere, and that the most-American motor vehicles are made by Japanese companies operating in the USA.
This morning, we needed to get a few hundred yards of FullWeight Drab Green Batch 8 Fabric to Factory8 in NYC (making Basic Vests, Mouton Jackets, Mouton Vests, Mouton Hoods, SkiJacs, North Maine Double Coats). We also need to bring a bunch of other items necessary to make the garments, plus about 15 large corrugated boxes. The truck handled all of it without straining capacity at all. The back half of the cab, with seats raised, can hold about 200 yards (180 meters) of FullWeight Fabric. So we can ignore bad weather in many cases. Rain was not an issue today ... HEAT! Maybe the hottest day of the summer. A good morning to be up with the sun, and loading. Even at 7:30 AM, the sun was strong. But with the Fabric loaded, we finished the load with odds and ends while the truck was parked in the shade. And I let Alex handle the midtown Manhattan delivery and pickup. We now have in stock Basic Vests in MidWeight Drab Green Fabric. This is the first time we've made the Basic Vests in MidWeight.
Alex will usually frown when I want him to smile!
This afternoon History Channel sent out their mail-list update, and it was nice to see WeatherWool front and center! If you click over to the Mountain Men page, there is info about how we ("organically" is the term-of-art) came to be on TV.
The episode featured in today's email will air tonight.
(Wish it was not opposite the season-opener of NFL Football.)
2023-09-06 ... Keeping US Wool at Home
About 87% of wool grown in the USA is exported. And some of it comes back to us as finished clothing. But many of us who are involved in US wool are trying to process more American wool in America. (WeatherWool is always 100% USA.) To that end, yesterday we had a nice first talk with Whit and Lindsay Stewart from the Wyoming Wool Initiative. We spoke about the same subject yesterday with Jacob Long, proprietor of American Woolen, our primary mill. Jacob and Whit have seen a bunch of Wyoming together this summer. Coincidentally, Ben Hostetler of Mountain Meadow Wool in Buffalo, Wyoming sent us a nice note yesterday. Debby and I visited Ben a few years ago while in Wyoming to see our son, Zack, who lives in Casper.
Keeping substantially more of our wool at home is going to be an uphill battle. But there don't seem to be many "downhill battles". Interestingly, our customers in Australia tell me almost none of their wool is processed in Australia. Prices of American wool are based on the price of similar-class wool in Australia. And the Australian price is mostly based on what China, the biggest buyer, is paying.
2023-09-05 ... Again
At the end of today's original Blog is a link to an Instagram post from the International Wool Trade Organization. They publish a lot of information about wool, and we really appreciate that. I guess we are too small to join, or maybe they did not see my email. But their efforts on behalf of wool are great, and it was that Instagram post that made me aware of wool denim. THANKS! As for the rest of that IWTO post, I'll just say "To each his own" ...
2023-09-05 ... Season Reckonings ... Basic Vests in Drab Green (& Denim?)
In most of the USA, and in New Jersey, for sure, Labor Day (first Monday in September) marks the psychological end of Summer and the start of Autumn. And not so long ago I learned that meteorologists also reckon the seasons a little differently than the astronomers. In the Northern Hemisphere, the meteorologists go with:
- Winter: December, January, February
- Spring: March, April, May
- Summer: June, July, August
- Autumn: September, October, November
There are many other seasonal perspectives ... lambing season, shearing season, construction seasons, painting seasons, planting seasons, racing seasons ...
Again, speaking from the Northern Hemisphere perspective, we have wool-clothing seasons ... Summer, however delineated, sees the least interest in woolens. People start thinking about wool in late August, and interest picks up steadily through year-end. Interest will slowly drop off from January through March, leading to the summer lows.
It's a little different with WeatherWool, though, because our production cycle is so long and we have so many backorders. We tend to make garments as quickly as we can, and, in terms of filling orders, our busy-times are whenever the tailors finish work on a production run.This week, Factory8 is scheduled to complete our first run of MidWeight Drab Green Basic Vests. This is the first time we've made the Basic Vest in a MidWeight Fabric. We'll make this Vest in all our Fabrics, as Fabric becomes available.
2023-09-04 ... Blog 2023, Part Two ... Fabric Weights Again
As of today, the 2023 Blog exceeds the single-page size-limit imposed by Shopify, the platform upon which this site rests. So ... Blog 2023, Part Two is necessary.
On 28 August, I wrote about the confusing ways in which the weights of woolens are quoted. I've been corresponding with a gent who has been asking various makers of woolen clothing to explain exactly what is meant by their quoted fabric weights. The most amusing response he got was "That's proprietary." My correspondent has kindly permitted me (THANK YOU!!) to quote an exchange he had with one maker. I've XXXXed out names to avoid potential antipathy.
Hi RalphThis is a part of the response I received from a nice young lady I asked about how they determined the weight of their merino wool pants—which they advertised as 21oz wool:
“Our merino wool is calculated in LINEAR yard, which is 21 oz per yard (Fabric roll width x yard, in this case 61’’ x 36’’), which makes it approximately 12.4 oz per square yard. I find it unlikely that a woolen product would weigh 26 to 28 oz per square yard because it would be uncomfortably heavy. We produce coveralls that are extremely heavy duty, and heavy to…”
I found several points quite interesting. Firstly, she acknowledges, perhaps unwittingly, that XXXX’s advertised weight of 21oz is highly, and likely intentionally misleading, in that the actual weight, when figured in oz/sq yd is 12.4. She rationalizes this by saying a heavier weight pant would be uncomfortably heavy to wear-though it is still perfectly fine for the consumer to think they are getting a heavier wool.
Finally, again honestly, but again probably unintentionally, she exposes the North American industry wide—with a few notable exceptions— “scandal” of intentionally misleading the public about their products. She seems quite unaware when commenting on YYYY's 24 and 26 oz weight “ZZZZZ” wool, that her company is engaging in a similar practice. It is also instructive to know that their standard weight of 12.4 oz is only a little over half of their advertised weight of 21 oz. Makes me wonder how much lighter the YYYY ZZZZZ 26 oz wool would be in oz/sq yd…maybe 14-15 oz? No wonder they consider that proprietary information. There is no doubt the 19 oz/sq yd WeatherWool would feel considerably heavier and warmer.
Just for fun, I hope to stop in at YYYY's flagship store in [American City] when there for the wedding and chat with them about their products. Certainly, I would like to see and handle their ZZZZZ wool in person.
Bent your ear quite a bit but I thought a direct admission of how, at least this one company, knowingly provides misleading product information might be interesting in light of our discussion.
YES! ... Definitely interesting ... and this confusing, misleading information (dis-information) style has been standard practice in the USA for decades, at least.
We try to present clear information here. Debby tells me I get too far into the weeds, and it's boring. But she said this was not boring.