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Polypropylene in Wool

Here's a "Field Notes" story that takes place in the Garment District of New York City. We're fortunate to live just outside NYC where the bulk of America's garment designing expertise is located. The Garment District still does a lot of manufacturing, too ... and this is a little bit of a funny story about polypro getting mixed in wool.

One of the factors increasing the cost of our raw wool is that we only buy from ranches that are certified POLYPROPYLENE FREE ... (and PAINT FREE!)

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 ....


18 September 2018 --- Ralph


UPDATE of March 2023 by Ralph --- below

A few days ago, I was telling this story to Giuseppe Monteleone, production manager at American Woolen, and Giuseppe told us what we 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.  Everyone tells me the paint will come out, but nobody is willing to take responsibility if it does not. Meaning, if there is a problem, it's our problem. And indeed, Giuseppe told us he has many times seen paint in fiber that was delivered to him, and there really is no eliminating it.  So painting is something that, for us, has to be avoided on the ranch.

We have always purchased fiber from ranches that are free of both polypropylene and paint.