The Amazing Benefits of Wool

An informative project in collaboration with local illustrator Julie Dennison

Hi, I’m Terri, a knitwear designer under the name Terri Laura, but I’m also a Shetlander who grew up on a family croft. Then I got married and moved 30 minutes further north on a croft with a family of my own. Wool in its various forms has always been a part of my life. A few years ago I had decided that it wasn’t being admired as it should, so I teamed up with artist and friend Julie Dennison to create this visual project to help show the wonders of wool, I hope you enjoy exploring the topics along with me.

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Supports Local Crofters

Farming is an unpredictable and difficult lifestyle. No matter what you produce there is some risk, whether that’s the weather, seed quality, demand fluctuations, trends or pests. Selling wool is no different.

The price crofters and farmers can sell their wool can depend on demand, quality, how the fleece is packed, the colour of the fleece, and even the weather when the sheep is clipped. A completely dry fleece can be hard to achieve during a sometimes wet Shetland summer.

If we can increase the demand for wool, the price for farmers and crofters will go up. We can help make wool production more worthwhile, especially for smaller, family run businesses.

Naturally Water Resistant

Wool is a common choice for fishermen, farmers, and explorers. It is extremely durable in wet conditions and protects the wearer, even when the fabric is damp!

Wool has a natural coating which protects the sheep who live in their cold and wet environments. Because wool is an active fibre this coating is still protecting us when the wool has been made into clothing.

First it encourages droplets to bead up and slip off, with only the first layer or fibres getting wet.

If there is more rain and it starts to get into the mid layer of fibres, wool absorbs it and can hold water for much longer than other fabrics. It doesn’t become clingy and the fibres nearest your skin wick moisture away, stopping the cold, wet fabric from resting on your skin.

Wool also activates when wet and somehow becomes even warmer, making sure that you are warm and comfortable no matter how wet you are! Amazing!

Clipping is Good for the Sheep

Sheep need their wool removed in summer to allow them to regulate their body temperature. Without shearing they could sadly overheat and die.

Urine, faeces and other materials can get caught in the long wool. This can attract flies, maggots and other pests and could lead to infection and irritation.

If wool is left on the sheep, it becomes increasingly difficult for the sheep to move around. They could find it difficult to get around obstacles, and in some places they can be more susceptible to predators.

A clipped sheep is a happy sheep!

Wool is Wrinkle Resistant

Wool is easy to look after, the natural crimp and springiness of the fabric means it easily keeps its shape.

When I researched the details on woollen garments being wrinkle resistant, most of the articles were from travel companies suggesting wool for easy packing!

This is something I know all too well. I’ve travelled over the past 3 years with woollen products, materials for classes, and outfits for me to wear at festivals. If I’m travelling alone I even vacuum pack these and they turn out just fine!

Keeps Air Cleaner

This one is not commonly known, but very interesting!

Science has proven that wool inside the home significantly improves air quality by rapidly absorbing the common pollutants such as formaldehyde, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. These can be released from many common household cleaners, disinfectants, air fresheners, printers, and even furnishings.

Wool neutralises these contaminants quicker and more thoroughly than other fabric options, plus it also doesn’t release them again!

So whether you’re picking out carpets, couches, cushions, rugs or blankets, remember wool is a great choice for air quality.

Wool Can Be Sourced Locally

Most climates where wool is worn also have sheep and wool producers locally. We’re so lucky that this resource is so available, we just need to remember to choose and use it.

Shopping locally is a great way to support your community and the economy. Encouraging small businesses with big ideas really will make someone’s day!

In the UK we are known for our sheep and wool, so why are so many crofters still struggling to sell the wool from their sheep? In many cases the demand is not high enough, the vast majority of clothes sold are synthetic, designed to be cheap rather than effective.

I know I also have some work to do when it comes to investing in the materials I wear rather than being drawn in by a good deal. By choosing natural fibres I know I will have a wardrobe which is full of sustainable, good quality, long lasting clothes which were made with love and care.

Wool is Breathable

Wool is an active fibre, which means that it reacts to your body temperature.

When you sweat while wearing wool, it absorbs the moisture and allows it to evaporate. The result is that your woollen garment will be more comfortable and won’t start to become clingy with sweat.

It is also resistant to odour, so no need to worry about wearing your wool when you are planning to be active!

How does it work?? The natural crimp in wool fibres traps pockets of air, insulating your skin (just like it does for the sheep!), it then traps moisture to maintain a dry ‘microclimate’ next to the skin, keeping you comfortable.

Wool Has Balanced Thermal Properties

We have touched on this in a few of the previous points but there’s so much more to know!

Not only does wool keep you warm in winter, it also keeps you cool in summer. It’s perfect for a varied day or changeable weather!

The natural crimp and curl creates air pockets in the fabric which absorbs moisture and transports it away from the body maintaining a consistent and comfortable temperature, just as it would for the sheep.

You also have increased protection from UV radiation which means not only will your wool curtains keep the cold out at night, it will also protect you when the sun comes out in the morning! It does this by absorbing the UV radiation and breaking it down.

Properties in Wool Cannot Be Replicated in Synthetics

Synthetics are a cheaper fabric alternative made from plastics, since these are man made the producer has complete control over availability.

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT – The textile industry causes more harm to the environment than any other industry. Reports have shown that textiles are responsible for a 10% of global carbon emission and that clothing accounts for 20% of industrial water pollution in the world. The clothing industry is dominated by polyester, nylon, rayon and acrylic and this is damaging our environment.

Polyester and nylon are particularly harmful. The production of nylon emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas which is 300x more dangerous to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide. While polyester contaminates huge amounts of water which is usually flushed back into our systems.

Wildlife is commonly found to have died from ingesting synthetics they are not able to digest, because they thought it was food!

Factory workers are especially at risk during the toxic production processes.

WHAT ARE SYNTHETICS MADE OF? – Petroleum is common, as well as plastics and various chemicals. These have to be coated or treated in some way, extending the production process, and can often contain silver to help fight bacteria build up.

Wool Is Flame Retardant

In order for wool to ignite the temperature must be extremely high at 570-600°C

Wool cannot support a flame well. Because of its high nitrogen and water content it requires huge amounts of oxygen in order to burn and will usually self extinguish quite quickly.

If wool does smoulder it doesn’t release very much heat at all.

The insulating properties in wool work to prevent the spread of flames. They can even dampen down flames that have taken hold of other materials

If wool does manage to reach high temperatures, it doesn’t drip, melt or stick, adding extra safety if the worst was to happen!

Wool Is Sustainable, Eco Friendly and Biodegradable

Sheep produce a new fleece of wool every single year. All we need to make that happen is for the grass to grow!

At the end of its life wool can be returned to the soil, where it releases nutrients such as sulphur and magnesium to enrich the land and helps to nourish plants and animals.

Wool can biodegrade in as little as 3-4 months! This rate can vary with types of soil, but that’s a quick turn around!

On the other hand, as long as woollen garments are kept in a dry environment, their condition will not change and can be kept for generations.

Wool Moulds to Your Shape When Worn

The loop structure in knitted fabrics in particular creates flexibility to mould around your body shape. It will become comfier with every wear!

To reset the shape of a garment all you have to do is wash it then leave it to dry in the shape you want. This also gives you a lovely new feel!

Moulding to your shape is not the only great reason to wear wool, the structure also means that the fabric is easy to wash. The fibres encourage dirt to stay on the outer surface and should come off easily.


Terri Leask is a knitwear designer and owner of Terri Laura, a small business run from her home in Shetland and a specialising in Fair Isle and Shetland wool. Terri has been knitting since her weekly school lessons from age 8 and has been surrounded by inspiring, creative, business women her entire life. Her experience living on a croft  lead her to create the ‘Amazing Benefits of Wool’ project with her friend and illustrator Julie Dennison, in hopes that more people take advantage of the great resource that is wool.