It’s almost that time again. When you long for snowy landscapes, open fires and cosy cabins. When you spend all day outdoors just to enjoy the warm welcome of coming home. When arm chairs and sofas are pulled close. Wool socked feet jostle for space on the coffee table. Warmth radiates from the wood fire and cheeks flush pink. When you wrap yourselves in a wool sweater and snuggle up with loved ones.
Fjällräven is a big fan of wool, because it’s one of nature’s most functional materials. Not only does wool help keep you warm, but it can also help you keep your cool. That’s because it’s not simply insulator, it’s a temperature regulator.
Wool’s ability to regulate body temperature boils down to its capacity to hold and release water. Wool can absorb around a third of its own weight in water before it feels damp. The wool fibres can, when heat is being released, wick away moisture helping to keep you cool (and odour free). So even though you may spend all day trekking and working up a sweat, your wool clothing will hardly smell at all. The wool fibres also trap warmth, as the heat from the body decreases. This is when wool helps you stay warm, which is why you automatically want to wear it during winter. And one more thing: because of the structure of the fibres, wool keeps you warm even when it’s damp. And depending on the size of the fibres, wool clothing can be really thin, not to mention durable and comfortable. It truly is one of nature’s most fascinating and functional materials.
There are many types of wool. Merino is a very fine, soft wool ideal for base layers. Regular sheep’s wool comes in a variety of thicknesses depending on the breed it’s from, but it’s generally thicker and really durable. Lamb’s wool is somewhere in between. The insulating capacity of all wool can vary depending on the knitting technique used.
Fjällräven uses several different types of wool in a broad selection of products, from base layers to sweaters, shirts and jackets. As it moves towards developing a Wool Promise, similar to its well-established Down Promise, Fjällräven has been using more recycled and sustainably-sourced wool. One example is Re-Wool, made partly from recycled wool.
Prato sits in the heart of Italy’s textile production belt. Manufacturers here have been spinning wool into high-quality garments since the Middle Ages and have built up a reputation for their fine craftsmanship. But also their shrewdness. As a result, there has always been very little wastage. All the offcuts from expensive suits and the leftovers at the end of the woolly sweater season weren’t burned or discarded, as they are by some manufacturers. They were reused. There was a catch though; this reused wool couldn’t be called virgin wool. In fact they couldn’t even call it wool. The term other fibres was coined to describe this mishmash of wool. But things are little different these days. Recycled isn’t a dirty word.
Fjällräven currently works with three different players in the Prato textile industry, although seeing as all the companies are family owned by brothers, uncles and cousins from the same family it’s like working with one big family. This means it’s been easier than usual to coordinate the production process.
“The recycled wool comes from different sources,” explains Sarah Isaksson, another Fjällräven designers.
“It can be leftover wool from sweaters, leftover yarn still on the cones and even offcuts from suits. It’s all collected together, colour sorted and shredded.”
“They basically have a recipe for making each colour, a bit like with paint. So they know how much red, purple, green and so on from the recycled wool that needs to be blended to make the new shade. They have a lot of control over it and can reproduce virtually the same shade season after season,” says Peter Larsson, one of Fjällräven’s product developers.
It all sounds too good to be true. Surely there must be a catch? “They rip the wool fibres apart before they can spin them into new ones. This results in slightly shorter fibres than virgin wool. So we blend the recycled wool fibres with polyester or virgin wool to ensure their integrity,” explains Sarah.
“But they’ve been using this technique for hundreds of years in Prato, so they’re really good at it.The quality is great; it’s durable and really soft.”
There are some positive effects of this technique too. The colours of Fjällräven’s Re-Wool sweaters are so much deeper and nuanced than for its other wool garments. But the real winner is the environment. Recycling wool is far less energy and resource intensive than using virgin wool. It takes wool that’s already been spun and dyed, and would otherwise be thrown away, and turns it into a cosy-cabin sweater or practical trekking shirt.
Read the full story here.
To ensure your wool garments stay in tip-top condition, check out Fjällräven’s wool care guide.