2009 is the International Year of Natural Fibres. One of the world’s most beloved natural fibres, wool, is also one of the oldest in use. Although sheep were domesticated around 10,000 BC, it took people nearly 5,000 years to begin spinning their wool. In the time since then, wool has been a worldwide textile-of-choice for clothing as well as a myriad of home comforts.
Currently, global wool-production is at around 2.1 million tonnes per annum with Australia leading the herd, so to speak, followed by New Zealand and China. This figure, while seemingly large, is actually much less than it once was. An increased demand for synthetic fibres beginning in the 1960s meant a decline in wool prices and, as a result, production.
The current “green” movement, however, has led to a renewed interest in sustainable natural fibres, including wool. While new wool products continue to enjoy their popularity in fashion and home décor, it is the “old” wool that is garnering much attention in the handmade community. With an eye on thrift and a commitment to “reduce and reuse“, eco-conscious crafters and artisans are repurposing existing and heirloom woolen garments to create fun and fabulous items.