Wool Week

Wool Week opened early yesterday morning in Wellington with a display of sheep shearing at the railway station. Then children brought in their pet lambs. People on their way to work stopped to watch. Then there was a fashion parade of woolen clothes made by top New Zealand fashion designers and another fashion parade in the evening.

The reason? To remind people that wool is a wonderful fibre. Before the days of synthetic fabrics like polyester, people all over the world dressed in wool, bought woolen carpets and sofas made with woolen covers, and used woolen blankets on their beds. New Zealand had a very good export market in wool. Sheep farmers made good money.

Today the cost of shearing is sometimes more than the price that the farmer gets from selling the wool.

In the 1980s, there were 60 million sheep in New Zealand. Our population was just over 3 million people, 20 sheep for every person. Today there are 33 million sheep and a population of just over 4 million people, about 8 sheep for every person.

Prince Charles was one of the people to start this idea of reminding people about wool. Last month there was a wool week in London. Wool is a natural fibre, he said, whereas synthetics use oil products. Wool is a renewable fibre. Every year sheep grow new wool. It does not burn easily so is safer near fire or when someone is cooking food. Wool is warm, it breathes, and people sleep well with wool. It is especially good for babies in their beds or prams. Wool is biodegradable when put in the rubbish.

New Zealand now has a good market in fine wool like merino but 95% of the wool produced is strong wool, suitable for carpets and other products. Most of our wool is exported so we need to remind buyers overseas to think about buying wool.

• Shearing – cutting the wool off the sheep
• Synthetic – the fibre is made in a factory. It is not a natural fibre
• A fibre is a thin thread used to make cloth. Cotton, silk and wool are natural fibres.
• Biodegradable – it decays naturally and does not cause any pollution
• Merino is a kind of sheep which produces fine soft wool. Merino sheep do well on South Island high country farms but not in places where it rains a lot.

What are some of the disadvantages of wool?

Do you wear woolen clothes? Have a look at the clothes you are wearing. What are they made of?

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