Tough but elegant, warm yet breathable, wool’s many qualities are crowned by its versatility to be re-spun into valuable yarns, says Heather Sterland of Shear Rock

Shear Rock produces high quality woven goods in Scotland, which are hand-finished in Hawick on the Scottish border, and London. Our company name is inspired by sheep shearing and rock climbing. We are keen climbers, and when we started the company, we noticed there was a lot of synthetic clothing being worn out on the mountains, which seemed fairly incongruous. Many years, and climbing trips later, we have learned that the technical merits of wool are more than equal to the elements.

From the mountains to the concert hall, there is a grade, weave, and finish of wool, for every occasion. It can be tough and warm, for more challenging conditions, but also lightweight and silk-like for a gown and evening wear.

There is two and three-ply heavier, coarser wool for mountain adventures – the thicker wool acts as a wind and rain shield too. Then there’s 100% pure new wool for summer sports. And for that special night out there is wool-sateen, and lightweight Venetian weave merino, for suits and gowns.

A sustainable investment

Wool is biodegradable, but it can also be recycled. In fact, a town in Italy, Prato, has become renowned for recycling garments into different grades of wool, which can be re-spun into valuable yarns once more. Indeed a fascinating documentary, Stracci, shows how wool – and in particular 100% wool – can be part of the circular economy. It demonstrates how investing in a piece which is a high proportion of wool has economic benefits even when the garment or item’s days are up.

Technical properties

Anyone who is used to wearing a thick Scottish wool jumper up a mountain knows its secret: it’s naturally breathable, water resistant, even flame resistant. Wool fibres are hygroscopic. The fibres can absorb up to 35% of their own weight in moisture from the surrounding atmosphere – helping to keep you dry. Whilst absorbing this moisture, the wool fibres release heat. When conditions are dry again, this moisture is released.

Amazingly, another property is in a process known as chemisorption – a chemical reaction that happens on the surface of a fibre – wool can hold molecules of gases or liquids as a thin film. In this way, wool can permanently bind and trap pollutants by storing them in this surface layer of film. Fibres can absorb volatile organic compounds, like indoor air pollutants commonly found in paints, household chemicals, and furnishings. Even when heated, wool will not release gases such as nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and formaldehyde, and can store them for up to 30 years.

To trump even this fascinating fact, wool will only ignite at 570°C. It’s interesting to know that polyester and cotton, in comparison, will ignite at lower temperatures, of 485°C and 255°C.

Sharing a love of the world

You may leave Scotland, but Scotland never leaves you. However, our collections are not only inspired by Scotland, but also by lands much further afield. Our classic checked scarves are part Hebridean wool, part Argentinian merino. We believe every garment tells a story: from the flocks in Scotland where your piece is from, to the Argentinian sheep or Angora goats and the kind of terrain they can survive in.

Artists one and all

At Shear Rock we have a diverse team of designers, artists, photographers, musicians, and animators at our sister company Interstellar Productions, with whom we dovetail. Each artist in the company has a sharp eye for detail which inspires our beautiful collections, using fabrics we value the technical properties of.

And where best to test out a garment’s performance, than with athletes? We recently custom-produced garments for our Interstellar Duo, who performed Aerial Silks whilst wearing our fabrics last summer.

About the author

Heather Sterland co- founded the textiles company, Shear Rock and is passionate about luxury products, and the circular economy.

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