Why Merino?  There are two versions below...

Sometimes I want the Cole's / Cliff's notes version of something, and sometimes I want a more in-depth explanation.
For your reading pleasure, there is a short version and a long version to choose from.  Let me know if you have additional questions!


Why the obsession with Merino? (the short verion)

Yes, most of my products are made from Merino Wool.
Here's why:

PROs
  • Sustainable
  • Luxurious - not itchy, scratchy, heavy or smelly
  • Fine fibre and soft texture make it the most valuable of wools
  • Ease of Care - Merino Superwash Wool is washer and dryer friendly
  • Light-weight (not bulky) yet warm
  • Durable - will last you a lifetime and more with proper care
  • Unique properties keep you cooler when hot and warmer when cold
  • Excellent Insulator

CONs
  • Cost - 10-15 times more expensive than cheap synthetics

While the main con means it is possible to purchase much cheaper knit products, I believe my prices fairly reflect the much higher quality and cost of material and the labour invested into each piece.

Is it worth it? I know this will come off as biased, but I definitely think so. I won't use anything else for my loved ones.

Merino Wool - a worthy indulgence! (the long version)

If you're really interested in what my products are made of, you've probably made it to this more extended explanation of my love affair with Merino...  Thank you for your patience!

If you look through my inventory, you'll probably notice that the majority of my goodies are knit from merino wool.
An obsession you might even say.
Why?

The quality of wool produced by sheep varies by breed... and Merino sheep produce very fine wool considered to be the the creme de la creme, making it the most valuable of wools. Its unique make-up allow even someone with sensitive skin like myself to wear it without feeling like a pincushion. It is not itchy, scratchy, heavy or smelly.

I've knit my fair share of acrylic - it's cheap, affordable and does the job. But acrylic is no competition for the fine fibres that grace my local yarn shop. It's like trying to substitute aerosol-pumped processed cheese to real artisan-crafted cheese. They're not even in the same league! After my initiation into fine natural fibres, I can't go back.

There is a luxuriousness in fine fibres that can't be found in man-made fibres or natural fibres of coarse or medium-grade quality. All the fibres used in my products are renewable resources - wool, bamboo, organic cotton, linen - these things grow and produce naturally. Typical large manufacturers use the cheaper alternative - petrochemical-based acrylic which may seem cheap to produce, however don't take into account its environmental impact as it is made with the "wear and discard" ethos in mind and adds to the consumption of crude oil, a decidedly limited resource.


Other Benefits of Fine Wool

Some additional characteristics of wool which you won't find in synthetic fibres (paraphrased from "Fabric Properties and Distinctions" by Textile Fabric Consultants, Inc.) :

  • Durability: Wool fibres are very durable and flexbile. They can withstand a lot of abuse without breaking.

  • Insulation: Wool is an excellent insulator. It keeps heat close to the body by trapping still or dead air within the fibres.

  • Moisture: The protein core of the wool fibre can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without becoming damp and clammy, keeping the wearer's skin dryer when sweating and cooler when hot. Water-repellent to a certain degree, light rain or snow will stay on the surface or run off the material. Even when wet, it will keep you warm in colder weather.

  • Care: Wool garment do not soil easily and are not easily spotted by grease and oils. This decreases the need to clean wool garments after every use. Merino Superwash Wool is a machine washable and dryable wool that blends all the benefits of synthetics with the benefits of natural fibre.

  • Odor: The wool fibre's ability to absorb and neutralize unpleasant odors is far superior to that of other textiles due to its chemical composition.

  • Flammability: Wool is considered naturally flame retardant. While it will burn if exposed to flame, it burns slowly. Unlike synthetics, wool does not melt.

Controversy over Mulesing

In recent years, there has been some controversy over merino wool due to a procedure called "mulesing".

Mulesing is a surgical procedure used predominantly amongst Merino farmers in Australian regions where flystrike is common.  The procedure involves the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from the sheep's buttocks in an effort to reduce the incidence of flystrike.  Australian law does not require pain relief measures to be administered, therefore the procedure has often been performed without administering anesthetics to the sheep.  The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) vehemently opposes mulesing, saying the practice is cruel and painful and that more humane alternatives exist.

Representatives of the Australian Wool Industry have decided to phase out mulesing by December 2010.

All merino products in Maggiepie's inventory are made from merino wool sourced from areas which do not require mulesing.


Cost
The main disadvantage of wool, especially merino wool, has when compared to acrylic is the cost. Whereas you can get a ball of acrylic or some other synthetic yarn for $1-2, a ball or skein of fine quality merino wool will cost anywhere from $7-25.

Therefore, while it is possible to purchase much cheaper knit products, I believe my prices fairly reflect the much higher quality and cost of material and the labour invested into each piece.

Is it worth it? I know this will come off as biased, but I definitely think so. I won't use anything else for my loved ones.

What brands of yarn do you use?



The majority of the beautiful yarns in my ridiculously large yarn stash are from:
  • Louet
  • Mission Falls
  • Malabrigo
  • Dream in Color