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Woolly thinking

With winter on its way, it’s time to reach for our cosiest fibre

Whether it’s knickers made from ultra-fine merino, high-tech garments for elite athletes or Julia Roberts admitting she’s caught the knitting bug, wool’s cooler than it’s ever been before. And with good reason – this wonder fibre lets our skin breathe, removes our sweat (it can absorb up to a third of its own weight in moisture), doesn’t get smelly if you treat it right and is extremely durable. A study by Germany’s Holenstein Research Institute found that one and a half times more moisture remained in a bed covered with an acrylic blanket compared with someone sleeping under a pure wool blanket.

And once your woolly jumper really is past its use-by date (a generation or two down the track) you can bury it in the garden and it’ll be gone in a matter of months. Researchers from The New Zealand Merino Company buried merino and polyester knitted fabrics in soil and excavated them occasionally to see how they were getting on. They found the merino had lost about 36 percent of its mass after only two months and between 76-99 percent after nine months. By contrast, the polyester stuff hadn’t degraded in the slightest – but was exhumed, fully intact, from its grave. Creepy, right?

New Zealander Mel Clark has been riding the wave of wool’s popularity since interest in knitting surged in the United States in the early 2000s. Mel designed knitwear for American boutiques and Hollywood films while running her own wool store in Santa Monica, California – then packed it all in to return home in 2007.

Knitting has held a special status for Mel ever since was allowed to choose the wool for a handknit cardigan at the age of six – cream with multicoloured flecks. “The first day it was finished, I wore it to school,” she reminisces in her new book, Knitting Everyday Finery. “That sense of pride when wearing a beautifully made garment has stayed with me throughout my life. Because of that experience, I have always associated hand knits with a sense of luxury.”
Once discarded as a symbol of feminine drudgery, knitting’s back on the rise as another generation discovers its soothing effects – and the simple satisfaction of casting off the last stitch.

Article IllustrationFinery is often associated with fancy outfits, but my kind of finery is something more practical than that; garments you can wear and enjoy because they’re made with love and quality materials -Mel Clark

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