In addition to it’s luxurious feel as a natural fiber, wool:
- is a natural flame retardant barrier – see the post ‘Interpreting the CA Flame Retardants Standard for Upholstered Furniture’ for more info.
- provides added protection for your latex foam cushion – from UV light that passes through the cover fabric.
- softens the edges of your upholstery cushion or padding.
- is a healthy & sustainable alternative to polyester batting.
Healthy Wool Practices
Wool is a very important part of natural upholstery, so in order to understand its value in the ‘big picture’, it pays to know the process that goes on behind the scenes to produce some of the finest quality wool batting on the market.
Here at NaturalUpholstery.com we advocate the use of all natural, eco-friendly, non-toxic materials. When sourcing these products for our own use and for use by our customers, we pay careful attention to how they are produced. This is especially important with regard to wool and the treatment of the animals who grow it for us.
As you may know by now, wool comes from sheep ;) but it doesn’t end there. We believe the process should have a solid foundation of best practices regarding how the sheep are raised and cared for. Below are the wool growing criteria that our suppliers follow (this information is provided by our supplier, and refers to their practices & requirements, with which we whole-heartedly agree).
- PROPER GRAZING METHODS: Our growers rotate sheep to different pastures to allow vegetation to recover from grazing. This practice minimizes invasive plant species while reducing the need to bring in outside feed. These proper grazing techniques reduce soil erosion, create higher quality wool, and reduce the risk of sheep acquiring internal parasites.
- HEALTHY VETERINARY PRACTICES: Only certain kinds of medications and supplements are permitted to treat the sheep. We encourage alternative care methods to keep sheep healthy with fewer chemicals. Generally, sheep raised in open pastures are healthier and require less veterinary care.
- CHEMICAL CONTROL: We oppose the use of herbicides and pesticides on fields where sheep will be grazing. With this in mind, we perform random spot-testing to ensure the wool has never been in contact with harmful chemicals.
Wool Practices We Avoid
Our suppliers firmly oppose the following wool-growing industry practices:
- CARBONIZING: Wool fibers are dipped in strong acids to dissolve residual vegetable matter.
- CHEMICAL CRIMPING: Carbonizing can leave wool fibers unnaturally straightened and the fibers then require a chemical “perm” to regain their coiled, crimped structure.
- DIPPING: At many farms all sheep are subject to a bath in a pesticide solution. We recommend a more holistic approach.
- BLEACHING: In order to get the purest whites and brightest colors, most wool fibers are bleached and dyed. Our batting is the color of natural white wool.
- HARMFUL SHEARING: We work with highly skilled shearing crews to make this process as quick and harmless as possible.
- MULESING: Cutting patches of skin off sheep (to discourage infection and flies from laying eggs in the folds). None of our growers practice this method.
- OVERGRAZING: In addition to harming the land, overgrazing lowers overall wool quality. More invasive plants begin to grow and can increase the amount of vegetable matter in the wool.
Our suppliers are very proactive with their wool growers, ensuring the sheep are treated humanely and strongly discouraging the use of pesticides or herbicides. Not only are the sheep treated with kindness but the quality of the wool has to be exceptional. They only accept wool with a vegetable matter content (debris in wool) of less than .05%. This means they start their process with exceedingly clean wool.
Wool Batting Machinery
Our supplier’s carding, combing & garneting process uses unique antique machinery which removes more vegetable matter than most modern machinery, resulting in an exceptionally clean batting.
Premium Wool Batting: Oeko-Tex certified
NaturalUpholstery.com’s Premium Wool Batting is a cost-effective alternative to organic wool. Although it is not certified organic, it has many of the same attributes. This includes a high standard of cleanliness, loft and resiliency as well as sharing the same breeds of sheep in the blend. No chemicals, pesticides or herbicides are used in the processing of this wool, which has earned the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Certification.
It is imported from the most premiere wool growers in the world including South America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Growers have been hand-picked, meeting the highest standards of ethical practices that result in a high wool output. Several different sheep breeds contribute to our Premium Wool Batting, including Dorset and Columbia.
Guaranteed Purity With Integrity
The U.S. based carding mill that supplies our wool supports customers with a pro-active philosophy towards ensuring that only pure and natural products are brought to the market. They take the extra step by testing all products through the nations leading Toxicology Laboratory for animals, on an annual basis. This tests for any pesticide, herbicide and heavy metals such as arsenic. Test results are made available to customers upon request.
Watch the video below to see handling of the wool as it comes off the roll in our studio:
Learn more about how to use wool batting in your upholstery project in the video How to Measure your Natural Latex Cushion for Wool Batting, which includes a free worksheet to help you calculate how much wool you need. See also How to Cut your Wool Batting Book Wrap Style to minimize waste.
If you’re using latex foam for a new cushion you can also check out the video and worksheet How to Measure your Sofa Cushion for New Foam. If this is helpful for you, be sure to subscribe to NaturalUpholstery.com’s mailing list to learn more about natural upholstery materials, techniques, tools, and useful tips!
If I’ve left something out, please let me know in the comments below (others may have the same question, and this is the fastest way to get an answer! :)