By Sarabeth Parido
Though winter feels a bit fickle at times here in Kentucky, we know that the cold weather is inevitably coming. The need to properly bundle up our loved ones and ourselves when the we can face 3 of the 4 seasons in one day can prove to be a puzzle - but we have a natural, renewable fiber growing right on many of our farms. Using wool as a base layer while bundling up is a perfect answer to whatever the Kentucky weather can throw at us!
Wool is naturally breathable down to the individual strands of fiber. The breathability of wool will not feel heavy or wet as you perspire and will prevent you from overheating. Wool fibers wick moisture away from your skin. This moisture is then released from the fabric through evaporation. As the fibers absorb moisture, they also release small amounts of heat, which can help you to keep warm. The knit of wool fibers allow tiny air pockets in the fabric to trap your body heat, which provides excellent insulation. But as you know, many Kentucky days will swing to a warm snap and the same wool knit will also keep you cool - as the moisture evaporates during warm spells, these same insulating pockets of air will cool you and keep you feeling comfortable.
With all this talk of perspiration, you may be self conscious of body odor, but many wool experts would agree, the anti-microbial properties of wool will also keep the stink away! Bacteria does not easily bind to wool fibers and subsequently the bad odor of their growth will not stay on the fabric. Wool can have a distinct smell of its own, especially when wet, but it is a much more pleasant odor than a sweaty, synthetic item of clothing.
Wool can both repel and absorb water. The cortex of the fiber absorbs moisture, while the epicuticle scales on the outside of the fiber are hydrophobic. This allows wool to simultaneously absorb moisture from your skin while resisting external moisture like rain, sleet, or snow. Due to this fiber structure of wool, wool garments also feel drier to the touch than synthetic fabric.
Consider wool base layers this winter as you prepare to head out for the day. This miracle temperature regulating fiber is good enough for your sheep- let it show you how it can help you as well! For local wool producers, artisans and makers, be sure to visit The Kentucky Fiber Trail website for members in your area where you could get your hands on local fibers and finished products. www.kentuckyfibertrail.com
Sarabeth Parido, is the Director of the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival and The Kentucky Fiber Trail. She raises her own small flock of sheep in Clark County, Kentucky along with her husband and four sons.