Swizzle Socks are made from a great product - wool

Wool is a great material

Here at Swizzle and friends, we’ve been really getting into the benefits of wearing wool, with Swizzle Socks allowing us to embrace our uniqueness.

Each pair of socks is unique.

Well, as they are handmade, each individual sock is unique as the colours vary in how they feed into Myrtle, our hand-cranked circular knitting machine.

Myrtle - the circular sock knitting machine

Wool has its different uses

Now, to many people, a sheep is a sheep - they are sort of white and fluffy and when they are shorn, they are much cooler and the wool is sold for all sorts of uses, such as knitting socks, hats, jumpers and the like, or for producing carpets or insulation.

Of course, it has to go through a range of processes to make it ready for these uses. It often needs washing, carding, which is where it is combed to disentangle the fibres to get it ready for spinning, which is the next step.

If you don’t want it in its natural colour, at some point, the wool will be dyed before it finally moves on to its final destination, but that point is determined by what type of wool it is.

There are many breeds of sheep and their wool has different qualities. Picture: British Wool

According to British Wool's book, British Sheep and Wool - a guide to British sheep breeds and their unique wool, there are seven types and their qualities determine the end use.

They are:

Type - Typical breed - Main end use

1. Fine - Suffolk - Woven apparel, futons and hand knitting.

2. Medium - Welsh halfbred - Woven apparel, hand knitting and carpets.

3. Cross - North of England mule - Knitwear and carpets. 

4. Lustre - Bluefaced Leicester - Lustrous yarn, knitwear and woven apparel.

5. Hill - Cheviot - Woven apparel, knitwear and carpets.

6. Mountain - Welsh mountain - Carpets.

7. Naturally coloured - Jacob - Woven fabrics, knitwear and carpets.

The wool of Bluefaced Leicester sheep is used for lustrous yarn, knitwear and woven apparel. Picture: British Wool

Problems for sheep farmers 

So as you can see, it is not as straightforward as you might have thought but the industry is facing real problems. Of course, with the current world situation, many people are but sheep farmers have seen the prices paid for wool dropping over a number of years.

In times gone by, wool merchants were wealthy people, with the product forming the foundation of English wealth in the Middle Ages, but the same cannot be said today.

Over more recent times, people have moved away from wool to artificial fibres and so demand has dropped and with it, so have prices.

This has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, with wool markets closing in February.

Fleece packing costs exceed prices

According to a report on the BBC website in July, it was costing farmers more to pack the fleece (30p each) than they would get for it, if they could find a buyer (24p), so it’s really doesn’t make much economic sense to trade in wool.

And as sheep have to be shorn for their health and wellbeing, the wool just ends up being a cost on a farming business. One farmer is reported to have protested about the situation by burning 800 fleeces rather than sell them at a loss.

Swizzle Socks are made mainly from wool and come in some fantastic colours

Support the wool industry

So with our latest product development of Swizzle Socks and Swizzle Hats (for Terry’s chocolate oranges), we hope we can do a little bit to make use of this great product, which is sustainable as well.

So why not take a look at our collections to see which socks you would prefer and order your own pair or pairs, and embrace your uniqueness?