Updated: Aug 4, 2022
We can all agree that there’s nothing quite like a cream wool scarf to bring a classic and elegant look together, but have you ever wondered just where all that lovely warm and comforting wool came from?
Wool has a history that’s as rich as the very fabric itself and, in fact, it’s one of Britain’s greatest natural resources. Sheep have been grazing here for thousands of years and - according to British Wool - we have more than 60 different breeds on our shores… which is more than any other country in the world!
Even prehistoric man was in on the act, clothing himself in wool taken from wild sheep. From there, sheep were slowly introduced to the UK by Neolithic settlers, with wool first spun and turned into cloth during the Bronze Age.
Following a series of invasions by the Romans and the Danes, which led to the introduction of horned black-face and hornless white-face sheep, wool went on to become the country’s biggest driver of the economy, with abbeys and monasteries owning the largest flocks.
Globally, there are over 1,000 different sheep breeds to be found - and one of the most famous for yarn enthusiasts is the Merino. This breed produces fine wool that works really well in clothes, so you’re sure to have come across it before.
These sheep come from Spain but were introduced to the wider world by King Charles IV, who gave six of them to the Dutch government as a gift. From there, they were introduced in South Africa before making their way to Australia alongside British army officer and entrepreneur John Macarthur.
According to the International Wool Textile Organisation, Australia now produces 80 per cent of the Merino wool that’s used in luxury clothes all over the world.