At the markets that Minnie + Ree regularly attend I am often surprised that many people from outside New Zealand don't recognise merino wool and all its wonderful properties. Even when I am standing there toasty warm in my merino scarf and they are freezing cold!
So for all those people who don't know - here's the NZ sheep story ...
The first sheep were landed in New Zealand by Captain Cook in 1773. The overall sheep population grew to 70.3 million in 1982 but is now approx 43 million. There are only 4.4 million people in NZ. The Merino is the oldest sheep breed in the world. It is thought to have come from Spain or North Africa. The Merino was New Zealand’s first sheep and today there are just over 3 million of them. Most Merinos are found in the rugged South Island hill country where they thrive on the high altitude pastures of native grass. Merinos stay in mobs and move quickly. Despite a heavy fleece, they are fairly small and hardy which means they survive the cold.
Merino wool is special because the fine fibre keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. It is also shower resistant and flame retardant. Merino wool is unlikely to prickle or itch like other wool because the fibres are so fine. It is well known in the sports industry because it doesn't stink like synthetic fabrics. And you can wash your merino in the washing machine - just do a cold wash and hang it to dry naturally.
The most famous merino sheep in New Zealand was Shrek. He had escaped shearing for a few years and looked like this when he was found.
He was so famous he got photographed, after his haircut, with the Prime Minister.
And he got a coat to keep him warm, and then embarked on a new career of childrens charity work until he died at the age of 16.
The best way to keep warm with merino is to build up layers. It traps the air and keeps you warm. Also merino will keep you warm even when it gets wet. We have recently made some Deluxe cowl scarves. These are twice as long as our normal cowl scarf so you can scrunch it up or double it when you put it over your head. Then you can wear it as a scarf, pull it up around your ears or pull it all the way up to be a hood as well. They are currently in this mushroom colour below, teal, a vibrant grass green and a winter white.
Stay warm people!