wool 0%

One of my personal bugbears is textile product description – particularly as concerns the word “wool.” Most of my clothes purchases are made online these days, and it really annoys me to be looking at what I assume to be a nice wool dress, only to discover that it is, in fact, 100% viscose. Take the shorts above as an example. They describe themselves as a “wool short” and were turned up in a product search for “wool shorts”, but they in fact contain no wool at all. Now, the consumer can easily apprise themselves of the 0% wool content of this purportedly woollen garment by looking at the useful ‘about me’ tab – but there is still much about the way that this garment is being marketed and sold that is profoundly misleading. Should retailers be allowed to describe products which contain no wool as wool, or have them turn up in a product search with the word “wool” in it? Personally, I think not.

On ASOS, the search terms “wool dress” turns up 88 items. The wool content of these garments ranges from 5% . . .


( is ‘angora wool’ even wool? see below)

. . .to 100%:

By far the majority of these 88 ‘wool dresses’ – more than two thirds, in fact – contained less than 50% wool.

Looking at the examples I’ve shown so far, you might think that price would be an immediate indicator of a garment’s non-wooliness — those River Island shorts are cheap, so what would you expect? Not a bit of it.

Cacharel’s £445 ‘plaid wool’ skirt contains a mighty 12% wool. I’m not sure if 12% even warrants the term ‘wool mix.’ Here, the word ‘wool’ seems to be there to add value to the garment’s generically “plaid” or “tartan” appearance. This is a common error of product description, as is the word “wool” when “yarn” is what is actually meant.

The words “lovely soft wool” in the description of this child’s sweater sold by Monsoon refer to the yarn from which this sweater is made – the actual wool content is virtually negligible at 5%.

UK trading standards are reasonably straightforward when it comes to textile labelling (“all items must carry a label indicating the fibre content either on the item or on the packaging”) but far less clear where product descriptions are involved. According to the documents I’ve looked at, the word ‘wool’ can be used as a descriptive term for the fibre of any animal – so the compound ‘angora wool’ is apparently fine. This merely muddies the waters further as far as I am concerned, and there are no guidelines at all about the percentage of real wool – ie actual wool from an actual sheep – that an item must contain before it can be described as ‘wool’.


(wool 100%)

Interestingly, Trading Standards does include specific guidelines for the descriptive use of the word ‘silk': “which cannot be used to describe the texture of any other fibre – for example “silk acetate” is not permitted.” If an acetate blouse cannot be described as silk, then why can polyester shorts be described as wool? Personally, I think trading standards need to be updated to reflect the world of online retailing, product descriptions, and keyword searches generally, and I feel this is particularly important where sheep’s wool – a wonderful, sustainable, high-quality fibre is concerned.

I feel that:
1. A garment should not be described as ‘wool’ or turn up with the search term ‘wool’, unless its sheep’s wool content is more than 50%
2. a garment with a sheep’s wool content of between 20% and 50% should only be described with the terms “wool mix”
3. a garment with a sheep’s wool content of 12% or under should not contain the word ‘wool’ in its product description at all.
4. The word ‘wool’ should refer to sheep’s wool only, and there should be a clarification of trading standards to distinguish between different animal fibres.
5. When a garment’s fabric is composed of mixed fibres with a sheep’s wool content of less than 50%, the word yarn should be used when describing its composition.

I intend to write formally to UK trading standards and the campaign for wool about the problem of Wool 0%. Before I do, I’d really appreciate any and all feedback you might have. Do you agree with me? Or not? Have you come across other good examples of wool 0%? Do you have other points to add to my initial 5? How do the trading standards of other countries deal with this and similar issues? Can you direct me to any useful resources about standards of product description in online retailing? And finally, would those of you in the UK be interested in signing an online petition about this issue?

138 responses

  1. I absolutely agree with you! It irks me too and I don’t even live in the UK :-) Wool as a description should refer to the yarn created from the gift of a sheep, not a polyurethane coating. Is there a separate zoo for these creatures?

  2. I have just read your article, it was really interesting and really terribly true.
    Most of clothes with the word “wool” have so few wool that it’s like a “plastic” clothe. The problem is the following one: people only watch at the price, more there is wool in the clothes more higher is the price. Peole don’t want to understand that clothes knitted with a good and natural fiber will be worn for years and years. Clothes with plastic fibers will be worn one saison and after that will been thrown away. It’s the terrible consummer society.
    I hope you can understand my English which is not always very clear.
    Have a very good weekend.

    Agnès

  3. Considering some people are allergic to wool (from sheep) I can see noting wool in the fiber content but less than 12% wool should not be allowed to use the word “wool” in its description. I believe here in America they already have standards set forth by the Federal Trade Commission. I gave you a link to the explanation of their standards in case you might like to use it when you contact the UK Trading Standards folks. (See: Textile and Wool Acts http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus21-threading-your-way-through-labeling-requirements-under-textile-and-wool-acts) LL Bean has some lovely wool skirts if you are looking for one.

    • First “wool” skirt of LL Bean is as they describe it:
      “Our traditional riding skirt may look like wool, but it’s actually made of ultrasoft cotton for itch-free comfort all season long. And unlike most wool styles, it can go right into the washer and dryer.” And like in the UK sites you get this when you search their website for: wool skirts! The second one in the search result do not state the fabric contents or they hide it so well, I couldn’t find it!

  4. I agree. As a yarn shop worker, it’s confusing when people come in asking for wool when they really want acrylic yarn. Garments that do not contain wool should certainly not be described as wool.

  5. I agree totally! I have had the same problem with %100 cotton items I’ve bought that needed ironing. I go to a hot setting for the iron (cotton) and when I place the iron on the item the threads burn because it was sewn with ?other than cotton thread. What good is a COTTON blouse sewn with acrylic thread? I feel there are many problems as you’ve talked about in the description of items for sale and the labeling. The majority of people when they hear the word wool they think yarn from sheep. At least that’s what I believe.

  6. I’m with you all the way, it is yarn if it has anything other than wool in at all. I can’t help you with any further points but I will support you in any way I can. The description of the Casharel skirt as ‘voluminous’ is also rather untrue.

  7. I WILL SIGN A PETITION!

    I am deeply cynical about the misuse of the word “wool” in clothes descriptions, and (oh mistrusting, control-freak me!) I do not buy woollen clothes or fabric unless I can see some kind of woolmark or harris tweed orb (ebay) in the product photographs, or can physically check the label for myself. I believe the world is full of shysters who bandy the sacred term “wool” about with no respect for what that word actually means, in order to flog their despicable 0% wool SHITE.

    However this absolutely should not be the case; an online petition and a letter to the campaign for wool are very good ideas which would assist wool producers, and raise awareness about the actual value of 100% REAL WOOL. I would like to get behind a campaign for the correct labelling of garments and I especially like “0% wool” as a campaign title. I imagine Leslie at Devon Fine Fibres would have something to add to this campaign also, as it seems like just the sort of campaign she would be interested in supporting – as a wool producer very keen to demonstrate the added value of ACTUAL WOOL GROWN ON ACTUAL SHEEP.

    I think that wool has a cache value – which is weirdly reflected in the readiness with which companies describe their shoddy polyester nonsense as “wool” – but which is weirdly NOT reflected in any kind of protective legislation surrounding the way that garments are marketed and described. As an excellent, sustainable product, its name should not be allowed to me misused, and – as consumers – we should not be allowed to mistake some kind of polyester/acetate/viscose tosh for the real deal.

    Thanks for this excellent post and HUZZAH FOR THE CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER PRODUCE DESCRIPTIONS!

  8. Agreed. I think I’ve just about got myself out of the habit of calling all yarn wool, not sure where that comes from, I think a lot of people do that. Or maybe it’s because I learned to knit as a child in the 80s on Orkney and used actual wo rather than anything else? I know I used my mum’s leftovers from the Fair Isle jumpers she made.

  9. I agree with you, and will sign a petition. Will also write letters to trading standards, etc., once the campaign gets underway.

    I would just add that, like food labelling, the ‘main ingredient’ should be listed first, so if a garment is made up of, e.g. 50% viscose, 45% nylon and 5% wool, then it shouldn’t be described as ‘wool mix’ – it should be ‘viscose mix’.

    I really would like to see more detailed labelling for clothes, including an indication when genetically modified materials have been used (e.g. gm cotton) (unfortunately, that will now apply to most cotton fabric, unless it’s organic). Sorry… I’ve gone off at a tangent here!

  10. I completely agree with you – this is one of my pet frustrations along with poor fabric quality in general and the style over substance approach to clothing manufacture and consumption. Good luck with your petition. I shall sign it.

  11. You make a very interesting point that I had not considered before, but I completely agree with you. The examples you give really show how the word ‘wool’ is mis-used. You’d think that this is something that would have been brought up before as part of the various wool weeks/wool campaigns that happen.

    Anyway, I would definitely sign a petition AND I love your photo of the sheep too.

  12. I’m totally with you on this. I think Prince Charles is backing a campaign this year to promote the use of British Wools, try getting him on board…..even if garments are Australian or Chinese wool ( as most of Boden are, but that’s a whole new ball game) it is better than viscose and all the plastic stuff they use.

    I think we still use the term wool shop when perhaps it should be yarn shop – and people use the word wool when they mean yarn.

  13. It’s so frustrating to have to check not only the word but the “intended meaning”. I am definitely in favour of stricter and more logical labelling laws here in Canada, too. I go bananas every time I come across a can of pineapple that says “product of Canada” on the label simply because it was canned in Canada. Nowhere do we grow them. Other things that are Canadian can’t be labelled as such due to odd and seemingly arbitrary restrictions. Next up for the label crusade: natural, green, organic, eco-friendly, local, recycled, hypo-allergenic, etc, etc….

  14. I agree with you:)
    Though in some languages word wool may have different conotations. In polish (my native tongue) wool can be used for yarn and it’s correct, and wool means fiber and/or yarn from any animal though there are different names for their fur.

  15. Totally agree. On a loosely related note, earlier today I read the product description “made of warming acrylic”. They really will write anything to make something sell…

  16. Ugh, yess. I tried to find a nice wool toggle coat for B this winter, and couldn’t find any from high street shops with more than 50% wool. My kid’s gotta stay warm! I did find a German boiled wool coat, but finances are tight and she’s got a hand me down puffa jacket instead. :( (At least her jumpers are wool. :) )

  17. agree 100%. as a weaver, spinner and dyer I need to know exactly what fibres I’m dealing with. I demonstrate spinning in public fairly frequently and I think it is critically imporant to educate the public. Many people have no idea which fibre is which and where it comes from. when asked what I’m spinning and reply “silk” I’ve had people ask what kind of sheep it comes from??

  18. “A garment should not [...] turn up with the search term ‘wool’, unless its sheep’s wool content is more than 50%” is going to be a problem: searches generally do a Boolean AND, so if the word “wool” occurs anywhere in the description it will be picked up by the search. This would include descriptions containing the words “wool mix”, “5% wool”, and “wool free”.

    What about using “wool rich” for over 50%?

  19. YESSSS! Thank you so much for this. I was stomping around downtown with rage two weekends ago, aghast at the rubbish on sale on the high street. We’re settling in for a long Canadian winter and I literally cannot find anything that isn’t made of acrylic or see-through cotton jersey. What put me right over the edge was the “wool blend” trousers at Mexx, containing all of 6% wool. The rest was polyester and acrylic. And as you say, the price is irrelevant – we can either pay $190 or $39 for the same crummy sweater or flammable trousers. I give up. Off to sign up for the class on fitted blouses I just noticed at my local fabric store.

  20. This reminds me of a lovely, lovely sweater that my mom bought in the 70’s – it was gorgeous, cabled, shawl-collared, and icky itchy squeaky acrylic. Ironically, the label said “Organically Grown – 100% Acrylic.” I can only assume Organically Grown was the brand name, and it was clearly from before the word organic means what it does now, but I still thought it was ridiculous. I’ve since re-knitted myself a new version of it in 100% merino. Much better.

  21. I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned this (just scrolled through quickly) but there’s an allergy/skin irritation issue too – I’d have skipped past all those ‘wool’ clothes as there are very few actual wools I can bear next to my skin and angora makes me sneeze, and if it says wool in the description I’d assume it wasn’t for me. So they’re actually losing custom with their inaccurate descriptions *shrug*.

  22. I totally agree with you. The only thing more annoying than a misleading label is when they don’t tell you what the fabric is made of at all! I can’t believe how often online retailers do this and have had to reach the conclusion that perhaps not enough buyers are as bothered as me. I’m interested to hear that there are specific guidelines for silk although when I do ‘silk’ searches on various uk clothes retailers, they practically all come up with a huge proportion of 100% polyester crrrr-ap.

  23. With you all the way on this one. I always check at the content of any clothes that I buy – I am also interested in where they are made too – over here just about everything is made in China. My son-in-law is a wool buyer here in Perth – close to all the wool he buys is sent to China. So, here’s to more real woolly wool in our garments and better honest labelling….

  24. I learned years ago to search an item’s label to get an EXACT breakdown of the fabric content as descriptions were completely misleading. I don’t like man-made fibres at all (or, don’t mind a very small percentage in some garments), but sometimes finding the labels can be difficult, so pyjamas and thermal underwear described on the packet as ‘cotton’ on the outside are actually a ‘cotton mix’ and, as you say, sometimes the actual cotton content is very low. I even have to break into packages to get to the garment label as the fibre breakdown is nowhere to be found on the outside packaging. I’d definitely sign your petition.

  25. Just show me where to sign :-) I think there’s an analogy to be made with spreadable butter/low fat spreads/margarine where if the dairy content is below a certain percentage they aren’t allowed to use butter in the name (with the notable exception of I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter I guess).

  26. It’s interesting that you mention it! I’m a french translator and as such I think people should use the “right words” as often as possible (it may sound obvious but it’s not that simple!). I noticed that in French, most people use the word “laine” (wool) instead of “fil” for instance (yarn) and it kind of bothers me a little :)

  27. Agree, accept that I don’t actually have a massive issue with angora being labelled ‘angora wool.’ Not sure why. Guess because I don’t think the average consumer is savvy enough to comprehend where angora comes from, and at least ‘angora wool’ indicates it comes off the back of an animal.

    I live in Perth, Australia, where wool is rarely called for (I knit all the woolens I need, except for some very fine knit wool cardigans). For most of winter I’d wear a cotton tee with a cotton knit hoodie over the top. It is SO HARD to find pure cotton garments these days! Everything seems to be at least 50% plastic. Or if it’s pure, it’s not terribly fashionable. Bah.

    And yet, ironically, when it comes to nice tops for work, when I actively seek out a few polyester tops to save on ironing some mornings, they’re all made of super-lightweight, cheap-looking silk instead. Rah! No win!

  28. I agree with you, Kate and the same is true here in the US. It is almost impossible to buy a wool garment in our country unless you want to pay big bucks! That is one reason I turned to knitting. The sweaters are not wool. not warm and many are cheap looking unless they are ultra expensive. I could go on and on. Good luck with your campaign.

  29. I am also “with” you on this point. In the US it is very hard to find wool garments. And sidetracking on your topic a little bit, I have a conspiracy theory about the fashion industry’s tricky switch from wool to cotton and silk garments ALL SOLD at the higher price of a wool garment. I think this happened about 15 years ago. Like they did it while we were sleeping or something, we mindless consumers. YETCH, give me a wool sweater PLEEASSSSEEEE somebody!!! I haven’t seen a pair of wool slacks for ten years. And I am talking high end stuff, where is it??? Your three wooly friends seem to still be wearing it!!! I want some……..

  30. I totally agree – The Competition Bureau Canada has standards for labelling which states….
    “Generally, labels must not use the name of another fibre of which it is an imitation or substitute, or which it resembles in a manner likely to deceive.” Unfortunately I don’t think this applies to descriptions used in marketing though. If you’d like to have a look yourself check out http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/eng/01537.html#TextileFibreProduct

    Wool needs to be trademarked so that you can’t call something wool unless it contains a defined high percentage of wool in it.

    I love wool…can you tell?

  31. This mislabeling happens with other fibers, too. I’ve seen plenty of “cashmere” goods (not only garments, but yarn as well, and yarn manufacturers should know better!) where the actual cashmere content was 10%. One famous clothing retailer sells something called “cotton cashmere”, which has no cashmere in it at all! I’m sure the retailer’s trying to advertise how soft this cotton fabric is, but surely there’s a more accurate description.

    I also believe fiber content should be listed in descending order. I think it’s unscrupulous to list the 10% silk content first on the label because that’s the luxurious part. The remaining 90% of the garment might be a synthetic, for goodness sake, and that would most certainly negate any luxury for me if I had purchased it!

    And please don’t get me started on how much these companies feel they can charge for this supposed luxury…

  32. I agree with you completely, and you make a good point: if a fabric can’t be described as silk unless it contains silk, then it shouldn’t be described as wool if it contains no wool. TS should certainly look at this anomaly.

  33. That ridiculous. Wool should be only be labelled “wool” if it contains a good proportion of wool as you say. Same as fruit juice drinks are only allowed to be called “juice” if they contain juice, and not fruit concentrate or flavour. I agree with you 100%.

  34. All of the above, and more! What a treat to realise that this ‘wool’ thing annoys other people as much as it annoys me! If a shop sold a pack of butter and when the shopper get home to realise it was margarine, the manufacturer would be be in certain deep water, why not with wool? Wool comes from sheep, it is not a man made substitute. Lead me tot he petution [and this is me that doesn't 'do' petitions!]

  35. I couldn’t agree more, and I like all of your 5 points.
    I’ve made this deal with myself that if knits contain any acrylic or other synthetic fibres, they are not for me regardless of how fashionable/cheap/just-me they are. Similarly with shirts and dresses that really should be made from 100% silk but are 100% polyester. I just know that they will drive me nuts within 10 minutes by clinging to my body. This has changed my clothes purchases to ‘limited amounts, but more expensive’. And hopefully they’ll stay longer in my wardrobe.

  36. Yes I absolutely agree with you. It’s been bothering me for a while that a wool jumper is not necessarily wool and I think it devalues the value of wool itself. No wonder people complain that ‘wool’ jumpers can be itchy – they’re probably not even wearing real wool. Like you rightly point out, this doesn’t happen for silk (although hasn’t that been defined and protected since the 1400s or so because it was so valuable? Without my history book to hand I’m not sure). If you start an online campaign I will definitely sign it and I will also now tweet this!

  37. Here in Germany, we have a similar situation, but also some guidelines to help distinguish real quality products. If you use the term ‘Schurwolle’ or ‘Reine Schurwolle’, the fibers must come from a living sheep and not from recycled products or sheep that have been to the slaughter and sheared afterwards. We have a product sign for this, the ‘Wollsiegel’. With mixes and man-made fibers, it’s just what you wrote, it’s hard to tell from descriptions about the percentage of real wool and different fibers. I learned that there is an International Wool Textile Organisation in London, by the way, maybe they have already tried to deal with the problem?

  38. ………………and I thought I was just being a grumpy old woman!

    I am totally with you – if the label says wool it should be 100% wool – no question. Other than that it whould be quite clear what the mix is. I constantly turn clothes inside out to get to the left side seam where the care label usually is and that is when you get to the truth.

  39. (oops something happened computerwise there – I wasn’t finished my rant) – people need to know the truth about what they are buying/wearing for all sorts of reasons – allergies etc. and apart from that it is just dishonest. Wool is wool endo fo story – and end of rant………………………and breathe.

    And another thing………………..:-) I love that picture of the sheepies

  40. and another thing……………….I am sorry for the typos – my pc is not letting me go back and correct them – yes – I would definitely sign the petition. The End………………(I promise).

  41. I totally agree with your points. As an independent yarnie, I don’t use the word ‘wool’, I actually write the percentage of the breed of sheep on my yarns (or alpaca, nylon, silk, etc). This is pretty standard in the yarn world – it should follow on that it should be in the clothing world too. Also, it’s worth noting that ‘British Wool’ might have been British sheep, but is usually still (but not always, and therefore should be clarified) processed abroad (so is misleading in my opinion). Finally, it may say ‘Merino’, but in order to qualify as ‘Merino’, it doesn’t have to be actual, pure, Merino (which makes a big difference!). Organic textiles should be guaranteed under the GOTS system in my opinion, too. Organic dyes do often require toxic mordants (but toxic ones are not always used), so for those with allergies that’s another part of the process which is potentially a problem, but so difficult to find out about.
    I think I can step off my soapbox now (sorry)!

  42. I completely agree with and share your frustration – as a sewist and a knitter it bugs me that terms like “wool” are used descriptively rather than specifically to indicate the ACTUAL materials and in fact I would also like to add that the words or impression of “handknit” or “handmade” bug me also!! If I am right, I think there is some rule where something CAN be described as such if a bit of it is in the process? I could be wrong here, but I’m sure I’ve come across this before which also is misleading AND disappointing! it does make it harder for someone who handmakes to buy RTW my particular bugbear is wonky seams, dodgy darts and plaids/patterns that don’t even near-miss never mind match! I’ll sign your petition !
    Sue xx

  43. Oh! I agree entirely! Especially to your point 4. That would be very useful for anybody who is allergic to certain types of wool, so they wouldn’t have to go hoking around for the washing label.

    It’s funny you should mention this, as my friend and I were discussing the same thing last week. We were admiring a top in the Next Christmas catalogue which was discribed as “satin blouse”, but it was 100% viscose!!

  44. And on a more frivolous note: what about lacy knitted things which are described as “crochet”, even by well known retailers who ought to know better?

  45. Completely agree! Trying to purchase woolies from the high street is onerous, thank goodness for Etsy! However, all the ‘designer’ shops I’d expect to have woolies are ‘fakes’, yet I recently managed to purchase a 100% wool fair isle jumper from… Primark! The world is truly mad.

  46. ABSOLUTELY AGREE! (In caps so you can hear me shouting it all the way from Sheffield!) would be very happy to sign a petition.
    Helen

  47. I had no idea that you could call a o% garment “wool”. That is clearly ridiculous. And how I laughed at the 100% wool sheep photo :)

  48. this is so interesting to me, b/c in the last year or so (as I’ve become more serious about knitting & finally dared to knit myself sweaters) I’ve become the type of shopper who in stores goes straight to the tag on the garment stating what it is made of–something I never used to even look at. And I’ve been (negatively) surprised to see how low the actual wool content (talking about sheep’s hair) is of many commercially marketed sweaters, scarfs, gloves, etc. I’ll make a point to perhaps write down some of this & send it your way the next time I’m doing it–in some ways it’ll be nice to feel like someone else appreciates it, cause I feel like my family & friends sort of bemusedly put up with my outraged comments in the mall (“can you believe how much they’re charging for this?! it’s 95% acrylic!”).

  49. I completely agree. Will sign any petition etc.

    One further point – mixing natural and man-made fibres has a serious environmental impact: 100% wool can be re-used or composted, as can cotton, silk etc. 100% acrylic, polyester or nylon can be recycled – old fleece jackets into new, for example. When you mix wool and nylon (as in sock yarn,) or cotton and polyester, you have a product that cannot be recycled or composted. It is what is known as a “monstrous hybrid” (see the excellent book “Cradle to Cradle, McDonough & Braungart, 2002.)

  50. I agree. And there are at least two good reasons I can think of in support of better labelling: allergies – people who need to avoid wool would avoid the items labelled as wool which have no wool; electrostatic avoidance – DH works with circuit boards and needs to be aware of the fibre content of the clothes he wears when doing so, yes he has a grounding tag thingy, but it’s still preferable for him to wear natural fibres.

    Just one quick point about your photo of the cute sheep – I question the description of these as 100% wool! Quite apart from the interior of the sheep consisting of mutton, bones, 70% water, however much grass in various stages of digestion and probably a similar percentage of bacteria as humans (a shockingly large amount, like 80%!), the exterior of the sheep in question appears to be at least 5% snow, 1% plastic ear tags, 5% or more bits of straw and other vegetation and goodness knows what kinds of brown matter at the end not shown :D

  51. Excellent points Kate, I share your frustration. It’s like the difference between chocolate milk and chocolate flavour milk, the naming difference is quite subtle but there’s no doubt that the second item doesn’t contain chocolate. Garment labelling should be similarly definitive. I’d certainly sign an online petition.

  52. I’ll sign immediately, all these woolly minded descriptions should be replaced with accurate descriptions
    at least it might prevent us all getting fleeced………
    couldn’t resist it……………. Sorry!

  53. I agree completely and will happily sign the petition!

    It’s a pet peeve of mine as well that manufacturers use something that evokes naturalness, goodness, sustainability,warmth and comfort to sell something that is artificial, chemical, cold, non-sustainable and (quite often) very flammable.

    At best, it’s ignorant and uniformed, at worst it’s underhanded.

  54. Agreed 100%!
    I’ve had some personal frustration with this issue myself. I tried (very briefly) to sell handknit cashmere gloves on etsy before giving up. If you searched ‘cashmere gloves’ you would come up with pages and pages of 5% cashmere fingerless gloves. If someone had wanted my product, they never would have found it!
    The problem you are speaking of is a level of magnitude more serious though. What good is a language if the words don’t have an agreed meaning?
    I would sign a petition but I’m not in the uk.

  55. Hear, hear. I am ok with some ambiguity in natural language, but not in actual yarn or garments. I prefer only natural fibers for their comfort, and there is nothing more frustrating than having to hunt down the fiber composition of a blouse or skirt I want to buy.

  56. Yes I do agree, we need to use the wool from these beautiful sheep & not have then labelled inappropriately.
    I would happily sign a petition & lobby others to sign

  57. As many outside UK, e.g. Swedes do buy clothes from Asos, it would be very useful if and when you (or someone else) makes a signed petition that this will include all of EU, the more of us the more power behind the words, hopefully. This must be stopped, I personally know of several people (non-knitters) who bought woolly cardigans and sweaters when Asos had their recent sale in the belief that they were buying wool garments.

  58. Agree 100% I have never come across an item that is being promoted as wool with no wool in it in the USA. I am going to keep a look out for any such item.

  59. Ugh, know what you mean! My sister and I were searching high and low on Princes St at the weekend… we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re both “textile snobs”! We were on the hunt for quality winter coats and really struggled to find something that wasn’t in the realms of “Jaeger”! I can’t shop online – unless I’ve had a good “feel” of the garment beforehand in a shop beforehand. I don’t believe write-ups..total nonsense. I’d sign up to your petition any day. Good luck :)

  60. My signature won’t help on a UK petition, but I’ll give you 100% moral support on the issue. Bring the PoW and the Campaign for Wool into the fight, by all means: no doubt the silk manufacturers and marketers are largely responsible for the stricter standards for describing silk products.

  61. I haven’t noticed but I do feel this is wrong. We should be promoting wool for all its wonderful qualities not using it to add value to non wool things

  62. I’m sorry I’m not in the UK and would be useless on a petition, but I’d definitely sign it. Although I’d point out that this should be more properly addressed on the European level, at least..
    I’d also like to point out that cashmere is a very tightly controlled appellation as well. There’s a very active cashmere board that watches out for stuff like ‘cotton cashmere’ and makes sure that things labelled cashmere come from 1) goats 2) cashmere ones 3) is of a small enough size to qualify. Wool deserves as much.

  63. Just point me at the petition when it is ready. Am at this moment trying to train myself to say ‘yarn’ at all times since, having moved to a different part of the country, I am having trouble with people’s interpretation of the term ‘woolshop’.

  64. I grew up in Australia with the Woolmark brand – it’s a quality mark give to items containing wool, and if the item didn’t have the brand you just didn’t trust the fibre – you may wish to check them out for ideas http://www.wool.com

    • I have always been impressed by the quality of anything that carries the woolmark brand and i look for it even here in Europe. Here in Norway most high-quality producers of yarn and wol products/clothing use the Woolmark…….also as a way of teaching prospective customers why a 100% high-quality wool sweater costs more than the rayon/acrylic copy. Definitely talk to them for ideas.

  65. Absolutely agree with you and would definitely sign an online petition. I suspect my loved ones are getting tired of it, but I go on a rant about this whenever I see it. I would need to look again for particular examples, but I see this happening all the time. I know Jigsaw does this quite a bit.

  66. Isn’t there a wool marketing board? There is a wool trademark isnt there, which you see on suits and things… so there must be rules for using that…

    I agree with all of your points and everyone’s frustrations. However, the main problem is that for a lot of people (in the UK) wool has a generic meaning ( = yarn) AS WELL AS its more specific meaning as a product derived from sheep. That said, I suppose the meaning of wool in very day parlance does not preclude the introduction of rules and regulations about the use of wool in terms of product/clothing descriptions. I’m with you here on the labelling problem – have been looking for some cotton bedlinen for my children. Lots of ‘cotton-rich’ and ‘easy care’ cotton – which are all poly cotton mixes. Couldnt find any 100% cotton in M&S!!!

  67. I do so agree with everything that you have written in the “I feel that” section, and the body of this blog post.
    I recently purchased a coat online here in Australia, and had to return it, as it was so scratchy and was not even 60% or 80% wool.
    In the description is said wool, and looked like wool, and it was a “duffle” type coat, so I presumed it would be ok. It was awful.

    There is a responsibility as you have outlined, but I think the outcome is always going to be the astuteness of the online business to include in its description the fibre content of the garment, that we the consumer are viewing. Then at least we will have a chance to make an informed purchase, and our money will not be wasted in returns postages.

  68. Going a bit further along this path, I’d like to point out that due to the increse in the price of raw materials, most high-street brands now use polyester and polyamid for almost all their fabrics. Those of us who are “fabric snobs” are already noticing this and are really annoyed, but maybe it’s time for a change of paradigm.

    We really have to stop buying disposable clothes and believing a handknit sweater can cost 40 pounds/euros/dollars, handknit sweaters which I’ve found at Zara with a great design -seamless knitting!- Obviously the yarn was polyester, but if you’re a knitter and know how many hours of labor go into a sweater, it just makes you stop and think.

  69. agree 100000000000000000000% , perhaps you should also write to the British Wool Marketing Board as they do quite a bit of work with retailers

  70. I have often been staggered by the lack of knowledge of fabric content and structure among fashion journalists (who blithely confuse knit, crochet and woven objects, among other examples). I suppose the people who write those ads / descriptions have the same kind of (non-)education – they must be in the ‘communication’ division of their corporations, and have little to nothing to do with the actual designers or manufacturers. Your 0% wool example made me ponder whether they were not trying to say that garment is knitted because that’s what is done to wool, isn’t it ? I remember trying to get students to name the difference in French and, though they were studying translation in order to work in the corporate world, i.e. maybe in the garment industry, they were completely baffled that one should care about the difference between woven and knit fabric. I will sign your petition if it is appropriate for me to do so even though I’m in France, but I think the issue is even wider than just the composition of our clothes. It’s about knowing how the things we use are grown and made : how many people bother about what goes in their food, or even know how onions grow ? The loss of that practical knowledge is a terrible thing. I’m sure you’ve read what Abby Franquemont has to say about the subject – if you haven’t, you will certainly enjoy reading her blog (this post, for instance : http://abbysyarns.com/2007/10/should-everyone-spin-another-yarn-manifesto) and ravelry posts.

  71. about labeling, i agree, in fact, if it’s not 100 percent whatever, it should list the fiber content in order with the fiber and the percentage. it’s wool. or it’s something else with (perhaps) wool in it.
    i was shocked when i fist encountered the word wool to describe the word yarn, by none other than the amazing stephanie pearl mcphee, she was describing sock yarn that wasn’t all wool. my world was in disorder, i tell you.

    • That is really normal in the UK, though. When I was learning to knit 30 years ago, all yarn was wool. Still is, unless I’m talking to Americans online, to be honest. Language is more elastic than we sometimes think.

  72. Hi Kate, I ABSOLUTELY agree. I am, as a general rule, a purchaser of only natural fibres, and am shocked when something is described as ‘wool’ in the name or overall description that contains little, or as you point out sometimes even no, wool. Go for it! (And very happy to sign a petition). (BTW, can’t help but notice the excellent Toast shorts in post above, I have the matching long trousers, so clearly one more shared aesthetic!) Hope to cross paths soon! All best, m.

  73. I totally agree with you. I’ve bought clothes off ebay before because they’ve been described as being ‘wool’ and then they’ve been 100% acrylic and I’ve had to send them back. I think people don’t really think about what the word wool means -as you say, it’s just become synonymous with ‘yarn’. Grrr! Trading standards should definitely get on to this. I’m sure the guidance about silk is because silk is considered a luxury fabric, but I see no reason why wool should be any different.

  74. I had an interesting discussion with a retailer at a mall one Christmas about the scarves that were labeled 100% wool cashmere. And by interesting, I mean he stood by the description and I was flabbergasted. Needless to say, I did not make that purchase.

  75. The Wool Board licenses producers who include a minimum of 50% British wool in their products, but obviously only people who do this can get the license! It can be pure wool (ie mixed with non British wool) or wool mixes. Almost no-one still makes 100% British yarns from British wool but a select few can be found at http://www.woolsack.org.
    The silk cheats seam to get away with “silky”, so perhaps if it’s tightened up we need to include “woolly” too! I find it very frustrating too and simply don’t purchase stuff on which I cannot find the fabric composition or which is not close to 100% natural fibre.

  76. Catching up a wee bit late, but I’m a potential signee too. Wool has been getting so much publicity lately; am I the only one to think there may be a little cynical bandwagon-catching going on? Grr…

    (Matalan have some ‘wool Fair Isles’, and similar ones are all over the shwo this season. Hm. not wool, not from FI… )

  77. I completely agree. I wanted to buy my daughter a winter coat and was looking at Next online – one coat was called “Wool coat” but when I looked at the details it contained no wool whatsoever. Another was called “Wool Rich Coat” – that contained 60 per cent wool. I think it’s completely misleading to name garments this way and I would be delighted to sign any petition to combat this.

  78. Yes, I agree and would sign a petition.
    If it’s against the Fruit Juices and Fruit Nectar Regulations (2003) for fruit drinks to be labelled inaccurately or in a misleading fashion, then the same should be true of wool. (Although not sure I would hold with the old-fashioned wool shop / yarnshop being included in this. I could see the logic which would suggest it might be, but…)

  79. I’m happy for ‘wool’ to include non-sheep’s wool. Lambswool and sheep’s wool are, in my mind, specific kinds of wool. But alpaca, angora, cashmere etc. are all wool to me. But otherwise, I agree!

  80. I’m another late-comer to this debate, but I spotted a “fair isle style” cardigan in a high street shop this week. It had a tag stating that it was made from a “luxury yarn”, but according to the label it was 90% acrylic. Since when was acrylic a luxury yarn?

  81. Hi Kate – Have you come across Eloise Grey? Her clothes are 100% ethical wool – made from tweeds woven on the Isle of Mull…. yes, expensive, but really worth it! I managed to get two of her garments at half price recently and they are so beautiful…. just what I need down here in Tasmania (I am English though). Love your blog – so inspiring, wishing I will get to Shetland Wool Week one year, if it happens again…. thanks for your gorgeous designs, Liz

  82. I had no idea that anything could be labelled ‘wool’ if it wasn’t actually wool from a sheep. Clearly I don’t buy enough clothing. I’m with you, point me at the petition.

  83. I recently bought a “100% Cashmere” long knit coat. I thought I got it for a steal (corporate discount + sale) but when I received it I reallized it was actually 100% NOT cashmere. Innacurate fiber content in online retailing bugs no matter what the claimed content is. How can I trust that brands products again? I can’t.

  84. 100% wool – 100% with you!
    Another issue is the use of the word ‘fleece’ to refer to a garment that is actually made from synthetic fibre.

  85. 100% wool describe properly. acrylic yarn is NOT WOOL as on ebayuk. I came across US labeling regulations on line and i would have thought that there must be similar regulations in Uk. We must all kick up a fuss about this because aprt from anything else, those people who are producing beautiful wool and woollen garments are being cheated by deliberate misrepresentation and ignorance. EBay seem to think that acrylic is wool! We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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