If you can get past the itchiness factor, wool garments warm you up and last a lifetime. (Jennifer Bardsley)

If you can get past the itchiness factor, wool garments warm you up and last a lifetime. (Jennifer Bardsley)

In praise of wool, the fiber that saved this California girl

It may itch, but you can’t beat a wool sweater for warmth. And it’ll last a lifetime.

This past week people have been reflecting on things they are grateful for like family, friends, shelter and good health. Well, here’s what I’m grateful for: wool. That’s right, I said wool, the fiber that comes from sheep. That might sound weird, but I stand by my choice. Without wool, I wouldn’t even be here right now.

When I first visited Washington state 22 years ago, I asked my boyfriend (now husband) what I should pack. “It’s August,” he told me. “Bring shorts and T-shirts and you’ll be fine.”

As it turns out, a girl from San Diego asking a boy from Snohomish County for packing advice was a big mistake. I froze my tush off. At one point I remember being at a movie theater and darting across the parking lot to an Eddie Bauer outlet to buy the first piece of warm clothing I spotted, a black Merino cardigan. Thankfully it was on sale because I couldn’t exactly afford it.

“Where were you?” my future husband asked when I returned.

“The bathroom,” I said, not wanting him to know how cold I’d been. “There was a really long line.”

Wool saved me that summer. The sweater was itchy but the warmth was worth it.

You would think that after that first visit to the Pacific Northwest, I would have learned my lesson about proper packing, but I didn’t. The next time I came to Washington was in winter with an engagement ring on my hand. I brought the black cardigan with me, but since it was the warmest thing I owned, it wasn’t enough to do the job alone, even though my future in-laws kept their house well-heated by PNW standards. “Do you want to go to Alderwood mall with me?” my soon-to-be sister in law asked.

“Yes,” I said, glad to put on my coat. As soon as we got there I purchased a second black wool sweater to wear over the first one. I appeared like I was a normal person wearing one sweater when in reality I was a shivering Californian wearing two sweaters at the same time.

I have now lived in Washington for 17 years. In addition to wool sweaters I own wool socks, wool leggings, wool shirts, wool vests, wool hats, wool dresses and wool blankets — all in various degrees of itchiness.

Some of my favorites include the Nordic sweater I bought at Costco almost a decade ago. It’s capable of keeping me comfortable even when the furnace breaks. I purchased vintage Pendleton shirts third hand for dirt cheap. Once the moth holes were sewn shut, they were good as new. Darn Tough socks are useful too, and they have a lifetime guarantee. Wool is the fiber that keeps on giving long after other garments have worn out.

Do you see now why I’m so grateful for wool? It’s the miracle fiber that has made my happily ever after come true. Which is why I’d like to say: “Thank you to sheep everywhere.”

Jennifer Bardsley is the author of “Sweet Bliss,” “Good Catch” and more. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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