I just received my 100% Organic wool socks from Ireland and they are fabulous! I have been reading for some time about how great wool is, especially organic wool, which is very warm, breathes well and wicks away sweat. Wool is the perferred sock for hikers and anyone who knows anything about keeping warm in a cold climate. I purchased them from Gael Song. Here is the product description:
Some fortunate sheep graze on grassland that has seen no artificial fertilizer, and the sheep are never subjected to chemical dip. From these happy flocks comes soft organic wool. The wool itself is minimally processed by environmentally friendly methods – no dyes or bleach, just the color of those contented sheep. Thick, soft socks keep your feet warm and happy. Natural Cream, Oatmeal, or Brown.
So unfortunately my socks and the sheep from which the fibers were taken are more pure than I will ever be. But on the bright side I am supporting the responsible and traditional methods of raising sheep in my ancestral country. All this talk about happy sheep, knitted wool and pristine grassland has gotten me thinking about our trip to the Emerald Isle in 2005. While staying in Dublin we took a bus/train tour south to a few Irish towns and along the way we stopped in Avoca, Ireland at Avoca Weavers. It was no secret that the tour company and Avoca were in bed together and knew quite well that after the tour showing how the wool was processed and how the looms worked to weave the garments we would be more likely to make a purchase at the store. Well the joke was on them because we were too cheap to buy anything that day and their goods were probably overpriced anyway.
After looking around the internet for a nice pair of socks this former tourist has decided with regret that it may have been cheaper and easier to have bought some wool souvenirs in Ireland at the time. First of all, there are very few online options for 100% Organic wool socks, and these were the only ones I found from Ireland. Number two, even though a stop on a bus tour may not be the most authentic ‘mom and pop’ type place to purchase a souvenir, we would have still brought home a piece of your trip and supported the indigenous local trade. That being said, with what I now know, the next time I have the pleasure of being in Ireland I will try to seek out the most authentic place to buy wool, a place that supports the local tradition, culture and the environment. Maybe this place will be a roadside stand, a country shop or better yet perhaps I will meet an old Irish shepherd in a pub who mentions that his wife hand knits socks from his organic sheep. Ahhh… a girl can only dream.
I purchased the ‘brown’ socks, (which look a little more like nice dark gray-brown to me) and because they are undyed I know they are made from the ‘black sheep’. I thought they were thicker than they looked in the picture, and the medium size is pretty roomy for my foot, but neither bothers me as I am quite pleased just to own a pair of socks this lovely. They are very soft and warm, and I find that I can really feel them “breathe”. On another note they smell very earthy and distinctively woolen. I know after being worn by my stinky feet and once they are cleaned the smell is likely to dissapear, but there is something satisfying about the smell they have. Perhaps it is comforting to smell where the natural fibers came from. The socks I purchased were $20 + 6 dollars shipping and are by far the nicest and pricest socks I have ever owned.
But lets get one thing straight: I am a sock person! Over the years I have had socks off all sorts of colors patterns, heights and textile blends, but I have never had a single pair of premium socks. One after another these socks would deterate quickly, usually at the heel and I would have to throw them out and purchase more. I thought this was just the downfall of being a sock owner until I watched an episode of Martha Stewart’s television show a few years ago. During the show Martha taught Bette Middler how to mend a pair of her cashmere socks (can you get more typical Martha than that?). I remember thinking two things while watching…’ooooh cashmere socks sound nice and soft, I should get a pair someday’ and ‘why would anyone repair socks? they always wear out so quickly and are pointless to repair.’ Recently I solved this mystery: wool and other natural fibers will last a long time and will not wear out like synthetic ones do. So my money spent was a good investment you see; premium price with a purpose I say! Another misconception about wool that I learned was not true was that ‘wool is itchy.’ How can this be when cashmere and merino wool are soft? They are still wool. The truth is that wool only becomes itchy when it has been chemically treated, which was my only experience with wool from American chain stores.