Unspun Textiles were tackling the environmental costs of disposable masks with natural, renewable, biodegradable masks from wool
The versatility of wool has been showcased in wool felt facemasks as consumers look for an environmentally friendly alternative to disposable facemasks.
Unspun Textiles, based in the Cotswolds, has been producing wool felt facemasks after discovering the surprising ‘filtration pedigree’ of wool.
The structural integrity of the felt allows the mask to stand out away from the mouth, allowing the wearer to talk and breathe freely.
Unspun Textiles is the only traditional felt producer in the UK and the first mill in the world to create handcrafted design felt to an industrial quaiity and standard. It produces a variety of products from equestrian products to handbags and macbook and tablet cases.
But early on during lockdown, founder Agnete Samdahl was inspired by a New Zealand company utilising the air filtration qualities in projects for NASA to design a facemask which could be worn comfortably and reused.
“We are selling them at cost price and I decided just to go for it,” she said.
“As I discovered, felt breathes so well on its own that there is no benefit in an exhalation valve, which means the air is filtered in both directions making it more difficult for the virus to escape.”
Merino wool was used in the facemasks as it needs to be very soft against the skin, but UK sourced Teeswater, Jacob and alpaca wool was utilised in the designs, as well as some natural dyes to create the patterns. She added felt takes advantage of wool’s ’natural inclination to bond to itself’.
Ms Samdahl grew up knitting and then moved onto hand felting. When searching for something ‘a little bit more interesting in industrial quality multicoloured felts she discovered they did not exist.
“I thought if nobody is making it and I am looking for it maybe someone else is too,” she said.
After researching and custom building much of the machinery needed to create the felts she opened her mill in the Cotswolds.
And she said felt can be made into an unlimited amount of products with its shock absorbance making it ideal for protective products such as their tablet cases as well as making striking patterns.
“It is long lasting, made of natural fibres. And you can compost it in the garden after its use.”
Ms Samdahl added there were an infinite amount of designs which could be created and the different wools could be utilised to make different patterns.
The products use some native breed wool including Herdwick, Black Welsh, Cheviots, Bluefaced Leicester and North of England Blackface as well as Merino and silk.
“I think wool is hugely undervalued as a product,” she added, saying it had so many superior qualities to manmade fibres including its quality as an insulator and shock absorber, as well as its natural filtration.