As we’re entering the winter months in the Northern hemisphere, it’s the perfect time to really enjoy all that keeps us cozy and warm. And now there’s a Climate-Beneficial way to snuggle up on cold winter nights! Today’s post is an interview with Marie Hoff from Full Circle Wool, a small company based in Northern California and creating amazing organic pillows and comforters out of Climate-Beneficial™ Wool.
In Marie’s own words,
Full Circle Wool connects designers with mindfully farmed, regenerative wool products, sourced directly from local producers implementing carbon farming practices for carbon sequestration. Full Circle Wool is based at hand made studio, in Bodega, CA.
Here’s our interview:
Tell me a little about your business. Who is Full Circle Wool?
I started Full Circle Wool in 2016, with an initial purchase of the year’s wool from two ranchers in Marin County who were implementing carbon farm practices. I wanted to support these ranches in their work, and to link the wool product that resulted from a landscape operating under a Carbon Farm Plan with the public. The goal is to link the productivity of our working lands with the consumer needs of the people, bringing our economy back to dependence on local agriculture as opposed to petroleum. I looked at the links in the chain of a Soil to Soil system and saw a big missing piece at the point of processing. We have grassland, and ranchers with sheep, and raw unscoured wool, and designers and crafters, and consumers… But no one taking the wool from unscoured to a form that’s usable by designers and crafters so that it can continue in the supply chain. So Full Circle Wool seeks to fill that void and bring the wool to the public.
How did the idea for Full Circle Wool originate?
I started learning about sheep and wool 5 years ago, in 2012. I was coming from an urban background. So I had to learn from the beginning about what it takes to raise sheep in California, what breeds make sense in which areas, what kind of wool comes from each breed, how to shear, where the wool is milled, and the natural history of the area along the Sonoma coast I had moved to. I also learned how the current economics make it so that most coarse wool on the coast doesn’t generate a profit, even though it’s a valuable natural material. So I wanted to be a link in the chain so that ranchers could make profit from the work of raising wool, and that designers and crafters could have a local, natural material to use.
What’s the process like for creating bedding like this?
First I get the wool scoured and carded into sheets of batting. The batting is what is used as the inside stuffing for the comforters and pillows. At this time there are no scouring mills in California that can process a high volume of wool, so until we get one, I use the scouring mill in Texas. My hope is that by making the locally-grown wool available and popularizing it, demand grows and investors decide its worthwhile to put their money in a California large scale fiber mill. So for now the wool goes to Texas, is washed, and then returns to California where it’s carded in Union City. Then it comes to my studio in the town of Bodega (which is about 10 miles from the ranches the wool was grown on), and I contract my friend and local seamstress, Bonnie, to sew the batting into comforters, using organic cotton to encase the wool.
Full Circle Wool is a part of an “enterprise ecosystem”: you, Marie, also run the Capella Grazing Project, and organize workshops through Hand Made Studio. How do these enterprises work together?
Yes, I found I had too many enterprises actually, I can’t do everything! So instead of hand made studio, the name of the studio space is now just Full Circle Wool. We did classes for a little over a year, and it was really fun and popular, but I decided to take a break from organizing the classes. There are many fiber classes in the area, with both West County Fiber Arts and Fiber Circle Studio, as well as workshops at Windrush Farm and any number of others listed on the Fibershed calendar and at yarn shops like A Verb For Keeping Warm.
Capella Grazing Project is my own endeavor in land management and raising sheep. We raise and steward a rare heritage breed called Ouessant, which is a great breed for grazing in vineyards and orchards. It’s not their wool that’s in Full Circle though, we are so small scale it’s really a different focus. For enterprise ecosystem, I would focus more on the way Full Circle Wool seeks to be a link in the local agricultural economy and community — we work with ranchers, designers, crafters, and local shops. We all benefit from each other, it’s really about making the Soil to Soil system work with all of our enterprises working together.
When you sell Full Circle Wool products at farmers’ markets, how do you explain to people the concept of regenerative, even climate-beneficial wool? Do you find that it resonates with people, or that they get the idea?
Yes, farmers’ market shoppers are very interested and supportive of healthy agriculture. They are really searching for just this kind of thing, not only for their food but also for their clothing and bedding and other material needs. I honestly don’t find they really have the attention to understand carbon farming in detail, but when I say it measures and builds soil health, they are interested. They are most interested in it coming from local farms, and the health aspects of undyed wool (antimicrobial, antifungal, naturally moisture-wicking, temperature regulating, biodegradable). Sometimes someone really wants to nerd out and I end up talking about grassland lifecycles and how we use sheep and cattle to mimic the effects that deer and elk and other native herbivores once had, and that the grasslands co-evolved with for millions of years.
Where can people find and buy your products?
Either online at www.fullcirclewool.com, or there are many shops that carry wool sponges: the Petaluma Seed Bank, The Local Butcher Shop (Berkeley), Three Stone Hearth (Berkeley), a webstore called Life Without Plastic, Lani’s Lana (Cedarville). Shepherdess Holistic Hides carries the bedding.
What’s next for Full Circle Wool? How do you see this enterprise evolving in the future?
I’d actually really like to pull back from doing as much retail or even production beyond the wool batting, and just be the one link in the chain from unscoured wool to batting. Instead of modeling what kind of products are possible and selling finished products, I’d like to see a whole host of designers and companies and craftspeople utilizing wool batting. And then as demand for wool batting grows, I can focus on seeking out more ranches that want to implement carbon farming, and help them get their carbon farm plans going by sourcing their wool and by using the percentage of return to the Fibershed’s Carbon Farm Fund (10% of sales go to this fund) to fund implementation of practices. People are still realizing you can source locally-grown wool batting at all, so there are many designers who are thinking about what they would make.
So I’d like to see more usage of wool batting in a wide variety of endeavors and enterprises, and work on getting more ranches carbon farm plans and getting a higher volume of Climate Beneficial wool coming from these lands into the hands and homes of people who will use it to keep warm and clean and comfortable. And then compost it, returning nutrients to the soil.