Merino sheep. They’re beautiful. And their wool is gorgeous, too! Featuring a lovely crimp and unbelievable softness. Oh, so soft.
Because we’re in love with the unbeatable softness of merino, we only use merino wool for our Gems yarn. But we’re really choosy. Our wool has a minimum staple length of 3.6″ (that really long for merino, and means the yarn is less likely to pill) and finer than 22 microns (ooh, that’s soft!).
But wait, we’re even pickier than that. And to tell you how picky, we’re going to talk about sheep butts. Yup, we’re going there.
Photography by Gale Zucker
Merino sheep are adorable and their wool is delicious, but there are some drawbacks to their breed. One of these downsides is that merinos have highly-wrinkled skin. When sheep do their usual sheep thing (that is, pee and poop… sorry for being graphic!), the wool around their tush inevitably gets a bit dirty. That, ahem, matter attracts blowflies who find the skin folds a really delightful place to hang out and lay eggs. This leads to a condition called flystrike, an infestation of maggots which can result in death for the sheep.
To solve this problem, some farmers practice a controversial procedure called ‘mulesing’. Mulesing (yes, it’s hard to pronounce. It was invented by John Mules) is the practice of cutting off the skin around the sheep’s bottom, and the resulting scar tissue is wool-less, reducing the chance of fly-strike.
Would you want someone to cut strips of skin off of your butt? Nope. Didn’t think so. Me neither.
Our Dedication to Non-Mulesed Wool
We’re not here to pass judgement. Flystrike is a tremendous problem, and without mulesing, it’s estimated that millions of sheep would have died painful deaths from flystrike.
But it’s also not a practice that we can promote.
That’s why all of our wool comes from non-mulesed sheep.
When you buy a skein of Gems, you’re not just getting a deliciously-soft, machine-washable skein of yarn. You’re also supporting a farming system where sheep are treated humanely. And that’s worth a lot.
Gems comes in 3 weights: Fingering, Sport and Worsted and over 50 colors in each. So you’re sure to find the right yarn for your project. Find a retailer near you.