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Last month I was contacted by Ramblers Way asking if I wanted to review their ethical 100% wool clothing line. To date, the only non-yarn or knitting related item I've reviewed are Allbirds Merino Wool Sneakers because well, they're wool. While I occasionally get emails about reviewing random products, I've always held the policy that I will only put content on this blog that's potentially interesting to knitters. Ergo, more wool wearables.
As a Massachusetts girl who is perpetually cold, even indoors in a sweater with the heat on and a blanket over her lap (don't judge me), I was intrigued to see if wool clothing was the missing link for my body temperature issues. I chose three different pieces from Ramblers Way in order to get the best overview of their line and have the most woolly variety. All are made from 100% Rambouillet wool, woven into a jersey or ribbed fabric.
Karen Templer's numerous posts on ethical fashion as part of her Slow Fashion October movement do a far better job at engaging with the subject of ethical, sustainable, slow fashion than I ever could, so I recommend jumping down that rabbit hole if you want to learn more or need a refresher course. Ramblers Way chooses to focus their efforts on using organic wool and dedicating themselves to a 100% US manufacturing process. You can learn more of the specifics on their Our Company page which primarily talks about wool, though they have Pima Cotton garments as well. In regards to that, my contact at the company said, "90% of Rambler's Way Pima Cotton is grown in California's San Joaquin Valley using pesticide-free and low water growing methods."
I've looked at a good number of ethical, sustainable, US made/sourced clothing companies before and most stick to basic silhouettes. While it makes sense financially, it's a little disappointing for someone like me who wants some extra pizazz in their pieces. I was really excited about the Women's Cowl Neck Swing Dress for this reason! I'm 5'3", and I can get away wearing this as a mini-dress with tights as shown here, though for wearing it to work I'm sticking with leggings or skinny jeans for a tunic look. Their site calls it knee-length, which it's definitely not for me, so I'm not sure what they based that on.
I like that it doesn't gap at the armholes and that the armholes aren't so deep that my bra is exposed. I will note that it picks up and shows cat hair LIKE A MOFO. Also because of that, I probably shouldn't have worn it with a white sweater but I'm obsessed with my Tualatin and can't stop wearing it, sorry not sorry.
The fabric is thin and doesn't feel much different from traditional t-shirt cotton jersey fabric, though there's a little more texture to it. I think I expected 100% Wool jersey to feel, well, woolier! Combined with a sweater I felt warm and cozy, but due to the length and the open-ness of the silhouette, I don't feel like it's exceptionally warm on its own.
Let's start with the Women's Wool Leggings. I am not showing you modeled shots for two reasons: 1. You can see my underwear through them, and 2. Unflattering waistband/crotch area. I'm okay with that since based on the style of the waistband, it appears like these are meant to be long underwear or pajama style pants rather than leggings-worn-as-pants. They would be fine under a dress or skirt too, but these are not the leggings you let your butt peek out in.
I like these a lot for lounging around the house. They are comfortable and warmer than I expected since the fabric is thin, but they're not the warmest leggings I have ever worn. Occasionally I felt like they were prickling my legs a little, or maybe that was my leg hair stubble pricking the leggings. (It's winter. We all know leg shaving is low on the priority list.) I wore them under jeans to help Mark shovel out the car during Saturday's snowstorm, and that combination was really great. I don't do outdoor wintertime sports, but I'd hedge that these would be a good layer for those of you that do.
I like that there is only one leg seam (shown below right), and it's overstitched? Totally covered with thread? I don't know what this kind of seam is called and Google didn't help me.
The Women's Wool Tank with Center Back Seam is my favorite of the three. It's shown in the first photo lying face-down so you can see the center seam detail that runs up the back. It fits like a standard tank top, but oh man! The other two pieces are jersey fabric while this is ribbed and somehow the ribbing makes all the difference. This feels warmer, softer, and more luxe.
As a knitter, a wool tank top is the BEST IDEA EVER. If you're like me, you have a bunch of handknits that for whatever reason, look best with only a tank top underneath. But then it's cold and a tank top isn't enough to cut it under that sweater, so you wind up not wearing those sweaters and they lie fallow. A wool tank top + wool sweater is so stinking cozy. I want more of these!
This might be TMI, but I've worn the tank top and the leggings multiple times without washing and they have yet to be smelly or gross. Ramblers Way does list this as a benefit of wool on their website, and I definitely don't wash my sweaters often (or ever), but I also rotate those more frequently and they're not right next to the skin, so I was pleased at how well these are repelling odor so far.
The eternal question: Are they worth the money? I would give a resounding YES to the tank top. It's eternally useful and it just feels good on. I want to pick up some other colors when they have a sale (and when I have some free funds for clothes) because let's be honest, this stuff is pricey. It's not out of line from other sustainable/ethical clothing companies though. While I like the cut of the swing dress, the fabric doesn't feel special enough, doesn't scream "I'M MADE OF WOOL!", and isn't warm enough to justify that level of financial investment. I am really enjoying the leggings for lounging, though I wouldn't need more than one pair and it seems indulgent to spend $$ on another pair of leggings that I'll mostly wear at home. If you'd wear them as a layer for winter hikes, skiing, or snowshoeing, I can see these being a smart buy.
Would you try 100% wool clothing?