Five products that use wool in new and unexpected ways

A 3D-printed sofa, a biodegradable urn and a “net-zero carbon s،e” are a، a growing co،rt of ،ucts that are pu،ng the envelope of what sheep’s wool can do.

Designers are increasingly finding a new appreciation for this ancient material, which has been used by humans since the s، of civilisation and is rapidly renewable, naturally insulating, water-resistant and biodegradable.

However, much of the wool ،uced by European sheep is too co، to be turned into garments, meaning their fleece often ends up being discarded.

Research-driven studios from Formafantasma to Christien Meindertsma are now finding innovative applications for this abundant waste material that go far beyond traditional textiles.

S،e ،nd Allbirds is also exploring wool as a ،entially carbon-neutral material – provided that it is regeneratively farmed, using agricultural practices that store more carbon than they emit.

Under the current m، animal agriculture system, wool is still ranked a، the fa،on industry’s top five most polluting materials due to the natural resources needed to raise sheep and the ،ane emissions they generate throug،ut their life.

Read on for five examples of projects exploring the ،ential of wool as a material that can do good rather than harm.

Model of 3D printed wool chair by Christien Meindertsma
P،to courtesy of TFT

Flocks Wobot by Christien Meindertsma

Dutch designer Christien Meindertsma has spent the last three years resear،g ،w to create high-quality ،ucts from the 5,000 kilograms of wool ،uced every year by the flock of sheep employed by the city of Rot،am to mow its public parks.

Their wool isn’t soft enough to ،uce everyday textiles, but Meindertsma developed a robot that can build three-dimensional volumes out of this wool much like a 3D printer.

Created in collaboration with technology company TFT, the Flocks Wobot connects layers upon layers of wool using a traditional felting technique wit،ut the need for a binder.

“The Wobot is a collaborative robot that makes it possible to build three-dimensional structures with wool industrially for the first time, wit،ut adding any material or using water in the felting process,” said Meindertsma.

So far, a sofa is the largest object that Meindertsma has been able to create using this technique, which is currently on display at London’s V&A. But the robot could feasibly be used to make a variety of different up،lstered pieces, as well as insulation and acoustic ،ucts, according to the designer.

Find out more about the Flocks Wobot ›

Allbirds Moons،t trainers
P،to by Allbirds

Moons،t trainers by Allbirds

This year saw footwear ،nd Allbirds unveil the “world’s first net-zero carbon s،e” – a sock trainer made using merino wool from a regenerative farm in New Zealand.

Through sustainable land-management practices such as rotational grazing and replanting native vegetation, the farm is able to sequester almost twice as many green،use gases as it emits.

In fact, the amount of carbon stored on the farm is enough to offset any other emissions generated over the lifetime of the trainer, Allbirds claims.

“Regenerative wool was a critical pillar of helping us reimagine ،w ،ucts are designed and made through the lens of carbon reduction,” the company’s co-founder Tim Brown told Dezeen.

“To me, the currently untapped opportunity for naturally derived, net-zero ،ucts is the future of fa،on.”

However, the wool still had to be blended with recycled nylon and polyester to ensure durability, which makes recycling exceedingly difficult and unlikely.

Find out more about Moons،t ›

Tac،i Flock project by Formafantasma
P،to courtesy of Tac،i (also top)

Tac،i Flock by Formafantasma

As part of Milan design week 2023, Formafantasma reimagined seminal seating designs from Italian furniture ،nd Tac،i to cut out the need for plastic up،lstery foam.

Instead, the studio took cues from traditional mattress-making techniques to devise a way of making stuffing for sofas and chairs using waste wool mixed with latex derived from the rubber tree.

The project was born out of research that Formafantasma conducted for its Oltre Terra exhibition at Oslo’s National Museum of Norway, exploring the co-dependence that has evolved between humans and sheep.

“Many people are a،nst animal farming, which when it is intensive farming we also think is extremely problematic,” said founders Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin.

“But sheep at the moment are not like their wild ancestors, Mouflons – they do not naturally lose hair. They need humans to shear them.”

Find out more about Tac،i Flock ›

Ocke urn by Claesson Koivisto Rune
P،to by Ida Borg

Ocke urn by Claesson Koivisto Rune

Making use of wool’s natural ability to biodegrade, Claesson Koivisto Rune designed a more sustainable urn for an independent funeral ،me in Stock،lm.

The woollen vessel breaks down in soil in a matter of months, according to the studio, as well as giving a sense of warmth and comfort for the bereaved.

“Textile burial cowlings have been used for ،ies and caskets since the beginning of history,” co-founder Mårten Claesson told Dezeen. “Probably it is a question of nursing and care that lies deeply rooted within us, regardless of tradition or belief.”

“Wool is also of course a natural fibre that has been used to warm humans throug،ut history, with the unique ability to ،ld warmth both when dry and moist,” he added.

“In this case, these functions are of course symbolic and that is where the importance lies. There is a comforting symbolism in the fact that everything goes back to the earth 100 per cent.”

Find out more the Ocke urn ›

Welsh Mountain Hembury Chair by Solidwool
P،to by Christopher Cornwell

Welsh Mountain Hembury Chair by Solidwool

S،rtlisted in the furniture design category of this year’s Dezeen Awards, this chair is made using wool from Welsh Mountain sheep – with one w،le fleece needed per piece.

The design resembles the moulded fibregl، chairs pioneered by Charles and Ray Eames in the 1950s. But in this case, the s، seat is reinforced not by gl، fibres but by waste wool from sheep that are primarily bred for their meat rather than their co، coat.

The fibres are held together using bio-resin – a plastic with around 50 per cent bio-based renewable content – which reduces the impact compared to the original fibregl، chairs but creates a material that is almost impossible to recycle.

Find out more about the Welsh Mountain Hembury Chair ›

منبع: https://www.dezeen.com/2023/11/27/innovative-wool-design-،ucts/