California Wool Inventory and Map
Timeline 6 months
Summary At three million pounds of raw wool per year, California is the largest wool producing state in the US. Sadly, a good portion of this fiber is sent overseas for processing or tossed in the landfill. In working with Fibershed, we sought to answer the question: Does California have enough high-quality fiber for commercial scale processing? By July 2013, we completed the first ever supply analysis of California wool and collected quality (micron count) and quantity data on 1.408 million pounds of raw fiber (44.8 percent of the California wool supply see Fibershed Wool map). The Rudolf Steiner Foundation, Blackie Foundation, the Sarah and Evan Williams Foundation, and the Clara Fund generously supported this endeavor.
Collaborating with soil scientists, we created a series of surveys which were distributed to nearly three thousand wool producers in California, nearly 200 of whom generously gave an hour to answer detailed questions about their flocks, grazing practices, and land use. We also enlisted the help of wool shearers to collect data on wool quantity and quality (fiber thickness, length, and cleanliness). Roswell Wool, the largest wool auction house in the United States, also provided us quantity and quality data for all California 2012 wool producers in their database.
We integrated the various datasets into one cohesive database, allowing us to analyze the data and visualize it. The Wool Map is one of the outputs of this project, allowing us to understand the relationship of climate zones to wool quality and flock size. We learned that the wetter coastal regions produce coarser wool and the drier regions produce finer wool.
In our analysis, we discovered that over one million pounds (83 percent) of the wool we inventoried is under 25 microns; fine enough to wear next to the skin, allowing for the production of functional and commonly worn garments. All wool over 25 microns (241,000 pounds) can be utilized for outerwear, felt and bedding products. We were ecstatic to learn that, yes; California does have enough high quality fiber to potentially justify commercial-scale processing.