Julie Harding snuggles into the world of pure-wool duvets.
Imagine sleeping the whole night through in one seamless, luxurious stretch, neither too hot nor too cold, nor snuffling from irritation, to wake clear-eyed and refreshed. This blissful state may feel like an unattainable dream, but the secret is ridiculously simple: a duvet made of old-fashioned sheep’s wool.
‘It creates the perfect climate for each person,’ explains Bridgett Kelly, interior textiles director of the Campaign for Wool. ‘a duvet containing synthetic fibres doesn’t adjust to the individual, but wool gives you improved quality of deep sleep, which leaves t‘he body rejuvenated.’
Wool in bedding isn’t a new concept, but the arrival of the Continental quilt in the 1970s meant that heavy, itchy, difficult-to-wash blankets were consigned to the airing cupboard. in 2009, Channel 4’s My Dream Farm, presented by Monty Don, showcased Dick and Pauline Beijen’s early attempts to add value to their sheep’s wool by using it as a duvet filling and this helped bring about the resurgence of wool as a bedding material.
‘It was Monty who thought the duvets were a fantastic idea, as we were trying other things at the time,’ reveals Mrs Beijen. ‘Because of him, we put more energy into the duvets.’
Their first challenge was to develop a way of processing the wool to make it fluffy. ‘We worked with a mill in Buckfastleigh, Devon, and found that, by passing the fibres in numerous different directions, we’d end up with a light sheet that was strong and bouncy,’ adds Mrs Beijen, who initially used wool from her own flock. However, as sales soared, the family sold its 200 sheep to focus on the business.
Today, they buy 40,000 fleeces of UK-produced platinum-grade wool through the British Wool marketing Board; this fills the 20,000 products produced every year in their workshops. Obviously, they’re converts to wool duvets. ‘The children take theirs with them when they go on sleepovers. I stayed away from home recently and couldn’t wait to get back to mine.’
Chris Tattersall, co-owner of The Wool Room, met the company’s founder, Jo Dawson, by chance and, before agreeing to join the firm, insisted on trying a wool duvet for himself. ‘Like many people, I slept under a goose-down duvet, but, after trying the wool one, I never looked back.’
Sales have grown by 800% in the past three years, making The Wool Room the market leader. The company’s researchers took 12 years to develop a wool filling that can be washed in a machine and it invited allergy UK to devise a test for allergens. ‘after six weeks, there were no dust mites, no bacteria and no fungus in our duvets,’ confirms Mr Tattersall, who promotes his products as suitable for asthma, eczema and allergic-rhinitis sufferers, although he cautions against buying inexpensive imports. ‘The cheaper wool duvets use synthetic liners, which will defeat the object, plus you don’t know where the wool comes from. The UK has the best wool in the world. We tend to buy from the eastern seaboard. Provenance is important to us.’
Jessica Cross uses the fleeces from her own 129 Southdown sheep and other flocks to fill her Southdown Duvets. ‘Southdown sheep are only just off the rare-breeds list, so I can only just get enough wool. Their fleeces, with their dense, short fibres, are perfect for bedding,’ explains Mrs Cross, who drives all over the country collecting fleeces, which she then ships to Milan for processing, then making into duvets that are sent back to the UK on demand.
Mrs Cross once worked as a mineral economist for Consolidated Gold Fields, but, with her husband, James, a banker, eschewed the London life, bought a farm in Hampshire with 19 ewes and, within 18 months, launched their quality-bedding company. ‘We were like fools rushing in, but I wouldn’t trade my lifestyle now for a second,’ enthuses Mrs Cross.
There’s no doubt that a duvet from Southdown, Devon Duvets or The Wool Room, as well as other quality firms such as Baavet, are an investment. a medium-weight single starts from about £80 (The Wool Room), but the benefits are priceless. ‘A wool duvet can be life-changing,’ believes Mrs Cross and you can’t argue with that.
Make your bed, then lie in it: Where to buy a pure-wool duvet
- Southdown Duvets, Scotland Farm, Upland Lane, Hawkley, Hampshire (01730 827148; www.southdownduvets.com)
- Devon Duvets, 9, Bluewater Estate, Bell Close, Plympton, Devon (01752 345399; www.devonduvets.com)
- The Wool Room (01780 461217; www.thewoolroom.com)
- Baavet Baavet Cyf, Unit 12, Tan y Castell, Harlech, Gwynedd (01766 780780; www.baavet.co.uk)