Woolly thinking's best: Charles

Prince keen to promote the wonders of nature to replace synthetic products.
Britain's Prince Charles. Photo / AP
Britain's Prince Charles. Photo / AP

He is well known for his passion for plants, but this may be the strangest crop the Prince of Wales has yet tried to raise.

Prince Charles has disclosed how, in a curious experiment to establish the comparative qualities of wool and synthetic fibre, he buried two jumpers in a flower bed at Clarence House.

His aim was to illustrate wool's virtues as a material that is not only endlessly versatile but also eminently recyclable and totally biodegradable.

Writing in the Telegraph Magazine he recalled how "six months later, a ceremonious exhumation revealed an intact synthetic jersey, fit indeed to be washed and worn, while the woollen jersey had quietly and usefully biodegraded itself away to nothing".

Charles also set fire to a pile of jumpers, one synthetic, the other woollen, to test their fire retardant qualities.

"Synthetic jerseys produced a dramatic and disconcerting blaze," he concluded. "While their woollen counterparts merely smouldered in relative safety."

There may be something of the mad scientist in the Prince's tests, recalling his famous habit of talking to his plants, but the experiments are in line with his wider thinking on the environment.

Charles has long been credited with popularising the use of organic produce and he has now turned his attention to the wonders of wool.

Next week he will host the Dumfries House Conference, in Scotland, bringing together spinners, weavers and designers such as Paul Smith and Ermenegildo Zegna, along with carpet makers, sheep farmers, retailers and mill owners.

As the Prince points out, the price of wool has fallen sharply, with some sheep farmers receiving less for their wool than the cost of shearing their sheep, as a result of manufacturers turning to synthetic materials.

In response he helped launch the Campaign for Wool in 2010.

The campaign has staged more than 200 events, including shepherds grazing sheep on grass laid along Savile Row in London and in New York's Bryant Park.

Fashion shows in Japan, Italy and China have all featured woollen garments.

Charles says there were now signs of a revival, with the global fall in sheep numbers slowing down.

"I want to encourage a much greater understanding of wool, not only as a global environmental resource but also as a global fashion resource of the highest quality," he writes.

"And that is exactly what wool provides."Daily Telegraph

- Daily Telegraph UK

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