Develop - what's new from the Alpkit Design Team
By alpjim | 13, Apr, 2007
We said last year that we would be launching a Merino baselayer range. Since then our woolly friends have been chewing their way through the greenest alpine meadows. These little chaps proved to be true alpine sheep and it has taken longer than expected to round them all up.. but we got them!
Taste the Merino / Polyester Blend
We have had a small run of 500 pieces made and they are available now from the Alpkit shop for £20. The garment and the fabric is made in the UK, the yarn spun in Italy and the wool.. well that comes from New Zealand Merino Sheep, but more of that to come later. Here are the numbers:
- Drop shoulder seam to prevent shoulder rub
- Bent side seams
- Centre front YKK zip (25 cm), for venting your chest hairs
- Poly/Merino mix fabric
- Extended back length
- 43% Merino wool
- 57% Polyester
- Material Weight: 180gms
- Garment Weight: 213g (medium)
Size measurements vary across Europe which is why our size charts show the actual measurements of our base layer. We believe this is useful since you can compare Bleat directly with your existing personal layering system. Traditional British chest measurement are also given as a rough guide. If your forearms are bigger than 30cm in circumference then it will be tight. Please consult the size chart in the shop.
Shrinkage: These garments will shrink by 5% when washed.
Care and washing
Wool likes to shrink when washed. Despite the addition of Polyester these garments will shrink by approx 5%. Our fabric gurus have told us not to tumble dry but we will do some more testing and get back to you.
- Easy care 30c
- No Dry Cleaning
- No Tumble Dry
- No Bleach
- No Ironing
The Alpkit - Merino Saga
We have been wanting to do base layer since we started, we had great things to say about using and abusing other peoples Merino and even a few contacts with companies like MAPP who make much of the merino used by the leading brands. The only trouble was that it wasn't in keeping with what we were doing with other products. Jim was (and still is) working hard on keeping the boulder mats made in the UK and holding the badge of being the best value mats on the market, so it seemed ridiculous to go and make a knitted sports wear product in China from New Zealand made fabric when we are based slap bang in the middle of so much textile heritage.
We got talking to a few local sportswear manufactures, showed them a few samples got a few made and were kind of happy with what they produced. We had planned on using a straight blend of merino sub 18.5 micron, real pukka stuff, but there was a rumour that a local company could make a polyester/merino blend. First thoughts were that that this was going to be Cloverbrook as they had been making some stuff for Marmot but it actually turned out to be a small company based in Leicester. This was looking great.
The deal was this: Merino to come from New Zealand, the yarn would then go to Italy, get spun into yarn, delivered to the knitters in Leicester where they would knit their magic and combine the Merino and polyester to form a Bi component interlock knit. When the fabric was ready it would be driven over to deepest darkest Nottinghamshire to get made into garments. That's still a fair way for a garment to travel but at least it was travelling most when it was at it's most compact.
So......ds Law. We had the samples ready, not quite how we wanted but still good. We had the fabric on order (6-8 weeks for the Yarn and then same again for the knitting) and it was all due for the Outdoor Show way back when in 2006. A few weeks before the outdoor show the initial fag packet manufacturing costings where blown out of the water, and our knitters where complaining about their z and s twists. So the Outdoor Show came and went and the Merino went on hold until the knitters could knit. We went on the hunt for a new manufacture, as we just couldn't afford to make it, sell it at a reasonable price and make a profit. In the end we were resigned to the fact that we would have to ship it out to China. Far from ideal.
Great News the merino was ready!
It was great news but caught us on the hop a little. Due to the way we have to buy stuff up front from many of our suppliers we simply couldn't fit it in the budget, we hated doing it but yet again we still had to stall the project. If we could make them in the UK then maybe we could get going but as it stood it was going to be months from buying the fabric to selling the garments. Then one of Jim mates threw us a lifeline, he knew of a clothing manufacture based in Alfreton, just stones throw from Both Rab and Terranova. So we took delivery of the fabric and drove it up one morning to the factory. It was busily made into garments and only a week or to late.
Now it is over to you. Let us know what you think of the cut, the fabric and yes even the colour! This is what we mean by CoLABorative design.
With the advent of synthetic fibres we greeted first Helly Lifawear which made the North Sea that little bit more inviting, then Patagonia happened upon a company using an etched polyester fabric which turned a usually water hating fibre in to a water loving one; a fibre that actually wicked and more importantly one you could clean and care for, bonus. In the face of all this technological achievement sheep carried on chewing, and when the knitting process became refined enough to create superfine Merino at a cost that not only the best Italian mill could afford then Merino started to make a come back as a fibre to be reckoned with. Now every one is on the Merino bandwagon including us.
Wool grows on sheep
Wool is not just an inert piece of plastic it is a natural product, not quite living and breathing but it does react to changes in its environment. It is warm when wet – we haven’t figured the science but it’s true. It absorbs moisture vapour helping to keep you cool in summer and toasty in winter. This bi-component fibre manages moisture not just by wicking, but actually passes moisture along its structure. If you examined the strands of Merino with a really good telescope like Hubble, then you would see an amino acid called Lysine. This forms a molecular chain that just loves water, it encourages water vapour molecules to be drawn off the skin and along the wool fibres. At the same time there is also a transfer of heat which cools you down. Wool is great, sheep have been perfecting it for years but in general we don’t stand around chewing grass. Polyester has some great features of its own so by combining the two we hope to make a more functional product for active hillgoers. The inside face of the fabric is made from Merino, the natural fibres create tiny air pockets keeping you warm when wet. This is knitted together using an interlock stitching method to combine the polyester outer. The polyester outer uses much smaller denier yarns which have a much higher wicking action to disperse the moisture.
What's so funky about Merino wool anyway?
Wools natural ability to move humidity away from the body keeps you comfortable when you are working hard and its ability to keep you warm when wet makes it ideal for fast changing Alpine conditions.
- Sheep don't grow on trees but wool grows on sheep
- It is as renewable as we are going to get
- Its natural crimp will not sag or bag
- Tear resistant
- Easy care, more wear