When I was nineteen, I went on a mission trip to a small town just outside Lima, Peru. On our last day, our guides took us to the Inka Market, an outdoor bazaar where local artisans sell their goods, haggling with tourists who think they’re getting the upper hand. I wandered into a stall where a spirited young salesman talked me into buying the most expensive wool blanket he had. Fifteen years later, I’m on my second house, my third couch, and my sixth car, but I still have that blanket, and it’s only gotten softer.
Wool blankets thwart consumerism by lasting for decades and aging well, though I suppose I should offer the disclaimer that I actually own three wool blankets because of how warm and inviting they are (so…consumerism). My dad has always said when buying something for yourself, cry once (or in my case three times) and buy the best. When it comes to throw blankets, wool is the best.
Wool blankets naturally wick away moisture, which means they regulate your temperature by keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and they won’t develop a musty smell over time (this is also why dust mites tend to leave wool alone). Wool is naturally flame retardant, and because the fibers are stronger than cotton, wool blankets hold their shape better than cotton blankets and are less likely to develop holes. Aesthetically speaking, a wool blanket draped over the back of your couch adds visual warmth and depth to a room.
If you’re tired of shivering under that synthetic-fiber throw that cost you $19.99 at your local discount department store (I’m looking at you, TJ Maxx), then it might be time to step it up to a blanket you can enjoy until you pass it down to your kids.
Here are a few worth checking out…
I’m partial to Woolrich because they’re based in Pennsylvania, and while there’s never much going on in PA, we have the Steelers, and we have kick-ass wool blankets. Woolrich was established by John Rich in 1830. They wove uniforms and blankets for Union soldiers during the Civil War and later made the chamois shirt a mainstream sartorial piece.
They now have an upscale line of outdoor gear, John Rich and Bros., with pieces made all over the world, but their backbone is still blankets. The Rough Rider, with its buffalo check pattern, is about as classic as you can get. I’ve had my Woolrich blanket for five years, and during the fall and winter months we use it everyday. Check out this video for a little history of the buffalo check pattern.
You can’t talk about wool blankets without talking about Pendleton, and their Glacier National Park blanket is as iconic as they come. This blanket is woven from pure virgin wool (meaning the wool was taken from the first shearing of a lamb, which doesn’t hurt the lamb) in one of the company’s several Pacific Northwest mills. Pendleton is a socially conscious company, donating to numerous charities and using Native American artists to create the designs for their blankets.
Faribault was founded in 1856 in Minnesota by one man with a horse-powered mill. He made wool batting, then yarn, then blankets. During WWI, Faribault provided over 100,000 blankets to US soldiers and sold them to citizens back home for $20 a piece. The Trapper Throw is made from lightweight virgin wool that holds heat exceptionally well and is dyed in richly saturated colors (I know this because there’s currently a green Trapper Throw draped over the foot of my bed.)
Learn about the differences between wools like merino, cashmere, and more.
For the utilitarian, the EKTOS blanket is hard to beat. At five pounds, this blanket is heavy, rugged, and perfect for your next camping trip. The wool is triple washed at the factory before the weaving process to ensure the blanket won’t shrink or shed. And at $50, you may as well get two.
If you want a blanket that’s lighter than lambswool but just as warm, alpaca is a solid choice. The best alpaca goods come from Peru, which is where Avocado gets their blankets. This one is 100% baby alpaca, meaning it comes from the first shearing of the alpaca (it’s not really a baby). And because alpaca wool has no lanolin, it’s hypoallergenic. The blanket I bought at the Inka Market fifteen years ago is alpaca, and it’s my kids’ favorite.
When the budget isn’t an issue, reach for the cashmere blanket. It’s the softest. It’s the best (and this one is available in 15 colors). Wondering what the heck cashmere is?
How to Care for Your Wool Blanket
- Shake your blanket outside, then hang it in a well-ventilated area to air it out.
- Brush your blanket with a soft brush (a shoe polishing brush works well for this, assuming you haven’t used it on your shoes).
- Spot treat any stains. Don’t scrub the stain because you’ll disturb the nap of the fibers. Let the stain soak in warm water with a drop of wool detergent, then blot.
- You can wash your wool blanket in the washing machine on the gentle cycle, but unless you have a blanket that specifically says it’s washable wool, I’d avoid this. Don’t wring out the blanket; instead, roll it into several towels to soak up excess moisture, then hang it flat on a strong clothesline.
- Don’t forget to check the care instructions on the blanket itself. If it says dry clean only, it’s dry clean only. And the $25 or so that the dry cleaner will charge you once every other year is well worth it.
- If you pull your wool blanket out of storage, and it smells musty, you’re not storing it correctly. Wool blankets must be stored in an airtight container or, better yet, a space bag. Throw a few cedar chips in just to make sure any moths who get through your container don’t eat the fibers.