Wool is an incredible fiber. Durable, breathable and warm it has been used to create fabrics for thousands of years. Since their domestication 10,500 years ago, sheep were usually kept for milk, meat and skins. However small statues found in Iran, dating to around 6000 BCE show the earliest evidence of wooly sheep being kept for their fiber. Initially sheeps’ wool was plucked and worked by hand and then woven or felted into fabric, carpets and clothing.

The warmth of wool and the mobility of sheep allowed these ancient civilisations to spread far beyond the Middle East, trading wool as they went. Between 3000 and 1000 BCE the Persians, followed by the Greeks and then the Romans traded and distributed sheep and wool across Europe. In Roman times, the finest wool came from Taranto in Puglia, which was then was part of Greece, Magna Graecia.

Knitting, which also originated in Persia around 1100 CE, made its way to Europe in the 12th century via Mediterranean trade routes. One of the earliest depictions of knitting in European art can be found in the painting by Tommaso de Modena entitled “Madonna operosa” from 1345 CE.

Also around 1100 CE, the Spanish imported the ancestors of the Merino sheep from Morocco. Being the softest and finest wool to date, the Spanish led Europe in wool production for many years. The Spanish kept the Merino sheep to themselves until the 15th century, when they gifted some of their precious breed to the papal states in Italy. Merinos were then bred with native Italian sheep to create Italian Merinos: The Gentile di Puglia, now bred solely in Puglia and Basilicata, and the Sopravissana from Marche which are now bred throughout central Italy in Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany.

Italian Wool is renowned for being incredibly soft, light and very warm, from sheep with ancient origins, that graze the pastures of some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

Check out our Handmade in Italy collection for hand knit pieces from Italian Wool.