KiwiKate has possum fibre and pelt, possum-merino wool, merino wool and sheepskin lovely, warm, practical wear from New Zealand.
The New Zealand possum referred to goes by the Latin name Tichosurus Vulpecula, but is more commonly known as the Brush Tail Possum. Possums were introduced into New Zealand by settlers in the 1870s, to get the fur trade going. Unfortunately what the possums did is have a fabulous time in the New Zealand climate, and aided by the decline in the fur industry, increased their numbers to over 70 million today.
Possums are a pest in New Zealand. Not only do they manage to consume approximately 21000 tonnes of vegetation every night, but they are also killing native birds, and generally upsetting the ecological balance. Many native trees, plants and birds, including the Kiwi, are under threat of extinction because the possum is destroying their habitat. A possum will visit the same tree night after night and eat away until the point where the tree cannot recover. It has also now been confirmed that possums will eat both the eggs and chicks of the native Kiwi and Kokako. Where Australian plants have their own defences against the possum, NZ plants do not. The possum has no predator in NZ. Regular culling has been carried out under government supervision since the 1940s and it is estimated to cost around £20 million each year.
Very interestingly, the World Wide Fund for Nature does acknowledge that possums need to be controlled.
Although the culling began in the 1940s, it has only been in the last 30 years that good use was made of the resulting resource.
Kiwis (the human ones!), known for their ability to fix anything with a piece of no. 8 fencing wire, are a bit of an ingenious lot. They’ve managed to turn the pest into an export commodity. Possum meat goes to Asia (have you eaten ‘Kiwi Bear’?!), and the pelt is used for any number of commodities as it has properties that lend itself to both warmth and protection. New Zealand is the only place in the world where possum fur can be harvested.
Possum fibre and pelt has several useful qualities which lends itself to insulation and protection. The hide is tanned in a heavy duty vegetable tan. The tan also includes chrome, which takes care of any micro-organisms and any bacteria on the fibre. The New Zealand Leather and Shoe Research Association have proved that tanned possum pelt is extremely effective in eliminating foot odour!
Possum is an amazing preserver of heat. The individual hollow fibres store the heat from any warm object close to it, such as feet! This relieves foot fatigue especially for people on their feet all day.
The need to control possums in New Zealand is a given - and this way they are recycled! Possums are not farmed. They are doing very well all by themselves out in the wild thank you!
Possum fibre and pelt products should be gently brushed clean, or rinsed in lukewarm water – possums didn’t use soap! Some articles can also go into the washing machine – but this is rarely necessary.
Possum-merino is a fabric that contains 40% fur, 35% fur, mixed with a balance of merino and a little silk or nylon.
The new blend that KiwiKate Ltd uses is 35% possum, 55 merino and 10% mulberry silk. The original wool products available from KiwiKate were of possum-merino-nylon blend (40%-50%-10%). The possum and merino are two natural resources in abundance in NZ. Both unbelievably warm. The qualities of each can be read in the sections above and below this one. The nylon is used because the staple can be made longer, and gives strength to necessary areas on socks and so on. Sometimes the 10% is silk, but this is reflected in the price of a garment, and laundering needs!
NZ Possum fur blended with Merino wool is the latest natural fibre to be developed in the world. Possum is finer than cashmere. Not only is it fine but it is also very soft because each possum fibre has pointed ends and is hollow. Soft AND non-prickly, and very lightweight to boot. Even the lightest possum product will keep the wearer warm, without being bulky. The knitwear retains all the characteristics of the merino, the finest of wools, but also stabilises the fabric against washing shrinkage. Your possum-merino items can be safely washed using gentle washing machine wool cycles - 30 ºC - and a slow spin. Despite washing the jumpers will hold very little water, and dry relatively quickly - within a day or two. Do dry them flat. Beware: ensure there is plenty of space in the washing machine for the socks to move about as tangling may stretch the socks.
Possum-merino knitwear does not need washing as often as usual knitwear! (The possum, remember, is odour-eating. Truly!) Once your yummy possum-merino garment has been worn, air it out for a few hours. Doesn’t take much!
Merino base layers are a layer of insulation from the rigours of the weather. Once worn, merino base layers are very difficult to take off – far too cosy to do that!
The thickness of merino fibres are measured in millionths of a metre – microns – ranging from the fine 13 microns to the thicker (not thick!) 24 microns. Human hair is around 60 microns.
Merino looks better for longer – the fibres are long and this means merino garments are less likely to pill.
Merino is exceptionally soft – and feels sensuously comfortable on the skin. There is less likelihood of irritation or prickle.
Merino fibres are hydroscopic – capable of absorbing moisture vapour and repelling liquids at the same time. A merino garment can absorb 30% of its weight in moisture before it feels damp.
The natural crimp of merino fibre traps air effectively, thus insulating the body from the cold.
Merino garments create their own microclimate around the body – acting as a buffer against changing conditions and maintaining higher comfort levels.
Merino fibres breathe with the wearer, and there is no unpleasant ‘clammy’ sensation, thus they can be worn in warm or colder weather.
Merino fibres are so fine and light that they can be worn all year round.
Merino naturally resists the build up of odour – and thus merino garments do not need washing as often. (Shh!)
The natural crimp of merino means wrinkles soon drop out – and there’s no need for ironing!
Merino garments resist static electricity – so they don’t rustle!
KiwiKate’s sheepskin products are all made from twin-faced sheepskin – the ‘real Macoy’. Twin-faced means the real sheepskin – where the sheepskin is of superior and even quality throughout, and on the other side the wool is trimmed to 15mm all over for luxurious comfort. (The alternative to twin-faced can be where the sheep’s wool is stripped from lower grade hide and stuck back on to other hide, such as cowhide – but that’s not KiwiKate’s style!)