December 14 2009
As a firm believer that only cashmere can keep you cosy in the damp chill of a British winter, I never expected to find “ordinary” wool with the same properties and luxurious feel. But John Smedley's 13.5 micron merino wool has made me eat my words – as well as being less palatable, I hope, to the moths that have eaten my cashmere recently; I have several sweaters comprehensively holed by the current plague of these choosy little beasts. Very strong lavender bags seem the best deterrent.
Smedley is a venerable company, now more than 200 years old, but it is bang up to date on technology and its Derbyshire mill has managed to tease the fine wool from some rather special sheep in New Zealand into this delicate-looking yarn which is officially finer than cashmere. It feels amazing to wear – like being cocooned in warm air – and it looks incredibly refined.
The limited edition just introduced is by way of an experiment and there are only two women’s styles, both black with fine ivory trim, but a wider range is planned. The pearl-buttoned cardigan (first picture; £210) is very comfortable for winter indoor wear; put it over the short-sleeved sweater (second picture; £154) to be really toasty. I haven’t had the chance to test it in warmer climes, but Smedley say it deals with cool summer evenings more equably than cashmere, which can be too warm.
Despite its delicate look, it is hand-washable and made to last – style-wise, too, it’s a distance runner. There are also two men’s styles, a roll-neck jumper and a classic V-neck sweater, at £310 each.