A short fluffy tale

One of these cloths — here on the cutting table today — is not like the others. It looks like the others, smells like the others, drapes like the others, and has the same fluffy finish — has indeed a feel of seldom paralleled plushness, such that if you close your eyes and give the material a feel, you swear it’s a cashmere sweater between your mitts.

The cloth different to the other two also has the exact same top-layer of long and springy guard-hair fibres. It even shares with the other two the same orderly pin-dot weave, visible if you wade into its undergrowth of super-fine under-fibres. And, if it could talk, this cloth, it would tell you about the same upbringing in south-west Wales, by a mill on a beach-side spot to which sheep-rearers have been bringing their fleeces for centuries.

But one of these cloths is fundamentally different. One of them — the mid-grey one, if you were wondering — is made with pure merino wool; the other two are a blend of angora and lambswool. The latter two in fact appeared last year in the form of some raglan shirts. The quality it brought to those shirts — feather-light but very warm, with the minutely fine angora hairs, all pockets of micro-fuzz, trapping air, heating it gently, serving as a private layer of insulation — saw the cloth instantly earmarked for a repeat appearance.

Thing was, the angora part of its composition didn’t sit entirely well with some; wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, the part with the rabbits. And so word was had with the mill, and the challenge was keenly taken up to replicate the cloth, but with Flopsy and friends taken out of the equation. Six weeks later then came the result — and the result was uncanny, with no difference detectable at all between cloths angora and non-angora. Even when you think you know what to look for, you can’t trick yourself into thinking you can find it. Which means same great cloth with none of the moral or animal-welfare compunction.

The outcome, then, is a material whose softness is matched here at the factory only by the two other materials with which like a freshly plumped cloud it now sits. That’s sits as in “sits on the cutting table”, which means just a couple of weeks, all being well, until a limited run of work jackets land at the workshop — some with angora, some without.