Is it possible to start a company out of pure frustration? As my story shows, it seems it is – if you have a real passion for something.

If someone had told me 18 months ago I was going to have a company selling wool clothing I think I would have laughed. I would have laughed even more if they’d told me that three days after the launch, the New York Times would call me for an interview.

When my husband and I moved from Oslo, Norway to New York with our two kids in fall 2011, I was shocked at how the first signs of winter cold drove all the kids inside. The parks and playgrounds were empty!

My kids had the playgrounds of Brooklyn all to themselves, which was fun – but only fun for about 5 minutes until they started to ask where all their friends were. I was wondering the same.

Too Cold To Play!?

I was confused at the lack of kids, so I started to ask the few parents, nannies and grandparents that I did see about what sort of clothes the kids were wearing. Despite thick jackets, the kids were clearly not warm enough – they always left the playground after only a few minutes.

None of the people I spoke to mentioned wool clothing, which was shocking to me! I explained how in Norway, we dress our kids (and ourselves) with thin layers of wool under outer clothes when it was cold. All winter long I explained to people about the virtues of wool, and they couldn’t hear enough about it!

Ella’s Wool

Ellas Wool

Desperate to warm up these kids, I decided to contact some of the best wool brands from my home country, Norway. Luckily, all the companies I called were interested in to help American kids stay warm too. I couldn’t have been happier! I could actually work with making kids warm – awesome!

Family Traditions

I grew up with itchy wool. I can still remember scratching my skin like crazy when I was forced to wear old-fashioned wool neck-warmers and hats. Many people in the U.S. think that’s the all that wool is. But oh, there is so much more!

I remember when my daughter Ella was born a cold December evening in Oslo. We tucked her into the finest merino wool we could possible find. I still remember my grandmother (Ella’s great grandmother) saying, “How can you dress her in that horrible wool directly on her sensitive skin?” I explained to her that it wasn’t that kind of wool. This was something different.

Napping Outdoors?

You may have read about the crazy parents from Scandinavia who let their babies sleep outside in their strollers, even when it’s -5°C out. Well, I’m one of them.

As an infant, Ella took her naps outside all winter, except the first week (I couldn’t really move much after birth). She wasn’t sick one single day. She actually slept much better outside than inside in her crib.

But don’t take your babies outside right now! First, you have to know what you’re doing. That’s why I started to teach parents how to dress their kids with wool.

How to Keep Your Kids Warm With Wool Clothes:

Rule #1: Always check the temperature before you go out.

If it’s below 10°C:

Put on one base layer of merino wool under the other clothes. A base layer set could look like a merino wool top/onesie, merino wool long johns/tights and wool terry socks. Put normal clothes (like jeans, sweaters etc.) over.

If it’s below 5°C:

Add a second layer of thick wool directly on top of the merino wool base layer. Two layers of wool create a cozy warmness that’s impossible to get in another way. Then, add a snowsuit or heavy jacket (or a sleeping bag for your stroller). Make sure to put on a neck-warmer (these are better for playing than scarfs), a hat or balaclava, mittens and winter boots too!

If it’s below 0°C:

Ok, so you want your baby to sleep soundly in a stroller in the healthy fresh air. First, take a sheepskin (another use for wool!) in the bottom of the stroller – this creates a much, much warmer and more comfortable stroller for your baby. Then, wrap your baby with two layers of wool in a sleeping bag and snuggle them in there! If it’s windy, think twice about sleeping outside. You may need another blanket or a rain cover. If you do this, make sure there is plenty of airflow for your kid!

Soft Wool vs. Itchy Wool

The wool that’s used to make base layers designed to go against your skin is called merino wool (from the merino sheep). Merino wool itself is very soft, but gets even softer when it’s washed in a special way, to make the wool fiber even finer.

 

Wool: The Standard Clothing In Norway

In daycares and preschools in Norway, the kids are playing outside most of the day. The temperature limit for going indoors is -10°C.

My daughter Ella used to go to a daycare like that in Oslo. They had a big outdoor area with apple trees, sandboxes, swings and not even the worst weather kept them from being outside.

When we picked her up after the day was done, she had red roses in her cheeks, totally exhausted but happy. After a good meal (after a day like that she’d eat anything on the plate – fish, vegetables, anything), she’d sleep all night long in her own bed.

Amazing right?

Without wool base layers, this wouldn’t be possible. After trying all kind of fabric blends – cotton, polyester, wool/cotton, polyester/wool – we finally found out what really works: 100% merino wool base layers directly against the skin. It doesn’t itch and it’s even machine washable. Go and tell your granny that too!

 

The benefits of wool:

Why Wool?

  • Wool is temperature regulating, which is great for babies that can’t yet express if they are too cold or too hot.

  • Wool is water resistant, can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture before it feels wet, and will still keep you warm when it does get wet.

  • Since wool is resistant to bacteria, you can wear it again and again without have to wash it – it still feels (and smells) clean!

  • Wool fabric is naturally flame retardant, and is one of the safest fabrics for babies and kids around fires and candles!

  • Because it’s a 100% natural fiber, wool is sustainable. Proper grazing can be done forever!

  • Fabrics made of merino wool are warm, cozy, and extremely comfortable.

  • Wool provides a natural sunscreen, which is especially important for sensitive baby skin!

Tip: A wool onesie works as a perfect summertime pyjama for babies. We experienced this last summer in New York City. It was so, so hot at night and we recognized that if Ella’s brother, Mikkel was sleeping in cotton, he was soaking wet by the morning. When he slept in a merino wool onesie, he was dry and comfortable all night and slept so much better.

For babies, base layers of merino wool are a great choice all year round. I wish all babies could be given a merino wool onesie when they’re born instead of cotton![divider][/divider]

Vibeke Johansen is a mum from Norway who moved to the US in 2011. Soon after she moved, she noticed that in the US they dress their kids very differently in winter compared to Norway. In Norway, everyone uses base layers in merino wool when they dress their kids before they go out. After this discovery, Vibeke opened her online store (www.ellaswool.com) in October 2012, which sparked interest from the New York Times, amongst others.