Obviously here at Shepherd’s Dream, we are big fans of wool, and we have been for over 25 years. Our company’s founder had been in the natural bedding industry for a while before discovering that wool was the best possible fiber for mattresses and bedding, for so many amazing reasons.
And she just so happened to luck out when she found EcoWool®. The destinies of Shepherd’s Dream and EcoWool have always shared an origin story, and to celebrate EcoWool’s new rebrand, we thought we’d take a moment to revisit that tale.
Once upon a time, an animal lover and poet named Patrick Holland acquired five sheepdogs. He found himself inspired by their natural instincts to herd and protect, so he decided to move to the Shasta Valley of Northern California, buy some sheep for his sheepdogs and try his hand at becoming a shepherd.
Raising sheep resulted in wool, and Patrick soon discovered how difficult it was to sell wool for a reasonable price. The American wool industry was in near-total collapse after the rise of synthetic fabrics and the exodus of a healthy manufacturing economy in the United States. After running some numbers, he realized it would be nearly impossible to make a living being a shepherd and selling the wool, so he set out to find new and creative markets. That’s when Patrick met Eliana Jantz, owner and founder of Shepherd’s Dream.
Eliana was on the hunt for high-quality carded wool batting to craft the best all-natural mattress she could make without the fire-retardant chemicals required by federal regulations. These chemicals include known carcinogens and wreak havoc on our environment. Wool, with its natural flame resistance, was a natural workaround, but she was having trouble finding the batting she was looking for.
Inspired by this new potential and always up for a challenge, Patrick decided to do what any shepherd and sheepdog trainer would do—build a wool mill. He came across a recently closed wool carding mill in Oregon, purchased their equipment, and arranged for 30,000 pounds of antique machinery to be disassembled, transported, and reassembled in an empty warehouse in Montague, California.
It turned out that Patrick’s mill is pretty unique—combing wool more thoroughly than other mills, resulting in a cleaner and fluffier wool batting. Both Patrick and Eliana cared about the environment and the sheep, so sourcing wool from local farms who also cared was incredibly important.
The wool turned out to be exactly what Shepherd’s Dream needed for its flagship product that began the all-natural bedding revolution, the All-Wool Mattress, which is still what we’re known for today. Soon word spread, and other companies came looking for all-natural wool batting for their bedding and furniture products. As the mill grew, they refined their wool sourcing and processes, landing on the perfect product that they started calling EcoWool in 2002 and trademarked in 2014.
A lot has changed since then, but that antique carding machine still runs today in Montague, CA at the Woolgatherer Carding Mill, and EcoWool has made quite a name for itself. At Shepherd’s Dream headquarters, we use it to fill our All Wool Mattresses, Wool Toppers, Comforters, Sleep Pillows, and more.
The beauty of EcoWool isn’t just about the products made with it. We love EcoWool for so many reasons:
- It’s the perfect bedding material. It perfectly regulates body temperature (keeps warm but doesn’t overheat), manages moisture, allows for airflow, and cradles aches and pains. This adds up to better nights of sleep and deeper rest.
- It’s biodegradable and sustainable. Unlike most mattresses on the market today, the All Wool Mattress, and any EcoWool product we make for that matter, will gracefully return to the soil. It even improves it, and can be used for gardening! Check out our blog post on mattress recycling and composting wool.
- Humane animal treatment and land stewardship. The wool is sourced from regional family farms who treat their sheep with respect. The sheep are never chemical dipped in pesticides, mulesed (a process of cutting away skin due to parasite infection), or harmed during shearing. They are allowed to roam on open pastures with responsible rotation to ensure the health of the land and waterways.
- Wool is renewable. Those sheep just keep growing that wool! And shearing of wool sheep is actually required to keep the animals healthy and happy.
- It’s healthy and hypoallergenic. Have we mentioned chemical free? We’re really into that. The Woolgatherer uses the OEKO-TEX® standard to test EcoWool for any heavy metals, pesticides or other unwanted chemicals. Anyone with chemical sensitivities or allergies finds that sleeping with our wool bedding is a dream. For anyone wondering, a true wool allergy is extremely rare, check out this post all about that.
- It’s durable. Especially the way we make it by hand! All of our EcoWool products are built with compression in mind, meaning that it comes overstuffed a bit so it can settle out right where you need it. If you take good care of it and give it some sun and fresh air from time to time, your bedding should last for decades. Can’t say that about synthetic mattresses and bedding that lose their shape and support…and then clog our landfills for a very long time.
- It supports US businesses and local economies. Shepherd’s Dream began in a tiny, rural town in far Northern California. Between us and The Woolgatherer Carding Mill, we employ skilled laborers in an area with limited economic opportunity. And we are a crucial link in the revival of the American wool industry, ensuring that sheep farmers can sell their wool for a decent price, mattress and bedding manufacturers have access to healthy materials, and you can rest easier knowing your bedding is healthy and full of good karma.
A Bright, Sustainable Future
If you close your eyes for a moment and try to imagine what 50,000 mattresses look like…here, we can help. Imagine 40 Empire State Buildings—that’s what it would look like if these mattresses were stacked on top of each other. Now take those stacks and put them in a landfill. EVERY. DAY. This is the unfortunate reality, and the vast majority of those mattresses are made with synthetic fabrics and materials that take hundreds of years to break down (if not longer…) and toxic chemicals that harm people, animals, and the environment.
There’s a big movement in the global mattress industry toward sustainability—which is great! And…there’s a lot of greenwashing out there too. So while awareness and intentions are good, as new innovations and technologies come along, we’re here staying the course with EcoWool and other natural materials, traditional methods, and holistic ethics.
Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but it’s so worth it. We take our role as a conscious business very seriously, and we’re grateful for our customer’s support so we can continue to remain competitive while making products that honor both humans and planet.
Over 20 Years of EcoWool…and Counting!
EcoWool has a refreshed look and is ready to continue its mission of offering a safe and sustainable option for mattresses, bedding, furniture, and innovative new products. Check out their website at ecowoolusa.com and give them a follow on Instagram.
If you’d like to learn a bit more about EcoWool, check out this post about the differences between EcoWool and certified organic wool.