Wool vs plastic fleece

fleece-nightare-mcnair

The fleece is one of the outdoor world’s most popular garments – most of us will have owned at least one. However, there’s a rather shocking truth about polyester fleece starting to emerge in the outdoor press. It turns out that each time you wash your trusty fleece jacket you are releasing thousands of tiny plastic particles into our ecosystem. Of course real wool fleece sheds fibres as well but natural fabrics biodegrade in a reasonable timescale, plastic just doesn’t.

America’s Outside Magazine have a long article on the subject here.

It seems we’re all waking up to the fact that we have to start looking for alternatives to our dependency on plastic. If only there was a more sustainable, longer term option…*cough*…

Our Great Yorkshire Shirts at the Great Yorkshire Show.

GYS-mcnair-shirts
We’re proud to work in a part of Yorkshire with hundreds and hundreds of years of wool and fabric processing expertise. Our shirts couldn’t be produced anywhere else – Yorkshire is a special place. So it makes sense for us to pack everything we own into a van again and try our luck at the Great Yorkshire Show between July 12th and 14th. It’s a chance to meet-up and chat and try on our merino wool shirts, and our new PlasmaDry™ shirts.

Here’s what the Show’s website has to say:

“The Great Yorkshire Show features the best of British farming and is England’s premier agricultural show. Held at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate it gives first-hand experience of agriculture and rural life through demonstrations and exhibitions as well as a ‘not to be missed’ insight into the very latest in the agricultural industry. There are exciting ring displays, our main ring attraction for 2016 is Bolddog Lings Motorcycle Display Team and we will have more than 1,200 stands with everything from country clothing to combine harvesters.”

It would be lovely to see you there.

For more information click through to the Great Yorkshire Show site here.

Spring cleaning, and the prevention of fine dining for moths.

McNair merino wool hat washing instructions

Merino is wonderful. And with proper cleaning and care it can stay that way for years. As the weather gets a little warmer you may find you’re not wearing your McNair hat or Neck warmer quite as much – so we just wanted to remind you that our accessories are in fact machine washable. A quick spin on the wool setting, no fabric conditioner, dry flat or cool tumble dry and your merino will be back like brand new ready for next winter, or next weekend if you live in the UK.

Also, for those lucky enough to live in warmer climes who may be hanging up their heavyweight shirts until next winter – we need to talk moths. We actually like moths, as long as they stay roughly seven or eight miles away from our precious wool shirts.

There are various natural ways to prevent your McNair shirt becoming the most luxurious supper of their tiny lives. We recommend cedar wood hangers or blocks which naturally deter moths. Try to make sure that your McNair merino shirts and accessories are stored away clean. Moths are partial to the food, hair particles and skin that we happen to leave behind when our clothes are packed away over the summer months. Moths really don’t like dry cleaning fluid, so if your shirt is in need of more than a refresh we’d recommend that this is a good time to treat your McNair to a clean so your shirt is pristine for next autumn / winter.

If you unexpectedly discover moths feasting on your shirt and there isn’t a dry cleaner around you can place your garment inside a freezer for 48 hours and this should destroy any eggs or stop further damage.

Why the things you can’t see sometimes matter most

For many years, the majority of waterproof and water resistant jackets that you see out on the hills have relied on a secret ingredient. And it’s not a very nice one. Long chain fluorocarbons are a key part in what is often described by manufacturers as Durable Water Repellent finishes. This is a chemical coating that causes water to bead up on the outside of the fabric. Ironically it’s not durable at all, it washes off and gets rubbed off easily by rucksacks, ropes and the like. But the real problem with these long chain fluorocarbons is what they do to the planet. Rather than us ranting about it, here’s what Greenpeace have to say.

Proof is now overwhelming that these are harmful to the environment. And governments around the world are in the process of banning them.

Our treatment is called PlasmaDry™ and it’s the result of years of development and millions of pounds of investment. The laser surface enhancement creates permanent structural change to the fibres in the weave to provide a unique, durable water repellency and stain resistance, reduces the need for fluorocarbons.

It’s a new chapter for McNair and also a new life for Moleskin and Corduroy, converting them into genuine performance fabrics.

It’s time to meet your maker

Beautifully Made Here – April 9th 2016

We’re opening our doors on Saturday April 9th from 11am to 5pm so it’s a chance to see where we make the shirts on, try one on, maybe get measured and have a brew. In fact the whole of Upper Mills are hosting an event “Made Beautifully Here” which will showcase world-class skills, and products made locally. Friends from other British companies are joining us including Alpkit who will be selling their bike packing gear and giving demos on fully loaded touring bikes, Walsh Sports will be there with a brilliant range of trainers made in Bolton and Ajoto pens will be explaining their manufacturing process and selling beautifully designed pens.

Olicana Textiles, who make fabric for amongst others Liberty of London, will be selling directly and sharing their space with talented friends who make soft furnishings using their fabrics. Hand-crafted soft furnishing items will be available to buy on the day.

We will be sharing our space with Khunu, who make beautiful yak wool knitwear, Anna Lisa Smith contemporary soft furnishings and HebTroCo makers of handcrafted moleskin trousers from Hebden Bridge.

On the top floor Sgt. Smith will open their doors so you can buy their fun range of kids T-shirts and gifts.

And to keep your energy up there will be delicious treats from the fabulous Hand Made Bakery, craft beers from award winning Empire Brewery and locally roasted coffee from Dark Woods Coffee.

The address is Upper Mills, Canal Side, Slaithwaite, Huddersfield, HD7 5HA.

For up to date information follow “Made Beautifully Here” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Beautifully Made Here

How Nature Inspires Better Clothing Design – Co-founder Neil McNair speaks at the Do Lectures

We were lucky enough to be invited to speak at last year’s Do Lectures.

If you have a spare 30 mins please grab a brew and watch Neil explain our thinking.

We’ll let the Do Lectures introduce the film:

“Neil wants you to stop bringing plastic into the mountains. Living and working in the mountains for the last 18 years has meant that he’s worn just about every conceivable ‘technical’ fabric in the wildest weather. Cocooning himself in fabrics designed to create a barrier against the elements simply doesn’t work in the long-term. McNair’s clever, enhanced Merino keeps you comfortable and still in-touch with the elements. Plus it’s natural, sustainable and effective. It’s the unplastic jacket.

Neil has been a British Snowboard Trainer for over 12 years and during this time he has held the elected position BASI Snowboard Director for 2 full terms. McNair shirts is a passion that co-exists with his Snowboarding. He was born and raised during his informative years in Scotland, home is now the French alps with his daughter.”

(Content originally appeared on the Do Lectures site).

How our enhanced merino keeps the weather out

 

It’s easy to make a really soft fabric and it’s easy to make a really protective fabric. Making something really soft and really protective calls for a little witchcraft.

McNair is in the little village of Slaithwaite for a reason. This old village is in the heart of Yorkshire’s wool country and within a mile or two of the finest wool finisher in the world.

And it’s during the finishing also called milling where the magic happens. After our lambswool merino has been woven, the fabric is gently turned by giant wooden paddles in warm water. This gradually pulls the fibres together, shrinking the fabric and producing a weather proof seal. And to further help the soft part of the equation the fabric is steamed and raised on the inside. This raising also boosts the warmth, trapping tiny pockets of warm air inside.

It might be possible to copy these crafts and build the same machines on the other side of the world but what is unique to this Yorkshire valley is the softness of the water and the gentle filtration provided by the ancient gritstone and shale. It’s this natural advantage that allowed the textile industry to initially flourish and generations of experience to grow. Without the unique skillset and the natural resources of our area the McNair Shirt would feel much more like other felted wool jackets. Heaven forbid!

The result is dramatic. As recent McNair convert Austin Healey explains, “I skied deep powder all day with just a t-shirt under the McNair Shirt, best piece of clothing I’ve ever bought!” Wow, thanks Austin, we love you too!

 

Milling machine – Slaithwaite, Huddersfield

 

Milling – Slaithwaite, Huddersfield

 

Austin Healey in his McNair Moutain Shirt

 

 

Our co-founder Neil McNair talks avalanche safety with Snow+Rock

Snow+Rock’s Daisy Maddinson recently chatted to McNair Shirts co-founder Neil McNair about avalanche safety and the science of snowpacks. (The interview first appeared on Snow+Rocks website).

With a slow start to the winter season and following recent weeks of heavy snowfall, snowpacks across Europe can be unstable and prone to lethal avalanches. Whilst you should never head into the backcountry without full backcountry equipment and a qualified local professional, we’re of the belief that avalanche safety starts with understanding snowpacks and preventing avalanches before they occur.

Experts will make extensive measurements and observations when assessing the likelihood of a slope avalanching, but there is a large proportion of skiers/snowboarders that will happily venture off-piste without any or little knowledge, putting themselves and others at unnecessary risk.

Whilst reading snowpacks based on conditions alone is by no means enough evidence to make an informed decision when heading off-piste, it can tell us basic information on when it’s just not worth the risk. Safety is always the number one objective when accessing snowpacks, and looking at the structure and stability should be a priority when thinking about those fresh tracks.

We chat with Neil McNair, backcountry legend, coach and owner of McNair Snowsports, about what to look for.

neil-sainte-fo

Weather:

One of the biggest misconceptions of snow stability is only needing to look at fresh snow, when the weather between snowfall events can also affect the snowpack immensely. For this reason it’s useful to review your local avalanche forecast frequently between trips. The three main factors to check for when looking at stability are; new precipitation, wind and heat exchange at the snowpack surface.

  • New precipitation. Often avalanches can happen during or shortly after a storm, due to snowpacks taking time to adjust to a fresh snow loading.What constitutes as enough time for fresh snow to merge into existing snowpacks is hugely variable and is influenced by slope factors such as aspect (direction) and elevation.Other factors influencing how favourably new snow can be incorporated to existing snowpacks is its ability to bond, and the density of the snow; for example new snow may struggle to stick to a slab or crust layer of snow, and snowfall which is more dense than existing lighter layers may make them more prone to slides.
  • Wind is one of the most important factors influencing the stability of a snowpack, and its likelihood of sliding.Simply put, wind has the ability to redistribute snow from its original resting place. This often moves snow from ridgelines to lee slopes, or creates overhangs called cornices which can fall and trigger avalanches. Cornices can often break further back than expected and should be given a wide birth when heading into the backcountry.
  • Heat exchange at the surface. The radiation balance at the surface of snowpacks can hugely influence the stability of slopes.The most important factors here are the short-wave radiation (i.e. sunlight) absorbed by the snow causing melt, and long-wave cooling causing refreezing. These can create very steep temperature gradients and weak surface layers formed from recrystallized snow and crusts.The amount of short-wave radiation influencing a slope is controlled by albedo (the ratio of absorbed vs. reflected radiation – most usually regulated by snow colour as darker snow will absorb more radiation). The heat exchange of the surface can also change snow crystals further down in the snowpack, affecting the stability of layers below the surface.

Terrain:

Terrain plays a huge part in the stability of snowpacks and major things to factor in are the slope altitude, aspect and incline.

  • Altitude will affect the type of precipitation falling on the slopes.
  • Aspect can influence the amount of sun a slope receives, and therefore the likelihood of snowmelt. Generally speaking north-facing slopes are the most likely to avalanche during the middle of winter whilst south-facing slopes become more dangerous in the spring and through sunny days as the sun begins to rise higher in the sky.
  • Slope incline can be attributed as one of the most important factors to consider when looking at avalanche risk. Whilst slides have been reported on slopes anywhere from 25-60 degree angles, the most dangerous are those between 30-45 degrees.

 

neil-hiking

Neil’s Top Tips for Avalanche Safety:

  • Check the avalanche forecast. Most avalanche fatalities happen when the risk is 3 out of 5 – just because it’s a middle number doesn’t mean it’s safe!
  • Look for signs of any other avalanche activity – particularly on slopes of a similar aspect, altitude and gradient. This can help you make an informed decision.
  • Just because you have safety equipment doesn’t mean you’re safe. Regularly practice single and multiple transceiver searches and a good digging technique.
  • Talk to the local ski patrol – they will always offer you sound advice.
  • Always plan your route and identify any hazards or terrain traps before you set off. How you approach a slope tactically can help you manage the risks more effectively.
  • Never ski or ride alone when venturing off-piste.
  • If you have a sense of unease or a bad feeling in your gut, listen to it and turn back!

In addition to these observations, digging a snow pit and searching for weak layers of snow (as previously discussed) is a good way of assessing risk. Avalanches will most likely occur when a layer of heavier snow settles on a weak layer; if the weak layer is disturbed the top will loosen and slide downhill, so ensure you check previous conditions as well as current ones.

Remember, this guide is by no means comprehensive and every mountain is different. Ensure you are fully equipped with avalanche awareness, backcountry equipment and a qualified professional before venturing out!

 

Glossary of terms:

Albedo: the proportion of light or radiation that is reflected by a surface.

Cornice: an overhanging mass of hardened snow at the edge of a mountain precipice.

Aspect: aspect is the compass direction that a slope faces.

Why the buttons on your McNair Shirt will never fall off

McNair mid weight Mountain shirt details

When a shirt button came loose on a tester’s shirt three years ago we wanted to know what we could do about it. Small things make a big difference when you’re trying to make the best mountain shirt in the world.

As has so often been the case we didn’t have to look beyond Yorkshire to find world class skills to solve the problem. There’s a company called MMS in Guiseley, just twenty miles away. That’s where we met a very clever and very unassuming man called Mason, an inventor and industrial designer.

We learned that as ‘make do and mend’ became a thing of the past, most of us lost the will or ability to sew a button back on and high quality shirts were being returned all over the world because of buttons falling off.

Twenty years ago, Mason who was already well-known in the world of attaching buttons was approached by a Swiss thread maker who with a chemist had developed a type of rubber thread that could be melted over a conventional thread to keep it in place. At that time a Victorian method called frapping was still being used. This essentially meant wrapping some thread around the shank and then sewing it through the shank a few times. Although this had become automated in the 80’s it was still far from perfect.

Mason then developed the machine to wrap and melt this elasticated thread around the shank of the button. It’s called Thermo Fusion Wrapping. It takes around a second and means your McNair buttons will never fall off. Mason’s Wrapping Machines are a brilliant invention made in Yorkshire that sell all over the world. Hmmm, that sounds familiar.

 

McNair shirt button