Thank you for your informed explantation, AMann. I never heard of mulesing until now. Having read about it, I will make sure that merino I buy comes from New Zealand, or other country where the practice is not allowed. Australia does allow it.
And I agree that cheap labor (underpaid workers) is but one of several ways a company can keep prices low. A few years back, Planet Money die a long piece on the making of a cotton T-shirt, from the cotton fields (they chose USA cotton) to the spinning mills where the cotton is spun into yarn ( I believe they chose Indonesia rather than India or China which spin most of the world’s cotton yarn), to the knitting mill somewhere else, then to the country where the knitted fabric is cut and sewn into T-Shirts. They chose a South American country for the women’s T-shirts—maybe Ecuador?—-rather than Cambodia, as factory in South America paid the workers (all women) better and provided on-site daycare for their children.
After this came shipping the finished product to warehouses in the US, where it is packaged, labeled, and sent out to the retailers. If I recall correctly, the cost of shipping was the single largest component of the price paid by the consumer.
Back to merino—-Stan, the small holes could have been silverfish, but more likely were caused by moths. You will almost never see them. I have been buying and wearing merino for 12 years now, and only one shirt has developed holes—-during a ski trip where I unpacked my clothing into a wooden drawer. I discovered the small round holes, lots of them, the next morning—-those larvae work fast! And I never saw one.
Since then I have kept most of my sweaters and merino tops in zippered bags, or in those plastic boxes that salad comes in. And I distribute little moth-repellent bags of peppermint around in the cupboard where I keep the sweaters and tees. I actually don’t think we have any clothes moths here in Seattle, but the peppermint gives a pleasant aroma to the cupboard!
Jean, if you have had allergic reactions to merino, it could be the dye or other fabric finish, or it could be the wool itself. You could try other forms of “wool” which comes from animals other than sheep, in case the allergy is species-specific. Cashmere is from a goat, alpaca is from . . . an alpaca. Mohair is also a goat, but I think it is scratchy no matter what. I do have friends who are allergic to wool but happily wear alpaca—-but unfortunately it is even more expensive than merino.
Or try a blend—-Icebreaker makes a fabric they call Sphere, which is a blend of Tencel lyocell (60%) and New Zealand merino (40%). The merino meets the Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)
REI sells a womens’ longsleeve Sphere tee, and one color (aqua) is on sale for $41 right now.
I have also found other Sphere products on sale on Amazon.