For the love of wool

Posted on September 11th, 2018

 

Unless you’re a couture connoisseur, the word “wool” will probably conjure fluffy white sheep grazing in green lush pastures. Fashionistas with a flair for fabrics will know that wool can come from many animals, although some are probably more desirable than others.

 

It’s the beautiful, natural, organic material that is used every day all over the globe. It’s been used for thousands of years and is still as popular today. Wools range from soft and silky ones used for clothing to coarse and strong wools used for carpets and rugs.

 

You probably have numerous pieces of clothing in your wardrobe made from wool, jumpers, sweaters, coats and scarves. It’s such a versatile material and is used because of both its warming and cooling properties along with its flexibility to be blended with other materials.

As if you didn’t know already, the majority of wool comes from sheep. It has several qualities that distinguish it from fur and hair. It’s elastic, it crimps and it grows in clusters. Because of the structure of the wool fibre, it makes spinning incredibly easier as the fibres stick to one another, and it creates a bigger bulk than most materials. Absorbing up to three times its weight in water because of hollow fibres, its also anti-static, burns at a higher rate than cotton and will actually self-extinguish. This is why many carpets are made from pure wool, as they are a lot safer.

 

Mohair and cashmere are popular wools that come from goats. Mohair comes from the Angora goat, which produces a long shaggy coat that is generally clipped twice per year with each shearing yielding approximately 5.3 pounds of wool. Mohair is known for its lustre and is often used in clothing, shawls and fine yarn. Cashmere comes from the Cashmere goat and is considered one of the most luxurious of all types of wool in the world.

 

The Lamas, whom originate in South America (including not just llamas, but alpacas, vicunas and guanacos) of these, alpacas are the most common for wool fibre production. Llamas are generally clipped once a year and produce coarse wool that includes stiff guard hairs. When the guard hairs are left in the wool is used for ropes and rugs, when removed the wool can be used for yarn.

Camels, yes we said camels! Native to North Africa, the Middle Easy and Central Asia, are less well known for their wool production. Camel hair is most commonly produced in Inner Mongolia and other areas in China. Camels are typically sheared once a year; a camel can produce about 20 pounds of wool each year. The wool of camels is used in many fine textiles including scarves, gloves and jackets, The Mongolian people use camel hair to make their homes, called yurts, as well as cine carpets.

Rabbit hair can also be used for producing wool and is also one of the most expensive. Angora rabbits and their dwarf relative the Jersey Wooly are raised for their wool. Rabbits are combed out about every three months to retrieve their hair and can produce about 3 pounds of hair per year. It is used to make sweaters, gloves and scarves. Because of the delicate nature of angora wool it is sometimes combined with sheep’s wool to make it more durable.

The musk ox produces beautiful soft inner wool called qiviut. The musk ox is found in far northern climates including Canada, Greenland and Alaska. The musk ox sheds its undercoat each spring by rubbing itself against anything it can find. People often collect it from wild animals by following the herd during shedding season. In captivity the wool is combed out in a thick blanket. An adult musk ox produces about 5 pounds of qiviut each year. The wool is actually warmer than sheep’s wool and is as soft as cashmere. It is used to make scarves, hats gloves and other fine textiles.

Its good to appreciate the benefits and luxury of real natural wool and the process that goes into producing a wool garment like a duffle coat is quite a long one.

 

After months of lush grazing the sheep’s fleece grows thick and are Shawn to both retrieve the wool and keep the animal cool over the summer period. The wool is classed into 4 different categories, fleece, broken, bellies and locks. Taken straight from a sheep the wool contains a high amount of natural oils- called lanolin as well as lots of dirt and grime. The wool is scoured which basically washes away all these elements to leave you with clean wool. Combing removes any knots and thins out the fleece. There are a number of processes hereafter which include dyeing, spinning and weaving to create different coloured wool, a range of yarns and an array of materials such as tweed, felt and twill which can be used in the production or suits, coats and a huge array of items.

 

Natural, beautiful and soft, nothing comes close to wearing real wool.

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