What is ‘Wool’?
Wool is a natural fibre obtained by shearing the coat of a sheep (or goat, or alpaca or similar animal). It is made of keratin, just like human hair, however unlike human hair wool also contains lanolin in its natural state. Here at Interknit, we use predominately Australian Merino Wool.
What does ‘Merino’ mean?
In our context, Merino is a breed of sheep. While Australia and New Zealand domesticated the modern Merino, it isn’t native to either country and was originally bred in Portugal and Spain. Today, Australia has a flock of around 70 million Merino sheep living free-range over a variety of Australia’s climate conditions, making it one of the most recognisable sheep breeds in our country.
Fun facts about Wool
Wool is a hygroscopic fibre, it can absorb twice as much water vapour as cotton and up to thirty times as much as polyester. This makes it perfect for absorbing sweat and body odours while keeping the body dry and fresh.
The environmental footprint of a woollen garment is one of the lowest in the market. It is renewable as the sheep will grow a new fleece each year and it is 100% biodegradable, shown to breakdown completely in soil in as little as two months even after treatment and dye processing.
In Australia we spell it ‘woollen’ and in America they drop an ‘L’ leaving them with ‘woolen’, most of the time. In an analysis of spelling techniques, American’s used the Australian/British spelling 10% of the time.
While wool will ignite with enough heat, it does not support flame and will only smoulder for a short time making it one of the most naturally fire resistant fibres available. This is due to the high nitrogen and water content in wool making it require more oxygen to support combustion than other textile fibres. Wool will also produce less smoke and toxic gas than synthetic fibres.
What’s the difference between a woollen and a worsted wool?
It’s the length of fibres. Woollens are made with shorter fibres that stand up from the surface and give the fabric a hairy touch. Worsteds are made with longer fibres which produces a surface that’s smooth to touch and comfortable next to the skin.
Why is wool sometimes blended with other fibres?
Fibres such as nylon are often blended with wool to add a novelty quality or decorative effect. But it’s important to know that the wool in this type of blend gives up none of its positive characteristics.
Does the wool season last beyond fall/autumn and winter?
Yes. Wool is and can be worn for at least ten months of the year in perfect comfort due to its natural climate control. It keeps you cool in the warmer months just as it keeps you warm in the winter.
Busting Common Myths
Some people are allergic to wool – FALSE
There is no scientific evidence of a true wool allergy. The closest to a true allergy one can have to wool is an allergy to lanolin, the natural oil produced with a sheep’s fleece. An allergy to lanolin is not the same as an allergy to wool as the modern commercial process of spinning fleece into yarn removes all traces of lanolin (and dirt etc). Some people report a skin irritation from wearing wool but this has been proven to be the same irritation caused by any short woven fibre and can be resolved by choosing a softer quality of wool, such as Australian Merino. You can read more about allergies and irritation on our blog.
Not all wool is organic – MIXTURE OF TRUE & FALSE
By definition all wool is organic. It certainly isn’t inorganic. However some companies are marketing organic wool where the word ‘organic’ refers to the process of spinning and dyeing the yarn with a deliberate decision to use more environmentally friendly products. In this sense the word ‘organic’ has been reduced to a marketing ploy as opposed to a scientific classification.
Wool has to be lined to be comfortable – FALSE
Wool can be more comfortable unlined because it breathes and takes moisture away from the body. Lining material is synthetic and can’t breathe the way natural wool does.