Wool is one of nature’s best insulating fibres and has been used to make clothing for centuries. Not only is wool extremely good at holding in warmth, it also wicks moisture and dries faster than cotton. The most widely available types of wool come from sheep. However, sheep aren’t the only animals that produce natural, warmth-enhancing fibres. Alpaca, angora rabbits and camels also produce luxurious, wool-like fibres that are used to make high-quality knitwear and woven fabrics. To begin, it helps to understand some of the benefits that all types of wool offer. Wool has several characteristics that other natural fibres like cotton and linen simply can’t compete with.
WOOL IS WATER RESISTANT
Unlike human hair or animal fur, wool fibres are actually hollow with a durable, flexible and water-repellent exterior. The structure of wool fibres is composed of small, overlapping sections, kind of like shingles on a roof. Each fiber’s core absorbs up to 30% of its weight in moisture vapour without becoming damp or clammy. Meanwhile, the hard outer layer protects against outside moisture from rain and snow.
WOOL WICKS MOISTURE
Aside from blocking most external moisture, wool fibres wick perspiration away from the body. Normally, as your sweat evaporates, heat is drawn away from your skin. This effect is comforting in hot weather, but can dampen your clothing and give you chills in colder weather. Unlike cotton, which absorbs moisture and tends to remain wet, wool actually wicks perspiration and allows it to evaporate quickly, thus keeping you warmer.
WOOL IS A WONDERFUL INSULATOR
Wool fibres are not perfectly smooth or straight. Instead, they’re crimped, which helps produce tiny insulating air spaces that retain more heat. In a way, wool functions similarly to the puffy fiberglass insulation inside the walls of a house.
WOOL IS BREATHABLE AND REGULATES TEMPERATURE
Wool has a wide comfort range, which is very helpful for adapting to changing weather conditions. This unique property makes wool the perfect fibre for crafting outerwear and insulating apparel, since it has the ability to provide warmth in colder conditions and also breathes well as temperatures warm up.
WOOL IS NATURALLY ODOR-RESISTANT
You may have noticed that synthetic fabrics like polyester and polypropylene can begin to retain odours over time. Wool is much more resistant to retaining odours. Sheep’s wool is also naturally resistant to wrinkling and static.
Lambswool is wool which is 50mm or shorter from the first shearing of a sheep, at around the age of seven months. It is soft, elastic, and slippery, and is used in high-grade textiles. Specifically, lambswool is wool taken from the first shearing of the animal, usually around seven months (after its first coat has come in). It’s fine and soft, and requires minimal processing. In order to be classified as lambswool, fibres must be shorter than 50mm at first shearing. Subsequent processing causes fibres to shorten further. There are 60 colours in the lambswool range and the thickness of the yarn is 1/14 Nm count/thickness.
Lambswool can come from any species of sheep, but merino wool is only the wool that comes from a merino sheep. Not all merino is created equal, however. Merino is a game of microns, specifically the diameter of the follicle. The smaller the number, the softer and more expensive the wool. Garden variety merino wool clocks in around 23 microns, human hair is around 40 microns in diameter, fine merino around 18 microns; superfine is 16; and the king of kings, ultrafine, is anything less than 15.5 microns. Merino wool is thinner, cooler, and tends to have less pilling. Regularly used in high-end performance athletic wear, Merino wool is much preferred over synthetics. “Merino” is the name of the special breed of sheep credited with having the softest wool.
The merino colour range has 31 colours in it, this is a 1 ply yarn with a 2/30s Nm count/thickness.
Astronauts wear wool for comfort in the confines of their spacecraft. Wool protects mountain climbers and polar scientists, the sailors who navigate single-handed the oceans of the world and men ‘who strike oil in Alaska. It is a fibre fit for heroes-and for more ordinary folk. The story of wool began a long time ago, before recorded history when primitive man first clothed himself in the woolly skins, of the wild sheep he killed for food. He had discovered a durable fabric which gave him what nothing else could give, protection alike from heat and cold, from wind and rain. A versatile fabric which kept him cool in the heat of the day and warm in the cold of the night, which could absorb moisture without feeling wet. Sheep have been roaming Britain’s meadows, hills, dales, downs and mountains for thousands of years. Over the centuries British sheep breeders have developed more than 60 breeds including some with black or coloured wool. In the wool range we have 49 colours, they include 10 marl/tweed blends. All our British wool yarn is sourced from UK suppliers sourced from sheep in the UK.
We are also members of the British Wool Marketing Board which operates the central marketing system for UK fleece wool. A farmer-run organisation, the BWMB was established in 1950 with the aim of achieving the best possible net return for producers. It is the only organisation in the world that collects, grades, sells and promotes fleece wool and is the only remaining agricultural commodity board in the UK. Receiving no financial support, although operating commercially, the BWMB is a non-profit-making organisation, returning to producers the market price for their wool, less its own costs.