Wool is a wonder fiber.
It is water resistant. Its fibers’ hard outer layer throws off water and its core absorbs moisture vapor without becoming damp. It is moisture wicking, the wool absorbing moisture from the body and it helps to keep the wearer dry and warm. It is an insulator, the wool’s crimp creates insulated air spaces that prevent body heat from escaping. It ‘breathes’. It is a great fiber for outerwear, because it has the versatile ability to keep the wearer warm when it is cold and cool when it is hot. It blends well with other fibers, allowing the production of many different kinds of fabric.
There are many types of wool. The most widely used is sheep’s wool. It is wrinkle-resistant, static-free, easy to merino fabric dye, durable, stretch resistant, and versatile. Woolen fabrics are used for example to make suits, dresses, sweaters, blankets, top coats and upholstery.
The most celebrated sheep’s wool is merino. Most merino sheep are raised in Australasia. The wool is noted for softness, warmth and sheen. Shetland wool from Northern Scotland is normally used for luxury knitwear. Lambswool taken from young sheep is soft, smooth and silky. It is excellent for garments worn next to the skin, and is hypoallergenic. Virgin wool is wool taken from a lamb’s first shearing. This is the softest wool.
Sheep’s wool is classified by the fineness of the yarn. The more fibers are used per square centimeter of cloth, the finer the count and the softer the cloth. ‘Super’ wools are categorized as Super 100s, Super 110s, Super 120s, etc., the higher the number the finer the yarn.
Boiled wool is dense, durable, and water-resistant. It is supple like knitwear but retains its shape like a woven fabric. Hats, gloves, scarves and other outerwear are often made of boiled wool.
Worsted wool has been made in England since the 1700s. Wool is spun into smooth twisted yarn that is combed anew to remove short fibers, leaving only long fibers that lie flat and parallel. Worsted does not wrinkle or crease easily and is commonly used for suits.
Tropical-weight wool is a two-ply, plain weave, worsted that is lightweight and ‘breathes’. Shearling is tanned lambskin or sheepskin with the wool not removed. It is a luxury fabric used for outerwear and slippers.
Tweed, gabardine, flannel and fleece are other popular sheep’s wool or wool-blend fabrics.
Alpaca wool comes from the alpaca, a native of the Andes. Two breeds, the huacaya and the suri, are farmed. The more common breed, the huacaya produces thick, crimped wool that grows quickly. The suri’s wool grows more slowly, and the fleece is longer and more lustrous. Alpaca wool is lightweight, has a good luster, is strong, and does not pill easily. It is used for high-quality suits, sweaters, blankets, upholstery, etc.
Mohair wool, renowned for silkiness and sheen, comes from the angora goat. Mohair is strong, durable and lightweight, and it ‘breathes’. It does not crease, mat or pill, and it drapes well. Natural mohair comes in many beautiful colors. Like alpaca, it is used for high-quality garments etc.