Wool is a fiber obtained from different animals, mostly sheeps, each having its own name. Mohair or cashmere is goat’s wool, qiviut is from muskoxen and angora is from rabbit. It is used for fabrics because individual fibers easily attach to each other and stay together, making it easy to spin. It is also bulky which causes it to retain air and with air – heat. Therefore it provides body isolation from outside cold and heat.
History of Wool
History of wool, like the history of a human, begins in Asia Minor about 10,000 years ago. Man living in the Mesopotamian Plain used sheep for basic human needs: food, clothing and shelter and later on woolens became part of the riches of Babylon. The warmth of wool clothing and the mobility of sheep allowed mankind to spread civilization far beyond the warm climate of Mesopotamia. Between 3000 and 1000 BC the Persians, Greeks and Romans distributed sheep and wool throughout Europe. The first wool plant was established by Romans in England in 50 AD. For centuries European countries cherished and developed wool industry and trade. For example, in Spain a prosperous wool trade helped finance the voyages of Columbus and the Conquistadores. And in England wool textile exports were ⅔ of its foreign commerce by 1660.
Columbus brought sheep to Cuba and Santo Domingo in 1493, and Cortez took their descendants along when he explored what is now Mexico and the southwestern United States. Sheep moved with civilization; in the 18th century the industry was started in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
There are certain qualities that allowed wool to become what it was for past centuries European economies and what makes it as valuable today, after years of synthetic domination.
Durability and resilience. Wool fiber has a shape of coil spring making it remarkably elastic. While the flexibility of wool makes it durable. Flexibility is the ability to bend back on itself without breaking. It’s 20,000 times for wool compared to 3,000 times for cotton and 2,000 times for silk.
Wool is hygroscopic fiber, it takes up moisture. Wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp or clammy. Wool also perfectly absorbs dyes.
Wool is resistant to flame. It contains moisture in each fiber, that is why it resists flame without chemical treatment. This property makes it self-extinguishing and as it doesn’t support combustion wool fabrics (wool blankets, for example) make great use in extinguishing small fires.
Merino is a breed of sheep. Originating in Spain, those were Australian farmers, who performed selective breeding and created what we know now as Australian Merino with its even finer wool. So, Merino wool is an ordinary wool from a particular breed and has nothing to do with quality rating.
Thus, Merino wool has all the properties that ordinary wool has. On the other hand, it’s still a little bit better in everything, not to mention that it has some nice qualities of its own which make it stand out from the crowd.
Merino sheep consistently produce wool with very fine fibers, which is thinner and softer than regular wool. This makes Merino wool non-itchy, lighter, more breathable, and it even dries faster.
The other very useful quality that we find in Merino wool is smell resistance. It absorbs odor caused by bacteria. This happens due to the keratin – the protein molecules in the merino fibers – that simply breaks down the odor-forming bacteria.
Though it is believed that wool needs caution when it comes to care, Merino wool is quite easy to wash and dry. It can be machine washed and ironed, and it dries fast if you just hang it out. It can also go in the dryer if it’s pre-shrunk.
A factor which is becoming more and more important every single day is being environmentally friendly and Merino wool is. You only need a big open field and a flock of Merino sheeps to produce it. Shearing causes no pain and is required twice per year after which sheeps automatically grow a new coat.
Wool is a fine fiber which almost built early economies and served our ancestors as a source of all-weather fabric. But even though people managed to make it better in all the possible meanings, developing a breed that gives us wool of even better characteristics. Merino wool is a unique material with great properties, making it high-quality and durable. Moreover, Merino wool has all the rights to be called one of the best fabrics for outdoor clothes. It is perfect for both a base layer like t-shirts, long sleeves and even socks, and something warmer like hoodies and upper jackets.