What is Wool?
Wool is a category of textile fibers derived from the coat of mainly sheep, but also goats, muskoxen, rabbits, camels, llamas, alpacas, vicunas, guanacos, and even cattle and pigs.
While wool is grown to keep an animal insulated, it is not the same as hair or fur. Wool fibers are crimped and elastic, and they have scale, which gives wool it’s unique characteristics. Wool is also an elastic fiber, meaning that it resists distortion and has the ability to return to its original form.
Wool is a very labor intensive fiber to produce. The process has seven steps.
Making wool begins with shearing the sheep, which is done in spring the when the animals no longer need a heavy coat for insulation. The newly shorn wool is called a fleece.
Grading & Sorting
Grading and sorting break up a fleece into the various qualities of fibers, which come from different parts of the sheep. The fibers from the shoulders and sides of the sheep is used for clothing.
Cleaning & Scouring
The wool is stripped of contaminants The fibers are scoured with water, soap and alkaline ingredients.
Wool is given a final cleaning and straightening, the wool is separated into two types, worsted, and woolen.
Wool is turned into thread by spinning it into a single strand of yarn. Multiple yarns are then spun together with other yarns (referred to as ply).
The threads are then woven into a fabric
The process of finishing adds desired characteristics to the wool.
The Best Wool
Wool is classified based on the diameter of the individual fibers, in units of microns.
Fine wool <= 24.5 microns
Medium wool 24.6-32.5 microns
Coarse wool >32.5 microns
Fine wool fibers are used for clothing, the thicker fibers are used for rugs and interior textiles.