Wool is the general name given to the fabric made from the fiber derived from the fleece of sheep, camels, goats, llamas or other mammals. Basically, wool fabrics are categorized as Woolen fabrics and Worsted fabrics depending on the length of the fibers that make up their yarn. Short fibers make woolen fabrics and hence they have a tufted fuzzy surface texture. They are heavy, thick and bulky and are less expensive than Worsted fabrics which are made with tightly twisted longer yarns. Worsted fabrics have a hard, smooth surface with a special subtle luster. Woolen fabrics can be plain weave woolens or wool knits.
For yet another general categorization If you hear carpet wool, as the name suggests it is suitable only for making carpets. The fibers are long and coarse. Apparel wool is the fine wool that makes garments. More categorizations of wool fabrics are done according to the animal, type of weaves, where the animal is bred, the texture of the fabric etc as you can see in the list below
What Is Wool?
Wool is a type of fabric derived from the hairs of various animals. While most people associate the word “wool” with sheep, there are, in fact, a variety of distinct types of wool that producers derive from animals other than sheep.
The Benefits Of Wool
The interplay of the two fiber parts which compose the wool is responsible for the moisture management of the wool. The multilayer outer shell is hydrophobic, so water repellent. But it lets water vapor pass through the fiber. Thus, it is possible that wool fibers can absorb about 30% of their own weight of water without the wool feeling wet.
Another fiber-based property of wool is its mechanical self-cleaning quality. Put quite simply, strands of two different types of fibers entwined with each other in a liana-like manner in the filament trunk swell to different degrees when moisture is absorbed and released. Firmly connected, they put the wool fiber in motion. This self-movement of the fiber repels dirt particles lying on the fiber surface. These dirt particles remain only on the surface, they cannot penetrate into the fiber. Due to this natural process, wool doesn’t get dirty so fast.
The chemical self-cleaning power of wool is remarkable and responsible for its comfort. The complex physical and chemical structure of a wool fiber allows it to absorb or neutralize a variety of chemicals. Whether this is hydrochloric or sulfuric acid, toxic carbon compounds based on benzene or the ingredients of cigarette smoke, wool “destroys” these foreign substances. That’s why wool clothing doesn’t smell so much even when it’s dirty.
Non-Flammable And Antistatic
Finally, wool is both non-flammable and antistatic. A spark burns quickly a hole in synthetic clothing, while wool remains unaffected. And anyone who has ever felt a “spark” when touching a metal door handle or had their hair standing up after putting on a blouse made of synthetic material knows how to appreciate the wool’s lack of static charge.
The production of wool begins with the shearing of wool-bearing animals. Some animals bear wool once per year, and others bear wool multiple times throughout the year. Next, the shorn wool is cleaned and sorted into bales. There are a variety of ways to remove the greasy lanolin in raw wool, but most large wool producers use chemical catalysts for this process. Once the wool fibers are clean and sorted, they are carded, which is the process of making the fibers into long strands. These carded strands are then spun into yarn, and after a final washing, this yarn can be woven into garments and other types of woolen textiles.
Lastly, the finished textiles may be exposed to a variety of post-production processes to develop certain attributes. Fulling, for instance, is the immersion of a wool textile in water to make the fibers interlock, and crabbing is the process of permanently setting this interlock. Lastly, wool producers may decate their products for shrink-proofing purposes, and rarely, they may also dye their finished wool products.
Over the years, human beings have found hundreds of ways to use wool. While wool is primarily used in consumer applications, this substance is also popular in industrial applications for its durability and flame-retardant qualities. While finer types of wool might be used to make garments that directly contact the skin, it’s much more common to find wool used for outerwear or other types of garments that don’t make direct bodily contact. For instance, most of the world’s formal suits consist of wool fibers, and this textile is also commonly used to make sweaters, hats, gloves, and other types of accessories and apparel.
According to World Atlas, Australia produces 25 percent of the world’s wool, which makes it the most prominent wool-producing country. China, which has one of the world’s largest textile markets and textile industries, produces 18 percent of the world’s wool. At 17 percent, the United States is the third-largest wool producer, and New Zealand comes in fourth since it produces 11 percent of the world’s wool supply.
The Different Types Of Wool
Merino wool is one of the world’s most common types of wool. The vast majority of merino sheep are bred in Australia, and wool from merino sheep is used to make all sorts of different kinds of garments and industrial materials. This type of wool can have a diameter of under 20 microns, which makes it one of the finest types of woolen products in existence. While merino sheep were originally bred in Spain, hardly any merino wool production still occurs in this European country. Since merino wool is relatively greasy before it is processed, it’s necessary to remove lanolin from this type of textile before it can be spun into yarn.
Cashmere is one of the most expensive and luxurious types of wool. The name “cashmere” comes from the Kashmir region of India, which is the area where the furry goats that supply cashmere wool originated. With hair diameters as small as 18 microns, cashmere is just as soft and fine as merino wool. The high price of cashmere wool, however, comes from the fact that cashmere goats can only produce around 150 grams of wool per year, which makes this type of wool a highly desired commodity.
Border Leicester Wool
Border Leicester wool is named after the place of origin of the long wool breed sheep whose long fleece is used to make this beautiful fabric. It is a very durable fabric that can last a very long time. It is used for making coats and dresses
Cheviot is a woolen fabric made originally from the coarse wool of the Cheviot sheep raised in the Cheviot hills of England; Generally, the term is used to describe medium to heavy woolen fabrics with a shaggy surface texture. It is popular as a coating fabric
This is a wool fabric made from sheep found in Scotland. It has all the fine qualities of the best of wool fabrics – and keeps a person very warm. It is very suitable for making winter clothing. The fabric is a little rough though.
Wool Melton is a felted medium or heavy weight somewhat bulky fabric with a smooth nap. It is commonly used for coats.
Classification Of Wool According To Process, Quality, Etc.
This refers to wool fabric made from fleece that is shorn when a lamb is just six or seven months old as its first shearing. The fabric made with this wool is very strong and soft and does not need much processing. It is considered as the best wool in terms of quality.
If you think wool fabric is always thick and bulky you are wrong. For a lightweight drapey fabric made with wool fibers – there are many choices. Lightweight wool is loosely but firmly woven and hangs very beautifully. Woolen Batiste is a very soft fine lightweight woolen fabric. Crepe is lightweight worsted wool; Albatross is a lightweight woolen fabric with a slightly crepe surface. Woolen challis is also lightweight. Wool challis is a plain weave woolen fabric and an absolute favorite for dressmaking.
Plain Or Twill Worsted Wool Suitings
Worsted wool has a smooth finish and is durable. It is the most popular fabric for making coats, jackets, trousers etc. Worsted wool is made after wool fibers are spun into yarn which is then knitted or woven into fine fabrics. After the fabric is made it goes through a process in which unwanted fibers are removed which makes it very smooth.
This is wool taken from a lamb’s first shearing, which will be very fine and soft or wool that has never been processed or used in any way.
Boiled wool is a special stretchy, felted heavyweight wool fabric with insulating qualities. It is dense, durable and water-resistant because the wool undergoes a special washing process which makes it thick. It is used for making berets, jackets, cardigans, vests, coats etc.
This is wool that is categorized according to the fine quality of its fibers. It measures the fibers used per inch of the cloth, similar to thread count. When you go shopping for wool you will hear classifications like Super 100, 110, 120, 150 etc. Higher the number finer the wool.
This is a fabric with curled tufts or nubs on the fabric surface. This special texture is made on a chinchilla machine. First, the nap is made using the machine and then rubbed to create the rounded curled tufts.
Various toxic materials like harsh scouring agents, dyes and bleaches used to clean and whiten the wool, formaldehyde, conditioners, moth-proofing, harsh chemical dyes, and other, often toxic additives to finish the fabric and garments are used in conventional wool production. Organically grown wool fabric and wool garments are free of all these.
Organic wool is obtained from sheep that have been raised without synthetic or harmful chemicals under healthy, natural, and responsible animal husbandry methods. The sheep graze on pesticide-free land and they are raised with such organic animal husbandry methods that they do not have external and internal parasites which may have had to be treated with antibiotics. Chemicals are not used in the wool production process resulting in the organic wool fabric which is free of all carcinogenic or allergy creating particles.
Classification Of Wool According To The Type Of Fabric Made
Gabardine is a firm tightly woven fabric with a diagonally ribbed surface (twill weave) on one side and smooth texture on the other. It is very durable and strong and is used to make trousers, suits, jackets, overcoats etc. It is also suitable for making bags.
This is a water-resistant woolen material. It is used for making coats.
This is a knit fabric (hand knitted or machine knitted) made with wool yarn. It is used to make sweaters, cardigans etc.
This refers to woolen fabrics with curly twisted loops on the surface. This is a result of its special construction. The curled loopy surface texture makes this fabric unique.
This is the inside layer used in quilts and beddings for insulation – you will get batting made with wool fibers which are superior to the batting made with cotton or polyester.
Broadcloth is a dense, strong woolen cloth
Herringbone Patterned Wool
This wool fabric has a distinctive zigzag weaving pattern which looks like the skeleton of a herring fish. This is a much in demand fabric for making jackets and trousers.
Wool tweed is a very popular wool fabric best suited for making jackets, waistcoats, hats and other winter clothing. The fabric is so named after the Tweed River in Scotland where it was first made. It may have a plain or twill weave and has an attractive check or herringbone pattern with a subtle rough texture. It is traditionally made from coarse homespun wool. Subtle color effects are seen on its surface because of the way it is made by twisting differently colored woolen strands into a two- or three-ply yarn. It is a very durable fabric, moisture-resistant, breathable and warm.
Felted wool is a non woven fabric. Wool felt is the most common and very popular felt fabric. It is soft and more supple than acrylic felt and is very durable. It is used for making home decor items, hats, and jackets and for craft projects
Lincoln wool fabrics is a high-quality wool fabric that is very popular for making suits and other garments. It is expensive and highly regarded for its appearance.
Flannel is a popular wool fabric in plain or twill weave which has a brushed or napped surface on either one or both sides. It is popularly used to make night wear clothes like pajamas.
This is a traditional Scottish woolen cloth with a distinctive plain or check fabric pattern. The most famous use of tartan cloth is to make Scottish kilts. It is also used for making jackets, suits and skirts.
This is a velvety textured fabric with a soft tufted pile surface made with woolen fibers
This is a wool fabric with a pronounced twill weave and smooth surfaced two-toned woven appearance. The yarns in warp and weft are alternated with two colors like white and another color which results in the two-toned look
Classification Of Wool Made From Other Animals
This is a soft luxurious fuzzy textured wool fabric made from fleece of Alpaca(camel family) with a cotton knitted or woven back. The best advantage of using this wool is that it is hypoallergenic. Other than that it is as soft and warm as any other superior wool like merino or cashmere.
Mohair is a very soft silky and lustrous heavy-weight woolen fabric made from Angora goat. The fabric has a very fuzzy surface. It is very expensive but because of the beautifully luxurious and lustrous look, it is much coveted. It is mainly used for making coats and jackets.
This is wool made from the fleece obtained from the vicuna; it is said to be the most expensive of all fabrics as vicuna wool is rare wool. A Vicuna Jacket can cost up to $21,000.
This is the fabric made from the undercoat of the Bactrian camel. The resultant tan or brown colored fabric is very soft and is used to make scares sweaters jackets and blankets. General use of the term describes soft heavy woolen fabrics without any genuine camel’s hair in it
The Impact Of Wool Fabric In The Environment
Since wool is a natural textile, it is inherently non-impactful on the environment. As long as wool-producing animals are allowed to live free, happy lives and they aren’t crowded or subjected to inhumane practices, it’s possible to produce wool sustainably. Just because wool production can be sustainable, however, doesn’t mean that it always is. In fact, the vast majority of wool production is either inhumane, environmentally degrading, or both. In search of maximum profits, wool producers everywhere disregard the effects that their industry has on the environment and the animals they depend on, and an inherently sustainable practice that human beings have pursued for thousands of years becomes harmful to both wool animals and their natural surroundings.
Facts About Wool
In an archaeological site in Egypt, clothes made of wool some 3,400 years ago were discovered, which highlights the fact that people have found it useful since antiquity. That feeling of itching that some people experience while wearing wool is actually due to the uneven thickness of the wool fibers from which the coat is made, the standard thickness is 28 microns.
On the label of natural wool garments there always appears the letter S followed by a number. They precisely determine the fineness of the wire used in the finished product, measured in microns. In the same way, on some labels, you can find the Super S lettering followed by a number. This sign certifies that the best, purest and finest wool was used, which is also freshly collected, called virgin wool. Also, on the labels where Super S appears, it can also be said that virgin wool was mixed with rare wool such as cashmere, alpaca or mohair. According to international standards, the number scale goes up to 210 at the moment.
The record for the fastest shearing of a sheep is held by Hilton Barrett from Australia, with 39.31 seconds. Wool can be extended up to 70% of its natural length without breaking. A product can be labeled as 100% natural wool under EU rules, as long as it contains no more than 5% inadvertent impurities. Wool is made from fibers collected from various other mammals, not only sheep. The fibers can be twisted into yarn and then textiles.
There are many many reasons you will find wool fabric as one of the most coveted and expensive fabrics in any fabric shop you go to--like its softness, durability, comfort, warmth, luxurious looks.