Know your wool
What’s the difference between the different types of wool?
I mainly use Merino Lambswool (Supergeelong) for the winter accessories and the gifts, however some of the garments are made with Extrafine Merino (Cashwool). Wool is really the most amazing, versatile and wonderful fibre, not to mention is natural, renewable and biodegradable, therefore kind to the planet and to your skin- what’s not to love, right?
Both types of wool are soft and luxurious, but what is the difference?
Lambswool is taken from the first shearing of the sheep, usually when they are around 7 months of age. Every lamb produces lambswool but without doubt, wool from Merino sheep will be the softest and most suitable to be worn against skin. The Merino breed’s wool is especially soft, long and fine fibres which are uniquely crimped to hold warm while remain lightweight.
Wool weight is measured by microns.
· <17.5 microns: Ultrafine Merino
· 17.7 – 18.5 microns: Superfine Merino
· 18.5 - 19.5 microns: Fine/Extra Fine Merino
· 19.6 – 20.5 microns: Fine medium Merino
· 20.6 – 22.5 microns: Medium Merino
· 22.6 - <24 microns: Strong Merino
*Human hair is between around 50-80 microns, depending on the individual’s hair.*
Merino Lambswool appears slightly rigid, dull and has no sheen before washing, however after washing the fibre gently felts and becomes super soft; as part of our finishing process, all Knitluxe Studio pieces are washed before they are being sent out to our customers. This is important as it relaxes the fibres, perfects and secures the carefully considered fit of each piece.
While merino wool can be worn all-year around, Lambswool is slightly more suitable for the colder months, because of the marginally felted texture.
Extrafine Merino (Cashwool 1978)
This yarn was first developed in the 1970's. A careful process of fibre selection, additional combing and exact spinning led to the development of this world leading merino yarn. Cashwool® is currently being used by many of the leading couture houses, brands and designers throughout the world.
‘Our extrafine merino is spun in Italy by Zegna Baruffa Lane Borgosesia. It is more commonly referred to as Cashwool. Cashwool is the market leader in merino yarns, the Rolls Royce™ of merinos. It is widely used by quality industrial knitters, fashion houses and designers across the world.’
Extrafine Merino has a slight sheen and a smooth surface even in the yarn form prior of being knitted into something long lasting and comfortable.
Merino wool can be worn all-year around, and the Extrafine Merino is perfect for the warmer weather just as much as in the cold weather. It doesn’t have a slightly felted texture but a smooth soft feel with a beautiful drape, making it extremely suitable for summer garments.
Merino sheep are domestic breed, characterised by very soft and high-quality wool, native to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. The Merino is one of the most historically relevant and economically influential breeds of sheep, much prized for its wool.
Merinos are adaptable and excellent foragers.
They must be sheared at least once a year because their wool does not stop growing.
Image credit: The Campaign for Wool
What distinguished Merino from other fibres?
It is fine but strong
This fiber can bend more than thicker fibers so it is very soft to the touch and doesn’t make you itch; it has high elasticity, which means that garments maintain their shape.
Despite its fineness, merino wool is strong and resilient. You can bend it, stretch it, pull it in any direction, some say up to 20 000 or 30 000 times, without any damage.
Image credit: The Campaigh for Wool
It can handle moisture
Another important and unique characteristic of wool is its ability to handle moisture. It can absorb large amounts of water vapor and move it away to evaporate in the air. In fact, Merino fibre will feel dry to the touch even if it has absorbed up to 30% of its own weight in moisture. Most other fabrics will feel wet at 7% absorption.
When you wear a wool garment and you get hot, the fibre absorbs moisture vapor from the space between your body and the fabric, so you feel dry. This ability to attract moisture and then to move it to the surface to evaporate is known as “wicking”.
Wool fibre is very like our own bodies – it heats and cools naturally. Wool keeps us warm because its crimp traps pockets of air and becomes an excellent insulator. This, together with wicking, ensures that you stay warm. It is also very lightweight, considering the warmth it provides. This makes merino garments popular for skiing and other outdoor activities.
On the other hand, if you are hot, the moisture that has been absorbed into the fibre evaporates, and this creates a cooling effect on the air between your skin and the fabric, therefore it’s also a great choice for summer activities and for summer clothing such as tops, dresses and skirts.
Further benefits related to wool’s wicking ability is that it is non-static, so it does not cling to your body, drapes glamorously and does not attract dust.
It is easy to care for
Merino wool garments are anti-wrinkle because the fibre up close are like coiled springs that go back to their original shape even after being bent. This same elasticity makes woollen garments very comfortable to wear and long lasting, as they stretch with the wearer and then return to their shape rather than sagging or wrinkling. Woollen garments are not likely to smell of sweat. They are also unlikely to cause allergies. Merino wool garments require less washing than regular items of clothing- they can be refreshed by airing them.
Lanolin naturally protects sheep from the sun, and this UV protection is extended to wearers of merino wool garments.
Safe and comfortable against bare skin
In general merino wool is much finer than the wool of other sheep, and so it bends when it presses against the skin, rather than pricking like thicker fibres, so it is less likely to create an itch. Many people have thought that the itch caused by wool products is an allergic reaction, possibly to lanolin, but studies at Massachusetts General Hospital have shown that this is very rare. People find a fabric to be itchy and irritating if more than 5% of its fibres are thicker than 30 microns – and because merino wool is so fine it is unlikely to cause itch.
Image credit: The Woolmark Company
Why not use British wool?
While I would love to source my yarns from Britain, due to the harsh British climate, our native sheep tend to have a coarse fleece which are too rough for making clothes or other items that comes in contact with skin. Most British wool is used in the carpet industry, making decorative throws or for insulation.
Instead, we use the highest quality Merino wool from Australia and New Zealand that is being spun in Scotland and Italy (depending on the colours) with GOTS dyes.
Knitluxe Studio a proud supporter of The Campaigh For Wool.