Excerpts from several Wikipedia pages.
Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camelids.
Wool has several qualities that distinguish it from hair or fur: it is crimped, it is elastic, and it grows in staples (clusters).
Wool's scaling and crimp make it easier to spin the fleece by helping the individual fibers attach to each other, so they stay together. Because of the crimp, wool fabrics have greater bulk than other textiles, and they hold air, which causes the fabric to retain heat. Insulation works both ways: Bedouins and Tuaregs use wool clothes to keep heat out and protect the body.
Felting of wool occurs upon hammering or other mechanical agitation as the microscopic barbs on the surface of wool fibers hook together.
The amount of crimp corresponds to the fineness of the wool fibers. A fine wool like Merino may have up to 100 crimps per inch, while the coarser wools like karakul may have as few as one or two.
On sheep, the hair part of the fleece is called kemp. The relative amounts of kemp to wool vary from breed to breed and make some fleeces more desirable for spinning, felting, or carding into batts for quilts or other insulating products, including the famous tweed cloth of Scotland.
Wool fibers readily absorb moisture, but are not hollow. Wool can absorb almost one-third of its own weight in water.
Wool ignites at a higher temperature than cotton and some synthetic fibers. It has a lower rate of flame spread, a lower rate of heat release, a lower heat of combustion, and does not melt or drip; it forms a char which is insulating and self-extinguishing, and it contributes less to toxic gases and smoke than other flooring products when used in carpets. Wool carpets are specified for high safety environments, such as trains and aircraft. Wool is usually specified for garments for firefighters, soldiers, and others in occupations where they are exposed to the likelihood of fire.
Wool is considered by the medical profession to be hypoallergenic.
The quality of wool is determined by its fiber diameter, crimp, yield, color, and staple strength. Fiber diameter is the single most important wool characteristic determining quality and price.
Merino wool is typically 3–5 inches in length and is very fine (between 12 and 24 microns). The finest and most valuable wool comes from Merino hoggets. Wool taken from sheep produced for meat is typically more coarse, and has fibers 1.5 to 6 in (38 to 152 mm) in length.
Wool is also separated into grades based on the measurement of the wool's diameter in microns and also its style. These grades may vary depending on the breed or purpose of the wool. For example:
- < 15.5: Ultrafine Merino
- 15.6 – 18.5: Superfine Merino
- 18.6 – 20: Fine Merino
- 20.1 – 23: Medium Merino
- > 23: Strong Merino
- Comeback: 21–26 microns, white, 90–180 mm long
- Fine crossbred: 27–31 microns, Corriedales, etc.
- Medium crossbred: 32–35 microns
- Downs: 23–34 microns, typically lacks luster and brightness. Examples, Aussiedown, Dorset Horn, Suffolk, etc.
- Coarse crossbred: >36 microns
- Carpet wools: 35–45 microns
Any wool finer than 25 microns can be used for garments, while coarser grades are used for outerwear or rugs. The finer the wool, the softer it is, while coarser grades are more durable and less prone to pilling.
The finest Australian and New Zealand Merino wools are known as 1PP, which is the industry benchmark of excellence for Merino wool 16.9 microns and finer. This style represents the top level of fineness, character, color, and style as determined on the basis of a series of parameters in accordance with the original dictates of British wool as applied today by the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) Council. Only a few dozen of the millions of bales auctioned every year can be classified and marked 1PP.
Due to decreasing demand with increased use of synthetic fibers, wool production is much less than what it was in the past.
The collapse in the price of wool began in late 1966 with a 40% drop; with occasional interruptions, the price has tended down. The result has been sharply reduced production and movement of resources into production of other commodities, in the case of sheep growers, to production of meat.
n December 2004, a bale of the then world's finest wool, averaging 11.8 microns, sold for AU$3,000 per kilogram at auction in Melbourne, Victoria. This fleece wool tested with an average yield of 74.5%, 68 mm long, and had 40 newtons per kilotex strength. The result was A$279,000 for the bale. The finest bale of wool ever auctioned was sold for a seasonal record of AU$2690 per kilo during June 2008. This bale was produced by the Hillcreston Pinehill Partnership and measured 11.6 microns, 72.1% yield, and had a 43 newtons per kilotex strength measurement. The bale realized $247,480 and was exported to India.
In 2007, a new wool suit was developed and sold in Japan that can be washed in the shower, and which dries off ready to wear within hours with no ironing required. The suit was developed using Australian Merino wool, and it enables woven products made from wool, such as suits, trousers, and skirts, to be cleaned using a domestic shower at home.
Global wool production is about 1.3 million tonnes per year, of which 60% goes into apparel. Australia is the leading producer of wool which is mostly from Merino sheep. New Zealand is the second-largest producer of wool, and the largest producer of crossbred wool. China is the third-largest producer of wool. Breeds such as Lincoln, Romney, Drysdale, and Elliotdale produce coarser fibers, and wool from these sheep is usually used for making carpets.
In the United States, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado have large commercial sheep flocks and their mainstay is the Rambouillet (or French Merino). Also, a thriving home-flock contingent of small-scale farmers raise small hobby flocks of specialty sheep for the hand-spinning market. These small-scale farmers offer a wide selection of fleece. Global woolclip (total amount of wool shorn) 2004/2005.
- Australia: 25% of global woolclip (475 million kg greasy, 2004/2005)
- China: 18%
- United States: 17%
- New Zealand: 11%
- Argentina: 3%
- Turkey: 2%
- Iran: 2%
- United Kingdom: 2%
- India: 2%
- Sudan: 2%
- South Africa: 1%
Organic wool is becoming more and more popular. This wool is very limited in supply and much of it comes from New Zealand and Australia. It is becoming easier to find in clothing and other products, but these products often carry a higher price. Wool is environmentally preferable (as compared to petroleum-based nylon or polypropylene) as a material for carpets, as well, in particular when combined with a natural binding and the use of formaldehyde-free glues.
Rag is a sturdy wool fiber made into yarn and used in many rugged applications such as gloves.
Worsted is a strong, long-staple, combed wool yarn with a hard surface.
In addition to clothing, wool has been used for blankets, horse rugs, saddle cloths, carpeting, felt, wool insulation (also see links) and upholstery. Wool felt covers piano hammers, and it is used to absorb odors and noise in heavy machinery and stereo speakers. Ancient Greeks lined their helmets with felt, and Roman legionnaires used breastplates made of wool felt.
Wool fiber exteriors are hydrophobic (repel water) and the interior of the wool fiber is hygroscopic (attracts water); this makes a wool garment able to cover a wet diaper while inhibiting wicking, so outer garments remain dry. Wool felted and treated with lanolin is water resistant, air permeable, and slightly antibacterial, so it resists the buildup of odor.
Merino wool has been used in baby sleep products such as swaddle baby wrap blankets and infant sleeping bags.
Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology school of fashion and textiles have discovered a blend of wool and kevlar, the synthetic fiber widely used in body armor, was lighter, cheaper and worked better in damp conditions than kevlar alone. Kevlar, when used alone, loses about 20% of its effectiveness when wet, so required an expensive waterproofing process. Wool increased friction in a vest with 28–30 layers of fabric, to provide the same level of bullet resistance as 36 layers of Kevlar alone.
The New England Merino Field days which display local studs, wool, and sheep are held during January, in even numbered years around the Walcha, New South Wales district. The Annual Wool Fashion Awards, which showcase the use of Merino wool by fashion designers, are hosted by the city of Armidale, New South Wales, in March each year. This event encourages young and established fashion designers to display their talents. During each May, Armidale hosts the annual New England Wool Expo to display wool fashions, handicrafts, demonstrations, shearing competitions, yard dog trials, and more.
Superwash wool (or washable wool) technology first appeared in the early 1970s to produce wool that has been specially treated so it is machine washable and may be tumble-dried. This wool is produced using an acid bath that removes the "scales" from the fiber, or by coating the fiber with a polymer that prevents the scales from attaching to each other and causing shrinkage. This process results in a fiber that holds longevity and durability over synthetic materials, while retaining its shape.
Superwash wool is a special wool product that has been treated or processed in a way that allows it to be machine washable. Many people are afraid to work with wool because it is so easy to shrink (though some of us shrink wool on purpose) and superwash wool can allow them to work with great fibers without worry.
Superwash wool is a wonderful choice if you like natural fibers but are giving something as a gift and don't want to burden the recipient with a garment they have to handwash.
Camelids are members of the biological family Camelidae, the only currently living family in the suborder Tylopoda. The extant members of this group are: dromedary camel, Bactrian camels, wild or feral camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos.
Mohair is usually a silk-like fabric or yarn made from the hair of the Angora goat. Both durable and resilient, mohair is notable for its high luster and sheen, which has helped give it the nickname the "Diamond Fiber", and is often used in fiber blends to add these qualities to a textile. Mohair takes dye exceptionally well. Mohair is warm in winter as it has excellent insulating properties, while remaining cool in summer due to its moisture wicking properties. It is durable, naturally elastic, flame resistant and crease resistant. It is considered to be a luxury fiber, like cashmere, angora and silk, and is usually more expensive than most wool that comes from sheep.
... mohair does not felt as wool does.
Mohair fiber is approximately 25–45 microns in diameter. It increases in diameter with the age of the goat, growing along with the animal. Fine hair from younger animals is used for finer applications such as clothing, and the thicker hair from older animals is more often used for carpets and heavy fabrics intended for outerwear.
Mohair is one of the oldest textile fibers in use. The Angora goat is thought to originate from the mountains of Tibet, reaching Turkey in the 16th century. However, fabric made of mohair was known in England as early as the 8th century.
Mohair is used in scarves, winter hats, suits, sweaters, coats, socks and home furnishing. Mohair fiber is also found in carpets, wall fabrics, craft yarns, and many other fabrics, and may be used as a substitute for fur. Because its texture resembles fine human hair, mohair is often used in making high grade doll wigs or in rooting customized dolls.
Fibers from young goats are softest and are used to manufacture yarn for clothing. Fibers from mature goats are used to produce such things as rugs and carpets. Mohair is also used in 'climbing skins' for randonnee skiing. The mohair is used in a carpet allowing the skier an appropriate ascension method without sliding downhill.
As of 2009, world output of mohair was estimated at around 5,000 tonnes a year, down from a high of 25,000 tonnes in the 1990s. South Africa accounts for 60% of total production. South African mohair is generally exported raw or semi-processed to textile makers in Europe, the UK and the Far East. Prices for adult mohair declined in 2010 while prices for kid mohair remained the same. An emerging market for mohair producers has been China.
Cashmere wool, usually simply known as cashmere, is a fiber obtained from cashmere goats and other types of goat. Common usage defines the fiber as a wool but in fact it is a hair, and this is what gives it its unique characteristics as compared to sheep's wool. The word cashmere is an old spelling of the Kashmir region in northern India. Cashmere is fine in texture, strong, light, and soft. Garments made from it provide excellent insulation. Cashmere is softer than regular wool. The insulating capacity of cashmere wool is approximately 3 times that of regular sheep wool.
Cashmere wool fiber for clothing and other textile articles is obtained from the neck region of Cashmere and other goats. Historically, fine-haired Cashmere goats have been called Capra hircus laniger, as if they were a subspecies of the domestic goat Capra hircus. However, they are now more commonly considered part of the domestic goat subspecies Capra aegagrus hircus. Cashmere goats produce a double fleece that consists of a fine, soft undercoat or underdown of hair mingled with a straighter and much coarser outer coating of hair called guard hair. For the fine underdown to be sold and processed further, it must be de-haired. De-hairing is a mechanical process that separates the coarse hairs from the fine hair. After de-hairing, the resulting "cashmere" is ready to be dyed and converted into textile yarn, fabrics and garments.
China has become the largest producer of raw cashmere and their clip is estimated at 10,000 metric tons per year (in hair). Mongolia follows with 7,400 tons (in hair) as of 2014, while Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian Republics produce lesser amounts.
Ultra-fine Cashmere or Pashmina is still produced by communities in Indian Kashmir but its rarity and high-price along with political instability in the region; make it very hard to source and to regulate quality. It is estimated that on average yearly production per goat is 150 grams (about 1/3 lb).
Pure cashmere can be dyed and spun into yarns and knitted into jumpers (sweaters), hats, gloves, socks and other clothing, or woven into fabrics then cut and assembled into garments such as outer coats, jackets, trousers (pants), pajamas, scarves, blankets, and other items. Fabric and garment producers in Scotland, Italy, and Japan have long been known as market leaders.
In the United States, the town of Uxbridge, Massachusetts was an incubator for the cashmere wool industry. It had the first power looms for woolens and the first manufacture of "satinets". Capron Mill had the first power looms, in 1820. It burned on July 21, 2007, in the Bernat Mill fire.
Cashmere has been manufactured in Mongolia, Nepal and Kashmir in India for thousands of years. Famous shawls are the jamavar with the famous paisley pattern. The fiber is also known as pashm (Persian for wool) or pashmina (Persian/Urdu word derived from Pashm) for its use in the handmade shawls of Kashmir.6 References to woolen shawls appear in texts surviving from between the 3rd century BC and the 11th century AD.7 However, the founder of the cashmere wool industry is traditionally thought to have been the 15th-century ruler of Kashmir, Zain-ul-Abidin, who introduced weavers from Turkestan.7 Other sources consider cashmere crafts were introduced by Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani.8 In 14th-century Mir Ali Hamdani came to Kashmir along with 700 craftsmen from different parts of Persia9 when Mir Ali Hamadani came to Ladakh, home land of cashmere goats, for the first time in history he found that the Ladakhi goats produced soft wool. He took some wool and made socks and gave them as a gift to the king of Kashmir, sultan Kutabdin. Afterwards Hamadani suggested to the king that they start a shawl weaving industry in Kashmir using this wool.10 The United Nations specialized agency UNESCO reported in 2014 that Ali Hamadani was one of the principal historical figures who shaped the culture of Kashmir, both architecturally and also through the flourishing of arts and crafts and hence economy in Kashmir. The skills and knowledge that he brought to Kashmir gave rise to an entire industry.11
In the 18th and early 19th centuries, kashmir (then called cashmere by the British) had a thriving industry producing shawls from goat down imported from Tibet and Tartary through Ladakh. The down trade was controlled by treaties signed as a result of previous wars.12 The shawls were introduced into Western Europe when the General in Chief of the French campaign in Egypt (1799–1802) sent one to Paris. The shawl's arrival is said to have created an immediate sensation and plans were put in place to start manufacturing the product in France.13
By 1830, weaving cashmere shawls with French-produced yarn had become an important Scottish industry. The Scottish Board of Trustees for the Encouragement of Arts and Manufactures offered a 300 Pound Sterling reward to the first person who could spin cashmere in Scotland based on the French system. Captain Charles Stuart Cochrane collected the required information while in Paris and received a Scottish patent for the process in 1831. In the autumn of 1831, he sold the patent to Henry Houldsworth and sons of Glasgow. In 1832 Henry Houldsworth and sons commenced the manufacture of yarn, and in 1833 received the reward.18
Dawson International claim to have invented the first commercial dehairing machine in 1890, and from 1906 they purchased cashmere from China, but were restricted to purchasing fiber from Beijing and Tianjin until 1978. In 1978 trade was liberalised and Dawson International began buying cashmere from many provinces.14
Many early textile centers developed as part of the American Industrial Revolution. Among them, the Blackstone Valley became a major contributor to the American Industrial Revolution. The town of Uxbridge, Massachusetts became an early textile center in the Blackstone Valley, which was known for the manufacture of cashmere wool and satinets.
Austrian Textile Manufacturer Bernhard Altmann is credited with bringing cashmere to America on a mass scale beginning in 1947.19
Trading in commercial quantities of raw cashmere between Asia and Europe began with Valerie Audresset SA, Louviers, France claiming to be the first European company to commercially spin cashmere.14 The down was imported from Tibet through Kasan the capital of the Russian province Volga and was used in France to create imitation woven shawls. Unlike the Kashmir shawls, the French shawls had a different pattern on each side.13 The imported cashmere was spread out on large sieves and beaten with sticks to open the fibers and clear away the dirt. After opening, the cashmere was washed and children removed the coarse hair. The down was then carded and combed using the same methods used for worsted spinning.
In 1801, Bradford was a rural market town of 6,393 people,10 where wool spinning and cloth weaving was carried out in local cottages and farms.
A major employer was Titus Salt who in 1833 took over the running of his father's woollen business specialising in fabrics combining alpaca, mohair, cotton and silk.
A burnous – also spelled burnoose, or bournous; from the Berber and Maghrebi Arabic burnus – is a long cloak of coarse woollen fabric with a hood, usually white in color, worn by Berbers and the Arabs throughout North Africa.
Jamawar, or grown piece, is a special type of shawl made in Kashmir. "Jama" means robe and "war" is yard. The best quality of Jamawar is built with Pashmina. The brocaded parts are woven in similar threads of silk or polyester. Most of the designs seen today are floral, with the kairy as the predominant motif. Historically handmade items, some shawls took a couple of decades to complete; consequently, original Jamawar shawls are highly valued. Modern, machine-made Jamawar prints, produced in cities such as Kashmir and other parts of Pakistan, Punjab cost less to buy but handmade Jamawar are very expensive.
Angora hair or Angora fibre refers to the downy coat produced by the Angora rabbit. While their names are similar, Angora fibre is distinct from mohair, which comes from the Angora goat. Angora fibre is also distinct from cashmere, which comes from the cashmere goat. Angora is known for its softness, thin fibres, and what knitters refer to as a halo (fluffiness). It is also known for its silky texture. It is much warmer and lighter than wool due to the hollow core of the angora fibre. It also gives them their characteristic floating feel.
Angora rabbits produce coats in a variety of colours, from white through tan, gray, and brown to black. Good quality Angora fibre is around 12-16 micrometres in diameter, and can cost as much as $10–16 per ounce (35 to 50 cents/gram). It felts very easily, even on the animal itself if it is not groomed frequently.
Yarns of 100% angora are typically used as accents. They have the most halo and warmth, but can felt very easily through abrasion and humidity and can be excessively warm in a finished garment. The fibre is normally blended with wool to give the yarn elasticity, as Angora fibre is not naturally elastic. The blend decreases the softness and halo as well as the price of the finished object. Commercial knitting yarns typically use 30–50% angora, in order to produce some halo, warmth, and softness without the side effects of excessive felting.
There are four different ARBA recognized types of Angora rabbit: English, French, Satin and Giant. There are many other breeds, one of the more common being German. Each breed produces different quality and quantity of fibre, and has a different range of colours.
90% of Angora fur is produced in China, although Europe, Chile and the United States also produce small quantities. In China, there are more than 50 million Angora rabbits, growing 2,500–3,000 tonnes per year.1 Harvesting occurs up to three times a year (about every 4 months) and is collected by plucking or shearing of the moulting fur.
Most breeds of Angora rabbits moult with their natural growth cycle about every four months. Many producers of the fibre pluck the fur of these breeds. Plucking is, in effect, pulling out the moulted fur. Plucking ensures a minimum of guard hair, and the fur is not as matted when plucked as when it is collected from the rabbit's cage. However, plucking a rabbit is time consuming and can harm the animal, so some producers shear the rabbit instead. While this results in slightly lower quality fleece, as the guard hairs are included, it does take less time and results in more fleece. Also, not all breeds of Angora moult, and if the rabbit does not naturally moult, it cannot be plucked. German Angoras do not moult.
The rabbits must be groomed at least once or twice a week to prevent the fur from matting and felting. There is also a danger a rabbit will ingest its own moulted fur; unlike a cat, a rabbit cannot easily be rid of the build up.2
The premium first quality wool is taken from the back and upper sides of the rabbit. This is usually the longest and cleanest fibre on the rabbit. There should not be hay or vegetable matter in the fibre. Second quality is from the neck and lower sides, and may have some vegetable matter. Third quality is the buttocks and legs and any other areas that easily felt and are of shorter length. Fourth quality is totally unsalvageable, and consists of the larger felted bits or stained fibre. Third and fourth quality are perfect for cutting up for birds to use in lining their nests. With daily brushing, felting of the fibre can be avoided, increasing the usable portion of fibre.
Angora wool is commonly used in apparel such as sweaters and suitings, knitting yarn, and felting.
Tweed is a rough, woollen fabric, of a soft, open, flexible texture, resembling cheviot or homespun, but more closely woven. It is usually woven with a plain weave, twill or herringbone structure. Colour effects in the yarn may be obtained by mixing dyed wool before it is spun.1
Tweeds are an icon of traditional British country clothing, being desirable for informal outerwear,2 due to the material being moisture-resistant and durable. Tweeds are made to withstand harsh climate3 and are commonly worn for outdoor activities such as shooting and hunting, in both Ireland and the United Kingdom. "Lovat" is the name given to the green used in traditional Scottish tweed. In Ireland, tweed manufacturing is most associated with County Donegal.
Due to their durability tweed Norfolk jackets and plus-fours were a popular choice for hunters, cyclists, golfers and early motorists, hence Kenneth Grahame's depiction of Mr Toad in a Harris tweed suit.5 Popular patterns include houndstooth6 associated with 1960s fashion, Windowpane, gamekeeper's tweed worn by academics, Prince of Wales check originally commissioned by Edward VII, and herringbone.
In modern times, cyclists may wear tweed when they ride vintage bicycles on a Tweed Run.10 This practise has its roots in the British young fogey and hipster subcultures of the late 2000s and early 2010s, whose adherents appreciate both vintage tweed, and bicycles.[
Felt is a textile that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing fibres together. Felt can be made of natural fibres such as wool or synthetic fibres such as acrylic. There are many different types of felts for industrial, technical, designer and craft applications. While some types of felt are very soft, some are tough enough to form construction materials. Felt can vary in terms of fibre content, colour, size, thickness, density and more factors depending on the use of the felt.
Feltmaking is still practised by nomadic peoples (Altaic people:Mongols;Turkic people) in Central Asia, where rugs, tents and clothing are regularly made. Some of these are traditional items, such as the classic yurt (Gers), while others are designed for the tourist market, such as decorated slippers. In the Western world, felt is widely used as a medium for expression in textile art as well as design, where it has significance as an ecological textile.
Wet felting is one of several methods which can produce felt from wool and other animal fibres. Warm soapy water is applied to layers of animal hairs placed at 90 degree angles to one another. Repeated agitation and compression causes the fibres to hook together into a single piece of fabric. Wrapping the properly arranged fibre in a sturdy, textured material, such as a bamboo mat or bubble wrap, will speed up the felting process. After the wet felting process is complete, the felted material may be finished by fulling.
Only certain types of fibre can be wet felted successfully. Most types of fleece, such as those taken from the alpaca or the Merino sheep, can be put through the wet felting process. One may also use mohair (goat), angora (rabbit), or even dog hair. These types of fibre are covered in tiny scales, similar to the scales found on a strand of human hair. Wetting and soaping the fleece causes the scales to open, while agitating them causes them to latch onto each other, creating felt. Plant fibres and synthetic fibres will not wet felt.
There are two famous artists who use wet felting as their media for their artwork pieces that are well known these days: one of them is Nicola Brown, who uses this style of art in order to create decorative landscapes for children novels and the other one is Claudia Jean Nelson, which uses this style of art for a different reason; her reason is to create all kinds of different imaginative dresses (for exposition) and other decorative ornaments (such as bags, teddy bears, wall decorations and book cover decorations).
Hogget as a farming term refers to young sheep and may refer to: A live domestic sheep between one and two years of age.
The wool of such an animal. Hogget is the name of the first shearing of a sheep older than 3 months, and is the best wool that animal will ever give. It still has the unsheared lamb's wool, yet it is longer. Hand spinners prize such wool.
The Merino is an economically influential breed of sheep prized for its wool. The breed is originally from Alentejo, south Portugal, from where it was introduced to Spain; its wool was already highly valued in the Middle Ages. Today, Merinos are still regarded as having some of the finest and softest wool of any sheep. Poll Merinos have no horns (or very small stubs, known as scurs), and horned Merino rams have long, spiral horns which grow close to the head.
Merino wool is finely crimped and soft. Staples are commonly 65–100 mm (2.6–3.9 in) long. A Saxon Merino produces 3–6 kg (6.6–13.2 lb) of greasy wool a year, while a good quality Peppin Merino ram produces up to 18 kg (40 lb). Merino wool is generally less than 24 micron (µm) in diameter. Basic Merino types include: strong (broad) wool 23–24.5 µm, medium wool is 19.6–22.9 µm, fine 18.6–19.5 µm, superfine 15–18.5 µm and ultra fine 11.5–15 µm.5 Ultra fine wool is suitable for blending with other fibers such as silk and cashmere. New Zealand produces lightweight knits made from Merino wool and possum fur.6
Merino need to be shorn at least once a year because their wool does not stop growing. If the coat is allowed to grow, it can cause heat stress, mobility issues, and blindness.7
The term merino is widely used in the textile industries, but it cannot be taken to mean the fabric in question is actually 100% merino wool from a Merino strain bred specifically for its wool. The wool of any Merino sheep, whether reared in Spain or elsewhere, is "merino wool". However, not all merino sheep produce wool suitable for clothing, and especially for clothing worn next to the skin. This depends on the particular strain of the breed. Merino sheep bred for meat do not produce a fleece with a fine enough staple for this purpose.
Merino wool is common in high-end, performance athletic wear. Typically meant for use in running, hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, cycling, and in other types of outdoor aerobic exercise, these clothes command a premium over synthetic fabrics.
Several properties contribute to merino's popularity for exercise clothing, compared to wool in general and to other types of fabric:
- Merino is excellent at regulating body temperature, especially when worn against the skin. The wool provides some warmth, without overheating the wearer. It draws moisture (sweat) away from the skin, a phenomenon known as wicking. The fabric is slightly moisture repellent (keratin fibers are hydrophobic at one end and hydrophilic at the other), allowing the user to avoid the feeling of wetness.8
- Like cotton, wool absorbs water (up to 1/3 its weight), but, unlike cotton, wool retains warmth when wet,9 thus helping wearers avoid hypothermia after sweating from strenuous exercise or getting rained on when outside.8
- Like most wools, merino contains lanolin, which has antibacterial properties.10
- Merino is one of the softest types of wool available, due to finer fibers and smaller scales.9
- Merino has an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio compared to other wools, in part because the smaller fibers have microscopic cortices of dead air, trapping body heat similar to the way a sleeping bag warms its occupant.11
A pill, colloquially known as a bobble, is a small ball of fibers that forms on a piece of cloth. 'Pill' is also a verb for the formation of such balls.1
Pilling is a surface defect of textiles caused by wear, and is considered unsightly. It happens when washing and wearing of fabrics causes loose fibres to begin to push out from the surface of the cloth, and, over time, abrasion causes the fibres to develop into small spherical bundles, anchored to the surface of the fabric by protruding fibers that haven't broken. The textile industry divides pilling into four stages: fuzz formation, entanglement, growth, and wear-off.3 Pilling normally happens on the parts of clothing that receive the most abrasion in day-to-day wear, such as the collar, cuffs, and around the thighs and rear on trousers.4
All fabrics pill to some extent, although fibres such as linen and silk pill less than most.5 The primary drivers of pilling are the physical characteristics of the textile (including both the initial fibre, and the way in which it is processed during manufacturing), the personal habits of the textile's wearer, and the environment in which the textile is used. Fibres such as wool, cotton, polyester, nylon and acrylic have a tendency to pill the most, but wool pilling diminishes over time as non-tenacious wool fibres work themselves free of the fabric and break away, whereas pilling of synthetic textiles is a more serious problem, because the stronger fibres hold on to the pills and don't allow pills to fall off.6
In general longer fibres pill less than short ones because there are fewer ends of fibres,2 and because it is harder for the longer fibres to work themselves out of the cloth. Fabrics with a large number of loose fibres have a higher tendency to pill. Also, knitted fabrics tend to pill more than woven fabrics,1 because of the greater distance between yarn crossings in knitted fabrics than in woven ones.7 For the same reason, a tightly knitted object will pill less than a loosely knitted one.2 When a fabric is made of a blend of fibres where one fibre is significantly stronger than the other, pills tend to form as the weaker fibre wears and breaks, and the stronger fibre holds the pills onto the cloth.2
Techniques used by the textile industry to avoid pilling include singeing the loose fibres protruding on the surface of textile, and spinning the yarn with a high number of twists per inch. Some fabrics are chemically treated during the manufacturing process in order to reduce their propensity to pill. Polymeric coatings are sometimes applied, to bind fibres into the fabric surface and prevent initial fuzz from forming. Polyester and cotton fibres are sometimes modified to be of lower-than-normal strength, which results in pills detaching easily from fabrics, once they are formed. Cellulase enzymes are sometimes used on cotton fabrics during wet processing, which removes loose fibres.5
Worsted /ˈwɜrstɨd/ is a type of wool yarn, the fabric made from this yarn, and a yarn weight category. The name derives from Worstead, a village in the English county of Norfolk. This village, together with North Walsham and Aylsham, became a manufacturing centre for yarn and cloth in the 12th century when pasture enclosure and liming rendered the East Anglian soil too rich for the older agrarian sheep breeds; and weavers from Flanders moved to Norfolk.1 "Worsted" yarns/ fabrics are contrasted to woolens (though both are made from sheep's wool): the former is considered stronger, finer, smoother, and harder than the latter.
Worsted was made from the long-staple pasture wool from sheep breeds such as Teeswaters, Old Leicester Longwool and Romney Marsh. Pasture wool was not carded: instead it was washed, gilled and combed using heated long-tooth metal combs, oiled and spun. When woven, worsteds were scoured but not fulled.3
Worsted wool fabric is typically used in the making of tailored garments such as suits, as opposed to woollen wool which is used for knitted items such as sweaters.
The essential feature of worsted yarn is straight, parallel fibres. Originally, long, fine staple wool was spun to create worsted yarn; today, other long fibres are also used.4
Many spinners differentiate between worsted preparation and worsted spinning. Worsted preparation refers to the way the fibre is prepared before spinning, using ginning machines which force the fibre staples to lie parallel to each other. Once these fibres have been made into a top, they are then combed to remove the short fibres. The long fibres are combined in subsequent gilling machines to again make the fibres parallel. This produces overlapping untwisted strands called slivers. Worsted spinning refers to using a worsted technique, which produces a smooth yarn in which the fibres lie parallel.
Roving and wool top are often used to spin worsted yarn. Many hand spinners buy their fibre in roving or top form. Top and roving are ropelike in appearance, in that they can be thick and long. While some mills put a slight twist in the rovings they make, it is not enough twist to be a yarn. The fibres in top and rovings all lie parallel to one another along the length, which makes top ideal for spinning worsted yarns.
Worsted-spun yarns, used to create worsted fabric, are spun from fibres that have been combed, to ensure that the fibres all run the same direction, butt-end (for wool, the end that was cut in shearing the sheep) to tip, and remain parallel. A short draw is used in spinning worsted fibres (as opposed to a long draw).
In short draw spinning, spun from combed roving, sliver or wool top, the spinners keep their hands very close to each other. The fibres are held fanned out in one hand while the other hand pulls a small number from the mass. The twist is kept between the second hand and the wheel — there is never any twist between the two hands.
According to the Craft Yarn Council,5 the term "Worsted Weight", also known as "Afghan", "Aran", or simply "Medium", refers to a particular weight of yarn that produces a gauge of 16-20 stitches per 4 inches of stockinette, and is best knitted with 4.5mm to 5.5mm needles (US size 7-9).
Spinning is a major part of the textile industry. It is part of the textile manufacturing process where three types of fibre are converted into yarn, then fabrics, which undergo finishing processes such as bleaching to become textiles. The textiles are then fabricated into clothes or other products. There are three industrial processes available to spin yarn, and a handicraft community who use hand spinning techniques. Spinning is the twisting together of drawn out strands of fibres to form yarn, though it is colloquially used to describe the process of drawing out, inserting the twist, and winding onto bobbins.[
Natural fibres are either from animals (sheep, goat, rabbit, silk-worm), mineral (asbestos), or from plants (cotton, flax, sisal). These vegetable fibres can come from the seed (cotton), the stem (known as bast fibres: flax, hemp, jute) or the leaf (sisal).3 Without exception, many processes are needed before a clean even staple is obtained – each with a specific name. With the exception of silk, each of these fibres is short, being only centimetres in length, and each has a rough surface that enables it to bond with similar staples.3
The llama is a domesticated South American camelid, widely used as a meat and pack animal by Andean cultures since pre-Hispanic times.
They are very social animals and live with other llamas as a herd. The wool produced by a llama is very soft and lanolin-free. Llamas are intelligent and can learn simple tasks after a few repetitions. When using a pack, they can carry about 25% to 30% of their body weight for 8–13 km (5–8 miles)
Llamas have a fine undercoat which can be used for handicrafts and garments. The coarser outer guard hair is used for rugs, wall-hangings and lead ropes. The fiber comes in many different colors ranging from white or grey to reddish-brown, brown, dark brown and black.
Average diameter of some of the finest, natural fibers38
Animal - Fiber diameter (micrometres)
Alpaca (Suri) 10–15
Muskox (Qiviut) 11–13
Angora Rabbit 13
Yak Down 15–19
Camel Down 16–25
Llama (Tapada) 20–30
Alpaca (Huacaya) 27.7
Llama (Ccara) 30–40
Alpaca fleece is the natural fiber harvested from an alpaca. It is light or heavy in weight, depending on how it is spun. It is a soft, durable, luxurious  and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic.1 Alpaca is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite.3 Huacaya, an alpaca that grows soft spongy fiber, has natural crimp, thus making a naturally elastic yarn well-suited for knitting. Suri has no crimp and thus is a better fit for woven goods. The designer Armani has used Suri alpaca to fashion men's and women's suits.4 Alpaca fleece is made into various products, from very simple and inexpensive garments made by the aboriginal communities to sophisticated, industrially made and expensive products such as suits. In the United States, groups of smaller alpaca breeders have banded together to create "fiber co-ops," to make the manufacture of alpaca fiber products less expensive.
The preparing, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing process of alpaca is very similar to the process used for wool.
There are two types of alpaca: Huacaya (which produce a dense, soft, crimpy sheep-like fiber), and the Suri (with silky pencil-like locks, resembling dreadlocks but without matted fibers). Suris, prized for their longer and silkier fibers, are estimated to make up 19–20% of the North American alpaca population.5 Since its import into the United States, the number of Suri alpacas has grown substantially and become more color diverse. The Suri is thought to be rarer, most likely because the breed was reserved for royalty during Incan times.6 Suris are often said to be less cold hardy than Huacaya, but both breeds are successfully raised in more extreme climates. They were developed in South America.
The Amerindians of Peru used this fiber in the manufacture of many styles of fabrics for thousands of years before its introduction into Europe as a commercial product. The alpaca was a crucial component of ancient life in the Andes, as it provided not only warm clothing, but also meat.
The first European importations of alpaca fiber were into Spain. Spain transferred that fiber to Germany and France. Apparently, alpaca yarn was spun in England for the first time about the year 1808, but the fiber was condemned as an unworkable material. In 1830, Benjamin Outram, of Greetland, near Halifax, appears to have reattempted spinning it, and again it was condemned. These two attempts failed due to the style of fabric into which the yarn was woven—a type of camlet. With the introduction of cotton warps into Bradford trade about 1836, the true qualities of alpaca could be assessed as it was developed into fabric. It is not known where the cotton warp and mohair or alpaca weft plain-cloth came from, but it was this simple and ingenious structure which enabled Titus Salt, then a young Bradford manufacturer, to use alpaca successfully. Bradford is still the great spinning and manufacturing center for alpaca. Large quantities of yarns and cloths are exported annually to the European continent and the US, although the quantities vary with the fashions in vogue. The typical "alpaca fabric" is a very characteristic "dress fabric."
In recent years, interest in alpaca fiber clothing has surged, perhaps partly because alpaca ranching has a reasonably low impact on the environment. Individual U.S. farms are producing finished alpaca products like hats, mitts, scarves, socks, insoles, footwarmers, sweaters, jackets, as well as almost any other product. Outdoor sports enthusiasts recognize its lighter weight and better warmth provides them more comfort in colder weather. Using an alpaca and wool blend such as merino is common to the alpaca fiber industry to improve processing and the qualities of the final product.
Alpaca fiber is similar in structure to sheep wool fiber. Its softness comes from having a different smoother scale surface than sheep wool. American breeders have enhanced the softness by selecting for finer fiber diameter fiber, similar to merino wool. Fiber diameter is a highly inherited trait in both alpaca and sheep. The difference in the individual fiber scales compared to sheep wool also creates the glossy shine which is prized in alpaca. Alpaca fibers have a higher tensile strength than wool fibers. In processing, slivers lack fiber cohesion and single alpaca rovings lack strength. Blend these together and the durability is increased several times over. More twisting is necessary, especially in Suri, and this can reduce a yarn's softness.10
The alpaca has a very fine and light fleece. It does not retain water, is thermal even when wet and can resist solar radiation effectively. These characteristics guarantee the animals a permanent and appropriate coat to protect against extreme changes of temperature.11 This fiber offers the same protection to humans.
Good quality alpaca fiber is approximately 18 to 25 micrometers in diameter.1 While breeders report fiber can sell for US$2 to 4 per ounce, the world wholesale price for processed, spun alpaca “tops” is only between about $10 to $24/kg (according to quality), i.e. about $0.28 to $0.68 per oz.15 Finer fleeces, ones with a smaller diameter, are preferred, so are more expensive. As an alpaca gets older, the diameter of the fibers gets thicker, between 1 µm and 5 µm per year. This is sometimes caused by overfeeding; as excess nutrients are converted to (thicker) fiber rather than to fat.
Elite alpaca breeders in the United States are attempting to breed animals with fleece that does not degrade in quality as the animals age. They are looking for lingering fineness (fiber diameters remaining under 20 micrometers) for aging animals. It is believed this lingering fineness is heritable and thus can be improved more and more over time.
As with all fleece-producing animals, quality varies from animal to animal, and some alpacas produce fiber which is less than ideal. Fiber and conformation are the two most important factors in determining an alpaca's value.
Alpacas come in 22 natural colors, with more than 300 shades from a true-blue black through browns-black, browns, fawns, white, silver-greys, and rose-greys.1 However, white is predominant,1 because of selective breeding: the white fiber can be dyed in the largest ranges of colors. In South America, the preference is for white, as they generally have better fleece than the darker-colored animals. The demand for darker fiber have sprung up in the United States and elsewhere, though, to reintroduce the colors, but the quality of the darker fiber has decreased slightly. Breeders have been diligently working on breeding dark animals with exceptional fiber, and much progress has been made over the last few years.
Before dyeing, the alpaca fiber must go through other stages:
Selection of wool, according to color, size and quality of fiber
"Escarminado", removal of grass, dirt, thorns, and other impurities
Washing, to remove all the dirt and grease
Once the fiber is clean, it is possible to begin the process of dyeing.
To dye 1 kg of alpaca wool with cochinilla (natural dye),
Boil 5 liters of water in an aluminum can with 100 g of cochinilla for an hour.
Sift and put the fiber in the water.
Boil again for an hour and add 50 lemons cut in halves.
Then take out the wool and hang for drying.
Note: For dyeing with another natural dye (native plants), add 2 kg of the products to the water and boil.
Alpaca fiber is used for many purposes, including making clothing such as bedding, hats, mitts, scarves, gloves, and jumpers. Rugs and toys can also be made from alpaca fiber. Sweaters are most common.
Carding is a mechanical process that disentangles, cleans and intermixes fibers to produce a continuous web or sliver suitable for subsequent processing.1 This is achieved by passing the fibers between differentially moving surfaces covered with card clothing. It breaks up locks and unorganized clumps of fiber and then aligns the individual fibers to be parallel with each other. In preparing wool fiber for spinning, carding is the step that comes after teasing.2
The word is derived from the Latin carduus meaning teasel, as dried vegetable teasels were first used to comb the raw wool. These ordered fibers can then be passed on to other processes that are specific to the desired end use of the fiber: Cotton, batting, felt, woollen or worsted yarn, etc. Carding can also be used to create blends of different fibers or different colors. When blending, the carding process combines the different fibers into a homogeneous mix. Commercial cards also have rollers and systems designed to remove some vegetable matter contaminants from the wool.
Common to all carders is card clothing. Card clothing is made from a sturdy flexible backing in which closely spaced wire pins are embedded. The shape, length, diameter, and spacing of these wire pins is dictated by the card designer and the particular requirements of the application where the card cloth will be used. A later version of the card clothing product developed during the latter half of the 19th century and found only on commercial carding machines, whereby a single piece of serrated wire was wrapped around a roller, became known as metallic card clothing.
Carding machines are known as cards. Fiber may be carded by hand for hand spinning.
THE SUIT YOU CAN WASH IN THE SHOWER
The Shower Clean Suit is produced by menswear maker Konaka Co. The company uses a special blend of wool and high technology to create what it is touting as a world first in business attire. Konaka developers first hit upon the idea when they were trying to come up with a way to keep suits perpetually clean and fresh. "Wouldn't it be nice if you could just wash the suit when you take a shower," they thought. This was easier said than done, however. They first had to come up with a material that would allow dirt to be rinsed off. The design team focused on using wool, since dirt does not easily penetrate wool fibers. In addition, they managed to blend the wool with water-soluble fibers. After being sewn together, the suit is soaked with water, causing the water-soluble fibers to dissolve. This creates a material made up of wool fibers and tiny hollow cavities. Thus water is able to pass easily between the fibers, taking any dirt along with it. What is more, the material is very breathable and exceptionally lightweight.
Instead of being doused in a vat of chemicals, the Shower Clean suit can be cleaned in, well, a shower. The kind we all have in our bathrooms. To the eye and to the touch, the fabric appears normal, but thanks to a microscopic polymer coating, the fibres remain stable after a rinsing.
This fibre and tailoring technology, termed MerinoFresh™, has been developed by Australian Wool Innovation, the trade body that represents the Australian producers of merino wool. In Japan, the Shower Clean Suit has been stocked at the men’s wear retailer Konaka since December 2007, selling for the equivalent of $450. A short film used for its in-store promotion has even found its way on to YouTube.