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Keep Mindful

10 Things to Know about Wool

13 October 2016
Lucinda Wool and Cashmere Cardigan
The temperature has dropped and with it the sudden desire to wear wool.  With this in mind, and the fact it’s #woolweek, we decided to shed a bit more light on why we should all flock to this wondrous fibre, our preferred types, and how to care for your favourite fleece

 

1) Not all wools are created equal

Simply put wool is the common word for all fabrics made from the fleece of certain animals – sheep, goat, camel etc.  Each type of fleece is different and therefore every wool fabric has its own properties. A few of our favourites include:

  • Sheep’s wool: the most traditional of all the wools, made from any sheep fleece, with the earliest known European sheep’s wool textile dating back to 1500 BC, preserved in a Danish bog.
  • Mohair: a silk-like yarn derived from the hair of an Angora goat. Nicknamed the ‘Diamond fabric’ due to its high lustre and sheen, mohair is also durable and resilient. With its excellent insulating properties, Mohair is warm in winter whilst remaining cool in summer.
  • Alpaca: traditionally sourced from the hair of Peruvian alpacas, it can also come from similar fibres of mohair, Icelandic sheep or even high-quality English wool. Alpaca fleece is a lustrous, silky, soft and therefore luxurious natural fibre. It is warmer than usual wool, not itchy, and bears no lanolin, and therefore – hypoallergenic.

 

Alvina Jo Mohair Jumper

2) Knitwear for life 

Wool fibre is resilient and elastic and as a result can be bent more than 20,000 times without danger of breaking. Since wool fibres resist piling, snagging, and breaking, wool items typically outlast synthetic ones.

3) A natural heating system

When the air is cold and damp, wool absorbs moisture and keeps a layer of dry insulating air next to the skin. This makes the body’s warming system work better.

4) Water resistant, really?

As the air pockets in wool fibres are deeply protected by the natural shape of the springy fibres, the sheathed outer coating of the fibre, and the natural wool oils.  So even when wool is soaking wet there are still insulating air pockets inside the fibre doing their best to help keep you warm.

Since wool fibres resist piling, snagging, and breaking, wool items typically outlast synthetic ones

5) No sweat, wool’s got your back

Wool is an absorbent fibre and therefore is comfortable to wear in both warm and cool climates. When the air is warm, wool takes up perspiration and keeps a layer of dry insulating air next to the skin.

6) A Natural Way to Dye

Wool absorbs dyes deeply and directly without any use of chemicals. Because of this, wool can be dyed in beautiful, rich colours.

7) Got an itch?

Wool definitely softens with wearing and washing, and there are a few tricks to try if you’ve got a wool sweater that doesn’t sit comfortably against your skin. Try washing it with glycerine, vinegar or hair conditioner to soften the fibres.

8) Taking Care of your Mohair (and other woolies)

Whilst some wools, such as Mohair, has a much lower felting capacity, all wool is susceptible to ‘wadding’ or ‘felting’, so try not to rub or agitate garments when washing them. For ‘hand-wash’ only items simply let them lay in cold water and mild detergent or use your machine’s wool cycle with cool water. To remove excess water after washing, gently roll the garment in a towel and dry on a flat surface away from direct heat or sunlight. To keep your knitwear in good shape, dry cleaning once a season is often recommended, but again depends on the labelling of the item.

if you've got a wool sweater that doesn’t sit comfortably against your skin...try washing it with glycerine, vinegar or hair conditioner to soften the fibres

9) A legacy in stitches

Originating many generations ago, off the West coast of Ireland. the Aran jumper is one of the most famous examples of Irish design of the twentieth century. Typically, a finished ‘hand-knit’ contains approximately 100,000 carefully constructed stitches, of numerous combinations, designed to reflect the lives of the knitters, and their families. In some cases, the distinctive nature of the pattern was the identifying feature of fisherman drowned at sea.

Photo Credit: http://theredlist.com/wiki-2-24-525-527-668-view-1960s-2-profile-steve-mcqueen.html#photo
Photo Credit: http://nearlyoldfriends.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/humpday-happiness_12.html
Photo Credit: https://www.alpacaunlimited.com/blog/knitwear-101-history-of-the-aran-sweater/
Photo Credit: http://thecaledonianminingexpeditioncompany.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/jean-seberg.html

10) But seriously, why the campaign?

Since the introduction of synthetic alternatives in the early 1950’s, wool went dramatically out of fashion and with it the loss of the quality once produced by the weavers of Britain. However, it’s now re-emerging as a popular fabric within the fashion industry, and with it a renewed appreciation of the heritage and craftsmanship involved. The Campaign For Wool does just that, promoting a global celebration of all things woolly.  Yet, to say that wool is fantastic natural and sustainable material would be too simplistic. The Ethical Fashion Forum highlight three key issues associated with wool production and processing which include:

  • the issue of land and food for the raising and breeding of sheep;
  • the water use during manufacture; and
  • the use of chemicals in the production of wool, yarns and fabrics

So whilst it’s important to embrace the growing popularity of wool, it’s vital to promote better farming practices (both environmentally and ethically) and the reduction of chemicals so the processing of wool becomes truly sustainable.

Download the IWTO guidelines for wool sheep welfare, a concise summation of good practice principles for ethical wool sheep production here

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