A Short Introduction to Different Types of Wool
When we are cold it is almost impossible to imagine a world without a wool sweater, or at least a blanket. Benefits and usage of the wool have been known for centuries. Not just in a form of our clothing style but as well for our homes. It is also one of the best natural materials with biodegradable and breathable features. Meaning, eventually as a disposable item it will compost in the ground, and wearing it, it will adapt to our body temperature unlike synthetic fibers.
Today, two main wool sources come from Australia and China, followed by USA and New Zealand (source). The wool industry produces around 1160 million kilograms (mkg) of clean wool per year and a single sheep provides about 4.5 kg of wool per year, or the equivalent of 10+ metres of fabric (Source).
There are different types of wool, so let’s begin!
They say its origin comes from Spain, dating back to 12th century. Today, merino wool is like a popular sister compared to the “ordinary” wool that we refer to as the “normal” one. Thanks to its softness and flexibility it is not a surprise why it became more popular. More resistant to the flame and antiallergic as well. Merino wool can be combined with other fibers such as cotton and silk. With cotton it might be mixed 50/50, and usually recommended for spring/fall seasons. The yarn might look less like wool and more like cotton. The softness might be reduced than the 100% merino version, but the cotton provides more firmness. Merino/silk option is a rare kind, but it can be found, usually in a 70/30 ratio. The yarn will also have less of a “wool look” and provide more firmness.
Originally from South America, alpacas are related to lamas, another type of a fluffy animal that we adore. The alpaca wool is extremely soft, light and antiallergic. Usually used for making a scarf or a blanket. It is common to mix it with other fibers because it is very warm and to ensure better fiber resilience. They say that the softest parts come from the head and the neck area – usually referred to as a “baby alpaca” type. The touch resembles to cashmere. When mixing with “normal” sheep wool, usually comes in a 30/70 ratio, which means that it will be less soft, but more “full” and resilient. When mixed with merino wool, it can come in a 50/50 ratio and this combination provides fluffy, soft and flexible yarns.
Cashmere comes from goats in Asia, or at least that is its main source. Unlike the sheep wool, goats do not get shaved but their hair gets collected in the spring caused by natural shading. They say that the neck part is the softest. Cashmere is very warm, soft and breathable. Because it is more expensive wool on the market, usually gets mixed with other fibers.
Originally coming from goats in Mongolia, mohair just like cashmere is more expensive and luxurious option for a wool. It is very soft, fluffy and light material, but also providing a special shine and firmness. Usually it gets mixed with silk. Often it looks like a “spider web” when knitted for a scarf. There is also a type called Baby Mohair, providing more softness and aimed for kid’s items.
When we just say “wool” it usually refers to our image of some domestic sheep herd in a field. The wool is usually more “harsh” to the touch and therefore more used for the production of home décor or accessorize. In case of wearing it, many people dislike the feeling of itching when in a contact with a bare skin. But one thing is for sure; it’s very warm and a strong resilient fiber.
Virgin wool (or New Wool) usually means it is a wool provided by a sheep that was for the first time shaved and therefore, the softest “wool” option within this category, but merino wool still being much more softer. Usually it comes in only few shades, keeping the natural look as much as possible and to be less processed.
Filz is a type of a wool fiber coming in a thick and more ruff option. You can see it used for décor in a form of yarns or “paper blocks”. Common to make a hat, bag or a cushion out of it, or even a carpet. Not recommended for clothing items.