Wool is a beautiful, soft and resilient fabric that is woven using animal fibres from the fleece of sheep, and even though many people associate wool only with sheep, fibres from camels, goats, alpaca and the llamas are also considered as textile wool.
But the rarest and most valuable of wool fibres is vicuña, which is sheared from the South American camel.
And though the largest quantity of wool fibres comes from Australia, their wool fibres are much shorter in length than the wool obtained from the popular English sheep.
Qualities of Wool Fabrics
Wool is soft, resilient, warm, springy, kinky and very durable, with the wool fibres varying in length from as little as 1inch to as much as 18inches, depending on the geographical region in which it is found, and the particular animal. So for example, worsteds require hard twisted long fibres, while the softer wool fabrics require shorter fibres for their textile construction.
It is naturally stain and wrinkle free and has the unique ability to absorb up to 40% of its weight in moisture without being damp.
Naturally, wool fibres vary in colour, from the neutral pale hues to the darker browns, but they are easy to dye. However, it needs to be bleached first before the dyeing process commences. The dyed wool fabrics will retain dye for a very long period of time.
Wool should be mothproofed before use because of its vulnerability to moth attack, but it is nevertheless pliant, naturally resistant to naked flame, is antistatic, and has a good resistance to scuff or graze.
Types of Wool
There are many types of wool including Melton, crepe, gabardine, challis, merino, jersey and worsted wool suiting. Others are:
Cashmere is a natural fibre that is obtained from the fleecy undergrowth of the Kashmir goat. It is used mainly to make clothing apparel such as coats, jumpers, tops, suits, sweaters, shawls, and dresses. This type of luxury fibre has a very soft hand.
Boiled wool gives one the flexibility of wearing knitwear with great warmth. Also referred to as felted knitted wool, boiled wool fabrics is suitable for jackets, vests and for craft works such as stuffed animals.