Getting to know wool
One of the seasonal changes we eagerly welcome as the last days of summer fade into the first few of fall is the opportunity to greet the chill in the air with a warm sweater. Since there’s a good chance that sweater will be made of wool, it’s time we got better acquainted with this warm winter fiber. Wool is also something that consumers don’t often think about. While there is now more awareness about the polluting effects of cotton and denim, most people don’t know much about wool besides the fact that it comes from sheep. (And probably Australian sheep, since 90% of the world’s wool supply comes from Down Under.) In 2013, global wool output was 1.2 million tons, accounting for 3% of the world’s production of natural fibers and 1.3% of the global fiber market. Wool is produced in roughly 100 countries around the world from population of over 1 billion sheep. Most of the world’s sheep live in China (185 million), Australia, and India (75 million each).
Here, we will talk about a Merino variety wool. The uninitiated will tell you that cashmere is the finest textile on the planet. Those who know, know that ultrafine merino is without substitute or equal. A wool fibre is composed of a natural protein called keratin that is biodegradable, similar to the protein found in human hair. When disposed of, Merino wool decomposes in soil in a matter of years, slowly releasing valuable nitrogen-based nutrients back into the earth, acting like a fertiliser. In contrast, synthetic fibres can be extremely slow to degrade. And Merino wool is a completely renewable fibre; Australian Merino sheep produce a new fleece every year. In addition, Australian Merino farmers work tirelessly to conserve the pastures on which their Merino sheep graze, protecting and preserving the natural resources for future generations while maintaining the efficiency of their land.
Merino wool fibres are extremely fine, enabling them to bend far more than traditional, coarser wool fibres. This makes Merino wool feel soft and luxuriously gentle next to your skin. In contrast to synthetics, Merino wool is an active fibre that reacts to changes in body temperature. So it helps you stay warm when the weather is cold, and cool when the weather is hot.
From luxury wool fashion to contemporary streetwear, Merino wool is loved by the world’s most influential fashion designers and brands, providing designers with a blank canvas to work with. Fashion designers across the world are continuing to fall in love with Merino wool. Providing fashion designers with a perfect blank canvas full of infinite possibilities, the fibre inspires creations for the everyday as well as for the catwalks of the world’s top fashion houses. The finished product has next-to-skin softness with superior drape, follows the form of the wearer’s body thanks to exceptional elasticity and can be knitted or woven into the latest trends or unique statement pieces.
There is pre-existing research which shows that wool, as a fibre, has a great story to tell. In addition, there is also active research under way promoting the health and wellbeing benefits of wool, strengthening the fibre’s environmental credentials.
Science is showing that – as well as being a natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre – wool bedding and sleepwear appear to promote a better night’s sleep, and fine wool knitwear can assist people that suffer from particular types of skin conditions.
Consistent with earlier science findings, the early results from a study undertaken by the University of Sydney, Australia, are showing that wool sleeping apparel and bedding increases total sleep time, promotes sleep onset and improves sleep efficiency. In hot (29° Celsius) conditions, wearing wool sleepwear saw participants in the study sleep significantly longer, reflecting faster sleep onset and waking up less frequently. In both cold (17° Celsius) and neutral (22° Celsius) conditions, the combination of wool sleepwear and bedding saw participants have a more efficient sleep compared to when tested using non-wool sleepwear and bedding.