Under a microscope a wool fibre is seen to be covered by a thin sheath of overlapping scales that act rather like tiny roof tiles. The scales cause liquid water to form beads and roll off. This enables a wool fabric to repel moderate rain and spills.
In contrast, wool absorbs water vapour (from the air or from perspiration), through the porous coating over the scales. Hence wool can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture—without feeling clammy. Damp wool fabric remains absorbent and comfortable inside because its outer surface releases this moisture through evaporation.
Wool fibres strive to stay in balance with the surrounding moisture conditions—this is why wool is said to breathe as it absorbs and evaporates moisture.
Wool generates heat
When moisture enters the fibre (for example, when we go outside on a cold, damp day), a significant amount of energy is released. This enables a wool jersey or other garment to provide a warming effect while the moisture is being absorbed. Every kilogram of wool generates about as much energy as the human body metabolism produces in one hour. And when you return to a dry, warm indoor environment, the moisture is released and a cooling effect is the result.
Wool the insulator
Wool also provides us with warmth through its insulation properties. In a wool garment the crimp in the fibres makes them stand apart from each other. As a result, little pockets of still air are trapped between the fibres. This lining of air trapped inside the fabric acts as an insulator (as well as the layer between the fabric and the skin).
Today, Merinos are still regarded as having some of the finest and softest wool of any sheep. Merino wool is finely crimped a New Zealand produces lightweight knits made from Merino wool and possum fur. 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. Australian merino wool is considered one of the best in the world for wool fabrics.
Alpaca fleece is the natural fibre 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 fibre. While similar to sheeps’ wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoalergenic. Alpaca is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite. Huacaya, an alpaca that grows soft spongy fibrer, 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.
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 lustre 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 fibre, like cashmere, angora and silk, and is usually more expensive than most wool that comes from sheep.
Mohair is composed mostly of keratin, a protein found in the hair, wool, horns and skin of all mammals. While it has scales like wool, the scales are not fully developed, merely indicated. Thus, mohair does not felt as wool does.
Cashmere wool, usually simply known as cashmere, is a fibre obtained from cashmere goats and other types of goat. Common usage defines the fibre 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.
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.
Silk is a natural protein fibre, some forms of which can be woven into textiles. The protein fibre of silk is composed mainly of fibroin and is produced by certain insect larvae to form cocoons. The best-known silk is obtained from the cocoons of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm reared in captivity. The shimmering appearance of silk is due to the triangular prism-like structure of the silk fibre, which allows silk cloth to refract incoming light at different angles, thus producing different colours.
Natural Fibre Care
Delicate Wash is a unique blend containing a mild surfactant to gently and effectively remove most soiling and stains. It also contains a ‘conditioning’ agent to ensure the soft feel of natural wool and to retain the special lustre of new wool. Finally Delicate Wash contains a blend of Australian melaleuca oils, including tea tree oil, which has been proven effective against dust mite & pet allergen, especially recommended for wool bedding, as well as the fresh scent of natural lemon myrtle, which reduces ‘wet wool smell’.
Delicate Wash is recommended for hand or machine washing of all garments marked suitable for washing, including knitted garments such as jumpers and hand knits, and woven garments such as wool denim and moleskins.
Felting Finish & Wool Wash is based on our Delicate Wash with the addition of a lanolin conditioner and is used to relax the fibres at the end of the felting process. Felting Finish & Wool Wash can be left in without rinsing out for four reasons;
Felting Finish & Wool Wash can also be used as a no-rinse wool wash, particularly where a garment is susceptible to pilling.
Fibre Scouris based on our Delicate Wash but has increased grease dispersingproperties which removes the heavy lanolin grease in newly shorn wool. Fibre Scour is also excellent at cleaning fibres such as alpaca, and holds the AlpacaMark, mohair and other natural fibres. The softening properties provide leaves the fibre soft & clean ready for spinning or can be used after spinning raw fleece, which some people prefer.