Since the existence of early man, who used to use raw hides with wool to protect himself, Humans have been washing, wearing wool since 10000 BCE . Source of wool is sheep, depending on the breed, region etc the wool from particular breed of sheep determines the quality of the wool
Scouring ( washing ) of Wool
Sheep doesn’t bathe every day hence the wool on the sheep gathers, dust, vegetable matter, and becomes greasy full of oil ( like if don’t wash our hair for long time it will become dusty and oily ), When wool is shorn from sheep it is full of dust, grease, oil, and plant matter, it is called as Greasy wool - it needs to be washed, The process of washing wool is like we do shampoo ( it is called as Scouring ), what we are left with is called as scoured wool, Raw wool fibres, entangle with each other, short, long, very short, very long wool fibres.
Combing of wool
The wool fibres then have to be carded and combed, carding is the process where these entangled random wool fibres and made parallel and brought in straight form and long unit which can be spun in to you, these form of carded wool is called wool tops,which further is combed ( like we comb human hair ) after washing and drying, combing further parallelizes the wool fibres, takes out very short fibres, and also removes residual vegetable matter . The combed tops are then spun on spinning machines to make different kinds of yarns
Classification and properties of wool
Wool can be classified on many parameters some important parameters are
- Origin and Breed of Sheep : Wool being natural fibre different breeds of sheep inhabiting different parts of the world produce
- Merino : One of the important of these breeds is Merino – Merino sheep produces very soft, good quality wool, good color, It is expensive but ideal for apparels and accessories. Generally 24 micron or below is classified as Merino wool if from Merino Breed, Wool mark company certifies Merino as 22.5 microns or below
- BCross Bred Wools : These wools range from 24 microns to 32 microns from mixed breeds, it is cheaper than Merino wool as microns are coarse, therefore very affordable and imparts nice feel, handle and warmth
- Carpet grade wools : Wools more than 31/32 microns are generally used for carpets, floor coverings Origins : Wool specific to regions can have unique properties for example, 85% of worlds Merino is produced in Australia, NZ has best carpet wools, Wools from UK have excellent bounce crimp factor so are bulkier, Argentinian wools can be very soft, clean, extra white, Scandinavian wools are very good extreme cold places and so on
- Wool Microns : Wool microns ( diameter of the wool fibre ) is measured in microns, hence called as Wool microns 1 micron = 0.001 mm, 10 microns is 0.01 mm, Hence 25 microns would be 0.025 mm.
- Most common range for wool microns for Hand knitting yarns is 19 to 32
- Merino is generally 17 to 24 microns – can be finer as well.
- Wool below 19.5 microns is called as Super fine or Extra fine Merino
- Wool below 17.5 microns is called Ultra fine Merino
- Lower the microns more expensive is the wool and hence softer
- Machine washability of wool : Wool fibres have scales on them, when washed in warm water wools tends to join other fibres and these scales fuse with each other, Wool shrinks and knitted wool after shrinking forms fabric, this process is called as felting . In order avoid wool to shrink, we treatment before spinning is given called as shrink resistant treatment, or Super wash or TEC ( Total Easy care ), scales are removed, such wools become machine washable or shrink resistant. Care should be taken and wash care symbols should be checked on the label, if wool is machine washable it can be washed or tumble dried and if not then wool It should washed by hand with care to avoid felting or shrinking.
Advantages of wool
- Wool pills less, as compared to other synthetic fibres like acrylic, fibres of which can stick to your skin, wool wont
- Wool is a natural insulator hence warmer than synthetics or other fibres
- Wool is naturally safe. It is not known to cause allergies and does not promote the growth of bacteria.
- Wool is naturally Anti Static – ( Synthetics produces a lot of static charge )
- Wool is renewable, Biodegradable – when mixed with soil it decomposes and becomes part of soil in short time
- Wool is Flame retardant, it retards the flame growth unlike synthetics
- Wool has high level of UV protection ( much higher than cotton or synthetics )
- Wool has natural elasticity and bounce as compared to cotton – which tends to rigid, flat
- Wool is Anti Wrinkle, wool fibres and yarns and spring, coil like bounce back to regain original shape when bent with pressure
- Wool is stain resistant, Wool has outer protective layer which prevents stain to be absorbed hence, stains on wool are easily removable and washable
Why wool is best for socks
- Our feet take the most load and often are the most ignored part of the body which remain in closed environment ( especially with socks further surrounded by shoes for hours together
- Feet have maximum number of sweat glands in the body, constantly sweating and remaining most when in socks and shoes
- Wool has best absorption of moisture and water – it is the most efficient in absorbing sweat amongst all textile fibres, It is the ideal fibre for your feet, it will keep feet warm and moisture free, Wool can absorb moisture upto more than 30% of its weight, Acrylic moisture absorption is less than 2% as such it is damaging to your feet when kept in closed environment for longer period of times – Unless Acrylic is Anti Microbial / Bacterial /Fungal ( it is not recommended to be used for socks or anything with close contact to skin for longer time )
- Odour resistant – Wool absorbs sweat and releasing it into the air, before bacteria has a chance to develop and produce unpleasant body odour, hence odour resistant, ( Acrylic wont absorb sweat,hence prone to odour )
- Wool a breathable fibre, when you wear only socks at home , without shoes the fibres breathe allow air to be exchanged, keeping your feet healthy without loosing warmth
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