This is the time of year when people start thinking about buying sweaters. A good wool sweater can keep you warm on those cold winter nights. Imagine curling up with your significant other next to a roaring fire with a hot drink in your hands. Your wool sweaters make sure you don’t feel the chill of the night air.
Human beings have relied on wool as a clothing material for centuries. And even though we have access to plenty of synthetic materials in the 21st century, wool remains an old standby we haven’t forgotten about. It is as important today as it ever was in the past.
Genuine wool is a natural material provided by the animal kingdom and it is a fiber that is spun to create threads and yarns. Those threads and yarns are then used to manufacture the woolen clothing we know and love. A wool yarn might be used to create beautiful sweaters while threads are woven into fabrics.
Sheep, Goats, and More
Most of us understand wool as coming from sheep. We have all seen the documentaries depicting entire flocks of sheep being sent to the shears. All of the harvested wool fibers become threads and yarns. But guess what? Not all wool comes from sheep.
Some wools are harvested from muskoxen, camelids, and even angora rabbits. Cashmere is a specific fiber harvested from cashmere goats. Likewise, mohair comes from angora goats. As you can see, wool is not as simple as it appears. There are plenty of animals whose coats can be made into fabrics for our clothing.
The Shearing Process
At this point it is important to note that shearing doesn’t harm the animals. Shearing a sheep or goat is no different from you or I getting a haircut. As long as it’s done properly, the animals aren’t bothered by it, and once shorn, an animal’s coat begins growing again.
As for the wool, it is typically divided into four categories immediately following shearing: fleece, bellies, brokens, and locks. Most of it is fleece – the material from which we make most of our wool clothing.
Shorn wool must first be cleaned through a process known as scouring. It not only prepares the wool for spinning, but also harvests some by-products with other uses. Lanolin is a good example of one such by-product. Scouring is sometimes accomplished with nothing more than warm water. Other times, detergents must be used.
Following the scouring process, wool fibers are further classified by diameter. The smaller the diameter, the finer the spun yarn or thread. Smaller diameters create a higher quality product.
Wool’s Many Uses
Wool is such a versatile fiber that we can use it to make all sorts of things. This post started by talking about wool sweaters. You can find a full variety of wool sweaters here at The Stockist, as well as clothing boutiques and department stores around the country. Everything from luxurious cashmere pullovers to wool cardigans are readily available. But that’s not all.
Wool is a great material for making gloves and hats. Wool jackets are also fairly common. In fact, a lot of clothing was made of wool prior to the introduction of synthetic fibers and fabrics.
Elsewhere, wool is sometimes used to make carpeting and area rugs. A good wool rug will last hundreds of years with minimal care. Wool is a favorite among upholsterers as well as makers of saddle cloths, horse rugs, and other similar items.
So there you have it, the wonderful world of wool sweaters goes way beyond those wonderful pullovers that keep us so warm in the winter.