the natural fiber produced by the skin of domesticated sheep, characterized by its quality of felting together by virtue of its imbricated surface.
wool ballsee trichobezoar.
black woolinherited coat color in sheep.
wool blindthe state of having excess wool growth around the eyes to the point where the sheep is unable to see.
break in woolsee wool break.
carding woolwool suitable for the woollen trade.
carpet woolcoarse low-grade wool, used in the manufacture of carpets.
wool classingsee wool classing.
clean woolthe basis on which the price of wool is set; scoured wool less charges and loss incurred in scouring.
combing woollong-fibered wool suitable for processing in a combing machine. Used in textile manufacture, especially worsted.
colored wool fibersnaturally colored fibers in a fleece.
dead woolwool plucked from a sheep which has been dead for some time; usually heavily contaminated and of little value.
dense woolstaples carrying many fibers per unit area of skin surface.
wool depigmentationsee achromotrichia.
wool discolorationsee fleece rot, mycotic dermatitis.
doggy woolunevenly or poorly crimped wool; found in old sheep.
wool eatingeating of rabbits’ wool by other rabbits, or wool from garments by cats causes intestinal wool balls and obstruction of the gut. May be a manifestation of pica due to boredom.
wool fatsee lanolin.
wool fiber abnormalitiesincludes straight, steely wool, wool break, pigmentation, achromotrichia in black sheep.
wool fiber diameterthickness of the fiber; wool is sold on the basis of the average fiber diameter of the wool in the lot as determined by a machine and quoted in microns (micrometers); a more sophisticated classification is made on the basis of the average fiber diameter and the variability of the diameter.
greasy woolwool in its natural state, after removal from the sheep and before any commercial processing; contains yolk, suint, moisture, extraneous soil and vegetable matter.
wool hairsthe soft undercoat fibers in most cats and dogs, interspersed with the longer guard hair; the predominant fiber type in sheep.
hogget woolfirst fleece from a 10 to 14 month old sheep which has not been previously shorn.
hunger fine woolwool with a finer fiber diameter than expected for the sheep’s age; caused usually by poor nutrition.
wool industryincludes sheep farming, shearing, wool sales, wool processing and fiber and fabric manufacture.
wool maggotssee cutaneous myiasis.
wool pickingpulling at the wool of another sheep. It may be a vice due to over-confinement, or to an unspecified nutritional deficiency. Biting of another sheep as occurs in rabies may be confused with wool picking but not for long.
plain woolstraight wool lacking crimp and character.
wool processing effluentliquid effluent from wool processing; has been a source of infection with anthrax.
wool pullingpulling by the sheep of its own wool, usually an indication of itchiness. See also psorergatesovis.
wool qualitythe British standard for wool quality is based on the Bradford Spinning Count System and the wool qualified as to its Bradford Count. This originated in the 19th century and is based on the number of 560-yard worsted skeins that can be produced from one pound of clean wool; larger numbers mean finer wool.
wool rotsee fleece rot.
wool rubbingthe sheep rubs its fleece against a hard object. Usually an indication of itching caused by external parasites or to a systemic disease with manifestations in the skin. See also scrapie.
wool slipalopecia of housed ewes that are shorn in winter. The wool is lost over a large area of the back. There is no systemic illness and the wool regrows normally. The cause is unknown but the condition appears to be related to a high level of serum corticosteroids.
wool suckinga vice of cats, particularly Siamese and Siamese crosses, in which they suck or chew woollen objects. Believed to be an extension of sucking behavior.
tender woolwool which will break during the combing process in manufacturing.
wool waxsee lanolin.
wool weightsee fleece weight.
wool yieldthe percentage of raw wool that can be retrieved from processing in a state suitable for the particular type of production which is in hand, e.g. carpet making.
La (titolare della certificazione Woolmark, acquisita dall’Australian Wool Innovation Limited — AWI) promuove la tramite il controllo qualità del prodotto, applicando un sistema di certificazione universale con specifiche ristrettive e standard qualitativi definiti.
Il significato del termine Pura Lana Vergine è fondamentalmente distinguibile fra le due parti:
- Pura Lana: che sta a significare la presenza di sola lana all’interno del capo con una tolleranza massima del 7,3%
- Vergine: ovvero che la lana usata si tratta di lana di tosa e non rigenerata o recuperata da lavorazioni industriali
Il marchio di certificazione è presente dal 1964, quando venne creato dal Segretariato Internazionale della Lana (IWS), viene concesso gratuitamente fino al 1994, quando, a causa di un crollo vertiginoso del prezzo della lana, la IWS inizia a volere un contributo per la licenza d’uso al fine di reperire nuovi fondi per sostenere l’immagine della lana stessa. Il contributo varia da 2000 a 5000 dollari, a seconda della produzione da parte dell’azienda.
Il marchio sta a significare l’utilizzo di nuova di tosa, proveniente direttamente dalla del vello, cioè non riusata o rigenerata, garantisce quindi che il prodotto è realizzato al 100% da lana vergine con tolleranza di 0,3% per impurità involontarie e di 7% per altre fibre a scopo estetico; garantisce anche altri aspetti qualitativi per i ovvero solidità dei colori e carico di rottura. Inoltre tutela anche la qualità nei garantendo standard qualitativi riguardanti la densità del pelo e il trattamento antitarme. Non sono obbligatori ma tutelati, se presenti, i trattamenti di irrestringibilità.
Il controllo avviene attraverso la prelevazione di campioni presso i produttori, i quali devono anche registrare ogni singolo nuovo campione presso l’archivio IWS.
Il marchio internazionale della Pura lana vergine è stato disegnato nel 1964 dall’italiano . Il marchio è un chiaro esempio di applicazioni di molteplici di . Consiste in un di lana stilizzato, l’immagine però se osservata attentamente trasmette ambiguità al lettore, infatti la geometria del gomitolo riprende il , ottenendo così un oggetto tridimensionale avente solo apparentemente l’inizio e la fine combacianti, ma in realtà non corrispondenti.
Tale marchio si è affermato come principale certificazione di fibra a valore aggiunto nei prodotti di e lavorazione della lana e come simbolo di garanzia di qualità della Pura lana vergine. Il marchio è registrato in 117 Paesi.
Champion hogget fleece, Walcha Show
Wool is produced by follicles which are small cells located in the skin. These follicles are located in the upper layer of the skin called the epidermis and push down into the second skin layer called the dermis as the wool fibers grow. Follicles can be classed as either primary or secondary follicles. Primary follicles produce three types of fiber: kemp, medullated fibers, and true wool fibers. Secondary follicles only produce true wool fibers. Medullated fibers share nearly identical characteristics to hair and are long but lack crimp and elasticity. Kemp fibers are very coarse and shed out.
Fleece of fine New Zealand Merino wool and combed wool top on a wool table
Wool’s scaling and crimp make it easier to spin the fleece by helping the individual fibers attach to each other, so they stay together. Because of the crimp, wool fabrics have greater bulk than other textiles, and they hold air, which causes the fabric to retain heat. Wool has a high specific thermal resistance, so it impedes heat transfer in general. This effect has benefited desert peoples, as Bedouins and Tuaregs use wool clothes for insulation.
Felting of wool occurs upon hammering or other mechanical agitation as the microscopic barbs on the surface of wool fibers hook together.
Wool has several qualities that distinguish it from hair/fur: it is crimped and elastic.
The amount of crimp corresponds to the fineness of the wool fibers. A fine wool like Merino may have up to 100 crimps per inch, while coarser wool like karakul may have as few as one or two. In contrast, hair has little if any scale and no crimp, and little ability to bind into yarn. On sheep, the hair part of the fleece is called kemp. The relative amounts of kemp to wool vary from breed to breed and make some fleeces more desirable for spinning, felting, or carding into batts for quilts or other insulating products, including the famous tweed cloth of Scotland.
Wool fibers readily absorb moisture, but are not hollow. Wool can absorb almost one-third of its own weight in water.
Wool absorbs sound like many other fabrics. It is generally a creamy white color, although some breeds of sheep produce natural colors, such as black, brown, silver, and random mixes.
Wool ignites at a higher temperature than cotton and some synthetic fibers. It has a lower rate of flame spread, a lower rate of heat release, a lower heat of combustion, and does not melt or drip; it forms a char that is insulating and self-extinguishing, and it contributes less to toxic gases and smoke than other flooring products when used in carpets. Wool carpets are specified for high safety environments, such as trains and aircraft. Wool is usually specified for garments for firefighters, soldiers, and others in occupations where they are exposed to the likelihood of fire.
Wool causes an allergic reaction in some people.
Global wool production is about 2 million tonnes per year, of which 60% goes into apparel. Wool comprises ca 3% of the global textile market, but its value is higher owing to dying and other modifications of the material. Australia is a leading producer of wool which is mostly from Merino sheep but has been eclipsed by China in terms of total weight. New Zealand (2016) is the third-largest producer of wool, and the largest producer of crossbred wool. Breeds such as Lincoln, Romney, Drysdale, and Elliotdale produce coarser fibers, and wool from these sheep is usually used for making carpets.
In the United States, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado have large commercial sheep flocks and their mainstay is the Rambouillet (or French Merino). Also, a thriving home-flock contingent of small-scale farmers raise small hobby flocks of specialty sheep for the hand-spinning market. These small-scale farmers offer a wide selection of fleece.
Global woolclip (total amount of wool shorn) 2004/2005
- Australia: 25% of global woolclip (475 million kg greasy, 2004/2005)
- China: 18%
- United States: 17%
- New Zealand: 11%
- Argentina: 3%
- Turkey: 2%
- Iran: 2%
- United Kingdom: 2%
- India: 2%
- Sudan: 2%
- South Africa: 1%
Organic wool is becoming more and more popular. This wool is very limited in supply and much of it comes from New Zealand and Australia. It is becoming easier to find in clothing and other products, but these products often carry a higher price. Wool is environmentally preferable (as compared to petroleum-based nylon or polypropylene) as a material for carpets, as well, in particular when combined with a natural binding and the use of formaldehyde-free glues.
Animal rights groups have noted issues with the production of wool, such as mulesing.
Shoddy or recycled wool is made by cutting or tearing apart existing wool fabric and respinning the resulting fibers. As this process makes the wool fibers shorter, the remanufactured fabric is inferior to the original. The recycled wool may be mixed with raw wool, wool noil, or another fiber such as cotton to increase the average fiber length. Such yarns are typically used as weft yarns with a cotton warp. This process was invented in the Heavy Woollen District of West Yorkshire and created a microeconomy in this area for many years.
Worsted is a strong, long-staple, combed wool yarn with a hard surface.
Woolen is a soft, short-staple, carded wool yarn typically used for knitting. In traditional weaving, woolen weft yarn (for softness and warmth) is frequently combined with a worsted warp yarn for strength on the loom.
Fine Merino shearing Lismore, Victoria
Sheep shearing is the process by which the woolen fleece of a sheep is cut off. After shearing, the wool is separated into four main categories: fleece (which makes up the vast bulk), broken, bellies, and locks. The quality of fleeces is determined by a technique known as wool classing, whereby a qualified person, called a wool classer, groups wools of similar gradings together to maximize the return for the farmer or sheep owner. In Australia before being auctioned, all Merino fleece wool is objectively measured for micron, yield (including the amount of vegetable matter), staple length, staple strength, and sometimes color and comfort factor.
Wool before and after scouring
Wool straight off a sheep, known as «greasy wool» or «wool in the grease», contains a high level of valuable lanolin, as well as the sheep’s dead skin and sweat residue, and generally also contains pesticides and vegetable matter from the animal’s environment. Before the wool can be used for commercial purposes, it must be scoured, a process of cleaning the greasy wool. Scouring may be as simple as a bath in warm water or as complicated as an industrial process using detergent and alkali in specialized equipment.
In north west England, special potash pits were constructed to produce potash used in the manufacture of a soft soap for scouring locally produced white wool.
In commercial wool, vegetable matter is often removed by chemical carbonization. In less-processed wools, vegetable matter may be removed by hand and some of the lanolin left intact through the use of gentler detergents. This semigrease wool can be worked into yarn and knitted into particularly water-resistant mittens or sweaters, such as those of the Aran Island fishermen. Lanolin removed from wool is widely used in cosmetic products, such as hand creams.
Andean woman sorting wool as part of the theme park Los Aleros in Mérida, Venezuela
A buyer of Merino wool, Ermenegildo Zegna, has offered awards for Australian wool producers. In 1963, the first Ermenegildo Zegna Perpetual Trophy was presented in Tasmania for growers of «Superfine skirted Merino fleece». In 1980, a national award, the Ermenegildo Zegna Trophy for Extrafine Wool Production, was launched. In 2004, this award became known as the Ermenegildo Zegna Unprotected Wool Trophy. In 1998, an Ermenegildo Zegna Protected Wool Trophy was launched for fleece from sheep coated for around nine months of the year.
In 2002, the Ermenegildo Zegna Vellus Aureum Trophy was launched for wool that is 13.9 microns or finer. Wool from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa may enter, and a winner is named from each country. In April 2008, New Zealand won the Ermenegildo Zegna Vellus Aureum Trophy for the first time with a fleece that measured 10.8 microns. This contest awards the winning fleece weight with the same weight in gold as a prize, hence the name.
In 2010, an ultrafine, 10-micron fleece, from Windradeen, near Pyramul, New South Wales, won the Ermenegildo Zegna Vellus Aureum International Trophy.
Since 2000, Loro Piana has awarded a cup for the world’s finest bale of wool that produces just enough fabric for 50 tailor-made suits. The prize is awarded to an Australian or New Zealand wool grower who produces the year’s finest bale.
The New England Merino Field days which display local studs, wool, and sheep are held during January, in even numbered years around the Walcha, New South Wales district. The Annual Wool Fashion Awards, which showcase the use of Merino wool by fashion designers, are hosted by the city of Armidale, New South Wales, in March each year. This event encourages young and established fashion designers to display their talents. During each May, Armidale hosts the annual New England Wool Expo to display wool fashions, handicrafts, demonstrations, shearing competitions, yard dog trials, and more.
In July, the annual Australian Sheep and Wool Show is held in Bendigo, Victoria. This is the largest sheep and wool show in the world, with goats and alpacas, as well as woolcraft competitions and displays, fleece competitions, sheepdog trials, shearing, and wool handling. The largest competition in the world for objectively measured fleeces is the Australian Fleece Competition, which is held annually at Bendigo. In 2008, 475 entries came from all states of Australia, with first and second prizes going to the Northern Tablelands, New South Wales fleeces.
- ^ Braaten, Ann W. (2005). «Wool». In Steele, Valerie (ed.). Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. 3. Thomson Gale. pp. 441–443. ISBN 0-684-31394-4.
- Simmons, Paula (2009). Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing. pp. 315–316.
- D’Arcy, J. B., Sheep and Wool Technology, NSW University Press, Kensington, 1986 ISBN 0-86840-106-4
- ^ The Land, Merinos – Going for Green and Gold, p.46, US use flame resistance, 21 August 2008
- ^ Preparation of Australian Wool Clips, Code of Practice 2010–2012, Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX), 2010
- D’Arcy, J.B., Sheep Management & Wool Technology, NSW University Press, 1986, ISBN 0-86840-106-4
- Ensminger, M. E.; R. O. Parker (1986). Sheep and Goat Science, Fifth Edition. Danville, Illinois: The Interstate Printers and Publishers Inc. ISBN 0-8134-2464-X.
- Weaver, Sue (2005). Sheep: small-scale sheep keeping for pleasure and profit. 3 Burroughs Irvine, CA 92618: Hobby Farm Press, an imprint of BowTie Press, a division of BowTie Inc. ISBN 1-931993-49-1.
- Smith, Barbara; Kennedy, Gerald; Aseltine, Mark (1997). Beginning Shepherd’s Manual, Second Edition. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press. ISBN 0-8138-2799-X.
- ^ Fernand Braudel, 1982. The Wheels of Commerce, vol 2 of Civilization and Capitalism (New York:Harper & Row), pp.312–317
- Bell, Adrian R.; Brooks, Chris; Dryburgh, Paul (2007). The English Wool Market, c.1230–1327. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN .
- Country Leader, NSW Wool Sells for a Quarter of a Million, 7 July 2008
- According to this chart, US production is around 10,000 metric tons, hugely at variance with the percentage list, and way outside year-to-year variability.
- ^ Kadolph, Sara J., ed.: Textiles, 10th ion, Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2007, ISBN 0-13-118769-4, p. 63
Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland , Aarhus University Press, 2004, ISBN 87-7288-935-7, p. 50
- Blenkin, Max (2011-04-11). «Wool’s tough new image». Country Leader.
- Country Leader, 26 April 2010, Finest wool rewarded, Rural Press, North Richmond
- Australian Wool Network News, Issue #19, July 2008
In addition to clothing, wool has been used for blankets, horse rugs, saddle cloths, carpeting, insulation and upholstery. Wool felt covers piano hammers, and it is used to absorb odors and noise in heavy machinery and stereo speakers. Ancient Greeks lined their helmets with felt, and Roman legionnaires used breastplates made of wool felt.
Wool has also been traditionally used to cover cloth diapers. Wool fiber exteriors are hydrophobic (repel water) and the interior of the wool fiber is hygroscopic (attracts water); this makes a wool garment suitable cover for a wet diaper by inhibiting wicking, so outer garments remain dry. Wool felted and treated with lanolin is water resistant, air permeable, and slightly antibacterial, so it resists the buildup of odor. Some modern cloth diapers use felted wool fabric for covers, and there are several modern commercial knitting patterns for wool diaper covers.
Initial studies of woolen underwear have found it prevented heat and sweat rashes because it more readily absorbs the moisture than other fibers.
Merino wool has been used in baby sleep products such as swaddle baby wrap blankets and infant sleeping bags.
As an animal protein, wool can be used as a soil fertilizer, being a slow-release source of nitrogen.
Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology school of fashion and textiles have discovered a blend of wool and Kevlar, the synthetic fiber widely used in body armor, was lighter, cheaper and worked better in damp conditions than Kevlar alone. Kevlar, when used alone, loses about 20% of its effectiveness when wet, so required an expensive waterproofing process. Wool increased friction in a vest with 28–30 layers of fabric, to provide the same level of bullet resistance as 36 layers of Kevlar alone.
Fineness and yield
Raw wool has many impurities; vegetable matter, sand, dirt and yolk which is a mixture of suint (sweat), grease, urine stains and dung locks. The sheep’s body yields many types of wool with differing strengths, thicknesses, length of staple and impurities. The raw wool (greasy) is processed into ‘top’. ‘Worsted top’ requires strong straight and parallel fibres.
|Common Name||Part of Sheep||Style of Wool|
|Fine||Shoulder||Fine uniform and very dense|
|Near||Sides||Fine uniform and strong|
|Downrights||Neck||Short and irregular, lower quality|
|Choice||Back||Shorter staple, open and less strong|
|Abb||Haunches||Longer, stronger large staples|
|Seconds||Belly||Short, tender, Matted and dirty|
|Top-not||Head||Stiff, very coarse, rough and kempy|
|Brokes||Forelegs||Short irregular and faulty|
|Cowtail||Hindlegs||Very strong, coarse and hairy|
|Britch||Tail||Very coarse, kempy and dirty|
Various types and natural colors of wool, and a picture made from wool
The quality of wool is determined by its fiber diameter, , yield, color, and staple strength. Fiber diameter is the single most important wool characteristic determining quality and price.
Merino wool is typically 3–5 inches in length and is very fine (between 12 and 24 microns). The finest and most valuable wool comes from Merino hoggets. Wool taken from sheep produced for meat is typically more coarse, and has fibers 1.5 to 6 in (38 to 152 mm) in length. Damage or breaks in the wool can occur if the sheep is stressed while it is growing its fleece, resulting in a thin spot where the fleece is likely to break.
Wool is also separated into grades based on the measurement of the wool’s diameter in microns and also its style. These grades may vary depending on the breed or purpose of the wool. For example:
|Diameter in microns||Name|
|15.6 – 18.5||Superfine Merino|
|18.6 – 20||Fine Merino|
|20.1 – 23||Medium Merino|
|> 23||Strong Merino|
|Comeback||21–26 microns, white, 90–180 mm long|
|Fine crossbred||27–31 microns, Corriedales, etc.|
|Medium crossbred||32–35 microns|
|Downs||23–34 microns, typically lacks luster and brightness. Examples, Aussiedown, Dorset Horn, Suffolk, etc.|
|Coarse crossbred||>36 microns|
|Carpet wools||35–45 microns|
Any wool finer than 25 microns can be used for garments, while coarser grades are used for outerwear or rugs. The finer the wool, the softer it is, while coarser grades are more durable and less prone to pilling.
The finest Australian and New Zealand Merino wools are known as 1PP, which is the industry benchmark of excellence for Merino wool 16.9 microns and finer. This style represents the top level of fineness, character, color, and style as determined on the basis of a series of parameters in accordance with the original dictates of British wool as applied by the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) Council. Only a few dozen of the millions of bales auctioned every year can be classified and marked 1PP.
In the United States, three classifications of wool are named in the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939. Wool is «the fiber from the fleece of the sheep or lamb or hair of the Angora or Cashmere goat (and may include the so-called specialty fibers from the hair of the camel, alpaca, llama, and vicuna) which has never been reclaimed from any woven or felted wool product». «Virgin wool» and «new wool» are also used to refer to such never used wool. There are two categories of recycled wool (also called reclaimed or shoddy wool). «Reprocessed wool» identifies «wool which has been woven or felted into a wool product and subsequently reduced to a fibrous state without having been used by the ultimate consumer». «Reused wool» refers to such wool that has been used by the ultimate consumer.
«Wool: Fibre of the gods, created – not man-made» CSIRO marketing poster describing the benefits of wool
Merino wool samples for sale by auction, Newcastle, New South Wales
About 85% of wool sold in Australia is sold by open cry auction. «Sale by sample» is a method in which a mechanical claw takes a sample from each bale in a line or lot of wool. These grab samples are bulked, objectively measured, and a sample of not less than 4 kg is displayed in a box for the buyer to examine. The Australian Wool Exchange conducts sales primarily in Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, and Fremantle. About 80 brokers and agents work throughout Australia.
Wool received by Australian brokers and dealers (tonnes/quarter) since 1973
Wool buyers’ room at a wool auction, Newcastle, New South Wales
About 7% of Australian wool is sold by private treaty on farms or to local wool-handling facilities. This option gives wool growers benefit from reduced transport, warehousing, and selling costs. This method is preferred for small lots or mixed butts to make savings on reclassing and testing.
About 5% of Australian wool is sold over the internet on an electronic offer board. This option gives wool growers the ability to set firm price targets, reoffer passed-in wool, and offer lots to the market quickly and efficiently. This method works well for tested lots, as buyers use these results to make a purchase. About 97% of wool is sold without sample inspection; however, as of December 2009, 59% of wool listed had been passed in from auction. Growers through certain brokers can allocate their wool to a sale and at what price their wool will be reserved.
Sale by tender can achieve considerable cost savings on wool clips large enough to make it worthwhile for potential buyers to submit tenders. Some marketing firms sell wool on a consignment basis, obtaining a fixed percentage as commission.
Forward selling: Some buyers offer a secure price for forward delivery of wool based on estimated measurements or the results of previous clips. Prices are quoted at current market rates and are locked in for the season. Premiums and discounts are added to cover variations in micron, yield, tensile strength, etc., which are confirmed by actual test results when available.
Another method of selling wool includes sales direct to wool mills.
The British Wool Marketing Board operates a central marketing system for UK fleece wool with the aim of achieving the best possible net returns for farmers.
Less than half of New Zealand’s wool is sold at auction, while around 45% of farmers sell wool directly to private buyers and end-users.
United States sheep producers market wool with private or cooperative wool warehouses, but wool pools are common in many states. In some cases, wool is pooled in a local market area, but sold through a wool warehouse. Wool offered with objective measurement test results is preferred. Imported apparel wool and carpet wool goes directly to central markets, where it is handled by the large merchants and manufacturers.