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Advantages of Using Natural Wool Fiber From Sheep, Goats, and Rabbits

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Sheep have long, thick wool coats that provide insulation against the cold.

Sheep have long, thick wool coats that provide insulation against the cold.

9 Advantages of Using Wool Fiber

  1. Wrinkle-resistant; wool springs back quickly after stretching.
  2. Resists soiling; fiber forms a complex matting.
  3. Retains its shape; resilient fibers return to original size after washing.
  4. Fire resistant; fibers don't support combustion.
  5. Wool is durable; resists wear and tear.
  6. Repels moisture; fiber sheds water.
  7. Fabric is comfortable in all seasons; keeps a layer of air next to the skin.
  8. It's a great insulator; air is trapped between its fibers forming a barrier.
  9. Wool impedes heat transfer, making it good at keeping you cool too.

What are Some of the Uses of Wool?

The quality of wool produced by each breed of sheep is different and so is suited to a variety of uses. Sheep are sheared annually and their fleece is cleaned and spun into wool yarn. Knitting converts the yarn into sweaters, beanies, scarves and gloves. Weaving changes the wool into fine fabric for suits, coats, pants and skirts. Coarser wools are used to make carpets and rugs. The fibers can also be used to make blankets and comforters (duvets) which are warm and naturally cosy. It can be used for roof and wall insulation in buildings, and is used as an insulator for chilled-box food home deliveries. I recommend The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook for even more great ways to use natural fibers. If the animal has been killed for meat, the entire skin can be used with the wool still attached. The un-sheared fleece may be used to make floor coverings or to produce decorative winter boots or clothing.

Wool Production Process

Wool Fiber is a Good Insulator

The primary characteristic of wool is that it is an excellent insulator. A woolen sweater will keep you cozy and warm by trapping air between its fibers. It also allows moisture (perspiration) from your body to evaporate (wick) through the fabric. This helps keep your skin dry and comfortable. Wool can be worn in both winter and summer conditions as these insulating and wicking properties help you maintain a steady body temperature. As the price of wool has fallen, farmers have found new markets for their product. Wool insulation is now sold as to builders as a quality roof and wall insulating product. Wool fleece is also made into wool insulation cool packs to keep fresh food chilled in home box deliveries.

Why Is Wool a Good Fiber For Winter?

Wool sweaters are ideal for winter as they are provide insulation and at the same time allow for natural wicking of moisture. A synthetic fabric can trap your sweat next to the skin and make you feel sticky and uncomfortable. There are many different types and grades of wool. Wool for your sweater can come from sheep, goats, rabbit, llama or yak. You may know specific breeds of these, such as angora (rabbit), cashmere (goat), mohair (angora goat) and merino (sheep). Each one differs in softness, durability and washing characteristics.

Sheep's wool is the fiber most commonly used as it is often a by-product of meat production. The cheapest and coarsest fibers are used to make carpets. Only the longer and better quality wool staples are turned into clothing. Wool is naturally flame-retardant, and has a far higher ignition threshold than many other fibres. It will not melt and stick to the skin causing burns, and produces less noxious fumes that cause death in fire situations. Wool also has a naturally high level of UV protection.

Wool is Renewable and Recyclable

There are environmental benefits to using wool fiber rather than synthetic. Wool is a naturally renewable product; sheep grow a new fleece each year. This is true for all wool producing animals. The most common commercially produced wool crops are sheep, goats and rabbits. Cashmere goats produce a fine silky wool known as cashmere which is 3 times warmer than sheep’s wool. Angora goats have a fine, soft wool which confusingly is called mohair. Then there are Angora rabbits that produce a soft, fluffy yarn known as angora. When wool fabrics are discarded they can be recycled by being made into other products. For example, old woolen clothing can be remanufactured and made into roof insulation. If they are not suitable for recycling they can be added to compost. The wool fibers will decompose into fertilizer and so save adding to unproductive landfill.

Angora rabbits have very soft fur. Just like sheep, their coats can be shorn.

Angora rabbits have very soft fur. Just like sheep, their coats can be shorn.

Wool Comforters (Duvets) Give a Good Night’s Sleep

Research by the University of Leeds, UK (published 21/04/2016) found that using a 100% wool duvet (or comforter) rather than a synthetic one results in a better night’s sleep. The natural insulating and wicking properties of wool fibers control each sleeper’s microclimate. The keratin protein molecules in wool absorb up to a third of their own weight in water before the fabric feels damp. Partners sharing one duvet produce moisture and heat at different rates, but wool fibers responds individually. So both partners under the same duvet are able to maintain a comfortable sleeping micro-environment. The study showed that a wool comforter was able to cope with nearly double the amount of perspiration per hour than the feather/down one, and around 50 per cent more than polyester.

What is a Natural Textile Fiber?

Wool is a natural fiber produced by sheep (and a few other animals) that is harvested as a crop by humans. It’s made from a protein called keratin which is also found in human hair. Wool can be spun or woven to form material. This textile fabric is then stitched or formed into clothing, shoes and accessories. Wool is a natural product and is renewable as sheep regrow their coat each year.

A sheep's fleece is removed from the animal by shearing (a bit like us having our hair shaved off.) The raw wool is cleaned, and carded (untangling the fibers). It is then combed and spun to create a continuous length of wool yarn.

Is Wool An Eco-Textile?

Wool is a renewable, sustainable fiber and is classified as an eco-textile. It is an environmentally-friendly, natural, recyclable material. The fleece of wool-producing animals regrows each year. Providing animals are well cared for, a fiber crop can be harvested for many years without harm to the herd. Wool fleece is hardwearing in use and has excellent thermal properties.

Natural wool fibers are biodegradable. They can be recycled when they have outlived their original use. Old, discarded pure wool garments can be added to garden compost heaps. Here they will break-down after time into a useful weed-supressing mulch.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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