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What is wool? What are the different kinds of wool and their advantages?

Wool fabric brings to mind cozy warmth. Some wool is scratchy giving some people the idea that they are "allergic" to wool. Although wool fiber comes from a variety of animal coats, not all wool is scratchy and some wool is extremely soft. The wool fibers have crimps or curls which create pockets to give wool a spongy feel. This quality often creates insulation for the wearer. The outside surface of wool fiber consists of a series of serrated scales which overlap each other much like the scales of a fish. This characteristic allows the fibers to cling together and produce felt. The same serrations will also cling together tightly when wool is improperly washed and that makes the material shrinks. Wool will not only return to its original position after being stretched or creased, it absorbs up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. Its unique properties allow shaping and tailoring, making wool the most popular fabric for tailoring fine garments. Wool is also dirt resistant, flame resistant, and, in many weaves, resists wear and tearing.

Basically, there are two different processes used in wool production. Woolen fabrics have a soft feel and fuzzy surface, very little shine or sheen, will not hold a crease, and are heavier and bulkier than worsted materials. Blankets, scarves, coats and some fabrics are considered woolens. Worsted wool is smoother than woolen, takes shine more easily, does not sag, holds a crease well, is lighter and less bulky, and wears longer than regular wool. Worsted wool requires a greater number of processes, during which fibers are arranged parallel to each other. The smoother, harder-surface worsted yarns produce smoother fabrics with a minimum of fuzziness and nap. Fine worsted wool is even seen in clothing for athletics such as tennis. No, they are not hotter than polyester but actually cooler, as the weave of the fabric allows wool to absorb perspiration and the fabric "breathes," unlike polyester.

WOOL SPECIALTY FIBERS - although still classified as wool, they are further classified by the animal the fiber comes from:
- Alpaca Fleece is very rich and silky with considerable luster. It comes from the Alpaca.
- Mohair is from the Angora Goat and is highly resilient and strong. Mohair´s luster, not its softness, determines its value. Mohair is used in home decorating fabrics as well as garment fabrics including tropical worsted materials.
- Angora Wool is from the Angora Rabbit. This soft fiber is used in sweaters, mittens and baby clothes.
- Camel Hair comes from the extremely soft and fine fur from the undercoat of the camel. Camel´s hair can be used alone but is most often combined with fine wool for making overcoats, topcoats, sportswear and sports hosiery. Because of the beauty of the color, fabrics containing camel´s hair are usually left in the natural camel color or dyed a darker brown. Light weight and soft, 22 oz. camel fabric is as warm as a 32 oz. woolen fabric.
- Cashmere comes from Cashmere Goat down. Separation of the soft fibers from the long, coarse hair is tedious and difficult, contributing to the expense of the fabric. The soft hair is woven or knitted into fine garments and is blended with silk, cotton, or wool.
- Vicuna is the softest coat cloth in the world. The amount of coarse hair to be separated from the soft fibers is negligible and yields the finest animal fiber in the world. Vicuna is a member of the Llama family and is small and wild. Since it is generally killed to obtain the fleece, it is protected by rigorous conservation measures. This fiber is rare and very expensive, costing several hundred dollars per yard.

Other commonly asked questions about Fabrics and their Features

  1. What is Micro Suede?
  2. What is two-fold or two-ply cloth?
  3. What is Dormieul?
  4. What are Super 100s, 110s, 120s, 130s, 150s, and 180s?
  5. What is the Designer Brand Collections?
  6. What is Seersucker?
  7. What is ply?
  8. What is yarn size?
  9. What is thread count?
  10. What is a Burn Test? How do I test a fabric?
  11. What is manufactured – man made fabrics and manufactured fiber types?
  12. What is hemp fiber and jute?
  13. What are weaves and how are they different from fabrics?
  14. What is cotton? What are its uses?
  15. What kind of cloth is linen and what material is it composed of?
  16. What is Glen Plaid?
  17. What is Vicuna Wool?
  18. What are natural fibers made from? What is a natural fiber?
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