Australia and New Zealand are the top wool producers worldwide and really it is time to embrace wool and its amazing qualities as a fabric.
Wool and woolen textiles are increasingly seen by designers and manufacturers all around the world as a luxurious and versatile fabric. We’re not talking about chunky woolly jumpers here; we’re talking top quality, gorgeously designed clothes!
Here are a few reasons to select wool over polyester or polyester blends:
- Built-in climate control. Wool is a natural insulator to keep you warm in winter and naturally breathable to keep you cool in summer. Wool fiber helps to keep your body at the optimal temperature zone for comfort and rest. When used in blankets, synthetic fibers, down and even cotton fibers do not breathe as well as wool, and are more likely to trap heat in your bed. Wool buffers the extreme cold or hot air on the outside, keeping your body in that comfort zone.
- Naturally absorbent fiber. Wool fiber is the original wicking fiber. Its coil-like shape pulls excess heat and moisture from your skin while you sleep. Wool fabrics can absorb up to 30% of their weight without feeling heavy or damp. Cotton fabrics begin to feel damp after 15%. The absorbent fibers “breathe” by wicking away moisture from the body and releasing it into the air. This quality makes wool fabrics comfortable to wear in warm and cold weather.
- Natural mildew and mold resistance. Wool’s natural resistance to mildews and molds comes from the way it repels moisture, and lets moisture pass through it’s fibers without holding the moisture. Mildews and molds require moisture to live and grow.
- Perfect insulator. Wool is warm in winter and cool in the summer because of its hydrophilic ability to wick away excess moisture. In the winter, wool removes moisture from the skin to keep the wearer feeling warm and dry and wool’s insulating qualities trap dry air and warmth near the skin. This is unlike synthetic fleece, which is warm but does not breathe easily. Wool’s natural insulating quality and its ability to shed water results in a fabric that keeps the body warm even when it’s raining. In the summer, wool’s coil-like shape pulls excess heat and moisture from your skin helping the wearer stay cooler.
- Water repellent. Tiny overlapping scales encase the wool fiber like tiles on a roof. This allows wool to repel rain, snow and liquid spills with ease.
- Wool is durable. Laboratory tests have shown that wool fibers resist tearing and can bend back on themselves more than 20,000 times without breaking. Cotton breaks after 3,200 bends, silk fibers break after 1,800 bends, and rayon fibers break after just 75 bends. Wool clothing will last for years. Wool resists spills, dries very quickly and is mildew resistant.
- Naturally wrinkle resistant. Wool fabrics resist wrinkles. Wool is the most resilient fiber because it has a natural crimp that helps it keep its shape. Wool fibers can be stretched and still bounce back to their original shape.
- Fire retardant. Wool is safer to wear having natural fire-retardant properties. It can resist flame without the chemical treatment involved in fireproofing. Synthetic fleece is oil based, ignites easily, burns fiercely and melts. If your synthetic fleece is fire proofed, then you have the fire proofing chemicals next to your skin.
- Resists static, dirt and dust. Wool fabric doesn’t collect much static because of its absorbent fibers. Static attracts lint, dirt, and dust. Wool fabrics also clean easily because dirt sits on the surface of the fiber. The outside surface of the wool fiber consists of a series of overlapping scales, similar to the feathers on a bird, making it easy to brush off and for stains to lift out.
- Wool is colorful. There are an amazing variety and number of breeds of sheep that come in a wide array of colors giving us a huge number of natural colors. In additional to natural color-grown fibers, the structure of wool fibers allow wool to easily accept dyes without the need for harsh and sometimes toxic chemicals to prepare the fiber for dyes. When wool fabrics are dyed, the dye reaches to the core of the fiber and bonds permanently. Almost any color and dye can be used.
- Naturally non-allergenic. Wool is almost entirely non-allergenic. Although some people do have a rare natural allergy to Lanolin, the oil found in wool, most people’s allergy to wool is a reaction to the many harsh and toxic chemicals that go into the treatment, and finishing of conventional wool garments and bedding. Serious chemical abrasives are routinely used to wash raw wool for processing. Chlorine and mothproofing chemicals are routinely applied to conventional wool before turning it into a finished product.
- Renewable and Sustainable. Wool is a renewable resource that can be shorn from sheep annually. It is biodegradable and kinder to the environment than oil-based synthetics, which contribute to global pollution. Wool is sustainable. Wool from free-grazing sheep, treated ethically throughout their long lives, represents a traditional small-scale industry that once thrived in America. Today, many small organic farmers are returning to this sustainable industry to create clean and healthy wool that is produced without stress to the animals or the environment.
From my own personal experience, merino wool clothing is by far superior to any of my polyester clothing. I love travelling and hiking, so when heading out for a long hike, the merino keeps me cool in the sun, or I can use a few wool items and layer for ultimate warmth.
In terms of wicking and smell – this is going to be disgusting so be prepared – when travelling and not in close proximity to a laundry, the wool t shirts and clothing actually doesn’t smell if worn for a few days! Unlike polyester which will STINK after a hot day, your merino wool clothing will be stink free for another day of adventures. Make sure you lay them out to air overnight – don’t leave them in a ball in your backpack!
I even have merino wool underpants and TRUST ME, they are brilliant! They are snug, comfortable and last a lot longer – though the price is steep they are definitely worth it for travellers, campers, hiking and actually, every day wear!
The makers of a fantastic brand of merino wool tshirts and active wear are Icebreaker are currently running a competition to invite you to participate in the Icebreaker t-shirt design challenge! Icebreaker is offering 2 lucky winners $1,500 in Icebreaker credit and the chance to have their design created by Icebreaker! You can see contest details and submitted t-shirts here: http://challenge.icebreaker.
I have created an entry of my own!
At Icebreaker, our role is not to create the latest “technical” fibre. Nature has already done that, and without an oil rig in sight. Merino wool was born not in a lab, but in the mountains of New Zealand. The Icebreaker fibre factory works 24 hours a day, on the back of a sheep. Sustainability is at the heart of Icebreaker, and we aim for profitable sustainability — a business model that balances ecology with economy. It’s possible because nature is an astonishing designer. Everything it creates is simple, efficient and beautiful. We believe nature is a powerful force that is within us and around us. We have harnessed this force to become the passionate world leader in merino.