Sheep wool is the fiber that is harvested from the body of most sheep. It is an extremely complex protein, which evolved through ages for the protection of warm blood animals in a great variety of living and weather conditions. Each time the sheep is sheared its wool keeps growing and replenishes itself.
Sheep come is a variety of breeds – there are more breeds of sheep than breeds of any other livestock species. More than 1000 distinct sheep breeds are grown worldwide. They come in different sizes, shapes, and colors.
Sheep breeds are classified according to the type of wool fibers they grow (fine, medium, long or carpet wool; or hair), their primary purpose (meat, milk, or wool), and/or by other specific physical or production characteristics.
Wool fiber is known for high resiliency and elasticity – it can be bent more than 20,000 times without danger of breaking or any damage. It also has a complex cellular structure which enables sheep wool fiber to absorb moisture vapor, but repel liquid. No synthetic fiber has been able to boast all of these qualities.
Some of main sheep wool characteristics:
- it absorbs dye deeply, uniformly and directly without the use of chemicals. Therefore, wool is famous for its vibrant, rich colors.
- comfortable to wear in both warm and cool weather because of its great insulating qualities.
- wool is the only fiber that naturally resists flaming. Of course it will burn under intense fire, but normally self-extinguish after the flame source is removed.
- wool products are durable – they resist piling, snagging, and breaking and typically outlast synthetic ones.
- all sheep wool yarns with exception of finer ones (such as pure Merino), have an itchiness factor which is related to fiber diameter. The comfort limit for clothes worn directly next to the skin is 27 microns. To remove the itch factor different chemicals can be applied or sheep wool can be blended with other wool types.
Wool is used to make sweaters, cardigans, suits, dresses, coats, jackets, pants, hats, scarves, mittens, also – for the lining of boots. Wool throws, blankets and carpets are highly appreciated in home use and interior design.
Here are some of my favorite products made of sheep wool (all from notonthehighstreet.com):
- fluffy softy gorgeous sheep wool booties,
- chunky elaborate and so masculine sheep wool cardigan,
- cozy pastel long sheep wool scarf.
Next post to come – introduction to lambswool.