For the last months I have covered natural fibers. I covered cotton, linen, silk and now wool. The New Year has brought in some cold weather, so wool will be a great topic to discuss. Believe it or not, wool is the most versatile fiber and remember it is a natural animal fiber made of protein. More comfortable to wear in all climates than any other material, wool is available in a wide range of weights, textures, weaves, and qualities. It can be fleecy, smooth, plain, textured, light, heavy, soft, crisp, sheer, opaque, thick, thin, delicate, strong, spongy, firm, napped, or clear surfaced. Now did you know all of that?
According to legend, wool garments were worn by the Babylonians as early as 4000 B.C.; and by 3000 B.C., Britons were wearing crude woolen garments, which may have been felted instead of woven. In 2000 B.C., the tablets of Ur described women and girls weaving wool.
According to the Wool Product’s Labeling Act of 1939, the legal definition of wool is “the fiber from the fleece of 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).”
As noted above, wool comes in all sizes and shapes. There is wool boucle, wool challis, wool crepe, wool jersey, wool gauze, and more. Technically, there is a difference between wool from sheep and wool from other hair fibers. Wool fibers have more crimp and overlapping scales on the surface, which make them more elastic, more absorbent, and less lustrous than hair fibers. Hair fibers do not have the felting characteristic of wool.
Wool fibers are composed of the protein keratin. Keratin has three parts: epidermis, cortex and medulla. Put all of these together and you have the wonderful qualities of wool.