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Wool fabric – The warm, cozy and incredibly soft fabric.
Wool is actually quite soft and luxurious. Some wools are scratchy giving some people the idea that they are “allergic” to wool. Although wool fiber comes from a variety of animal coats, not all wools are scratchy but rather extremely soft. The wool fibers have crimps or curls which create pockets and gives the wool a spongy feel and creates insulation for the wearer. The outside surface of the fiber consists of a series of serrated scales which overlap each other much like the scales of a fish. Wool is the only fiber with such serrations which make it possible for the fibers to cling together and produce felt. The same serrations will also cling together tightly when wool is improperly washed and shrinks! Wool will not only return to its original position after being stretched or creased, it will absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. Its unique properties allow shaping and tailoring, making the 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 worsteds. Blankets, scarves, coating, 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 woolen. Worsted wools require 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, 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 softness, determines its value. Mohair is used in home decorating fabrics as well as garment fabrics including tropical worsteds.
Angora wool is from the Angora rabbit. This soft fiber is used in sweaters, mittens and baby clothes.
Camel hair is 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 overcoating, topcoating, 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, it is said that a 22 oz. camel fabric is as warm as a 32 oz. woolen fabric.
Cashmere is from the Kashmir 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 can also be blended with silk, cotton, or wool.
It 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.
CLICK HERE for the Glossary of Wool Fabrics and Weaves.