Before buying a wool product (or any other fiber) one should always be well informed to make sure to make the choice. There are several kinds of wool, so what is a guarantee of quality!
What are the qualities of wool and where do they come from?
It has several qualities of wool that will be found on the market: virgin wool, pure virgin wool, 100% wool or pure wool, combed wool, and merino wool (fine and extra-fine). They all come from sheep, so what makes them different?
- 100% wool or pure wool:
It normally contains only wool. Be careful, because this mention does not tell you if it is recycled wool, of lower quality, or if it comes from dead or sick animals. It is considered the wool of lower quality.
- Virgin wool:
It can come from both an adult sheep and lamb. In fact, virgin wool means that it has never been used, woven, or recycled. It is of better quality and more resistant than recycled wool.
- Pure virgin wool:
It is one of the softest wools, because it comes from the first shearing of the sheep. It is the sweetest wool that the sheep will produce in his life, it is thin and long.
- Worsted wool:
worsted wool is wool that is passed through increasingly thin combs to remove the shortest fibers and the last impurities left by carding. It has been worked to offer more sweetness.
- Merino wools:
This wool is the softest. It comes from the merino sheep so it is thinner and softer than that which comes from any other sheep. It can be found under the name merino wool, fine and extra-fine merino wool.
If it is mixed with other fibers, will it increase or decrease its quality?
The rule is simple, if the fiber is of better quality than wool or it brings it other characteristics such as more softness, it will increase its quality. E.g.: Alpaca, silk, cashmere... However, synthetic fiber will decrease its quality, because it will reduce its characteristics such as isolating and breathing. Some fibers such as nylon (artificial fiber) are added to help elasticity and resistance, especially in products such as wool stockings. We will also often use wool that contains nylon to design clothes such as a toque or mittens that need good elasticity.
If it is spun or dyed by hand, is it a guarantee of quality?
A hand-dyed wool will have more value than an industrially dyed one. It is a unique product, each ball is different. We will also use fewer chemicals than industries, especially when we talk about natural dyeing. Natural dyeing is more environmentally friendly, but it is also more difficult to control and more expensive. As for being spun by hand, once again we are talking about a unique product, but it is up to you to learn about the quality of the craftsman's work. What fibers or dyes does she use, what is her expertise, which is behind the work? A handmade product is not necessarily a quality product, it is the ingredients used and the professionalism of the work that make its quality.
The main feature for the quality of wool is its softness. No matter how good it is, wool has wonderful characteristics. It is insulating, self-regulating, self-cleaning, it is not static (so it does not attract dust), does not proliferate mites, does not retain odors and is hypoallergenic. It is also soothing and helps regulate your heart rate. It is a fiber that has been used for millennia, it is ecological, renewable, biodegradable, and sustainable.
It is a fiber of the past, but also a fiber of the future.
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