It’s chic, cosy, and a fan favourite amongst crocheters and knitters – it’s none other than the one and only wool. This dream fabric has been used in so many of my crafty endeavours as it is an absolute dream to dye with. And while we can all exchange stories of our favourite woollen creations or fleecy garments, how much do we know about this wonderful material? Well, in just about 10 minutes, you’ll know all you need to know about wool fabric types!
Let’s do it!
Where does wool come from?
Human beings have been shearing, washing, spinning and wearing wool for decades now, and it is all thanks to sheep. Yes, wool predominantly comes from the coats of sheep who, during the wintertime, grow a thick luscious curly woollen fleece.
Once summertime comes around, farmers will ready the sheep for a little haircut and gently shear off their wool. It is important to note that when done with care, shearing the sheep doesn’t cause them any harm, and in fact, it helps keep them stay cool during the hotter months of the year.
Fun fact, a single sheep can produce around 8kgs of pure wool – how incredible?!
How is wool made?
Let the record show that making wool truly is a meticulous and beautiful art form. Taking this natural resource and transforming it into varied textures and items is something that will always have me in awe. Mastering the art of wool creation takes patience, care and a whole lot of talent.
And so, once all of that gorgeous wool has been retained, and before all of that woollen softness can be turned into your favourite garments, the sheared wool needs to be cleaned, washed and then dried.
The wool is then detangled and eventually spun into various long strings.
And well, you can guess the rest – the pieces of string are later transformed into the most incredible products that you will absolutely adore!
Wool fabric types
Naturally, when you think of wool, your mind goes straight to sheep. And that is spot on, but it may actually surprise you that there are different types of wool fabric types that exist. In fact, some of your favourite yarns may not just come from the undercoat of a sheep. Some popular wool fibres come from different animals or even different types of sheep!
Here are a few of the top wool fabric types and where they come from:
You know how I mentioned earlier that there are different varieties of sheep that produce different types of wool? Well, the Merino sheep is the perfect example of this. Aptly named after the Merino sheep, merino wool is an incredibly soft and fine wool fabric type that originates from Spain.
Cashmere is, without a doubt, one of the most luxurious and most expensive wool fabric types out there! And well, all you need to do is feel the incredible softness of Cashmere to know exactly why! This delicate and incredibly soft material comes from the coats of goats that are predominantly found in Mongolia and China!
Well, as you might have already concluded, alpaca wool comes from – you guessed it – the alpaca animal! This natural, durable fibre is actually made from fine hairs that are spun together to make a silky soft, woollen material. It is also the perfect option for those who have allergies, as it is hypoallergenic!
What is ethical wool sourcing?
When looking at wool as a fibre, it is a pretty sustainable piece of material. But how ethical is its process? Well, the reality is that not all wool is sourced ethically, but there are a large number of sheep farmers who pride themselves on ensuring that the entire process is ethical and totally sustainable.
And well, you know that in this community, sustainably sourced materials are the only ones we will purchase.
So, what does ethical wool sourcing look like? The process involves having low-density flocks that are raised in free range and moved around different paddocks often. This means that they are living in great conditions, are free to roam around as they please and get a constant supply of fresh grass. The shearers also only shave their flock during warmer weather to ensure that they aren’t depriving the sheep of necessary insulation during winter.
Companies that prioritise ethical wool sourcing also steer clear of mulesing (the inhumane and unethical process of removing folds of skin from the tail area of a sheep). Instead, they only make use of reputable shearing practices that are unharmful to the animals.
Where to buy ethical wool
I absolutely love that it is a lot easier to source ethical wool fabric types than you may think. This has a lot to do with the fact that there are a number of certified third-party organisations that ensure the protection of sheep as well as the environment.
This means that whenever you are looking to find ethical wool, it is essential that you look out for labels that include the names of any of these organisations:
- ZQ Merino Standard
- Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)
- Certified Humane® Label
- Certified Organic Wool
- Certified Animal Welfare Approved
- Soil Association Organic Standards
- Climate Beneficial™ by Fibershed
Seeing these names on any label will give you the assurance you need to know that no animals or ecosystems were harmed in the making of that product!
And of course! If, like me, you live in a place where sheep are kept, another great option is to source your wool locally direct from farmers, co-ops or craft shops. It’s much easier to trace the provenance and ethics of wool products when they are produced locally, even without a certification.
Best wool fabric types for dyeing
There are so many reasons why I love wool, but my favourite thing about this fabric is that it is a sustainable material that is perfect for dyeing. The way the fibres absorb natural dye is truly a thing of magic! And it is definitely a material you should try using during your next natural dyeing session.
And although all kinds of wool will work for natural dyeing, here are a few types to try out for a more luxurious finish:
- Shetland wool
If you are ready to fully explore the art of natural dyeing, then I encourage you to join my Living Colour with the Five Elements online natural dyeing workshop. This is a safe space where I get to share all of my knowledge. I truly look forward to learning, engaging and creating alongside all of you.