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Posts tagged ‘merino wool’

Types of wool explained: merino, lambswool, Shetland & more

types-of-wool-list-blog-postDo you know your types of wool? From Shetland to merino, it can vary widely. Earlier, we covered the differences between virgin and recycled wool. Today we’ll help you understand the main types of wool, including:

  • Merino wool
  • Lambswool
  • Shetland wool
  • Cashmere
  • Alpaca
  • Mohair

Quick note: Fibers are only wool if they come from sheep. So cashmere, alpaca and mohair (which come from goats and alpacas) are actually hair, not wool. Interesting, right? Now let’s get started!

Merino wool comes from Merino sheep, mostly found in Australia and New Zealand. Merino wool is finer (or thinner) than your average wool, which makes it softer, less itchy and more flexible. Our 5th avenue throw is a great example. It’s also cool, breathable and moisture-wicking, which is why merino makes for such a good base layer during hiking or exercise. Whether you’re hot or cold, merino wool keeps you comfortable—no wonder it’s so popular!

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Merino wool 5th avenue throw

Even within merino wool, there are several different categories. Not to get too technical, but the larger the diameter of the wool fiber, the coarser and more itchy it will be. Some wool fibers can be 25 microns in diameter or more, and your hair is 50-100 microns thick. In comparison, merino wool fibers are typically 24 microns in diameter or smaller. Fine merino is less than 19.5 microns, superfine is less than 18.5 and ultrafine merino is less than 15. For sweaters, socks, blankets and more, merino wool is an excellent (and premium) choice. Check out all Pendleton’s merino wool blankets here.

Lambswool is the finest, softest fleece that comes from a lamb’s first shearing, usually when the lamb is six or seven months old. It’s smooth, strong and flexible, plus it doesn’t need much processing. Lambswool is excellent for blankets and bedding (and allergy sufferers) because it’s hypoallergenic and resists dust mites. Like merino and all wool, lambswool is breathable and helps your body regulate temperature. Check out our plaid lambswool throw and see for yourself!

Shetland wool comes from Shetland sheep, originally found on Scotland’s Shetland Islands. Over 200 years ago, Sir John Sinclair praised Shetland wool as having “the gloss and softness of silk, the strength of cotton, the whiteness of linen, and the warmth of wool.” The fibers are 23 microns thick on average, making it generally thicker than merino. Shetland wool is known for being durable and hardy, as the climate on the northern island can get quite cold. That means Shetland wool is terrific for warm and toasty sweaters. If it’s too rough for your liking, layer it over a shirt.

sheep-photo-wool-blog-postCashmere comes from the fine undercoat of the cashmere (or Kashmir) goat and is known for being supersoft, delicate and luxurious. Most cashmere comes from goats in China and Mongolia. Fibers are about 18 microns in diameter, so about the same as superfine merino. It’s often expensive: Only about 25% of a cashmere goat’s fleece is used, so it takes the hair of two goats just to make one cashmere sweater. Some of Pendleton’s wool blankets, sweaters and coats contain cashmere to make the texture blissfully soft yet still warm and insulating—like this throw.

Alpaca hair is strong, silky, warm and durable…plus alpacas are cute! (They’re related to llamas.) Alpacas were originally bred in South America and especially prized in Inca culture in Peru’s Andes Mountains. Their hair is hypoallergenic, so if you’re allergic to wool, try alpaca. If not, alpaca and merino wool create a wonderfully soft and light yet insulating blend. Fibers are similarly sized as cashmere and fine merino. Several of our women’s sweaters and cardigans are made with alpaca yarn.

alpaca-wool-hairAlpacas grazing

Mohair is hair from the angora goat. It’s smoother than wool (and slightly more expensive) but not as soft as cashmere, so it’s kind of a middle ground. Fibers are 25-40 microns in diameter, roughly the same as Shetland wool and even some merino. Mohair is known to have a fuzzy texture, because the goat’s coarser outer hairs mix in with its fluffy undercoat. Like wool, it’s wrinkle- and dirt-resistant. Pendleton’s new boucle wool throw blends mohair with lambswool for warmth and unique texture.

Any other types of wool you’re curious about? Let us know in the comments below!

Five myths about wool, debunked

Ever decided not to buy a wool item because it was itchy or dry clean only? Good news: Thanks to fabric innovations, wool is better than ever, and some old myths about wool aren’t true anymore. Read on to learn the truth about wool.

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Myth #1: Wool is scratchy.

Admittedly, some wool is softer than others. Rough, scratchy wool exists, but so does silky, fluffy wool that feels wonderful next to your skin. It all depends on quality, the type of sheep, and how the wool is spun. Some of the nicest, softest wool is superfine merino.

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Merino wool (from merino sheep) is famous for being smooth and luxurious. The fibers are very fine—thinner than human hair! It is wonderful woven or in knitted accessories, like the mittens above.

But quality matters: The best merino is virgin wool (not recycled) from healthy, happy sheep (yes, that makes a difference!). Finally, wool is softer when it’s worsted. That means the fibers are long, smooth and parallel, rather than fibers of different sizes in different directions.

For Pendleton’s softest wool, try our 5th Avenue throws. They’re woven of superfine virgin merino and incredible to snuggle up with!

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And men should try our Sir Pendleton wool shirts, made of worsted merino for a refined feel. A mile of yarn goes into each one! These aren’t the itchy wool shirts of the past.

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Myth #2: Putting wool in the washing machine ruins it.

This is true of some wool, but not all. Many people have accidentally shrunk wool sweaters in the washer, not knowing that heat and agitation cause felting. The spin cycle mats the wool fibers together, bonding them. This video explains:

Thankfully, some wool can go in your washing machine! Our Eco-Wise Wool blankets and throws undergo an anti-felting treatment, so not only are they washable, but they get softer with every wash. This treatment prevents the fibers from locking together and felting. Now you don’t have to run to the dry cleaner whenever your wool blanket needs refreshing!

Myth #3: 100% pure wool is better than wool blends.

In some cases, it’s true—a sweater that’s 100% merino wool will be nicer than one that’s mostly acrylic or polyester with only 5% wool.

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Wool sweaters are cozy and comfortable and a lot less likely to pill or fuzz. And a high wool content makes for a wonderfully warm blanket that naturally keeps the heat in on cold nights. But sometimes 100% wool isn’t ideal. Wool socks are more comfortable with a little stretch, so nylon or spandex is often added.

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Pendleton baby blankets are mostly pure virgin wool with a bit of cotton to keep them soft and fluffy (they’re also napped for a cozy feel).

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Myth #4: Wool is heavy and bulky.

This depends on the breed of sheep. For example, wool from Icelandic sheep is rugged and coarse, often used to make carpet. In contrast, wool from the Rambouillet breed—a relative of merino sheep—is very fine, perfect for soft, silky clothing. Fabric innovations have made wool lighter, like Pendleton’s Wool-Lin fabric. It’s pure virgin wool that feels like linen but doesn’t wrinkle nearly as easily. (Perfect for spring suiting.)

Myth #5: Pendleton only makes wool blankets.

grace_adams_10_2015_home_f15-7While Pendleton is perhaps best known for our first product, wool blankets, we began to branch out into apparel in 1927 with our first men’s shirts. Our line has grown to include wool sweaters, shirts, blazers, skirts, accessories and much more. We also use other natural fibers, such as silk and cotton, for comfortable, quality clothing year-round.

So there you have it! Any other questions about wool? Ask us in the comments below!

Thanks to the wonderful Grace Adams for her Brand Ambassador photography.

See more of her work here: Grace Adams Photography   

And follow her on Instagram here: @grace_adams