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Posts tagged ‘Properties of 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!

Mothers Day is on the Way: Hand-Stitched Home by Susan Beal

Mothers Day is coming soon, and of course Pendleton has so many ways to show her you care. But you may be looking for something unique and handmade to honor a special mom.

We would like to suggest one of these charming planters in Pendleton wool, designed by Amy Alan of Really Handmade.

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Photography by Burcu Avsar

Amy’s planter is one of the projects curated by Susan Beal in her book, Hand-Stitched Home, published by The Taunton Press. Susan’s book is full of ideas, patterns and advice, with projects geared to all levels of crafting skill.

Hand-Stitched Home Cover

Cover by The Taunton Press, copyright 2014, with photography by Burcu Avsar

Susan is one of the bright lights in the Portland crafting community. She blogs at West Coast Crafty, one of the most popular crafting blogs around. She’s a charming person with so many ideas, and she appreciates the properties of wool that make it so wonderful to work with. We love what she’s done with our wool-by-the-yard. If you know a crafting mom, her book would make a wonderful Mothers Day gift.

Susan assures us that Amy Alan’s planter project is fast, fun, and simple. We love the results. And if you’re not quite motivated for Mothers Day, don’t forget, there’s Fathers Day coming, too. We love the fabric below for that, and the pattern is easily adapted to one of our colorful jacquard patterns. This is a fun way to give with a personalized Pendleton touch.

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You can follow Amy Alan here:

blog:  reallyhandmade.com/

Instagram: @amyalan

And follow Susan Beal here:

blog: westcoastcrafty.com

Instagram: @westcoastcrafty

Buy the book: Hand-Stitched Home

Properties of Wool — “How Wool Saved My Life”

Stephen

We’ve talked about wool quite a bit this month. We’ve talked about wool’s propertieshistory, and even the way it has influenced our language. Wool is the fiber of civilization for so many reasons. One of the most basic is that wool is nature’s first line of defense against the elements. In the age of tech-fibers and synthetics, it’s interesting to read this testimonial from Stephen. He’s a sportsman, model, and wool apparel enthusiast who wrote to tell us exactly how wool saved his life. This is his story.

My name is Stephen and I am a 25 year old model living in New York City. I work as a captain at the Manhattan Yacht Club and hold a 100 ton Coast Guard captains license. In my free time I rock climb, cross country ski and mountain bike, all within the city limits of Manhattan. I have a great respect for wool, since I owe it my life.

Last January I was Cross Country Skiing up in New York’s Adirondack Park. It was sometime during the first polar vortex and I was home spending some time with my family. Our property is connected to one of the largest pieces of public land in the country and we had a fresh blanket of powder, so I decided to go for a solo ski out through my back woods to the lake. After making my way through a half mile of frozen swamp, passing by the beaver dams, the old fallen oaks and hitting the estuary of Dunhams Bay Brook, I was nearly to the main part of Lake George. It was cold. When I say cold, it was record cold, somewhere around negative 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, I chose to wear wool knee socks, a thick wool sweater and a wool cap layered into my clothing.

I remember the sky being as blue as I had ever seen it and the trees a crisp evergreen as I skied my way onto the main part of the lake. I had been going over water of the estuary for over an hour and assumed that the lake would be just as safe. I was about 100 feet or so from shore when I heard it. CRACK. I looked down and there was black water where white ice once held me. I knew I was going in and there was nothing to be done about it. I immediately went into shock and had no sensation of the actual temperatures that I was being submitted to. I wanted to avoid hyperventilation so I took slow and calculated breaths.

What did I need to do to survive? I attempted to pull myself out of the hole, but the ice kept breaking under my weight. I was able to slide both poles and remove one ski before my hands had lost all feeling. The ice was too thick to chop through and too thin to support me, so, with one ski on, it became clear that I would have to do a series pulling myself up and breaking through the ice to make it back to shore.

I kept my focus on breathing. I have to thank yoga for teaching me to breathe because that is likely one of the first reasons I was able to make it to shore alive. I continued pushing my way to the nearest dock and ignoring the slow break down that my body was experiencing. One push at a time, that is all that mattered. The next push. By the time I got to the dock of the summer home, the right side of my body (which still had a ski attached) was spent and numb. My left side had retained some energy because my leg was able to kick, which kept whatever warmth I had more into that side. I slung my right arm like a rope around the dock post and then the left, and using every last (and I mean every last) bit of energy that I had, pulled myself from the freezing waters.

I was not out of the woods just yet. My right leg was still stuck because of the ski attached. Instead of panicking, I took a few more breaths and calmly found a way to free my right leg from the water. I was not able to take the ski off so I ripped off the whole boot with it and ran up to the deserted summer home (Lake George is a summer colony in upstate New York so the homes are all empty and no one is around for miles). With my still-booted left foot, I desperately tried to kick down the glass door, but that door was solid. I looked around and saw another home further down the lake. This one had an old style windowpane on their green door and I was able to punch through on my first go.

The house was not winterized, so the pipes were frozen solid. No hot water. I found some lighters but my fingers were useless at this point so it would seem that I would need to find another way to warm up. Not to mention I was also bleeding now from breaking in. All over the house there were the plastic bins. I began to tear them open to look for a blanket, a quilt, anything. The last bin I opened had a quilt in it, in which I quickly wrapped myself.

My adrenaline was ebbing and I was starting to wonder about my fate.  I still didn’t have a working phone and I didn’t have a means to thoroughly warm myself. As I attempted to use my frozen fingers to light some newspaper, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a 1970s phone sitting on a stack of dusty phone books underneath a desk. I picked it up… and there was a dial tone. I found out later that the phone was not in service but lucky me, you can always call 911.

When the rescuers came to save me, I was bleeding, shivering desperately and had no feeling in most of my body. My fingers would not regain the ability to feel for 4 months. I had never been this cold in all my life and later when my friend had come to pick me up at the hospital, the doctors told me that the wool keeps you warm even when it gets wet, unlike cotton which would have been like having sheets of ice directly on your body. If I were not wearing wool socks I likely would have had frostbite in my legs and needed an amputation. If I were not wearing a wool sweater, my heart would have likely failed. Ever since learning this, I have been throwing away my cotton clothing and replacing it with wool.

If wool saved my life there is a chance it could save someone else’s too.

Stephen kept his cool and stayed calm. His survival was in part due to wool, but it was also his quick thinking, excellent physical condition, and determination to live that saved him. That, and a good old-fashioned land line. And he wants you all to know that the beanie and shirt he’s wearing in the photo above are absolutely made of wool!

Stay warm, and stay woolly.

 

More Wool Fun Facts for January

PlaidSheep

 

More fun facts about wool from another one of our old Education & Testing Department pieces:

Wool History:

Wool has been an integral part of human life and culture. One of its nicknames is the fiber of civilization.

The sheep industry began in central Asia over 10,000 years ago.

Wool-spinning began in 3500 BC. The first sheep were black; white sheep were a genetic exception that became highly prized because they produce dyeable fiber. Today, black sheep are the genetic exception.

In biblical times, wool was used to collect water; a fleece was left out overnight in the desert to draw dew, to be wrung out the next morning.

Wool fiber has overlapping scales. When heat, moisture and pressure are applied, the scales interlock into an irreversible tangle, as you may have discovered if you ever accidentally washed and dried your favorite wool sweater. This is called “felting.”

Wool was probably first used in felted form as lining for helmets and armor, padding for sandals, cushions for riding horses and camels, and as durable, portable housing for nomadic peoples.

For Asian nomads, wool was so important that in the fourth century, the Chinese called their territory “the land of felt.”

Today, felt is used in felt-tip pens, industrial applications, garments and heavy-duty wool blankets.

 

The Politics of Wool:

Spain recognized the commercial value of wool, making it a capital offense to export merino sheep.

England’s first great industry was wool. In the Middle Ages, it was the natrion’s largest export resource, with every European country relying on England for wool.

Germany eventually broke England’s hold on the wool market in 1765, when a Spanish king sent 92 rams and 128 ewes to Germany. By the turn of that century, Germany was flooding England’s wool market.

The Medici family of Florence, Italy built their wealth on the wool trade. Their banking industry allowed them the financial ease to offer patronage to artists like Dante, da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Australia’s economy is based on wool and sheep. The first sheep arrived in Australia in 1788 on an English ship full of convicts.

The American Revolution was in part ignited by a stiff tariff imposed to restrict American wool trade to England.

 

Wool Language:

“Dyed in the wool” means genuine and permanent.

To “fleece him” means to swindle him.

To “pull the wool over his eyes” is to fool him.

“Shoddy” is also a wool reference. The term meant re-used wool in Civil War times, and became associated with inferior workmanship.

A “spinster” was an unmarried woman who earned her keep by spinning wool.

A “wolf in sheep’s clothing” is a predator disguised with gentleness.

A “bellwether” is the lead sheep in a flock, and is used to note a change or new direction.

 

More fun facts about the properties of wool will be coming your way this month, because January is a wonderful month for staying warm, and wool does that so well. 

Pendleton Heritage Umatilla Wool — VIDEO with Cameron Krebs

Krebs-3We are Pendleton Woolen Mills, and wool is what we do. Just watch and listen to Cameron Krebs, a wool grower from Umatilla County, talking about his family’s generations as wool providers to Pendleton Woolen Mills.

So here are some amazing wool facts for you, courtesy of us, from our trusty “Wool, A Natural” booklet, a little classroom staple for many years now.

Wool is a Miracle Fiber that Stands the Test of Time

Wool is a natural fiber, growing from the follicles of sheep. In a time of sustainability and environmental consciousness, this renewable resource remains longer-lasting and better looking than anything man-made. Even though advanced processing methods have made wool more versatile and easy care, man has not improved the miracle fiber itself. 

Wool is Naturally Resilient and Wrinkle Resistant

This is due to the ability of the fiber to spring back into shape after bending, creasing, or compression. Resilience gives wool its ability to hold a shape, resist wrinkles and withstand wear. This makes wool great for travel. It resists tearing because it’s flexible. Wool can bend back on itself 20,000 times without breaking (cotton only 3200 times before breaking/silk 1800 times/rayon only 75 times). Wool can be stretched or twisted and its cells return to their original position.

Wool is Naturally Comfortable

Wool fibers cannot be packed down. They spring back to shape keeping their open, porous nature. Wool provides the most warmth with the least weight. The air that is trapped inside (about 80% of wool fabric volume) makes wool an excellent insulator to keep the body at its normal temperature year round: warm in winter and cool in summer. Wool is the original outdoor “performance” fiber. 

Wool is Naturally Water and Stain Repellent

Wool repels light water, like a rain shower, because of the membrane on the outer scales. In very wet conditions, wool absorbs up to 30% of its own weight without feeling damp. And because of insulation ability, wool “breathes,” allowing the body’s natural moisture to pass through. The hairy surface of wool and its freedom from static make it the easiest of all fabrics to keep clean or to clean after soiling. 

Wool Maintains its Luster and Resists Fading

Wool has a permanent natural luster it never loses even after years of hard wear. It absorbs dyes until it is completely saturated so colors stay brilliant in spite of sunshine, perspiration and impurities in the atmosphere. No other fiber can be spun or woven into such a variety of weights, textures, finishes and colors. 

Wool is Naturally Flame Retardant

Unless it is in direct contact with flame, wool will extinguish itself. The denser the weave and the greater the fabric weight, the less likely it is even to char because of its smaller oxygen content. Fire departments and insurance companies recommend the use of wool blankets, rugs or coats to put out flames.

We will be bringing you more fun facts about wool this month, because January is an excellent month for keeping warm. And thanks to the Krebs family for their participation in this video!

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