Fashion & Style

What is merino wool

Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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merino sheep
Merino sheep and merino rams wear the most luxurious of fleeces
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When exploring what is merino wool, think of the finest wool

The curly fibers that are the wool of a newly shorn merino sheep are soft, thick and springy. The fleece is naturally waterproofed by lanolin—an oil that serves as a moisturizer and acts as waterproofing for the animal. Wool has a high measure of resilience because of its crimps, or curl. It also is a strong substance whose elasticity enables its use in fine woven fabrics that retain their shape. Camels, alpacas, llamas and vicuñas are among the animals bearing wool. Kashmir goats and Angora goats are wool-bearing animals. But what is merino wool? And why does merino wool rate near the top on the list of most cherished woolen fibers? Merino sheep were developed in Spain by Arabic Moors in the 1100s. Merino wool is famous for being light in weight and moisture absorbent. It also offers astounding insulating properties—a trait valued by hunters, boaters, lovers of the great outdoors, and the chronically chilly. Garments made of merino wool are highly versatile. A man with a stylish jacket fabricated from a blend of merino wool will be noticed in any crowd. Some jackets feature a combo of up to 80 percent merino wool augmented with 20 percent nylon. The mix ensures a warm and cozy wrap ideal for work, recreation or leisure. What is merino wool? It is wool that will make a man’s woolen jacket his favorite jacket.


Some sheepish attributes


The uses of merino wool are multitudinous. It’s been a hit since its importation into the United States—via Vermont—in 1812. What is merino wool is one question. Where is it found is another question. It is found in everything from carpet to clothing to insulating materials. Women who have discovered the answer to what is merino wool seem to favor the product when choosing garments that will keep a body warm, yet not overheated. Athletes of all ages often choose merino wool when it comes time to think about woolen fashions that will look good in the gym, on the track, at the beach—or at home. A discriminating lady might seek out a fully zippered hoody, or a pair of merino wool running tights. The choices in merino wool are endless. A luxurious merino-wool hoody, for example, can be a wardrobe mainstay throughout a good part of the year.




Sheep to shawl is a long path


The origin of most woolen garments is found on the farm, where professional shearers use power-driven clippers to remove the sheep’s fleece. Their goal is to clip the fleece as close to the animal’s skin as possible and to detach the fleece in one piece. Later, the fleece is pulled apart and the fibers are sorted. Long fibers—some measuring up to five inches—and short fibers from different parts of the animal may be put to different uses. Experts note that about ten pounds of wool can be harvested from each sheep during the course of one year. In thinking about what is merino wool, one goes for measures of excellence such as softness, durability and beauty. The process of refining wool is one filled with many interesting details.


• Newly shorn fleeces are sorted
• Fleece is washed; mechanically cleaned
• Lanolin is separated out for use in face creams, etc.
• The wool is dried in massive storage bins
• Wool is combed, or carded, by machine
• The combed web is processed into twists
• Each twist, called a roving, is semi-finished product
• A roving further processed will be knitting yarn


The United States today is a lightweight in global wool production. The heyday of wool in the U. S. declined as other countries with wide open, barren or semi-grassy terrains concentrated on making wool a major industry. Today, it is Australia that holds bragging rights to the product. Experts at Purdue University report the sheep population of Australia at more than 120 million. New Zealand ranks second with more than 50 million sheep. Lots of little known facts about wool are related in the Purdue fact sheet. The sheep report is based on extensive research.


Do not try this at home


Raising sheep, shearing sheep and processing wool are not easy jobs. The citizen of today might want to stick to wearing wool—or bird watching, star gazing or acquiring collectible pocket knives. Nevertheless, every industry needs leaders. Are you a leader? Perhaps you could be America’s next wool baron. Alexander the Great had a good perspective about sheep. He said, “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”


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