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Published on October 10th, 2014 | by Merion

4 comments

Wool week: 15 wonders of wool


We’re celebrating Wool Week at LoveKnitting HQ this week!  Wool has been used by humankind for thousands of years – for keeping warm, and for keeping dry – Merion investigates some of the lesser known facts about our favourite fibre…

Yarn, carpets, fabric, loft insulation, mattress stuffing, knitwear – wool is fast becoming a highly desirable commodity, not just in the knitting world but elsewhere. Incredibly, although we have been using wool for thousands of years, in the last twenty, it had fallen out of fashion and farmers were losing money hand over fist – the selling price of a fleece was barely more than the cost of shearing it. But things are changing, thank goodness, and wool’s natural properties – its breathability, its waterproof properties, its (obvious) warmth and amazingly – the fact that it is inflammable – have become desirable in the marketplace once more.

  • Wool can absorb nearly half its weight in moisture before it starts feeling wet and it is also mould and mildew resistant – a brilliant quality that makes it especially good commercially for carpets, insulation, mattresses etc.
  • We know that carpets with wool in them keep your house warm – but this is because they keep the heat from rising, and trap the warmth in the room!

ramble

Beautifully soft merino wool – Ramble by Willow & Lark

  • Wool is biodegradeable – unlike most man-made fibres.   To a certain degree, it is re-useable too, and we don’t mean just frogging a garment and reknitting it – happily, for the planet, wool can be recycled and used for cloth, carpet and insulation.
  • Amazingly, wool has its own natural UV protection built in!
  • Soundproof?  Due to its amazing density, wool can be used for soundproofing (as well as insulation) for walls, lofts and of course commercial buildings.
  • A baby lamb can identify its mother by her bleat.  That isn’t really a fact about wool but too cute to leave out!

  • Wool on the fleece is phenomenally strong – it can be bent or stretched over 20,000 times and still not break.
  • In the 1920s, English mountaineer George Mallory took part in the first three British expeditions to scale Mount Everest – and you guessed it, he layered up with wool, silk and leather to keep him warm.
  • Wool has an anti microbial surface; bacteria love to attach themselves to smooth surfaces that are positively charged – and wool has a coarse surface and is neutrally charged. There are a lot of companies making the most of this by using wool in nappy production for its brilliant odour control!
  • Apparently, the fleeces of 61 sheep unravelled will reach from earth to the moon!
  • Roman and Greek soldiers lined the insides of their armour with wool to keep them warm!  (If only they had thought about spinning it to knit into trousers!)

vanessa jumper

Keep warm in the Vanessa Jumper knitted in Willow & Lark Woodland

  • Prehistoric sheep didn’t have big woolly fleeces like they have today.   10,00 years ago, they had short hair, much like a deer.   Clever old early man realised that the hair under their tummies was soft and warm, so they bred them together to increase that fleece!  It took a few thousand years of breeding for sheep to evolve to the woolly wonders they are today, but by 3,500 BC, humans were spinning fleece into yarn.
  • In 1480, Louis XI of France decreed that tennis balls were to be made of “good leather and stuffed with wool” … there can’t have been that much spring in those!
  • Sheep are very clever!  They not only recognise individual sheep faces, but human faces too!
  • Apparently a sheep’s wool never stops growing! Clever sheep Shrek, in New Zealand, was captured in 2004 having avoided being sheared for six years by hiding in caves. When eventually caught and sheared, his coat provided enough wool to make 20 large mens suits!

We love wonderful wool!

You can read more about the history of wool and shop our fabulous collection of wool yarns!

 

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About the Author

Merion admits that her stash is wildly out of control, but has many projects in dream-form! She loves knitting, crochet, Shire horses, cake and garden swing-seats.


Last updated: June 6th, 2018.

4 Responses to Wool week: 15 wonders of wool

  1. wendy leigh-bell says:

    Yes, a friend who is a knitter, and new mum says that her handknit wool soakers (one knit by yours truly) are amazing! After two months she decided she really ought to wash them but they never developed an odour. Nor does baby feel wet on the outside. A really clever design works as follows, cast on (let’s say) 50 stitches, provisionally. Work a square in garter st. now put the first 25 on a holder and continue knitting on the remaining 25 until you have a smaller square, prov. cast on 25 on the opposite side to the held stitches and continue until you have a big square again, same number of ridges as your first. Don’t cast off. Now the tricky part. Each large square will be folded in half, and the small one folds on the diagonal to twist the knitting into a 3 dimensional pair of knickers with a seam down centre front and back and a diagonal line along the small square for the crotch. there will be an opening for the legs and the body. Pick up and knit ribbing for the waist and legs. You want a dense guage. Feel free to ask for clarification as without a diagram this is tricky to follow.

  2. wendy leigh-bell says:

    One more thing, you will be grafting live stitches to live stitches and live to the edge of your knitting. It can also be made with conventional cast on and off but doesn’t look as good when finished.

  3. Maggie says:

    Hi Merion. My stash too is wildly out of control. I just can’t resist a fabulous yarn. Loved the wool facts. It never ceases to amaze me how it gets from sheep to my crochet hook.

  4. Kelly says:

    Another note… Fleece from the sheep has natural oils..I think Lanolin??…so when working with fleece hands are absorbing and naturally soft..my grandfather was a shearer and whilst doing a lot of manual labour his hands were alway very soft.
    The oil is removed in processes before colouring, carding and spinning.
    kg

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