Working as a Fibre Artist and Maker has given me a close up chance to dye and knit with various exotic and accesable fibres and blends. Over the next few posts I’ll be discussing a few of the more popular fibres and what they’re good for.
First up is a firm favorite and wildly available animal fibre yarn: Merino
Merino sheep originated in Spain in the 12th Centuary and was later refined by New Zealand and Australia, giving rise to the merino we know today. Roughly about 27 000 wool producers in South Africa yields just over 100 million kg of wool per annum.
Merino sheep produce wool that is less than 24 micron in diameter. Most wool between 11.5 and 24 micron in fiber diameter are made into clothing. The remainder is used for other textiles like blankets, insulation and furnishings. The finer or lower the number of microns, the softer and more expensive the merino wool.
So, what makes merino wool so special? Let’s take a look.
- Merino wool breathes and manages moisture better than any other fibre
- Wool has a natural crimp to it that helps it trap more dead air than any other fibre. Dead air is a fantastic insulator and provides a great buffer against the cold. Plus, wool fibers do such a good job of moving moisture away from the skin that even if the fabric is soaking wet, the surface area of your skim will remain dry.
- Cooling: Wool has the ability to store moisture within the structure of the fiber. As your body warms up, the moisture stored within the fiber will begin to evaporate, cooling the air between your skin and the fabric. The warmer you get the more evaporation takes place and the larger the cooling effect.
- You know how wool moves moisture vapour before it turms to sweat. But, what happens when we perspire faster than vapour can be transported? At this point, wool will move liquid mechanically, just like synthetics do. Both synthetics and wool have the ability to wick, but only wool has the ability to wick away moisture in its vapor state.
- A wool fiber is a complex structure that, believe it or not, behaves remarkably similar to our skin; naturally cooling and heating as the body needs. Predominantly made of interlocking protein molecules known as keratin, the same protein present in our own skin and hair, individual wool fibers have the ability to be bent, flexed and stretched in any direction 30,000 times or more without damage.
- Wool is infamous for being an itchy fabric. Merino wool however, is a different story. The “itchiness” people associate with wool is determined by the diameter of the fibers used. Larger, broader fibers are less flexible and have less ability to bend, which results in a prick when pressed against the skin, causing the sensation of itch. Merino wool is able to ditch the itch thanks to its fiber’s smaller diameter, or being “finer”. These fibers are more flexible and softly bend when pressed against the skin and, therefore, don’t itch like other wool.
- Merino wool naturally protects against the suns harmful rays.
- Wool’s ability to retain moisture is also responsible for its static resistance. The retention of moisture within the fiber prevents a build-up of static electricity and the spark or “cling” associated with it.
- Merino wool is a surprisingly fine fabric, that releases water easily. It’s dry long before your other garments are. Just put it in the machine, dry flat or place it on a hanger and wear it again in no time!
- Renewable & Biodegradable: Synthetic fibers and cotton demand a great amount of manipulation and processing. Merino wool, however, is made of grass, water and fresh air. The Merino fiber will naturally decompose in soil when it is disposed. It will give back it nutrients into the earth.
Changed your mind about Merino? Have a look at the beautiful hand dyed yarns we have available in our store. All our yarns are locally and ethically sourced and dyed using collected rain water with acid dyes that are not harmful to the environment.