It’s hard to accurately know exactly the time when humans started utilizing wool, however, historians point out that around 11000 – 8000 BCE in ancient Mesopotamia, humans started rearing sheep, not just as a source of nourishment but also for their hair and fur as a source of protection. These fibres were, subsequently were weaved for clothing and were highly valued due to their versatility and adaptability.
However, the wool obtained from those primitive sheep was quite different from what we classify as wool today. Over millenniums, with selective breeding, humans reared sheep’s which produce larger volumes of high-quality wool. Nowadays, the classification of wool is not just limited to sheep fibres but can include fibres from other animals as well, including cashmere and mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, hide and fur clothing from bison, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camels.
Wool is a naturally unique fibre that has countless beneficial properties.
Wool is an all-natural wonder fibre – Due to the molecular structure of wool, each fibre is essentially a tiny little spring which has amazing stretchability and resilience. When soaked or wet, wool fibres can stretch up to 50% more than their original length, and once dry, it can stretch around 30%. And yet, once dry and released, the wool fibres would return to close to their original length naturally. Wool’s flexibility also makes it an amazingly durable fibre, as a single wool fibre can be bent more than 20,000 times without breaking.
Built-in climate control - Wool is a natural insulator to keep you warm in winter and naturally breathable to keep you cool in summer. Wool fibre helps to keep your body at the optimal temperature zone for comfort and rest. When used in blankets, synthetic fibres, down and even cotton fibres do not breathe as well as wool and are more likely to trap heat in your bed. Wool buffers the extreme cold or hot air on the outside, keeping your body in that comfort zone.
Naturally absorbent fibre - Wool fibre is the original wicking fibre, its coil-like shape pulls excess heat and moisture from your skin while you sleep. Wool fabrics can absorb up to 30% of their weight without feeling heavy or damp. On the other hand, cotton fabrics begin to feel damp just after 15%. The absorbent wool fibres "breathe" by wicking away moisture from the body and releasing it into the air and this very quality makes wool fabrics comfortable to wear in both, warm and cold weather.
Naturally mildew and mold resistance - Wool`s natural resistance to mildews and molds is due to the way it repels moisture and lets the moisture pass through its fibres without holding the moisture. Mildews and molds require moisture to live and grow.
Perfect insulator - Wool is warm in winter and cool in the summer because of its hydrophilic ability to wick away excess moisture. In the winter, wool removes moisture from the skin to keep the wearer feeling warm and dry, this is because of the wool`s natural insulating qualities, which trap dry air and warmth near the skin. Unlike synthetic fleece, which can keep warm but cannot breathe easily; wool, in comparison has a natural insulating quality, thus giving it the ability to shed water which results in a fabric that keeps the body warm even when it`s raining. In the summer, wool`s coil-like shape pulls excess heat and moisture from your skin helping the wearer stay cooler.
Water repellent - Tiny overlapping scales encase the wool fibres like tiles on a roof and this allows wool to repel rain, snow and liquid spills with relative ease. Thus, wool can resists spills, dries very quickly and is mildew resistant.
Wool is durable - Laboratory tests have shown that wool fibres can resist tearing and bend back on themselves more than 20,000 times without breaking or any breakage. In comparison, cotton fibres break after 3,200 bends; similarly, silk fibres break after 1,800 bends, and rayon fibres can break after just 75 bends. This is why; wool clothing can last for years.
Naturally wrinkle-resistant - Wool fabrics resist wrinkles. Simply put, wool is one of the most resilient fibres because it has a natural crimp that helps it keep its shape. Wool fibres can be stretched and still bounce back to their original shape.
Fire retardant - Wool is safer to wear having natural fire-retardant properties. It can resist flame without any chemical treatment involved, such as fireproofing. Generally, synthetic fleece is oil-based, thus ignites easily, burns fiercely and melts. However, if your synthetic fleece has been fire-proofed, then the wearer would have the fire-proofing chemicals next to their skin.
Wool naturally resists to static, dirt and dust - Wool fabric naturally does not collect much static because of the structure of its absorbent fibres. As static attracts lint, dirt, and dust; wool fabric remains clean easily because the dirt sits on the surface of the fibre. The outer surface of the wool fibre consists of a series of overlapping scales, similar to the feathers on a bird, making it easy to brush off and for stains to lift out.
Wool is colourful - There are an amazing variety and number of breeds of sheep that come in a wide array of colours giving us a huge variety of natural colours to work with. In additional to natural colour-grown fibres, the structure of wool fibres allows the wool to easily accept dyes without the need for harsh and sometimes toxic chemicals to prepare the fibre for dyes. When wool fabrics are dyed, the dye reaches to the core of the fibre and bonds permanently. Almost any colour and dye can be used.
Naturally non-allergenic - Wool is almost entirely non-allergenic. Although some people may have a rare natural allergy to Lanolin, the oil found in wool, most people`s allergy to wool is a reaction to the many harsh and toxic chemicals that go into the treatment, and finishing of conventional wool garments and bedding. Serious chemical abrasives are routinely used to wash raw wool for processing. Chlorine and mothproofing chemicals are routinely applied to conventional wool before turning it into a finished product.
Renewable and Sustainable - Wool is a renewable resource that can be shorn from sheep annually. It is biodegradable and kinder to the environment than oil-based synthetics, which contribute to global pollution; hence wool is sustainable. Wool from free-grazing sheep, treated ethically throughout their long lives, represents a traditional small-scale industry that once thrived in America. Today, many small organic farmers are returning to this sustainable industry to create clean and healthy wool that is produced without stress to the animals or the environment.