The A-Z of wool

As well as be­ing en­tirely nat­u­ral, hard-wear­ing and ver­sa­tile, wool is rich in his­tory and mean­ing. We un­earth some lit­tle-known facts about this fab­u­lous fi­bre

Homes & Gardens - - PROMOTIONAL FEATURE -

A is for Air

Wool is a nat­u­ral air pu­ri­fier, as it ab­sorbs and holds onto in­vis­i­ble chem­i­cal pol­lu­tants known as volatile or­ganic com­pounds (VOCS). It is also non-al­ler­genic, and its tiny scales trap dust par­ti­cles and hold them un­til vac­u­umed, too.

B is for BREED

Wool varies de­pend­ing on the breed of sheep, the coun­try of ori­gin and even the cli­mate. In the UK there are over 60 dif­fer­ent pure breeds and many cross, half and rare breeds, which is more than can be found in any other coun­try in the world. Visit british­wool.org.uk.

C is for COMB­ING

To cre­ate a smoother yarn, wool for worsted fab­rics is passed through a se­ries of comb­ing teeth to re­move short fi­bres and knots known as noils, and to align the longer fi­bres prior to spin­ning.

D is for DURA­BIL­ITY

This hard-wear­ing ma­te­rial is mea­sured ac­cord­ing to the fi­bre’s mi­cron, or di­am­e­ter. finer mi­crons are suit­able for fab­ric and cloth­ing, while stronger fi­bres are of­ten used for car­pets and rugs.

E is for EN­VI­RON­MENT

In its pure form, wool is com­pletely biodegrad­able. It also uses lower lev­els of en­ergy than man-made fi­bres in the pro­duc­tion process, which helps keep car­bon diox­ide emis­sions low.

F is for fire RE­TAR­DANT

As a re­sult of its high wa­ter and ni­tro­gen con­tent, wool is dif­fi­cult to ig­nite and will nat­u­rally re­sist fire. If it does catch fire, it will burn slowly and does not melt, drip or emit any nox­ious fumes.

G is for Grass

The diet of a sheep mostly con­sists of grass and low shrub; it’s their quiet cus­to­dian graz­ing that main­tains our green and pleas­ant land­scape.

H is for HERDWICK

Th­ese sheep, whose name de­rives from the word Herd­wyck, mean­ing sheep pas­ture, are na­tive to the Lake District and live all year on the Cum­brian hills with­out roam­ing away from their ter­ri­tory. Their wool is prized for its dura­bil­ity and is used in all of the hand­made mat­tresses by herdysleep, herdysleep.com.

I is for IN­SU­LA­TION

As a nat­u­ral in­su­la­tor, wool is a won­der­fully ver­sa­tile ma­te­rial, mak­ing it the per­fect choice for mat­tress fill­ings, floor cov­er­ings, soft fur­nish­ings and ther­mal build­ing in­su­la­tion.

J is for JA­COB

A unique breed of sheep, whose strik­ing fea­tures in­clude four horns and a spot­ted black and white fleece prized by hand-spin­ners and weavers.

K is for KNOT­TED

The qual­ity of a hand-knot­ted wool rug is de­ter­mined by the num­ber of knots per square inch, with an av­er­age weaver ty­ing about 10,000 knots per day.

L is for Loom

Dur­ing the weav­ing process, threads are in­ter­laced at right an­gles to each other on a loom. Modern looms are com­puter-op­er­ated at high speeds us­ing sev­eral shut­tles, which can cre­ate com­plex and in­ter­est­ing pat­terns.

M is for MU­SEUM

Learn about the jour­ney from fleece to fab­ric at the Na­tional Wool Mu­seum, mu­seum.wales/wool, in Car­marthen­shire, where you can view historical ma­chin­ery and tex­tile pro­duc­tion in ac­tion.

N is for NAT­U­RAL BOUNCE BACK

Ev­ery wool fi­bre is pow­ered in the same way as a tightly coiled spring, so will con­stantly re­sist pres­sure by spring­ing back to its orig­i­nal form.

O is for ori­gins

The first do­mes­tic sheep were in­tro­duced into Bri­tain by Ne­olithic set­tlers around 4,000 BC and were prob­a­bly horned brown sheep, sim­i­lar to the Soay breed.

P is for PROAC­TIVE PER­FOR­MANCE

Wool is de­scribed as proac­tive as it nat­u­rally re­acts to its en­vi­ron­ment, re­ject­ing spills, re­sist­ing fire and re­mov­ing tox­ins.

Q is for QUAL­ITY

Bri­tish Wool, british­wool.org.uk, en­lists wool graders who, af­ter a five-year ap­pren­tice­ship, mon­i­tor the qual­ity of pro­duce. Each fleece is graded into a type rather than a spe­cific breed, to en­sure that global mar­kets are pro­vided with wool pos­sess­ing the re­quired char­ac­ter­is­tics.

R Is for RE­NEW­ABLE

Wool is a nat­u­ral prod­uct grown on sheep that graze freely in the coun­try­side. A sus­tain­able, an­nu­ally re­new­able fi­bre, it’s a re­source that is eas­ily re­plen­ished.

S is for SOUND

Used in air­craft, cin­e­mas, of­fices, ho­tels and casi­nos, wool car­pet has great acous­tic prop­er­ties, in par­tic­u­lar the abil­ity to re­duce air­borne noise and iso­late im­pact sound.

T is for TWEED

This durable fab­ric is soft and pli­able yet firm in weave. Its heather tones and flecks are a unique fi­bre char­ac­ter­is­tic of Bri­tish sheep breeds.

U is for UK

The UK’S 40,000 sheep farm­ers usu­ally rear the same breed, from Black­face to Welsh Moun­tain sheep, for gen­er­a­tions.

V is for VER­SA­TIL­ITY

from mat­tresses and du­vets to car­pet, soft fur­nish­ings and even light­ing, the pos­si­bil­i­ties of wool are al­most end­less. Key at­tributes are its long-last­ing ap­pear­ance, qual­ity and style, mak­ing it a wise in­vest­ment.

W is for WEIGHT

Wool is hy­gro­scopic, so it can ab­sorb up to 30 per cent of its own weight in mois­ture with­out feel­ing wet.

This is a Chi­nese breed that pro­duces fine merino wool. Y is for YARDS

A sin­gle fleece can make up 11 yards of fab­ric from nine pounds of wool – enough to cover a large sofa or 15 chairs.

Z is for zzzzzz

As well as be­ing soft and cosy, wool is breath­able. A wool mat­tress and bed­ding will help to reg­u­late body tem­per­a­ture and aid a good night’s sleep all year round. X is for XIN­JIANG SHEEP

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