Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Our wooly friend, the sheep.

A couple weeks ago, I joined a local shearing gang and roused (sorted) for a couple shearers to get 250 sheep’s fleeces ready for the traders.  Early into the experience, I realised that sheep (and their fleecy wool) have some interesting characteristics. For example, after the sheep were shorn (got their hairs cut), you could tell they became a bit nervous and skittish.  Adjusting to their new hair style, they epitomized the term: “sheepish behaviour.”
Sheep behaviour is all well and good, but I am continually intrigued more by the wool they produce.  Wool, compared to its cotton counterparts is significantly stronger and warmer. The strength of the fibre, on average, is seven times stronger – a cotton fibre can be bent 3,000 times before showing signs of breaking, while it takes wool 20,000 bends. Just remember that the next time you buy look at your clothing label before you purchase a garment. Here are some other factoids I’ve leared about wool:
  • Wool tends to hold its shape well.  I’ve seen this especially when I’ve spun wool into yarn.  It acts like glue almost, catches onto itself, holding it’s own form no matter what form of yarn I’m spinning. Compared to other fibres like alpaca, mohair, or possum, you don’t need anything to ply or blend it with to hold its shape. (I’ve heard from many people that I’m not to spin alpaca all by itself..)
  • Wool is absorbent and accommodating. When wearing a wool garment, it will hold moisture for up to 30% of it’s weight before you would feel the moisture at all. This is called hygroscopic. This high internal moisture content helps keep the static electricity down (who likes static clothes??) which also implies that particles like dirt and dust are less likely to be collected in it.
  • Wool is quite good for your skin.  Who knew…  It has something called lanolin in it. Before a fleece is washed (scoured), certain breeds will contain 40% of its weight in lanolin. Lanolin is a greasy substance that is beneficial to your skin and used in many commercial skin care products.  Many of the wool handlers are known for their soft hands from the lanolin.
  • Wool is also quite fire resistant – which is why most commercial hotels choose wool for their carpet. It will not melt, like a rayon or nylon or polyester would under the same heat.
On top of all these things, wool is annually renewable and sustainable fibre. Woohoo for natural fibre!!
There is plenty more to share on wool, but this seems to be enough for now.
Hope you are all well.
with love,
PS — Here are some pics of these neat creatures.