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Wool is versatile

Wool is a natural fibre obtained primarily from sheep with a composition primarily of keratin, a protein found also in hair, fingernails and animal hooves. Sheep serve as the primary source of wool and limited supply also comes from goats, alpaca, llamas, muskoxen, vicuña, alpaca, camels and rabbits. Humans have used wool (for clothing, tapestries, bedding and carpeting) since 10,000 B.C.

Wool fibre is not quite hair and is not exactly fur. It is crimped, it is elastic and it grows in clumps referred to as staples. These staples are held together by grease and lanolin present in freshly shorn wool, creating the appearance of a thick, single blanket—a fleece. In contrast, human hairs fall to the floor individually by the hundreds during a haircut.

Wool’s scaling and crimp make it easier to spin the fleece by helping the individual fibres attach to each other, so that they stay together. Because of the crimp, wool fabrics have a greater bulk than other textiles, and retain air, which causes the product to retain heat. The amount of crimp corresponds to the fineness of the wool fibres that are hydrophilic (absorbs water). A high number of crimps per inch creates a soft sensation on human skin. A fine wool like Merino typically have dozens of crimps per inch (even up to 100). Coarser wools like karakul may have as few as 1 to 2.

Wool fabric that is created from the hair of animals has been used around the world for countless generations. In the past, wool felt was put into good practical use by soldiers to enhance the comfort of their helmets. Villagers used wool to make warm, comfortable clothing and rugged bags for travelling. These days, wool is used for a diverse range of products – clothing, rugs, furniture covers, tablecloths, bedspreads, and much, much more. The wide variety of products that are created using wool can be in great part attributed to wool’s superior characteristics, which include high resistance to fading, wrinkling and dirt, and the fact that heat cannot escape easily from it, since it is denser than other fabrics.

Various qualities of wool can be created to suit the purpose of the product. The quality of wool is dependent upon the number of strands of animal hair used to create it and the degree to which it is spun. The more wool is spun, the softer and more valuable it becomes.

In addition to the aforementioned uses, wool fabric is used to line boxes, shelving, and other surfaces that need to be soft so that items placed on top and inside will not break. Bedding and blankets are also created using wool or a blend consisting of wool and various other fabrics. Ultimately, clothing is still the most popular item that is created using wool. This can be credited to the easy to clean, comfortable and incredibly warm nature of wool. Wool must merely be washed in cold water, while clothing items made of other fabrics may have to be dry-cleaned. Washing with cold water will ensure that the item retains its original size and shape so that it may be worn for many years.

Because of its wide variety of uses, and because it is sold by the yard and is widely available in craft stores, individuals who sew use wool fabric for the majority of their projects. Those who can create items with wool typically have to be highly talented. As an example, even the basic process of learning to sew with wool is more than simply connecting pieces of cloth; it is about knowing which quality of wool to use for the specific project at hand. There are professional seamstresses who have studied for years in order to learn how to create clothing and other items that are stunning, useful, and timeless.

So if you’re going to use wool for crafting and other purposes, realise the power you have at your fingertips: a splendid fabric with a multitude of distinct uses; but at the same time, the wool is only as useful as the hands that are working with it, so be prepared for a bit of a learning curve at the beginning if you are inexperienced. The rewards of sticking with it are certainly worthwhile, and you will be able to provide much enjoyment and fulfillment to friends and family who will be the beneficiaries of your good work.


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