By Jessica Mozo
Are you curious about the materials used to make your favorite sweater? You probably won’t find many details on the garment label.
“Most garments don’t label what breed the fiber comes from – they just say ‘wool,’” says Natasha Lehrer, owner of Esther’s Place Fiber Arts Studio in Big Rock. “There’s such a disconnect between consumers and fiber education. Our goal is to give people information about the fiber they’re wearing.”
Sheep are the most prevalent producers of wool, though it also comes from rabbits, goats and alpacas. Here are some commonly used types of wool:
- Alpaca fiber is considered luxury material because it is soft and fine. It is popular for spinning and knitting, and is also used for hair on dolls and figurines.
- Angora rabbit wool is considered one of the finest fibers, prized for its softness and fluffiness. Typically mixed with silk, cashmere or sheep’s wool, it is used to make sweaters.
- Cashmere goat wool is extremely soft and tends to be expensive because the combing and shearing of Cashmere goats is very time consuming.
- Cheviot sheep wool is the foundation fiber of the famous Scotch Tweed industry. It is also used for outerwear, socks and needle felting.
- Columbia sheep wool is known for light shrinkage, softness and length. It is an excellent all-purpose fleece that is soft enough to wear next to the skin.
- Dorset sheep produce very white fleece that is strong and free from dark fiber. Dorsets are the No. 1 white-faced breed in the United States.
- Friesian milk sheep are large-framed sheep with white wool that makes lofty, warm quilt batting and is good for needle felting.
- Hampshire sheep wool is used for hard-wearing elastic yarns, felting and quilt batting and is a good needle felting wool.
- Lincoln sheep grow long, heavy wool used for specialty knitting yarns, upholstery yarns and hand-knitted carpet yarns. It also provides shiny hairpieces for people and dolls.
- Merino sheep wool is the finest and softest of all sheep wool. It is used in intense cold-weather applications for its breathability, temperature regulation and moisture control. It is also used for felting of purses, bowls, slippers and scarves.
- Montadale sheep produce fleece popular with hand spinners that is used for sweaters, socks, scarves, hats and needle felting.
- Romney sheep are known for heavy, lustrous fleece that grows up to six inches per year. It is popular for needle felting.