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The Basics Of Wool

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by lisapop, Mar 23, 2005.

  1. lisapop

    lisapop Senior Member

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    Here is a summary of various aspects of wool you might find useful in selecting cloth...

    WOOL fabric brings to mind cozy warmth. Some wools are scratchy giving some people the idea that they are "allergic" to wool. Although wool fiber comes from a variety of animal coats, not all wool's are scratchy but rather extremely soft. The wool fibers have crimps or curls which create pockets and gives the wool a spongy feel and creates insulation for the wearer. The outside surface of the fiber consists of a series of serrated scales which overlap each other much like the scales of a fish. Wool is the only fiber with such serration's which make it possible for the fibers to cling together and produce felt. The same serration's will also cling together tightly when wool is improperly washed and shrinks. Wool will not only return to its original position after being stretched or creased, it will absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. Its unique properties allow shaping and tailoring, making the wool the most popular fabric for tailoring fine garments. Wool is also dirt resistant, flame resistant, and, in many weaves, resists wear and tearing.

    Basically, there are two different processes used in wool production. Woolen fabrics have a soft feel and fuzzy surface, very little shine or sheen, will not hold a crease, and are heavier and bulkier than worsteds. Blankets, scarves, coating, and some fabrics are considered woolens. Worsted wool is smoother than woolen, takes shine more easily, does not sag, holds a crease well, is lighter and less bulky, and wears longer than woolen. Worsted wool's require a greater number of processes, during which fibers are arranged parallel to each other. The smoother, harder-surface worsted yarns produce smoother fabrics with a minimum of fuzziness and nap. Fine worsted wool is even seen in clothing for athletics such as tennis. No, they are not hotter than polyester but actually cooler, as the weave of the fabric allows wool to absorb perspiration and the fabric "breathes," unlike polyester.

    WOOL SPECIALTY FIBERS, although still classified as wool, are further classified by the animal the fiber comes from.

    Alpaca fleece is very rich and silky with considerable luster. It comes from the Alpaca.

    Mohair is from the angora goat and is highly resilient and strong. Mohair's luster, not softness, determines its value. Mohair is used in home decorating fabrics as well as garment fabrics including tropical worsteds.

    Angora wool is from the angora rabbit. This soft fiber is used in sweaters, mittens and baby clothes.

    Camel hair is from the extremely soft and fine fur from the undercoat of the camel. Camel's hair can be used alone but is most often combined with fine wool for overcoating, topcoating, sportswear and sports hosiery. Because of the beauty of the color, fabrics containing camel's hair are usually left in the natural camel color or dyed a darker brown. Light weight and soft, it is said that a 22 oz. camel fabric is as warm as a 32 oz. woolen fabric.

    Cashmere is from the Kasmir goat down. Separation of the soft fibers from the long, coarse hair is tedious and difficult, contributing to the expense of the fabric. The soft hair is woven or knitted into fine garments and can also be blended with silk, cotton, or wool.

    Vicuna is the softest coat cloth in the world. The amount of coarse hair to be separated from the soft fibers is negligible and yields the finest animal fiber in the world. Vicuna is a member of the Llama family and is small and wild. Since it is generally killed to obtain the fleece, it is protected by rigorous conservation measures. This fiber is rare and very expensive, costing several hundred dollars per yard.

    Houndstooth check has a four pointed star check in a broken twill weave.
    Jersey is a knit fabric that is usually knit in fine wool but can also be found in silk, and man-made fibers.

    Laine is French for "wool".

    Lambsdown is a heavy knit fabric that has a spongy fleeced nap on one side.

    Linsey-woolsey is a coarse fabric first made in Lindsey, England, of wool combined with flax or cotton.

    Loden fabric is a thick, soft, waterproof, windproof, wool used in outerwear that has a characteristic green color.

    Mackinaw fabric is a heavy double fabric in striking colored patterns.

    Melton, a heavy, tick, short napped fabric without a finish press or gloss.

    Merino wool is soft and luxurious, resembling cashmere. This term is also used to describe the finest wool's.

    Oatmeal Cloth is a durable, soft wool with a pebbled face.

    Panama Cloth, a plain woven worsted wool, sometimes resembling the texture of Panama hat.
    Petersham, a very thick, waterproof woolen coating, usually dark blue, is used for men's trousers or heavy coats.

    Pilot Cloth is a coarse, heavy, stout twilled woolen that is heavily napped and navy blue. Used by seamen.

    Poodle Cloth is made with a boucle yarn and resembles the Poodle dog.

    Rabbit Hair is used in woven wool's as a substitute for vicuna to give a soft effect in the fabric.

    Sharkskin is woven with warp and filling yarns of alternating white with black, brown or blue.

    Tartan is a twilled plaid design, originally Scottish.

    Tweed is a rough textured wool, originally homespun and slightly felted. This fabric is sturdy with a mottled color.

    Virgin Wool is wool that has never been processed into fabric.

    Glossary of Wool Fabrics and Weaves
    Beaver cloth is a heavy woolen overcoating, napped and pressed down to resemble beaver fur. This fabric is also a plush fabric that is used for hats.

    Botany/Merino wool is a fine wool made from worsted wool yarn.

    Broadcloth is an all woolen or worsted fabric with a velvety feel.

    Challis, a light weight soft wool in plain weave, has a printed or woven design or flowers.

    Cheviot, usually Scotch wool is a soft, fine wool that is heavier than serge.

    Chinchilla cloth is a heavy, spongy woolen overcoat fabric with a long nap that has been rubbed into a curly, nubby finish.

    Donegal was originally a thick and warm homespun or tweed woven by Irish peasants in Donegal, Ireland. Donegal now describes the wool tweed that has colorful thick slubs woven into the fabric.

    Felt fabric is a compact sheet of entangled, not woven wool, fur, sometimes cotton fibers. The felt is produced by processing a mat of fibers with moisture, heat, and pressure.

    Flannel wool is a soft, lightweight fabric with a nap on one or both sides.

    Gabardine is a tightly woven wool twill with a high sheen. This fabric is excellent for tailoring and wears well.

    Glen checks are usually seen in menswear and originated in Scotland. It is characterized by a variety of small, even check designs.

    Harris tweed is a hand woven fabric from Scotland with a soft feel.

    Heather Mixture describes tweeds and homespun's that have colors of heather and sand of the Scottish heather fields.

    Herringbone wool is woven in a twill that is reversed at regular spacing, creating a sawtooth line.

    Homespun is a loose, strong, durable woolen woven either by hand or machine with a coarse feel.

    Grayson
     


  2. RJman

    RJman Posse Member Dubiously Honored

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    you left off Geelong.

    Just being a pain. Good list.
     


  3. lisapop

    lisapop Senior Member

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    What can I say, I have a thing about sheep.
    Grayson
     


  4. Popsila

    Popsila New Member

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  5. lisapop

    lisapop Senior Member

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    Yes, full disclosure: I don't have a degree in textile science (nor do I pretend to) and don't hang around a lot of sheep. My own education process in the area of cloth is through a combination of practical, personal experience---having a lot of custom clothes made---and from outside sources such as that which I'm sharing with others. It's silly for me to even have to make this disclaimer.
    Grayson
     


  6. thinman

    thinman Distinguished Member

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    lisapop, I appreciate the education. Looking up some of these terms myself hasn't been a high priority, though I've recently seen garments labeled laine, cheviot, etc. and wondered.
     


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