Ultra-soft, breathable and temperature regulating, merino wool is often referred to as the most intelligent natural fibre available on the market. Designed to protect sheep from the ever-changing climate they live in, merino is ideal for layering and wearing straight to skin.
In this guide, we will explore the world of merino wool and see how it is created, its benefits, and why this fibre should definitely make it into your wardrobe.
What Is Merino Wool?
Merino wool is a soft, comfortable material that comes from merino sheep. Its fibres are very soft and strong, making it perfect for all sorts of garments and fabrics. It provides warmth and comfort in any weather condition, while its versatility makes it ideal for adventurers, fashion lovers, or anyone who values a comfy outfit.
Merino wool is naturally crimped and breathable, so it traps warm air close to the skin and regulates the body temperature so that you feel chic and comfortable when the weather is frosty. Yet the benefits of merino wool do not end here. Merino wool is sustainable, biodegradable, flame-resistant, hypoallergenic, and offers UV protection.
How Is Merino Wool Made?
Made from the fleece of merino sheep, making merino wool usually involves the following steps:
The first step is to remove the wool from the sheep. This is usually done once or twice per year when the weather is hot, and the sheep do not need their “heavy coat.” The fleece is gently removed from the sheep's body with clippers or shears.
After the sheep have been sheared, the fleece must be sorted and graded in a process called skirting. This step also involves the removal of any dirt, burrs, or other dirty substances from the fleece.
The next step is to clean the wool by washing it in large drums filled with water and soap. The purpose of scouring is to efficiently remove any leftovers of dirt, grease, or lanolin from the fleece.
After the wool is cleaned, it needs to be carded. The wool is passed through large metal rollers with wire brushes, which help comb the fibres so that they all go in the same direction.
The next step involves turning the fibres into a strong yarn by twisting them together, either by hand or using a spinning machine.
The yarn can take any colour according to the manufacturer’s directions. The basic dyeing method includes pre-soaking the wool yarn in warm water or vinegar mix and blending it with acid dye.
Weaving or Knitting
The final step involves knitting or weaving the yarn into fabric used for making clothing, blankets, or even carpets.
Merino wool does not require any chemical treatment for its production. This is why it is considered a natural, sustainable, and biodegradable fibre.
Where Our Merino Wool Is Sourced From?
We source our chunky merino from Peru and our extra fine merino is supplied by industry favourites Zegna Baruffa (Est. 1850) and Lanerossi (Est. 1817). Working with long-standing spinners who are passionate about the traceability and sustainability of their fibres mean that we are able to craft elite, luxury knitwear that stays true to our company ethos.
Our extra-fine merino is ideal for crafting into lightweight garments that are suitable for an assortment of physical activities and our chunky merino is perfect for producing heritage inspired knits that will remain wardrobe staples for years to come.
Continue reading to discover the eight characteristics that make merino wool nature’s performance fabric.
Benefits Of Merino Wool
Air travels freely throughout a merino wool garment thanks to the structure of the fibre. This speeds up the evaporation process and will ensure that you’re cool and dry for the entire day. Unlike synthetic fibres which retain moisture and cling to the body, merino will provide the wearer with another layer of support and comfort.
2. Quick Drying
Alongside being breathable and lightweight, merino is also an incredibly quick drying yarn which makes it perfect for exercise as you’ll perspire less, and any moisture is promptly evaporated.
3. Low Maintenance
Thanks to its moisture wicking and odour resistant qualities, merino wool is an incredibly low effort fibre. Your knitwear will require less washing than synthetic fibres and blends and a simple ‘freshen up’ between washes will ensure that your garment stands the tests of time.
4. Odour Resistant
Merino wool has incredible wicking qualities which mean that moisture is removed from the skin. Thanks to the core structure of the fibre, you’re less likely to perspire and smells are neutralised at the source. In the long run, this will mean that your merino garment requires less washing which will increase the lifespan of your knit.
5. Temperature Regulating
The active nature of merino means that the knit will respond to temperature changes in the wearers skin. In cooler weather, the ultra-fine fibres will trap air, keeping you insulated and in warmer climates, perspiration can be easily evaporated, keeping you cool and dry.
Alongside trapping heat and regulating temperature, extra fine merino is a lightweight, versatile knit that is suitable for a variety of different occasions. It has all the warmth of a chunkier knit but none of the weight, this makes it ideal for outside activities such as walking, climbing, and running. The everyday nature of the yarn also makes it perfect for layering underneath your day-to-day wardrobe for another layer of protection and comfort.
7. Ultra-Soft and Skin-Friendly
Merino wool is 1/5 of the diameter of human hair which makes it the perfect knit for wearing straight to skin. The fibres will move with the wearer and unlike coarser yarns, they will bend out of the way and so won’t irritate or aggravate. With naturally hypoallergenic qualities, merino is even suitable for those with sensitive skin.
Unlike synthetic fibres, merino is a 100% natural, sustainable fibre that when cared for correctly, will last a lifetime. Sheep are shorn at various points throughout the year and their seasonal coat is replenished and rejuvenated. Alongside providing the wearer with a beautifully soft garment, not mixing our merino with man-made fibres mean that in the correct conditions, your knitwear will eventually biodegrade, releasing carbon rich nutrients back into the soil.
Is Merino Wool Itchy?
Merino wool is renowned for its unrivalled softness due to its delicate and short fibres, which make it less abrasive on sensitive skin. Furthermore, merino wool has moisture-wicking properties, preventing itchiness or irritation consumers can often experience with other wool fabrics. You will feel dry and comfortable in your merino wool clothes as long as you wear them.
Is Merino Wool Warm?
Merino wool keeps people warm and cosy in cold weather. The natural crimp of the wool fibres helps trap pockets of air, providing adequate insulation. Besides, merino wool can help regulate body temperature and keep skin dry and comfortable. Additionally, merino wool is naturally hypoallergenic, non-irritating, and odour-resistant. Therefore, it is an ideal, versatile and comfortable fabric for giving extra warmth when the weather is chilly.
How Long Can Merino Wool Last?
Merino wool is a fabric that can last a lifetime if you take proper care of it. This is because it does not wrinkle, shrink, or hold odours like other fabrics. Additionally, the fibres are elastic, so they will not lose their shape even if stretched.
The lifespan of a merino wool garment depends on the quality of the wool, how it is made, and how well you care for it. High-quality, well-made and well-cared merino wool apparel can be in your wardrobe forever.
How Should I Care For My Merino Wool Clothes?
The below tips will help you in taking meticulous care of your merino wool clothes:
- Hand-wash or at under 30 degrees machine wash on a gentle wool setting with a low spin. Use wool-specific detergent or a mild, pH-neutral soap. Do not use bleach or fabric softeners.
- Use cold water when you wash and rinse wool. If you use hot water, it can shrink the wool fibres and damage them.
- Do not twist or squeeze the garment. Press out the water and shape it back into its original form before laying it out to dry.
- Lay it flat on a surface when drying. Do not put it in direct sunlight or near heat sources. If you hang the garment to dry, it might stretch or become misshapen.
- Iron merino wool on a low heat setting.
- Store your merino wool clothes in a cool, dry place. Try to fold them, not hang them.
- Do not store them in a damp or humid place or a plastic bag. This can cause the wool to turn yellow and get mildew.
Will Merino Wool Shrink?
If you expose merino wool to extreme temperatures, it could shrink. To keep it as new, use cold water when washing it, and don't expose it to high heat while drying.
To prevent your merino wool clothes from shrinking, wash and dry them properly. Always check the care label on your merino wool clothes before washing and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Test a small area before washing or treating the entire garment to ensure the colour and fabric will not be damaged.
Merino wool clothes are high-quality and may last forever. If you want to buy stylish and luxurious merino wool clothes for both men and women, Paul James Knitwear has everything you need. Our clothes are breathable and regulate temperature well, so you will feel comfortable and elegant when you wear them. Browse our merino wool collection and buy your favourite pieces today!