The Surprising Uses Of Wool
Here at Woolroom, it’s no secret that we think wool is great. Why wouldn’t we? There are so many benefits of using wool in your bedding, including it being hypoallergenic and temperature regulating. Though wool bedding is not what everyone thinks of when they think of this luxury, natural fibre. Instead, we all think of woolly jumpers, wool blankets and wool carpets. But there are, in fact, a few more unusual uses of wool that are a little less familiar. From compost and insulation to PPE and string, we’ve decided to highlight some of the most surprising uses of wool that show you just how useful and versatile the fibre can be. Some may surprise you!
What is wool used for?
So, what is sheep’s wool used for? Dating as far back as the Middle Ages, the primary purpose of wool has been keeping us warm by creating clothing and bedding. Sheep were one of the first domesticated animals thanks to their lovely fluffy coats. However, wool fabric has so many clever properties – including being durable, flexible, and odour and fire-resistant – that mean we can use it for other, more surprising purposes. In fact, despite how brilliant our modern technology is, scientists haven’t even come close to replicating the unique properties of this natural material. That’s how brilliant wool is.
In Britain, we have 32.7 million sheep which produce a staggering 30 million kilos of wool every year. Different breeds of sheep can produce different types of wool, including softer wool fabrics, which are perfect for use against the skin, and more coarse fibres which are good for things like insulation. Producing fabrics can be bad for the planet, but wool is biodegradable, sustainable, and renewable so very little is wasted.
The uses of wool fabric vary from the traditional to the eccentric, the commonplace to the innovative. So, let’s explore what is wool used for?
Wool bedding and carpets
Bedding is probably one of the most notable uses of wool. At Woolroom, we know all about how amazing wool fabric is. It’s at the heart of our business and we’re proud to produce matresses , duvets , and pillows that provide and promote healthier sleep. We love wool fabric because it helps your body naturally regulate its temperature at night. Meaning in the winter, you can snuggle up with our wool duvets and blankets and drift off in luxury. But this is often where people go wrong – they assume that wool is a hot fibre that leaves you feeling stuffy, when in actual fact it has a natural ability to wick moisture more than synthetic alternatives. What does this mean? Well, in the summer, you’ll be able to stay under the covers and remain cool and comfy whilst your wool duvet whisks off any sweat or dampness. It’s super soft too and hypoallergenic, so it’s perfect for anyone with allergies or skin sensitivities. Designed for the whole family, wool bedding and blankets are beautifully soft and cosy for any room.
For the ultimate “walking on clouds” feeling at home, wool carpets are designed with comfort in mind. Strong, tough and flexible, wool fabric is perfect for carpets because it resists indentations left by furniture, can withstand tearing and is easy to care for. Plus, due to the waxy coating on the fibres, it’s resilient against stains. Wool fabric can provide homeowners with peace of mind because it’s resistant against almost anything, including fire and water, meaning whatever life throws at it, wool carpets will be able to withstand it whilst always looking good.
Uses of wool in the garden
Mulch and slug pellets
Moving onto the more surprising uses of wool… That’s right, mulch can be made to bring the same benefits to the garden bed. Wool mulch can be made into pads that can be wrapped around trunks or stems to protect delicate trees and larger plants in the winter. Since it’s a biodegradable material, wool mulch won’t cause lasting damage on the environment. It can also help to suppress weeds, regulate the temperature of the soil, and retain moisture, creating the perfect environment for flowers to bloom – impressive, right? Wool mulch pads can also be used as fertiliser as it adds beneficial nutrients, including calcium and sodium, to the soil, allowing your plants to thrive.
Wool mulch can also be turned into slug pellets. Rather than traditional slug pellets that contain harmful chemicals, wool pellets are biodegradable and chemical-free, meaning there’s no harm to nature. Wool pellets absorb the mucus that slugs and snails produce which acts as a deterrent, meaning they’ll leave your garden alone and head somewhere else for their midnight snack.
Wool compost and garden string
The uses of wool in the garden are endless. Since wool breaks down slowly and organically, it’s a great advantage when composting. Wool compost ensures a slow and steady release of nitrogen into the surrounding soil, and impressively wool compost contains 10-11% more nitrogen than garden centre versions. Depending on the type, wool compost can also contain high levels of potassium, sodium, iron and phosphorous, which for those not versed in chemistry means that wool compost will help create soil that is rich and healthy, resulting in flourishing plants and crops.
Wool can also be spun into garden twine and string, creating an excellent tool for those with green fingers. Rather than using jute or plastic, the 27 million gardeners in the UK can use this strong and durable alternative. Plus it will give your garden a more natural and rustic look.
Wool fabric is excellent at retaining heat, so it makes sense that it’s used in building insulation. Not only is it a thermal insulator, but wool insulation also provides acoustic protection because it is excellent at absorbing sound. Large buildings with high ceilings can use wool insulation to fill the air void and minimise echoes, enhancing the sound. Building wool insulation is one of the notable uses of wool because it acts as a moisture buffer by releasing and absorbing excessive moisture, absorbing indoor pollutants, and, of course, keeping the building warm and toasty.
Have we mentioned that wool is flame-retardant? It might surprise you, but wool can withstand heat up to 600?C. It’s no wonder that one of the uses of wool is to be used in the creation of firefighters’ uniforms and PPE. When exposed to high temperatures, it doesn’t shrink, melt, stick, or produce toxic odours. Plus, it’s extremely breathable, comfortable and has anti-microbial properties.
How Can You Tell That It Is Real Wool?
The importance of verifying whether a piece of wool clothing item has wool content or not can never be overstated.
This can help you avoid laundry accidents, especially if you purchase a piece of fabric with no fiber content label or come in possession of an unmarked material or piece of vintage clothing.
How To Know If Your Wool Clothing Item Is Made From Real Wool?
It is also essential to know the wool content of fabrics if you want to grab supposed bargains at markets while on vacation.
Unfortunately, valuable fabrics such as cashmere, alpaca or merino wool are often counterfeited or have a percentage of synthetic fibers added.
If you sell or give away fabrics, they should be adequately labeled because potential buyers may be allergic to wool or lanolin.
Information about wool content is also essential if you want to dye fabrics, as most dyes are specific to certain fibers.
Here are tests that you can use to determine the fiber of your fabric with the help of common household items:
The Burn Test - Identify Real Wool
The burning test is a rapid method for identifying fibrous materials and other materials, also plastics. It is used to distinguish between the major types of raw materials and between the various synthetic fibers.
It is not very suitable for textile of different fibrous materials. For this purpose, the different fibers would have to be separated from the composite and tested individually.
We explicit point out that this test should not be performed at home! Be warned that something could catch fire –
if you are not working carefully enough!
There are certain safety precautions that must be put in place before carrying out a burn test. First, you need to make sure you’re working in an area that is well ventilated.
The burning fabric should only be held with tongs or metal tweezers and there should be a fire extinguisher around, just in case.
Also, avoid using refillable lighters or matches with strong fuel smell, it is better to use a disposable lighter – the smell of the fiber is essential for identification.
The fact that you need to be able to identify the smell of the fiber explains why you should not do this test when you have a cold or sinus problem.
Performing the Burn Test
You need to carefully remove several fibers from the mystery fabric from a place where it won’t be noticed. Wind the fibers tightly around one end of a metal wire that can’t burn.
Fill your glass bowl with some water.
Light your match
Hold fabric over bowl and touch with the lit match. An original wool fabric will immediately catch fire and maintain a steady burn, though it might be difficult to keep it burning. Burnt wool fabrics have the smell of burning hair.
THE STRUCTURE OF WOOL
Mention the word wool and the first thing that springs to mind is most likely what grows on the sheep’s back, or maybe a ball of wool for knitting. But have you ever stopped to think about what it is that makes wool such an incredible and versatile fibre?
Wool’s range of unique properties make it a desirable and irreplaceable material for a variety of purposes: from fashion to fire-resistant work wear and durable carpets. Wool is a complex biological fibre consisting of proteins, which provide flexibility and excellent performance qualities. Something the simple composition of a synthetic fibre cannot match when it comes to performance and functionality.
By learning more about wool’s cellular structure and how the different elements work you can better understand why wool fibre has so many valuable properties.
Wool belongs to a group of proteins known as keratins. It has a heterogenous composition where the protein is made up of amino acids and acidic carboxyl groups. Without delving further into the chemical complexity, this is what is responsible for its flexibility, elasticity, resilience, and good wrinkle recovery properties. It’s also what allows it to absorb both moisture and dyes so well.
In addition to its chemical complexity, wool also has a complex physical structure. The surface is made up of overlapping cuticles. Place it under a microscope and you see a scaly surface, which is very different from the smooth surface of synthetic fibres. These scales protect from dirt and are what enable felting to occur.
Lanolin is the waxy coat produced by glands surrounding the cuticle. It protects sheep from the elements and repels water while allowing water vapour absorption. When wool is processed, lanolin is removed. It’s then sold as a wool by-product.
Wool’s interior is intricate being made up of membrane, cortex, cortical cell, microfibril, matrix, microfibril, and the twisted molecular chain and helical coil.
Schematic diagram of wool fibre structure.
Membrane – dyes and moisture can penetrate the membrane and it’s this which enables fibre to absorb humidity.
Cortex – comprises 90% of the fibre. Millions of cells bind together to create cortical cells.
Cortical cells – fine wool contains two main types are para-cortical and ortho-cortical and each has a unique chemical composition. Basically, these cells put the crimp in wool.
Macrofibril – these are the long filaments found inside the cortical cells. In turn, these are made up of microfibrils.
Matrix – This makes wool absorbent, fire-resistant, and anti-static. The high sulphur proteins attract water molecules allowing wool to absorb up to 30% of its weight in water.
Microfibril – think of these twisted molecular chains as supporting structures providing strength and flexibility.
Twisted molecular chain and helical coil – these protein chains work much like springs and give wool its flexibility, elasticity, and resilience so that it can keep its shape free of wrinkles.
Wool has been intensively studied and we can’t hope to do justice here to the full science behind its complex structure. If you’d like to learn more about nature’s wonder fibre, see the suggested reading list below.
NEEDLES FOR CHUNKY KNITTING AND WHY YOU DON'T NEED THEM
Knitting using the arms
The easiest way to chunky knit is by placing all of the stitches on your arms. This option is great for smaller size blankets, which require less stitches. Knitting on your arms will be perfect for blankets in a width up to 40 inches (100 cm). Knitting on your arms will ensure that you’ll miss no stitch and that no stitch will get twisted. The arms will also make the stitches even and accurate as they all will be formed in the size of your arm.
Comparing to knitting with the needles, this option will allow you to work with the yarn more easily, more flowing, and ensure that the thread will not accidentally split, which is a common case, when knitting also with a standard thickness yarns.
Knitting on a flat surface using palms
The other option on chunky knitting without any needles is by putting the knit on a flat surface – table or floor. This option will be good for larger size blankets. In this case, the stitches will stay off all the time, and it’s okay, they’ll stay like this on their own when put aside. The stitches are created with a help of a palm – the palm works as a measuring tool to ensure that the stitches are even.
Comparing to knitting with the needles, this option will be physically easier when knitting larger size blankets. With the needles you would have to turn the whole blanket over after each row, however, in this case, the blanket doesn’t change the position, which is way more easier. It also allows you to keep an eye on how the blanket pattern will look when it’s finished, since you’ll see the right side of the knit all the time.
An Autumn Knits Round-Up
After a summer spent doing pretty much anything other than knitting (besides from finishing a few pairs of socks), the urge to play with all the yarn came back strong this Fall. I made fun stuff to put around the house, whipped up gifts, and finished up the odd lingering project. It was cathartic to get my fingers on the needles again and go stash diving to find the perfect yarn.
I’m pretty sure it was the Spice and Clove Pumpkin pattern that brought back my knitting drive. This pattern showed up on my radar last year, but I didn’t get the chance to knit it at the time. This year I dove into the stash and pulled out yarn to make all sorts of fun pumpkins. There are tiny pumpkins made from doubled up sock yarn and big, squishy pumpkins made with bulky yarn. It’s a pretty versatile pattern that way.
Some of these have stayed with me and taken up residence on random shelves all over the house. Kiddo likes totting them around so they get up to some off the wall adventures. The rest headed off to new homes as fun gourd surprises.
While I’ve mostly gotten knitting pumpkins out of my system for the time being, I’m thinking about making one more using this pattern. All the shaping is done with increases and decreases instead of wrapping with yarn. I don’t think I’ll be able to whip one up before Thanksgiving, but it’ll still be a fun project in December.
This adorable little witch duo (well, duos), is another pattern I came across last year, but didn’t get around to knitting until September and October. The green witch and cat were a gift. Then I couldn’t resist knitting a sunflower yellow witch for my own shelves. The pattern, Little Witch Charm Set by Susan B. Anderson, is a little fiddly at times and I made a few mods to avoid picking up as many stitches.
Some Sock Knitting Woe
Gather round (digitally of course) while I tell a tale of woe and sock knitting misfortune. At the center of it all is this pair of socks which the recipient has dubbed the Celtic Waffle socks because the intricate cables remind her of waffles. I’m inclined to agree.
Now these socks are no strangers to ripping. I was a good chunk of the way into the foot of the first toe-up sock when I realized it was too small. So out it came. The second attempt went much better with a larger stitch count even with the long break I had to take in the middle of the gusset. Things were smooth sailing once I got started again. I finished the gusset, turned the heel, knit two full chart repeats, worked some 2×2 ribbing at the top, and bound off. This first sock is a beautiful thing that took a lot of work, planning, and attention. So, not wanting to lose momentum and or take another six months to finish, I immediately started the second sock.
Sock number two was going great. By this point, I was well past the heel and so happy to be knitting this complicated chart for the last time. Then the yarn started to tangle. Obviously the thing to do was to take the yarn out of my project bag, sort it out, and resume knitting. Instead, I pulled out the yarn, and thought, “Where’s the rest of it?” No amount of shuffling through the papers and accoutrements turned up more hidden yarn or a portal to Yarnia. The rest of the cake definitely didn’t jump out and say, “Surprise! Here I am!” Ugh.
There I was holding a sock that needed three more inches before the bind off in one hand and nowhere near enough yarn to do so in the other. That’s when I figured out just how badly I’d messed up this time. And it was such a simple, but absolutely massive, mistake too. Here it is:
I thought the yarn came in 100g skeins because many skeins of fingering weight sock yarn do. This yarn however came in a 115g skein.
So I could put 57.5g toward a sock instead of 50g. But I forgot all of this when figuring out how tall to knit the first sock. So, when I looked at the grams on the scale, I thought I had way more than yarn to work with than I actually did. And I was so excited to just start that I didn’t way weigh the first sock like I usually go when knitting socks from one skein. That would have been an immediate red flag that something was off. How much yarn did that first sock use? 62 grams. Once again, ugh.
The World's First Washable Organic Wool Bedding
That’s right – we’re breaking ground here at MG Enterprise and we’ve used our expertise to create an industry first. Our washable organic wool bedding collection is here
Why is organic wool so special?
What does organic really mean?
The term “organic” gets thrown about a lot – from organic produce to organic materials. But what does it actually mean? It’s certainly not a term to be thrown around lightly. Behind our organic wool products is a holistic farming system that produces high-quality materials using methods that benefit people, animals, and the planet.
We chat all about what organic really means in our blog.
What it takes to be certified organic
Truly organic wool is sourced from sheep that are reared, fed, sheltered and transported following strict standards that prioritise the animal’s welfare and wellbeing. It doesn’t allow for the use of cruel practices and the animals are left to live a stress-free life. Organic farmers also take a preventative approach to disease, so the animals aren’t routinely treated with antibiotics, wormers or pesticides. It’s all natural!
What are the benefits of organic wool?
- It’s naturally hypoallergenic – Wool creates a clean environment that deters mould, mildew, dust mites and other allergens while you sleep. But what about skin irritation? You wouldn’t be the first to ask! Naturally, wool is coated a waxy material called ‘lanolin’ which protects the fibres, and it’s this that can cause issues for people. However, lanolin is largely removed in the scouring process when we prepare our wool. Ultimately, organic wool is softer – you can literally feel the difference.
- It regulates body temperature and improves sleep quality – Wool bedding has a great, entirely natural ability to efficiently absorb excess moisture from the skin and allow it to evaporate, thanks to the unique transportation properties of the fibres.
- It ensures better animal welfare – GOTS-certified wool (audited in the UK by the Soil Association) ensures that the sheep are always treated with care. It also makes sure that the shearing process is ethical and painless. Not to mention that organic sheep are only fed organic feed and graze on organic land, where they are left to roam freely and live a happy, healthy life.
- Using organic wool is better for the environment – GOTS certification also ensures that strict environmental criteria are met, both in the farming and the processing stages – from sheep to sleep! Finally, at the end of its life, our eco-friendly bedding can be recycled or composted. It’ll simply decompose and return to nature, causing no environmental contamination.
What Role Does Wool Play In A Sustainable Fashion Industry?
Why is wool the future of sustainable fashion?
Because wool is 100% natural, renewable and biodegradable fibre and refers to the fibres produced by sheep. However do keep in mind that not all wool is exactly the same. There are more than 1000 different breeds of sheep all over the world which produce a variety of different types of wool. Australian Merino wool is more complex than any synthetic or natual fibres.
Wool is the future of sustainable fashion because it is 100% natural and renewable, 100% biodegradable, it is breathable and non-allergenic, it is super soft (softer and finer than human hair), wool uses 18% less energy than polyester and nearly 70% less water than other natural fibre to produce 100 sweaters, it is also the most reused and recycled fibre. While manmade fibres are petroleum based, non-biodegradable, microplastic pollutants, require more wasking, non-renewable to name some of it’s key cons.
How does wool fit into a sustainable circular model?
With fibre production wool is as mentioned before renewable, in product manufacture it is slow fashion and not fast fashion, in distribution and retail it is again slow fashion, in product use phase it has a long product life and in product disposal it is biodegradable.Wool forms a part of the natural carbon cycle. By storing the carbon from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2)
wool prevents the gas from contributing to climate change for the time the garment is in use. All this CO2 is removed from the atmosphere for the bre’s life – from when it is used by the grass during growth, to when it is converted into wool on the sheep, through the wool product’s use phase – until it is disposed of and biodegrades. For many wool garments, this period is greatly extended because wool is used or recycled in a variety of textiles.
There are a lot more opportunities with wool especially with technical deisgn, tracebility and circularity.
Which are some of the key innovations and designs with wool?
Definitely some of the key innovations in wool to empashize are: wind and water-resistant wool fabric, wool faux fur, seamless knitwear, wool velvet, digital printing, wool footwear, wool wadding to name a few of the most important ones. One in particular that we find spectacular is wool in footwear.
In conclusion wool is a sustainable solution, it is breathable, it is good for the skin, it is renewable and biodegradable and it is odour resistant.
The Fashion Industry:
There is a major environmental problem in the fashion industry right now. Decades of complacency and ignorance over the manufacture of high volumes of garments has led to a mountain of waste and ongoing pollution.
A trend for fast fashion and a lack of sustainability in the fashion industry became the norm. We now have ongoing issues with emissions, manufacture processes, sustainable growth, microparticles and more. But, there may be a solution in the form of wool.
What to do against cold feet
Quality products are our first priority
High quality wool socks to keep feet warm and dry.
Many people do not know how important high-quality socks are for persevering in cold temperatures. Cotton socks are not the first choice because they absorb and retain water, making the feet cool down quickly.
What socks are best for cold feet?
It is essential that the socks are breathable and moisture-absorbing. Ideal are, for example, functional socks or the good old knitted socks made of wool.
Wool socks are comfortable and practical because they wick the water that they absorb directly back to the outside.
Also, wool warms when it gets wet, which is due to a chemical effect in the wool fibers.
Even if sneaker socks look particularly hip, higher socks are better suited for winter. The waistband should be somewhat loose because otherwise the blood circulation is again restricted.
If you have cold feet in bed, you can keep your socks on while sleeping – especially warm socks made of alpaca wool or merino wool are suitable for this.
Our body perceives ice cold feet as a malfunction, and it releases stress hormones, which then do not let us fall asleep.
So if you often have cold feet in winter, just go to bed with high-quality wool socks!
M.G enterprise wool is ideal for knitting sweaters, art and craft, etc. Items made from this yarn may be laundered through the use of water, detergent or soap and gentle hand manipulation; no bleach product may be used.
Felting of merino occurs upon hammering or other mechanical agitation as the microscopic barbs on the surface of merino fibers hook together. Felting generally comes under two main areas, dry felting or wet felting. Wet felting occurs when water and a lubricant (especially an alkali such as soap) are applied to the wool which is then agitated until the fibers mix and bond together. Temperature shock while damp or wet accentuates the felting process. Some natural felting can occur on the animals back.
Keep your feet warm:-
- Avoid having bare feet. Always wear socks, slippers or shoes in the house.
- Keep toes toasty in bed. If your feet get cold in the night then go to bed wearing socks.
- Keep your socks and feet dry. Wear dry waterproof shoes when you go out.
- Put your feet up. Hot air rises, so keep your feet up on a stool when sitting down, as floor level is likely to be the coolest part of a room.
- Opt for woolly socks. Wear woolly socks or socks containing an insulating material in the winter, and cotton socks in the summer as cotton provides better ventilation to keep your feet cool.
- Keep moving. Move your legs around to keep blood circulating to your feet.