By Roxy Rowton
In 2019 the Fashion File began the year with an article about the benefits of wearing wool. Wool is one of nature’s wholesome fibers — 100% renewable, biodegradable and sustainable. Wool’s adaptability in apparel stretches from high performance activewear to luxury fashion. To start a new year, the Fashion File revisits the wool industry to report on the latest innovations propelling wool forward into a new decade.
There is a complex chain of networks required to produce a single wool garment. Many fashionistas or pragmatics have little knowledge about the origins of a wool fiber or the production process to create a woolen garment. The wool fibers used to make a garment and its construction are often overlooked features when making a new purchase.
From wind and water resistant wool textiles to unique weaves, the wool industry is paving the way to make fashion more functional and sustainable. The latest technical and mechanical advances in manufacturing and equipment are creating wool textiles that are ultra lightweight, odor resistant, highly elastic and super comfortable.
Lightweight Wool Terry Loop Jersey
Terry Loop Jersey with 100% merino wool elevates knitwear into functional and superb performance sport garments. Fluffy loop structured yarns inside the knitted garment boost moisture management and thermal insulation by the way of air pockets, that keep the wearer warm and dry.
Merino Wool Denim
Denim continues to reign as one of apparel’s most popular and sought after textiles. So why would any textile manufacture or designer want to incorporate a high performance fiber like merino wool into denim? Wool and denim are two fibers not easily combined into a single yarn. Previous attempts to use wool/cotton fibers to create denim textiles required a composition of an intimate blend of wool with cotton. Denim is a twill textile traditionally fabricated from a dyed (indigo) cotton warp thread and a (white) cotton weft thread that is not dyed.
New production developments, such as machine-washable wool yarns, have made it more cost-effective to fabricate Wool Denim without having to first blend it into a yarn. The Woolmark Company partnered with development associates to manufacture a wool/cotton denim textile which copies the exact same warp yarn as traditional denim, but replaces some or all of the weft yarns with machine washable wool. The wool/cotton denim fabric creates a garment with the benefits of traditional denim but with a greater level of warmth and refinement. Luxury fashion brand Max Mara used wool denim in its 2017 Fall/Winter Collection.
Seam Free Active Wear
Seamless wool apparel acts like a second skin to give enhanced protection and superior comfort. Standard wool base-layers are made by a cut and sew production that limits the possibilities for variety. Much like Merino Wool Denim, the latest production developments of circular and flat-knitting technologies are creating seamless construction of base, mid and outer-layer garments. These new seamless constructions innovations allow for a combination of knitted patterns with different colors in a single garment. By engineering superfine merino wool yarns, garments are rendered with advantageous features of super soft tactile surfaces, abrasion resistant properties and substantially greater functionality.
Wind and Water Resistant Wool
Employing the latest textile technology from Optim™ fiber processing, by pre-stretching and spinning wool fiber before it is woven into fabric, creates highly elastic wool fibers with enhanced wind and water resistant properties. The garment retains all the benefits of wool but without the use of harmful chemical treatments. Manufactures of outdoor clothing are taking advantage of this latest fiber processing technology to create wind and water resistant coats and jackets, that are breathable and warmer but without the weight.
Thermal Balance and Odor Mangagement
The development of revolutionary yarn blends are also propelling the way forward in the knitwear industry. Blending Australian Merino wool and Tencel™, a cellulose fiber made from sustainably managed wood sources, offers the sport and outdoor industry an advanced knit fabric with thermal balance and moisture absorption properties. The Tencel™ fibers provide softness with a subtle drape and the merino wool fibers add the inherent benefits of odor management and superb elasticity to enhance wearer performance and comfort.
High Performance Stretch Fabrics
Nuyarn technology produces merino yarn that is extremely lightweight but sturdy and strong enough for high performance stretch fabrics. Unlike traditional core spun or ring spun methods that twist the life out of fibers, Nuyarn technology wraps the merino wool fibers around a high performance superfine nylon core, creating a structure that amplifies the fiber’s inherent properties. Producing an ultra fine two-ply twist-free yarn that performs better than the fiber’s natural composition — stretch, loft, strength, comfort, warmth, dry time and abrasion resistant. As a mechanical process rather than chemical, the benefits will not wash away over time. Plus less harmful toxins are released, thereby reducing environmental impact.
In February, the Fashion File will report on the designers leading the way in the usage of wool to revolutionize their collections and brands. For further information about the latest innovations within the wool industry check out these sources: woolmark.com, iwto.org and extiletoday.com
Roxy L. Rowton has spent three decades assisting women transform their wardrobe from a random assortment of garments into a curated collection of functionality and individuality. She shares her expertise on the Fashion Files at Prince William Living and “build a better wardrobe” blog at everydayrefinement.com.