These days, consumers are presented with a wide variety of choices in fabric for their garments, bedding and home decor. So what to pick? What is the right price-to-quality ratio for your budget? At Comfy Blankets, we believe in quality of fabric. We don’t take short cuts. We don’t cheap out on you. As a famous old mother once said, “I’m too poor to buy cheap.”
Choosing the right blanket for your needs depends on the warmth, weight, and texture that you seek. In this article, we have jotted down a few handy tips about wool that should help guide you to the right purchase.
Wool is a natural, renewable, biodegradable, and breathable insulator that is easy to care for, odour resistant, and suitable for multiple seasons. Wool products are entirely eco-friendly, unlike synthetics that are made from non-renewable petroleum oil.
When the weather cools and you need that extra bit of warmth, especially at night, a wool blanket is more than just a luxury-it’s a necessity. The spaces between the fibers in a fuzzy or napped blanket trap the warmth that you naturally emit and, in the process, keep you comfortable. However, a wool blanket will also adapt as the temperature changes. It can absorb up to a third of its weight in moisture without feeling damp. That makes it warm in winter, because it holds the cold air away from your body, and cool in summer. This is the reason they say wool is a year-round fabric. The breathability of wool and its moisture-wicking properties will draw perspiration away and promote a comfortable, dry temperature. As an added benefit, wool is naturally fire resistant, which makes wool blankets safer to use around heat sources than some synthetic fibers. Something to think about if you have kids!
The quality of wool is determined by its fiber fineness (in microns), elasticity, uniformity of fleece, color and luster, and staple strength/durability.
- Merino Wool
Merino refers to the fine dense wool of merino sheep, which are native to Spain and now bred around the world. The most noble of all the wool breeds, the Merino has found territories that meets its needs perfectly in the southern lands of Australia and New Zealand. Merino fiberdoesn’t have the coarse, itchy feel of regular sheep wool because merino fibers are much finer than regular sheep’s wool. Faced with global competition, some farmers have taken up the challenge of producing wools of unrivaled fineness.
Merino wool is typically 3–5 inches in length and is very fine (between 12 and 24 microns). The Superfine grade for Merino wool is below 16 microns in diameter. This is the grade of wool being used in some of our blanket throw collections. The finer the count (measured in microns), the more fibers are used per square inch of cloth. The higher the number, the finer and softer the material is. The fabrics made with superfine merino wool are usually very soft to the touch and long lasting. This kind of wool provides warmth while being very lightweight.
Did you know: A new study in the USA has found that wearing superfine Merino wool helps ease the symptoms of eczema and improves the wearer’s quality of life? When worn next to skin, superfine Merino wool works as a dynamic buffer, helping maintain a more stable humidity and temperature in the micro-climate between the fabric and the skin. Wool garments are the most breathable of the common apparel types, absorbing and releasing approximately twice as much moisture vapour as cotton and thirty times as much as polyester. Superfine Merino wool acts like a second skin.
Much has been written about Cashmere, not least on the labels of many products that have hijacked the name. Yet it remains a rare and precious fiber. It is a wool of incomparable lightness and softness, yet with unmatched body and warmth. The name comes from the Kashmir Valley, which was already renowned in Europe for its high-quality woven quality fabrics as early as the 18th century. In Mongolia, at the heart of the Gobi desert, rugged nomads produce the finest of cashmere wools. This region is one of the original centers of goat-rearing, and the animals are still able to move freely across its vast open spaces with the changing seasons.
Cashmere wool is actually the downy wool that grows beneath a Kashmir goat's coarser exterior hair. Fibers are cultivated by combing the goat rather than clipping it. Each goat only produces a few ounces of cashmere per year, which makes it one of the most rare and expensive luxury natural fibers. Cashmere fiber ranges from 19 microns in diameter or less.
- Angora or Mohair
Mohair wool comes from the fleece of the Angora goat. Originally from Turkey, the Mohair goat – also known as the Angora goat – has been renown since antiquity for the whiteness and adamantine lustre of its fiber. Imported into South Africa in the 19th century, it has prospered in a land ideally suited to producing high-quality mohair wool.
Mohair fiber ranges between 23 and 24 microns in diameter, nothing like the fineness of cashmere, which theoretically places them in the “ordinary” category. However, the length, strength and specific physical properties of the fiber also play a role. The hair scale that make up the mohair structure (the animal hair is composed of scales) are particularly small and fine, giving the wool exceptional characteristics. Mohair is soft yet strong, with an elasticity that makes weaves virtually crease-proof. Above all, Mohair is known for its unparalleled luster.
- Vicuña Wool
Vicuña wool was once the exclusive preserve of the Inca emperor. After the Spanish conquest of South America, it became the most emblematic of previous wools. The Andean camelid was hunted almost to extinction for its wool in the 60’s. However, since then the Peruvian government has initiated a protection program and introduced a technique for shearing vicuñas without having to kill them. Vicuñas produce small amounts of extremely fine wool, which is very expensive. The animal can only be shorn every three years, and has to be caught from the wild. With fibers measuring 11-14 microns in diameter and just over an inch in length, an ideal ratio, its fleece is ranked at the top of precious wools, ahead of cashmere and musk ox.
We hope that this overview has helped to make you into a more informed purchaser. With our next issue, we will provide an overview and comparison between natural and synthetic fibers used in blankets production.
- Dormeuil, Dominic and Rabouan, Jean-Baptiste, 2016. In search of the World’s Finest Wools. 175 pp.
- Campaign for Wool. 2018. http://www.campaignforwool.org/about-wool/. Accessed on December 3rd, 2018.
- International Wool Textile Organization. US Study Confirms Wool Benefits to Skin. October 24, 2018. https://www.iwto.org/news/us-study-confirms-wool-benefits-to-skin. Accessed on December 3rd, 2018.
- Fulsang, Deborah. April 23, 2018. Wool Worth. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/wool-worth/article701948/. Accessed on December 3rd, 2018.