The Ultimate Wool Guide: 10 Types of Wool
Wool is a popular fabric for many of our loved everyday products including slippers, jumpers, and so many more. You may be wondering what are the different types of wool that make these essential footwear and clothing items, and what is the benefit of each type. We’ve compiled a complete guide to wool to walk you through each type and what they are each used for.
Table of Contents:
What is Wool?
Before jumping into the different types of wool, it is important for us first to understand exactly what it is. Wool is a fibre taken from the coat or fur of animals such as sheep. Similarly to human hair, wool is produced by follicles in the animal’s skin and consists of proteins. Once taken from the animal, usually through shearing, this fibre can then be transformed into a fabric that we can use to produce clothing, footwear, and homeware. This can be anything from slippers, to innovative sneakers, to cosy blankets.
How Many Types of Wool are There?
Depending on whether you are looking at the different types of wool fibre, or the types of wool fabric, you’ll end up at a different number. In this guide, we explain the 10 main types of wool fibre, and how this extraordinary fibre can be turned into different materials that we use everyday.
The Different Types of Sheep’s Wool
The most common type of wool comes from sheep. However, there is not one singular type of sheep’s wool, rather different breeds produce different types of fibre. Each type has its own unique benefits and characteristics.
Softness isn’t the only beneficial property of merino wool however. This incredible fibre is also temperature regulating, making it amazing for year-round use. Being antibacterial, it also works to fight odors, so you can say goodbye to smelly feet. We use this type of wool for the majority of our men’s sneakers and women’s sneakers.
We put the welfare of animals first, this means that no mulesing is used in the production of our merino wool.
Virgin wool, also known as lambswool, is the softest type of wool available. It is the wool taken from a sheep’s first shearing, this being the softest coat a sheep will produce in its life. Sometimes, ‘virgin wool’ can also refer to wool fibres that have not undergone any processing procedures.
This wool type can be used to make gorgeous eco-friendly slippers, perfect for relaxing at home in comfort. Our range of men’s slippers, women’s slippers, and kids’ slippers, uses virgin wool. Due to the properties of this material, your feet will be kept warm in the winter, and cool in the summer.
Wool from Shetland Sheep
As the name suggests, this type of wool is taken from the sheep on the Shetland Islands of Scotland. This wool fibre is coarser than that of merino wool, and comes from the undercoat of the sheep. Despite this, the wool is durable whilst remaining soft.
Is Sheepskin a Type of Wool?
Sheepskin refers to a specific type of material that consists of both the skin and the wool fibres from the sheep. Unlike normal wool, the fibres remain in their original state, attached to the leather. They remain as such throughout the tanning process. This allows for ultra-cosy products like sheepskin slippers to be made.
Types of Wool Fabric
Now you know all about the different types of wool, you may wonder how the fibres turn into the fabrics we know and love. There are many methods for transforming wool into usable material, here are four ways:
To create our unique 3D Stretch fabric, we use boiled wool. This involves taking wool that has been knitted from yarn (we use a machine to avoid cramped hands), and boiling it at a specific temperature and for a specific time. Doing this makes the wool more durable, better insulating, and much softer!
Unlike other types of wool fabric, felted wool is made from the raw materials rather than yarn. Felted wool can be created in a number of ways, one of which is the rubbing of wool fibres together with the assistance of water and soap. This effectively causes the fibres to matt and becomes a singular piece of fabric. This technique is often used in wool crafts. The other way is through needle felting, in this method a barbed needle is pushed through the wool fibres, again causing them to matt and become a piece of fabric that can be used in products.
Lots of clothing items are made from fleece, this is also a type of wool fabric. This is made by brushing wool that has already been knitted. This creates a cosy material, perfect for snuggling up in! Despite being extremely comfortable, this wool type is not as thick or insulating as boiled wool. Fleece can also be made from artificial materials such as the recycled PET plastic we use in our men’s fleece jackets and women’s fleece jackets.
Loden wool fabric is created from yarn that has been woven, rather than knitted. After this it is boiled. Loden has little stretch and loses its strength and water repelling properties over time. This means that compared to other types of wool fabric, it’s not ideal for water resistant shoes.
Do Other Animals Produce Wool?
Whilst we often associate wool with sheep, they’re not the only animal that produces the natural fibre. In fact, a large variety of animals can produce this luxurious material, including rabbits, llamas, and even ox.
One of the most notable wool types from another animal is cashmere. This soft and delicate wool comes from the undercoat of the cashmere goat, with the finest fibres coming from the neck of the goat. Like merino wool, it is especially fine, this makes it particularly good as a fabric from apparel. From cashmere beanies, to cardigans, people adore this luxurious wool.
Other types of wool also come from goats! This includes mohair wool, which comes from the Angora goat (not to be confused with angora wool that comes from a rabbit)! The fibres of this type of wool are thicker than that of cashmere, and are more similar in size to normal sheep’s wool. Despite this, the wool fiber’s scales are not as pronounced giving mohair the advantage of being less prone to both tangling and shrinkage. Mohair wool is used in clothing such as suits and dresses, as well as in homewares such as carpets and blankets.
Alpacas are native to South America, but have become a popular animal to breed across the globe. The wool produced by alpacas is some of the finest in the world. Although very soft, the larger sized diameters of alpaca wool can become itchy. Understanding why wool can itch could help you in making sure your next wool products are as comfortable as possible!
Llamas, which are related to alpacas, also produce wool. However, the type of wool taken from llamas is actually too rough to be used as garments worn against the skin! Despite this, it can be used for outwear, as well as decorative pieces such as wall hangings and rugs.
Vicuña: The Rarest Wool
Also related to both llamas and alpacas, the vicuña, produces some of the rarest wool. This type of wool was traditionally used by the Incas, reserving its use for royalty due to its supreme warmth and softness. Due to concerns over extinction, the Peruvian government closely monitors the production of vicuña wool. With the animals only being shorn every other year, and no more than five times within their life.
The final type of wool is qiviut. This comes from the arctic muskox which resides in Canada and Alaska. This wool is collected from the animals during molting season, where breeders take it through combing or collecting the wool from the ground. This wool type has many benefits, its superfine nature means its extraordinary soft. In addition to this, the fibres are also strong, and do not shrink when in water.
Another type of wool is produced by camels. Camel wool is also quite rough, so is suited toward outerwear, especially as it has insulating properties. The coarsest hair taken from camels is actually used as backing for carpets!
What is the Best Wool?
After discovering the many different types of wool you may be wondering which is the best kind? This depends on the product the wool is being used to make. We value the beneficial properties of merino and virgin wool for our products. With their many comfort factors that allow us to create breathable sneakers, and warm slippers. We know these two types of wool will allow you to live every aspect of your life in ultimate comfort.
What Makes Giesswein Special?
We are a third generation run family business. We specialise in merino wool products, and bring decades of experience to our creation of innovative footwear. Whether it’s different types of slippers, our men’s sneakers, women’s sneakers or even our wood sneakers, you’ll enjoy every step in your Giesswein shoes!