Cashmere, Merino, Alpaca & Co: What you should know!

Have you ever thought about a sweater made of fine merino wool, alpaca or even noble cashmere? Here we have summarized important facts about some of the most exclusive wool varieties: 

Many people regard wool as a slightly scratchy or itchy fabric. In 2012, the Australian Wool Innovation – AWI commissioned a study in which 3591 people were asked whether they buy clothes made of wool. Forty-three percent of the respondents refused because wool is too scratchy, too itchy.

Very coarse sheep’s wool with a fiber thickness of ≥ 30-32 µm can easily cause skin irritation. With fabrics made of very soft fibers, such as fine merino wool (≥22 µm) or baby alpaca (20 µm), it is extremely unlikely that the skin will be irritated.

In fact, there are two studies that have shown that superfine merino wool does not cause skin reactions or irritation in either children or adults. [1]

One study even concluded that superfine merino wool might be helpful in the treatment of childhood atopic dermatitis. [2]

Clothing made of the following fine fabrics is almost unsurpassed in wearing comfort and certainly does not scratch the skin:

Fine Merino wool 

The wool of the Australian merino sheep has almost as pleasant properties as cashmere. Therefore, merino wool is used for baby clothes, blankets or sleeping bags.

Since clothing made of merino remains odorless for days, even when exposed to moisture and sweat, merino wool is mostly used for sports and outdoor clothing. Merino wool is naturally dirt and water repellent, and it even keeps you warm when it has become damp.

Merino wool is an excellent material for people who like to be out in nature in all weather conditions.

Cashmere

The fine down hair of the Cashmere goat is probably the most exclusive and popular type of wool. If you have ever had cashmere fabrics in your hand, you can probably understand why: Cashmere is incredibly soft and smooth and feels great on your skin.

Cashmere has become the most sought after material in the textile industry. People love the yarn for its heavenly soft touch and incomparable properties. With a thickness of only 19 µm, it is much softer than normal sheep wool.

The thermo-regulating properties of cashmere are also unique. The hollow fibers store heat especially well, so that cashmere warms about six times better than sheep’s wool.

Cashmere stands for elegance and exclusivity like no other natural fiber. Due to its excellent quality, the material is one of the most valuable fibers, which is suitable for high-quality textiles.

Alpaca

The eye-catching silky shimmer that distinguishes Alpaca from all others types of wool makes it a noble material for beautiful knits and woven pieces that are also very comfortable to wear. Especially soft is the alpaca wool of the classes Baby Royal or Baby Alpaca.

  • Baby Royal:  ≤20 micron
  • Baby Alpaca: 20 – 23 micron

Alpaca fiber is also a very popular material for socks, sweaters, scarves and caps, but also for bedspreads and quilts.  Alpaca wool stores your body heat in winter and protects you from the heat in summer because the fiber is able to repel heat. Similar to merino wool, alpaca wool absorbs moisture well and keeps odors away.

Alpacas are also very environmentally friendly! Alpacas leave a smaller ecological footprint on our planet than other domesticated animals. Also, fewer chemicals and dyes are used in the production of alpaca wool than in most other types of wool.

Foto von Alex Azabache von Pexels

Angora

The special thing about the wool of the cute Angora rabbit is its fluffy look. Although the wool is a little fuzzy at the beginning, this disappears over time. Angora wool is said to have a healing effect, which is supposed to alleviate rheumatic complaints. Therefore the material is also very popular as underwear, especially with arthritis patients.

The hair of adult Angora rabbits grows about 3 cm every month.  In most cases, the fur of the Angora rabbit starts to molt after four months. Then you can get 12 to 16 ounces of wool from one rabbit.  It is quite possible to get enough fabric from Angora rabbits by simply brushing them, which seems to please the rabbits and is actually necessary for their health.

The problem with Angora is that about 90 percent of the angora wool obtained worldwide comes from China. China does not set minimum standards for the treatment of animals – and there are no penalties for mistreating animals. Angora rabbits are apparently only considered as a raw material in some farms and are not treated as a living creature.

The only way to be sure to buy only ethically produced angora wool is to specifically search for it. In Europe, the “Caregora Certificate” stands for controlled and trustworthy angora breeding. These comply with the Animal Welfare Act of the British Ministry of Agriculture.

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Whether cashmere, angora, alpaca or merino – these precious materials need a particularly gentle treatment so that you can enjoy them for a long time.

On newer washing machine models, the wool cycle is already standard and is also recommended for very sensitive wool. Please use a gentle wool detergent and no fabric softener. Even more gentle, it is washed by hand.  The water should only be lukewarm and the laundry rather short. You should take care not to rub and wring out the garment.

If you would like to learn more about the noblest wool varieties, the World’s Finest Wool website offers comprehensive information about the origin, history and production of the many different exclusive wool types.

There are also some pages dedicated to the unique animals and people to whom we owe these excellent wool fibers.

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References

[1] Fowler JF Jr, Fowler LM, Lorenz D. Effects of Merino Wool on Atopic Dermatitis Using Clinical, Quality of Life, and Physiological Outcome Measures. Dermatitis. 2019;30(3):198-206. doi:10.1097/DER.0000000000000449

[2] Su JC, Dailey R, Zallmann M, et al. Determining Effects of Superfine Sheep wool in INfantile Eczema (DESSINE): a randomized paediatric crossover study. Br J Dermatol. 2017;177(1):125-133. doi:10.1111/bjd.15376