What are the Benefits of Wool?
Wool has been used to make garments for a long time. The reason it is a popular choice is because it’s breathable yet warm plus water resistant, elastic, hypoallergenic, odour-repellent and quick drying. This is in contrast to cheaper synthetic fibres such as polyester and acrylic which, although mimic the touch of wool, do not have the same qualities as wool which is a natural fibre. When you are hot, you tend to feel stuffy and sticky wearing synthetic materials because they are not breathable. Synthetic fibres are also not odour repellent or moisture wicking, meaning you are unable to let your body’s sweat evaporate, thus trapping the odour and moisture on your skin.
What is the Difference Between Wool, Lambswool and Superfine Lambswool?
Although wool is one of nature’s best fibres, wool sweaters often bring to mind those thick, chunky knits which, whilst cosy, are often rough on the skin, and not the most comfortable garments to wear.
The reason most wool sweaters feel coarse is because wool fibres are thick. It makes it incredibly robust and warm, but it also means that it can be scratchy against the skin. Thick wool is used in a lot of other applications besides garments, for example, in insulation and carpeting because of how robust it is - you can easily see why it might not be most suitable for wearing against the skin!
Lambswool is wool that comes specifically from lambs, at around the age of seven months or under. Typically, it is wool from its first shearing. The wool taken at this age means that it is the finest, and therefore, the softest wool that the sheep will ever produce. In contrast to wool (wool taken from sheep after seven months old), lambswool is much softer, making it more suitable for garments.
The Superiority of Superfine Lambswool
However, even lambswool fibres are relatively thick, and can still be scratchy, and this leads us to the remarkable fibre that is superfine lambswool. This is a specific type of lambswool that is especially cultivated to be the finest and softest of all lambswool varieties in the world. It comes from a breed of sheep in South Africa which, due to the precise environment in which the sheep are born and live, are able to produce lambswool fibres that are much softer than even the next softest lambswool in the world.
The fibres used by our spinners Todd & Duncan are triple-tested. A rare and self-imposed requirement, it is to ensure that only the highest quality fibres that have passed rigorous tests make it into Todd & Duncan’s yarn collections.
When the fibres are first collected, they are tested at source for their quality - in particular, the fineness and length of the fibres which are the key determinants of quality. The fibres that have passed this initial test are gathered at testing facilities, where they are tested a second time. Only the fibres that pass these two initial tests are put on boats to Scotland. They are then tested for a third time when they arrive at Todd & Duncan’s facilities at their Loch Leven Mill in Kinross to the narrowest margin of tolerance and any fibres that do not make the cut are sifted out.
Superfine Lambswool Properties
To give you an idea, superfine lambswool is about 18.5 microns in diameter (the measurement to denote the thickness of fibres), whereas ordinary lambswool can range between 21 to 24 microns in diameter. This means superfine lambswool is a lot finer than ordinary lambswool, and therefore, much softer. Ordinary wool is mostly 25+ microns, often going into the 30s – signifying a much coarser fibre.
To provide another comparison, the finest merino wool often only goes down to 19.5 microns, so at 18.5 microns, superfine lambswool is even finer than merino wool.
Despite the fibre being extremely fine, the fibre is still very long, about 42mm. This is important because it is what makes the fibre stronger, and therefore helps the resulting garment keep its shape well. What you don’t want is a very fine but short fibre, because while it may be soft, the garment would not hold shape over time.
Superfine Lambswool – the Best of Both Worlds
In short, superfine lambswool has the best of both worlds – all of the amazing qualities of lambswool such as its breathability, robustness, warmth and moisture-wicking abilities, but is actually very soft when worn against the skin so that you do not have the same scratchiness associated with coarser lambswool sweaters. For these reasons, superfine lambswool is the rarest, most sought after and expensive lambswool variety. Garments produced with superfine lambswool have all the qualities of lambswool sweaters you know and love, but are incredibly soft against the skin.
Explore our superfine lambswool collection here.