Wool is a fibre made up of a protein called keratin, and is a great natural insulator. It keeps sheep both cool and warm as needed in the temperature fluctuations of their environment. Similarly, wearing woollen garments can keep people either warm or cool, depending on the environment. The physical structure of the wool fibre is largely responsible for this. Wool fibres have a natural crimp and retain their shape throughout the processing stages; scouring, spinning, knitting and washing of garments. The crimp keeps each individual fibre from lying flush with the fibre beside it, thus creating tiny air pockets within the woollen garment. Just as a double-glazed window can keep your house insulated, so too these little air pockets keep your body insulated. In socks an added benefit of wool’s crimp, and also the elastic properties of wool that allow it to retain its shape, is that it maintains a springy cushioned feel adding support to your feet wear after wear. This can especially be felt in our Thick Full-Cushioned range of wool socks.
Wool is also renowned for its capacity to wick moisture away from the skin. This means that as you sweat or if you get wet, wool fibres draw the moisture away from your skin so you don’t feel damp. The surface of the fibre is hydrophobic, repelling water, but the cells inside the fibre can hold water (hydrophilic). This means that each individual fibre can hold moisture without you feeling it. Woollen fabric can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in water without feeling wet or losing those important insulating air pockets, so even when wet, wool can regulate your temperature.
Comfort and Durability
Genetics of sheep and environmental factors in which they are raised determine the coarseness or fineness of the wool fibre grown. As a general rule, breeds such as Dorset and Border Leicester grow high micron (coarse) wool, while Merinos grow "coarse", "medium", "fine" or "super-fine" wool. Each has important characteristics for particular applications. Coarse wool is stronger and more durable than fine, and is also cheaper. This makes it great for carpets, rugs, upholstery, blankets and outdoor outerwear. Fine wool is generally softer and more comfortable to feel next to the skin, and so is mainly used in clothing. Medium micron merino wool yarn blended is great for diverse applications. It can have a high comfort factor, so that it can be worn next to skin but retains strength and durability. This makes it a great option for knitting our Classic Thick Full-Cushioned socks. Many farmers and tradies over the years have commented on how these socks never wear out.