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Popular with the likes of designer brands Vivienne Westwood, Maison Margiela and Marni, wool has become the go-to fibre for stylish, functional and sustainable design.

Wool’s versatility extends from luxury fashion to high-performance activewear, accessories, homeware and everything in between. Wool garments are designed to last, making them one of the most sustainable wardrobe staples. They can be washed less often, at lower temperatures and, when discarded, completely degrade within a span of six months to a year.


One of the oldest materials, wool has been used to make clothes since the stone age. The earliest reliable discovery of wool textiles dates from the fourth millennium BCE, about the time that wool processing technology made its way to Europe.

As the material spread across Europe, producers began using dyes for intricate designs while weavers started combining wool with plant-based fibres such as linen or experimenting with fabric patterns. Throughout history, wool proved irreplaceable for many types of clothing including cold-weather clothes and accessories, military uniforms and men’s suits.


Wool is a unique all-natural fibre and a truly versatile material. 60% of all wool is used in the apparel industry, but it is also widely used in industrial applications. Wool is breathable, elastic, odour-resistant and easy to care for. As an active fibre that reacts to changes in body temperature, clothes made of wool are comfortable to wear year-round, helping you stay warm when the weather is cold, and cool when the weather is hot. Wool felt covers piano hammers, and is also used to absorb odours and noise in heavy machinery and stereo speakers. Wool fibre can also be used for insulation due to its ability to provide superior breathability and cold protection – perfect for high-performance and outerwear apparel. With flame retardancy up to 600 degrees Celsius, merino wool has long been the preferred material for firefighters’ uniforms. In addition, wool is commonly used for blankets, horse rugs, saddle cloths, carpeting and upholstery.

Production Process

The raw material for making wool fabric is sheep’s wool. People have been using spring shears to cut the wool from sheep ever since the Iron Age and, before that, wool had to be removed by combing. Today, electric shears make the shearing process much easier.

American sheep producers traditionally harvest wool during the spring months. Collected wool is cleaned (a process called scouring) to remove grease, grass and dirt. After drying, the wool is loosened, carded, and combed. The combed wool is then tied in bunches and passed along to spinners to be twisted into yarn.


Public concerns revolve around the complex wool supply chain due to issues of animal welfare and environmental issues related to sustainable and ethical aspects of wool production. Animal cruelty is a hot topic, with many clothing companies reassessing their suppliers and ensuring the existence of a verifiable process that promotes the humane treatment of animals.

If the supplier follows responsible farming practices and ensures that both animal welfare and traceability standards are adhered to, it is actually one of the most sustainable fabric choices you can make. Shearing sheep is nothing more than a haircut and helps the animal stay comfortable and healthy.

Sheep provide valuable ecological services that extend beyond wool production. Sheep eat woody and broadleaf plants and tall weeds and grasses, making them useful for reducing the dangers of wildfire. They can promote healthy forests by grazing the vegetation that crowds out and competes with trees. They also eat a wide variety of plant species, making them ideal for tackling noxious weeds invading millions of acres of land.

In return, producers use great care in shepherding their flocks to avoid overgrazing and mitigate negative interactions with people and wildlife. The industry has developed guidelines to help sheep farmers refine the techniques of ecological grazing resulting in healthier landscapes and sheep operations across America.

Fertilisation from the sheep’s manure means there is little need for synthetic fertilisers in many operations. By keeping soils healthy when producing these natural fibres, suppliers can help create change in the wool and fashion industry towards becoming more sustainable.

Wool’s Future

Innovations in wool processing technologies create more efficient and environmentally friendly processes in yarn development, knit and weave manufacture, dyeing and finishing. Wool absorbs natural, plant-based dyes better than synthetic textile fibres, allowing the creation of sustainable items.

Resources for more

To learn more about wool, please visit the websites below:










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