Have you noticed how many wool fabrics exist? Ever wondered what the difference is between them? In the realm of home furnishings and design, the most common wools are traditional “sheep” wool, wool from alpacas, and wool from cashmere goats. Each has different characteristics to be considered when selecting fabrics for decoration.
Wool was probably the first textile used for clothing, recorded as early as 4000 B.C. Originally, fabric was made by pounding wool and goat hair into felt or by weaving it. These days, sheep wool is so prevalent it is categorized into three levels: fine wool that is used for clothing and luxury blankets, medium wool that is also made into blankets, and coarse wool that is made into carpets. Most wool is white, though there are some naturally colored gray, brown and black sheep. Most fine wool comes from sheep raised in Australia and the United States. To obtain the wool, sheep are sheared once a year, in the springtime, to help them combat the heat of summer. Sheep grow their wool coats back each year, so they are not only a natural fiber resource, but a renewable one as well.
A softer and warmer type of wool comes from alpacas, a domesticated breed indigenous to the Andes region. There are two types of alpaca. The huacaya alpaca has wool that looks a lot like sheep wool. It is curly, dense and crimped, and attaches perpendicularly to the animal, giving it a “fuzzy” appearance. Suri alpacas are much rarer and have long, soft and shiny locks that fall in long ringlets. The wool from both animals is extremely glossy and will maintain its luster for years. Alpacas come in a rich array of natural shades ranging from dove gray to russet and inky black. Prima Alpaca is created from the first shearing of a baby alpaca and is extremely supple, some say even more so than cashmere. Whether so, Prima Alpaca is one of the finest natural fibers in the world, from one of the gentlest creatures on earth.
The third type of wool, cashmere, comes from cashmere goats that graze in the Gobi Desert of China and Mongolia and the Kashmir Region southwest of China. These goats have a fine, soft, downy, winter undercoat that grows as the seasons change to cooler weather. The outer coat, called guard hair, is very coarse and brush-like, and it is present all year. Cashmere wool is collected during the spring molting season when the goats naturally shed their winter coat. In some regions, the mixed mass of down and coarse hair is removed by hand with a coarse comb. This process yields more pure cashmere fiber than gathering what the animal naturally shed. The long, coarse guard hair is then typically clipped from the animal and is often used for brushes, interfacings and other non-apparel uses. Cashmere wool can be as much as eight times warmer than wool.
Wool is used for fine linens and furnishings because it is luxurious and warm, helps regulate body temperature, and provides comfort and protection from fire. You will find wool in our coverlets, blankets, throws, mattresses and toppers, comforters and pillows, as well as featured furniture.