What is wool, and what is organic wool? Is wool sustainable and safe? What are the characteristics of wool and what is mulesing?
Wool is the most widely used textile fiber of animal origine. More than 96% of the wool used in the textile industry comes from sheep, the other four percent comes from angora goats, yaks, camels, lamas and alpacas.
Wool is a proteine fiber, that resembles human hair in many ways. The frizzy hair forms an insulating layer that protects the animals from temperature changes and other weather influences. The wool fibers themselves are surrounded by a natural layer of wax (lanolin) that makes the coat water-repellent.
These natural properties are taken up almost one-to-one by clothes made of wool: wool is warm and insulating, yet breathable, and is ideal if you stay in variable temperatures or spend a lot of time outdoors. Wool can absorb up to 33% of its own weight in water without feeling damp. On the other hand, once wool is thoroughly wet (after washing) it dries slowly. Wool is easy to maintain, dirt-resistant, does not burn, does not wrinkle, protects against UV and is elastic by nature.
Wool is not only a beautiful and natural fiber, but also very durable. True: Sheep farming costs land, but very often the land on which sheep are kept is poor and unsuitable for agriculture. Due to its great elasticity, you do not have to iron wool, and it doesn’t have to be washed very often. Thanks to the fiber's great natural recovery capacity, it will feel fresh and clean after simply ventilating it in the open air.
There are many different sheep breeds, all of which supply their own quality wool. The differences are in properties such as fiber length, frizz, strength, fineness, gloss and purity. One of the most popular breeds is the merino sheep. This Spanish breed is widely held in Australia and Argentina.
In recent years there has been much criticism of sheep farming in Australia. This is mainly due to the practice of 'mulesing'. To prevent (often life-threatening) diseases caused by certain parasitic flies, mulesing removes parts of the skin. Wool does not grow on the scar tissue that is created in this way and infection sources are avoided. Mulesing may prevent serious diseases but it is a painful process that is not always carried out under anesthesia and is (rightly) vigorously attacked by animal protection organizations.
GOTS-certified woolen fabrics are guaranteed to be mulesing-free.