OLSA textiles: wool

Posted by on Sep 19, 2015 in Discussion, Exhibitions, News | 0 comments

OLSA textiles: wool

I am going to be concentrating on giving a little information on individual textiles in the early part of this week, in the run-up to our sale of fine things in fine fabrics (plus some selected prints) at Denbies Wine Estate, near Dorking on the 27th September, 2015.

Today I want to talk about wool – one of our most familiar and perhaps most underrated fabrics. I have pictured a beautiful scarf made from a cashmere/silk mix that will be on sale. As I bought a perfect remnant from a tailor it is very competitively priced.

Most of us probably don’t give wool a second thought, we  take it for granted.  It is simply a wonderful fabric, versatile, durable and biodegradable. It is used not only for jumpers and coats and clothes of all sorts but also for carpets and it even has industrial uses. From luxurious cashmere scarves to the top of the billiard table, wool plays an important part in nearly  everyone’s life. Humans have been using it for many thousands of years (primarily to keep warm and dry), all over the world.

Remember that wool comes not only from sheep but also from alpacas, llamas, goats (who give us cashmere) and Angora rabbits.  Wool is a natural fibre, though not necessarily organic. Wool may have been exposed to hormones, pesticides, and other less desirable chemicals during its production and if you are concerned look out for wool that has been classified as organic by the Soil Association.

Sadly wool fleeces (which are laborious to produce) do not command a good price in the market at the moment and farming for wool alone , (at least in the UK) is not economic. Wool from mountain sheep (e.g. Herdwick from the Lake District) may only sell for around 50p per kg and even the finest ‘lustre wool’ £4.55 per kg. Bear in mind that removing the fleece from the animal without harming it,  is hard, skilled work. Then the wool has to be cleaned, combed, sorted and spun,  into either (i) woollen, made from the shorter fibres and resulting in a coarser material or (ii) worsted, longer fibres spun together and producing a lustrous, luxurious fabric, which is more durable and is less likely to snag or pill. (ref The Fabric Selector, by Dana Willard, Search Press, 2011).

More tomorrow.



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