Since ancient times sheep have been members of the household and companions to humans and wool is one of the oldest fibres used in textiles. Pure New Wool is the term used for wool that is shorn from the living sheep. Pure New Wool is not allowed to be subjected to any processes damaging to the fibres (as opposed to shoddy wool).
The law governing the requirement for the labelling of textiles defines Pure New Wool as fibres from the fur of the sheep or fine hairs which had not previously been part of a finished textile, and have not undergone any processes other than the spinning or felting process necessary to manufacture the textile.
Distinctions are made between wool derived from the first shearing after 6 months, known as lambswool, shearing after 12 months, and shearing once a year.
The Merino sheep is a breed of sheep producing very fine wool and probably originated from North Africa. In the High Middle Ages Merino sheep were introduced to Spain and gained important economic significance due to their sought after wool. Up until the 18th century a Castilian association of sheep breeders prevented a proliferation of the breed. The export of the Merino breed was forbidden by the Spanish crown under penalty of death. In the 19th century other countries began to farm Merino sheep. Today Australia is the main producer of Merino wool.
Pure New Merino Wool is characterised by its very fine hairs and extensive crimp – both qualities needed by a good duvet. The finer the hair and the more crimp, the higher the ability to absorb moisture and the higher the ability to insulate. Optimally balancing moisture and temperature results in an optimal micro-climate. Pure New Merino Wool is the most valuable and finest sheep’s wool.
Hairs consist of many different proteins. Of particular interest are the keratins as they are responsible for elasticity and strength.
Wool possesses natural thermo-regulating qualities. In the inner of its fibres wool can absorb steam, on the outside however, it repels water. This means wool can absorb up to 33% of its weight in moisture without feeling wet. Also wool is much quicker at releasing moisture as, e.g., cotton.
Wool textiles, when referring to their overall volume, consist of up to 85% air. This makes them very good warmth insulators meaning that only little body heat can escape. Wool is ‘warming’ although actually it only reflects the body’s heat. Because of its elastic fibres, wool does not attract dirt easily and hardly crinkles. It takes up dyes easily and is flame retardant, not quickly busting into flame but charring instead.
Because of its scale-like surface structure wool has the ability to self-clean. Through movement dirt is rubbed out of the fibre. Because wool can fix moisture it does not charge itself electro-statically. This is why dirt does not penetrate into the fibre and is therefore easily removable.
If it is necessary to wash wool this should ideally be done by hand. Smells that have been absorbed by wool, e.g., sweat, will be released when the textile is aired, so it returns to smelling neutral and fresh.