10 Types of Wool: The Ultimate Guide
Wool makes a popular fabric for use in many everyday products including slippers, jumpers, and so many more. The different types of wool have many benefits and properties which makes them ideal for footwear and other clothing items. Discover the different types of wool and what they are each used for, to be more informed for your next purchase.
Table of Contents:
What is Wool?
Before jumping into the different types of wool, it is important for us first to understand exactly what wool is.
Wool is a fibre taken from the coat or fur of animals such as sheep. Similarly to human hair, types of wool are produced by follicles in the animal’s skin and consist of proteins. Once taken from the animal, usually through shearing, these fibres can then be transformed into types of wool fabric that we can use to produce clothing, footwear, and homeware. The uses of these different types of wool can be anything from slippers, to wool sneakers, to cosy blankets.
How Many Types of Wool are There?
Depending on whether you are looking at the different types of wool fibre, or the types of wool fabric, you’ll end up at a different number. In this guide, we explain the 10 main types of wool, and how this extraordinary fibre can be turned into various materials that we use everyday.
Different Types of Sheep Wool
The most common type of wool comes from sheep. However, there is not one singular type of sheep’s wool, rather different breeds produce different types of fibre. Each type of wool has its own unique benefits and characteristics.
1. Virgin Wool
Virgin wool, also known as lambswool, is the softest type of wool available. It is taken from a sheep’s first shearing, this being the softest coat a sheep will produce in its life. Sometimes, virgin wool also refers to types of wool fibres that have not undergone any processing procedures.
Our range of men’s slippers, women’s slippers, and kids’ slippers, uses virgin wool. Due to the properties of this type of wool, you can have breathable slippers to be used as summer slippers, that keep your foot comfortable if worn as winter house shoes. This wool type can be used to make gorgeous eco-friendly slippers, perfect for relaxing at home in comfort.
2. Merino Wool
Softness isn’t the only beneficial property of merino wool however. This incredible fibre is also temperature regulating, making it amazing for year-round use. Being antibacterial, it also works to fight odors, so your merino shoes don’t smell. We use this type of wool for the majority of our men’s sneakers and women’s sneakers, thanks to the amazing properties it possesses.
We put the welfare of animals first, this means that we say no to mulesing and use only this type of wool that is free from this practice.
3. Wool from Shetland Sheep
As the name suggests, this type of wool is taken from the sheep on the Shetland Islands of Scotland. This type of wool fibre is coarser and more itchy than merino wool, and comes from the undercoat of the sheep. Despite this, the type of wool is durable whilst still remaining soft.
Is Sheepskin a Type of Wool?
Sheepskin refers to a specific type of material that consists of both the skin and the wool fibres from the sheep. Unlike a type of wool, the fibres remain in their original state, attached to the leather. They remain as such throughout the tanning process. This allows for ultra-cosy products like sheepskin slippers to be made.
Other Types of Wool
Whilst we often associate different types of wool with sheep, they’re not the only animal that produces the natural fibre. In fact, a large variety of animals can produce this luxurious material, including rabbits, llamas, and even ox.
One of the most notable wool types from another animal is cashmere. This soft and delicate wool comes from the undercoat of the cashmere goat, with the finest fibres coming from the neck of the goat. Like merino wool, it is especially fine, which makes it particularly good as a fabric for apparel. From cashmere beanies, to cardigans, people adore this luxurious type of wool.
Other types of wool also come from goats. These include mohair wool, which comes from the Angora goat - not to be confused with angora wool that comes from a rabbit! The fibres of this type of wool are thicker than cashmere, and are more similar in size to normal sheep’s wool. Despite this, the wool fiber’s scales are not as pronounced, which gives mohair the advantage of being less prone to tangling and shrinkage. Mohair wool is used in clothing such as suits and dresses, as well as in homewares such as carpets and wool blankets.
6. Alpaca Wool
Alpacas are native to South America, but have become a popular animal across the globe. The type of wool produced by alpacas is some of the finest in the world. Although very soft, the larger sized diameters of alpaca wool fibres can become itchy. Understanding why wool can itch could help you in making sure your next wool products are as comfortable as possible!
7. Llama Wool
Llamas are related to alpacas, and also produce wool. However, the type of wool taken from llamas is actually too rough to be used as garments worn against the skin! Despite this, it can be used for outwear, as well as decorative pieces such as wall hangings and rugs.
Also related to both llamas and alpacas, the vicuña produces some of the rarest wool. This type of wool was traditionally used by the Incas, reserving its use for royalty due to its supreme warmth and softness. Due to concerns over extinction, the Peruvian government closely monitors the production of vicuña wool. With the animals only being shorn every other year, and no more than five times within their life. This rare wool type is one you may have never heard of before!
9. Qiviut Wool
The final type of wool is qiviut. This comes from the arctic muskox which resides in Canada and Alaska. This type of wool is collected from the animals during molting season, where breeders comb or collect the wool from the ground. This wool type has many benefits, its superfine nature means it’s extraordinarily soft. In addition to this, the fibres are also strong, and do not shrink when in water.
10. Camel Wool
Another type of wool is produced by camels. Camel wool is also quite rough, so is suited toward outerwear, especially as it has insulating properties. The coarsest hair taken from camels is actually used as backing for carpets!
4 Types of Wool Fabric
Now you know all about the different types of wool, you may wonder how the fibres turn into the fabrics we know and love. There are many methods for transforming the different types of wool into usable materials, here are four ways:
1. Boiled Wool
To create our unique 3D Stretch fabric, we use boiled wool. This involves taking a type of wool that has been knitted from yarn (we use a machine to avoid cramped hands), and boiling it at a specific temperature and for a specific time. Doing this makes the wool more durable, better insulating, and much softer!
2. Felted Wool
Unlike other types of wool fabric, felted wool is made from the raw materials rather than yarn. Felted wool can be created in a number of ways, one of which is the rubbing of wool fibres together with the assistance of water and soap. This effectively causes the fibres to matt and becomes a singular piece of fabric. This technique is often used in wool crafts. The other way is through needle felting, in this method a barbed needle is pushed through the wool fibres, again causing them to matt and become a piece of fabric that can be used in products.
3. Wool Fleece
Lots of clothing items are made from fleece, this is also a type of wool fabric. This is made by brushing wool that has already been knitted. This creates a cosy material, perfect for snuggling up in! Despite being extremely comfortable, this wool type is not as thick or insulating as boiled wool. Fleece can also be made from artificial materials such as recycled PET plastic.
4. Loden Fleece
Loden wool fabric is created from yarn that has been woven, rather than knitted. After this it is boiled. Loden has little stretch and loses its strength and water repelling properties over time. This means that compared to other types of wool fabric, it’s not ideal for water resistant shoes.
What is the Best Wool?
After discovering the many different types of wool you may be wondering which is the best kind. This depends on the product the type of wool is being used to make. We value the beneficial properties of merino and virgin wool for our products. With their many comfort factors that allow us to create lightweight sneakers and warm slippers. We know these two types of wool will allow you to live every aspect of your life in ultimate comfort.
Ultimate Comfort from Giesswein
We are a third generation family business that uses our Green Strategy to focus on sustainability and animal-welfare. Whether it’s different types of slippers, men’s vegan shoes, or women’s vegan shoes, you’ll enjoy treading a little lighter on the planet with Giesswein.