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What is Merino Wool ?

Merino Wool

Ok relax – this is definitely from a sheep !  – the Merino sheep.

Merino wool is produced from the fleece of the Merino sheep – which has been used to make clothing for centuries.

Merino-300x264

The breed originates in Spain (from the Castille region) where the breed was originally developed for its highly prized fleece.  Such was secrecy about the breed, and the unique characteristics of the wool, that export of live animals was punishable by death until the mid 1700s !

However, later in the eighteenth century and into the 19th century limited export was permitted.  This has ultimately led to the establishment of Merino herds all over the world.  There are now substantial herds in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the US as well as in Europe.

 

 

The sheep are easily recognisable as the fleece is far fluffier than that found on most other breeds of sheep.  This is because the actual wool fibre is far finer.  It is this fine fibre that makes Merino wool ideal for use in garments to keep you warm – particularly in thermal underwear.

Merino Wool is one of natures great natural insulators:

  • it is naturally breathable;
  • it is odour resistant (owing to the anti-bacterial properties of lanolin)
  • it “wicks” (moves) moisture away from the skin keeping you dry
  • it keeps you warm in the cold BUT ALSO keeps you cool when it is hot

When it is cold the extra fine Merino wool fibres trap a layer of air against your skin – which warms up with body temperature and keeps you warm.  It works a bit like a duvet.  The wicking ensures any moisture is moved away from the skin – keeping you dry and warm.  Unlike many synthetic materials Merino wool can keep you warm even when it is wet.

When it is warm, and you start to sweat, excess heat is dispersed as moisture and is “wicked” away.  This makes it ideal to regulate body temperature in a variety of climates.

The fine fibres also make Merino Wool extremely soft to touch and to wear.  It gives it a smooth feel unlike the itchy / scratchy feel many of us will remember from school uniforms and the cheap wool jumpers our parents bought for us.

Merino wool gives a great balance of performance and cost – making it extremely popular.

 

You can take a look at my range of merino Wool thermal underwear by clicking here.

 

On a lighter note – one of the most famous merino sheep was called “Shrek” .  shreksheep

He ran away from his herd in 2004 – which is highly unusual for this close flocking breed.  He was finally found, fit and healthy, hiding in local caves over 6 years later !!  No-one is really sure why he ran off, but some speculate it was to avoid being clipped.

When he was finally sheared his fleece weighed nearly 30kg – almost 6 times the weight of a normal fleece.

Such was his notoriety and popularity he spent his later years as a bit of a celebrity and made many many charity appearances.