The Different Types of Wool

By Tarryn Aubuchon | Feb 7, 2023

The Different Types of Wool

By Tarryn Aubuchon | Feb 7, 2023

When you think of fabrics made for cold weather, wool is normally one of the first to come to mind. Whether it's a formal wool coat or cozy wool undergarments, this natural fabric will keep you comfortable in the harshest winters. But did you know some types of wool can be worn in warm weather, too? Let us introduce you to the many varieties of wool!


What is Wool Made Of?

Wool is a natural fiber made from the protective coats of mammals such as sheep, goats, and camelids (a group of animals that include the camel, llama, alpaca, and vicuña). It is sustainable because it is carefully sheared from the animals annually, requires limited resources to process – producing far less carbon dioxide than man-made fibers – and is 100% biodegradable.

Types of Wool Fabric

There are ten different types of wool fiber that can be processed to create even more varieties of wool materials. The kind of wool fabric you see in the store depends on the animal it originates from. Sheep wool includes virgin wool, merino wool, and Shetland sheep's wool. Cashmere and mohair come from goats. Other wool is sourced from alpacas, llamas, vicuñas, camel, and the Arctic muskox.

These sources can be woven or knitted into a variety of fabrics like felted wool, wool fleece, and worsted wool. Depending on the source and the processing, some wool fabrics are meant to be comfortably worn against the skin while others are better for outerwear or other textile products such as rugs or furniture upholstery.

Let's look at some comparisons of popular, comfortable types of wool.

Cashmere vs. Wool

Comparing cashmere vs. wool might seem contradictory, but many people consider wool to be a generic term for sheep's wool while cashmere comes from cashmere goats. Cashmere is a much finer fiber than basic wool, so it traps heat more efficiently than wool and tends to be lighter in weight. It's also softer than many versions of sheep's wool, which can be rougher on your skin. Still, the thicker fibers of wool make it more durable than cashmere.

Cashmere vs. Merino

Because merino is a type of sheep's wool, it is more durable than cashmere. Unlike many other types of sheep's wool, its fibers are very fine, so it is softer. Merino wool is warm but lightweight and breathable, and it is often used for activewear. Even with merino's relative softness, cashmere is still softer and rarer, so it tends to be more sought after for casual clothing.

Alpaca vs. Merino

Alpaca fibers are stronger, softer, and warmer than merino wool, so it's great for winter sweaters. Alpaca tends to be more water-resistant, too. Unfortunately, people with sensitive skin may experience rashes and itching when wearing alpaca clothing. Merino wool is more versatile with its lightweight fabric comfortably worn as a base layer in the winter or on its own in warmer weather.


Our Favorite Wool Types

With so many options, the possibilities for wearing wool seem endless, but when considering comfort and versatility, our favorite types of wool are merino and cashmere. Both are soft, wearable year-round, and quite durable, so they make good investments. Whether you are looking for the quintessential cashmere sweater or a merino blend cardigan (coming soon!), Cozy Earth offers the highest quality wool clothing you'll love to live in.

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