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What is Merino Wool?6 min read

Merino Wool is a type of material that comes from Merino Sheep and is renowned for its exceptional properties. These include its fantastic softness, shine and breathability. The fibres of Merino wool are softer, finer, and more sensitive than many other fabrics. Common wool types are warm, durable, water repellent, and naturally insulating. All the exceptional qualities of the Merino sheep wool add up to make the recipe for a world leading wool. The incomparable quality has made it not only highly praised but also highly sought after.
Despite a variation in grades among Merino Wool, the diameter of the wool is consistently microscopic – ranging from 11.5 microns to roughly 24 microns. Thanks to selective breeding, the Merino Sheep can produce this ultrafine wool which is finer and of a higher quality than other types of wool.


The different types of Merino Wool based on fineness:

Label

Diameter (in Microns)

Extra Ultrafine Wool

16.0 and finer

Ultrafine Wool

16.1-17.5

Superfine Wool

17.6-18.5

Fine Wool (Also known as Extra Fine Wool)

18.6-19.5

Fine-Medium Wool

19.6-20.5

Medium Wool

20.6-22.5

Strong Wool

22.6-<24

Close up of High Quality 100% Merino Wool

The Merino Sheep

The Merino Sheep originates from Spain and its earliest flocks date back as far as the 12th century. Today, however, Australia produces 80% of the world’s Merino wool with New Zealand also being a large producer of the material.

Note: The Merino Sheep has been closely guarded for its superior quality. Before the 18th century the export of Merino Sheep from Spain was punishable by death. Up until 1986, Australians banned the export of all Merino Sheep.

There are four different types of Australian Merino Sheep to which the vast majority owe their ancestry. These are:

Peppin Merino

Likely to be the most common type of Merino Sheep with as many as 70 percent of Australia’s Merinos being descended from the Peppin. Peppin Merino Wool is between the 20-23 microns and a stud ram may produce up to 18 kg or more of wool per year. The Peppin sheep was primarily bred for more temperate climates however they are very adaptable, allowing them to be seen in many different areas.

South Australian Merino

The South Australian Merino is the largest type of Merino sheep found in Australia, making them longer and heavier than other types. The Merino Wool that is produced from these sheep is the thickest in diameter and is at the stronger end of the merino wool types.

Saxon Merino

In contrast to the South Australian Merino, the Saxon Merino is the smallest type of Merino sheep and produces some of the finest (in fabric diameter) of wool. Whilst a Peppin Merino may produce up to 18 kg of wool per year, a Saxon may only produce 3 kg of extra ultrafine wool. This wool is often bright, white in colour and soft to handle making it very popular in the production of expensive clothing items.

Spanish Merino

There are not many of this type of Merino Sheep found in Australia but they are the closest relation to the original Spanish Merino Sheep. Physically, they are of similar proportions to the Peppin Merino and produce super or extra fine wool. Extra fine wool is achieved by cross breeding the Spanish Merino with the Saxon as the Saxon has a fuller wool coverage even down to their ankles.  

Alpace and Merino Wool Blend Jumper

Benefits of Wool

All types of wool are fantastic insulators and they have many natural properties which make them excellent candidates for quality clothing.

Wool is breathable allowing it to retain heat which is great for the likes of coats, knitwear and socks. However, the heat will not become completely trapped within the fabric so that the wearer doesn’t overheat over a moderate period of time.

Wool blends well with other fabrics whether they are natural, such as cashmere, or synthetic allowing for a wide range of options.

Wool is water resistant which makes it stand out against a great many other natural fabrics thanks to a water-repellent outer layer. Each individual fibre can hold up to 30% of their own weight in moisture without getting damp.

Benefits of Merino Wool

Wool naturally has many sought after characteristics which make it an ideal material. Combine this with the very fine nature of Merino Wool and you have a highly desirable material. This very fine fibre makes Merino wool much softer against the skin and more luxurious to wear than traditional wool types. Another benefit for using Merino in clothing is that it will not itch or irritate the skin.

Merino wool is not only seen in high end fashion brands but it is also seen in sportswear. The fibres are able to absorb moisture away from the body so that the wearer remains dry whilst sweating from exercise or from warmth. This allows it to regulate the temperature of the body by keeping you cooler in hotter weather.

Merino wool also has natural anti-microbial properties that make it odor-resistant as well as being so soft that it is often suitable for those that would normally suffer from allergic reactions. These properties as well as the hard wearing, durable and natural elasticity make Merino wool an ideal choice for children’s clothing.

Merino wool Blends

Merino Wool can often be blended with cashmere, silk or polyester. These help to give the properties of other materials whilst retaining the high quality of the ultrafine version. A wide variation of clothing is made from merino blends such as knitwear, socks and base layers.

How does Merino Wool Compare to Other Materials?

Material Positives Negatives
Lambswool Less Expensive, Hypoallergenic Itchier than Merino
Cashmere Good warmth to weight, Very Light Expensive
Cotton Easy to care for, cool in warm weather Poor warmth to weight
Synthetic Cheaper, incorporates positives of many materials Worse climate control than Merino
Blends Positives of more than one material. Can be less durable.

You can read more about other materials on our Sweater Materials article.

Merino Wool Knitwear

Thanks to its many great qualities, Merino Wool has been a much sought after fabric for producing knitwear such as pullovers, sweaters and the like. Due to this desirability, Merino knitwear is usually more expensive than other wool’s however the softer and more luxurious feel has made it very popular with higher quality clothing and worth the extra pennies.

The main positives of Merino Knitwear are:

  • Good weight to warmth ratio.
  • Cooler than many other materials.
  • Less pilling (when small balls gather on your sweater from fabric wear).
  • Durable.
  • Very Soft.

Whether you are looking for a Merino blend garment or 100% Merino jumper in time for the colder seasons,  you can visit our website here and see our range of Merino Wool products.

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