This page gives some info regarding the fiber we use to make our woven products, which are the great majority of our offerings. Our knitted products (Watch Cap, Neck Gaiter) are a little bit different, and the following discussion may not entirely describe the wool going into our knits.
People have come to know the term Merino, but not necessarily exactly what it means. We are asked very often if we use Merino, and we do. All the fiber we use is Merino-class. But most Merino-class wool is actually not suitable for us.
The page is an outgrowth of an internal WeatherWool email discussion, and the following info comes from Advisor Bob Padula, who has guided our purchases of raw wool since our early days.
My thoughts on Merino.
It is a breed or type of sheep that grows mainly apparel quality wool.
There are many different “strains”, versions, types. The ones who really care - are the ones with those strains/types or those trying to market the wool or sheep from those strains….. ie “Saxon”, “Peppin”, “South African Meat Merino”, “Polish or German Mutton Merino”, “Booroola Merino” ….. even the old “Vermont Merino” was a thing that was used to “differentiate” the sheep and wool.
Rambouillet is the “French” version as opposed to the “Spanish” version merino.
Some people really get wound up on the breed lineage stuff, mainly when you think yours is better and trying to differentiate it from the crowd.
Before there was a lot of the objective measurements, breed and lineage was more important for use in predicting processing outcome….. and the basis of the older “Blood system”. Then came a more technically or at least practically based spin count system …… hanks of yarn spun from one pound of clean wool top.
Real world….. the inanimate machines do not care ….. they just process the wool fed to them based on how they are set up….
Finishing is art-form that puts the handle on the fabric, and breed does/can have some effect. But I would think it is the grower selecting for softness within the breed/line/flock rather than the breed itself…..
Marketing is totally different and is the “sell job”…. As Ralph mentioned there are many different types/qualities of “Merino” and not all of it is suitable for WeatherWool.
Merino has become the trendy way to market and is being promoted to differentiate the new from the old “itchy scratchy”.
It used to be promotion of wool in general, but then back in the 1990s things changed as the wool bureau went away, the IWS transformed into the Australian Wool Services…. And because most of the sheep in Australia are merino, to differentiate Australian wool from other countries, the promotion was for merino. They even tried to restrict the use of the word merino to be only Australian merino wool. That of course did not fly with other countries growing merino, and companies blending origins. Country of origin added to merino is common.
Back in the US, there are some diehards (that raise merino) that do not want others to use the term. Others do not want to use the term merino - because then they would have to pay more. They routinely point out and exploit the flaws of US wool so they do not have to pay as much.
And there is some truth to that, the way US wool is prepared (or not) limits its comparability or processing performance compared to Australian or NZ, S Africa or South American. Hence, this is why WeatherWool tests and requires certain attributes along with how it is grown, shorn and prepared.
So WeatherWool does use merino wool, but not just any old merino….. WeatherWool has standards to be met and those go beyond the measurements and into the way the wool is raised, harvested, prepared at shearing, tested and offered.
When Australians or foreign buyers would view or describe the wool currently being used by WeatherWool - it was viewed as “merino”.
So using merino is a good thing, but it isn’t just Merino , it’s WeatherWool and goes above and beyond….
It’s not just the fiber, it is how it is cared for by the grower, what is in it - or not (paint, poly, colored fibers) -- how it is shorn by the shearers, prepared at shearing (skirted and classed) tested, described and marketed- it’s a “package deal”.
My thoughts….Hope this helps. ---Bob Padula
22 December 2022 --- Padula and Ralph