The Story of Merino wool
From sheep to retailer
Australian Merino wool production begins with the breeding and selection of Merino sheep with fine fleece. Sheep live on sunlight, water and grass.
Shearers clip the wool fleece from the sheep. A professional shearer can remove the entire fleece in under five minutes. The fleece is graded according to its quality.
Fleeces are washed to remove dirt, dust, vegetable matter, sweat and wool grease. The wool grease is recovered and, from this, lanolin (which can be used for cosmetics and skin care products) is extracted.
When the wool fibre comes out of the scour, the fibres are in a random formation. The processes of carding (removing any remaining vegetable matter and dirt to open up the scoured wool fibres), combing (removing the short fibres and any foreign matters) and gilling (finer and more refined combing) are used to arrange the fibres in an organised and parallel form. The processes conducted between scouring and spinning are collectively known as top-making.
The process of inserting twist into assemblies of fibres (in top form) to make yarns. There are three common types of yarn in the wool industry:
- Woollen yarns are hairy and contain shorter fibres; they are normally used for sweaters and blankets.
- Worsted yarns use longer fibres to produce smoother yarns which are used in products like suits.
- Semi-worsted yarns fall halfway between woollen and worsted yarns and can be used for finer, smoother knitwear.
The process of interlooping yarns across the width of fabric to produce the shape of the garment.
The forming of fabric by interlacing long threads (yarns) passing in one direction with others at a right angle to them.
Individual panels are cut from flat fabrics and are sewn together to form the garment. In a seamless knitting system, small diameter circular knitting machines are used to make body-sized tubes of fabric, which only need seams to attach the sleeves.
Woven fabrics and circular knitted fabrics go through many processes following fabric formation to make them suitable for end use. Processes are carried out to wash, flatten, reduce hairiness, stretch, consolidate, and stabilise fabrics for end use. These processes improve the appearance, drape, feel and performance of the fabrics.
The process of colouring the wool. Different finished effects are achieved by dyeing at the different stages of processing. Dyes can be natural or synthetic and colour can also be introduced through printing.
Ready for sale
After pressing, the garments are ticketed and labelled so consumers know how to care for their new Merino wool garment.