Wool is the textile fibre obtained from sheep and certain other animals, including cashmere from goats, mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from came lids. Sheep are shorn of their wool usually twice in a year for coarse wool and once a year for fine wool. After scouring to remove grease and dirt, wool is carded and combed, then spun into yarn for fine fabrics or knitted garments. Merino sheep produce up to 18 kg of greasy wool a year. It is crimped, elastic, and it grows in staples (clusters). Wool’s natural crimpiness and scale patterns that make it easy to spin. Fabrics made from wool have greater bulk than other textiles, provide better insulation and are resilient, elastic and durable. Fibre diameter ranges from 16 microns in superfine merino wool (similar to cashmere) to more than 40 microns in coarse hairy wool. Major producers are Australia, Argentina, China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, New Zealand, Russia, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.

Medium and coarse wool has been used for blankets, horse rugs, saddle cloths, carpeting, felt, wool insulation and upholstery. Wool felt covers piano hammers, and it is used to absorb odours and noise in heavy machinery and stereo speakers. Ancient Greeks lined their helmets with felt. Wool has also been traditionally used to cover cloth diapers. Wool fiber exteriors are hydrophobic (repel water) and the interior of the wool fibre is hygroscopic (attracts water); this makes a wool garment able to cover a wet diaper while inhibiting wicking, so outer garments remain dry. Wool felted and treated with lanolin is water resistant, air permeable, and slightly antibacterial, so it resists the buildup of odour. Some modern cloth diapers use felted wool fabric for covers, and there are several modern commercial knitting patterns for wool diaper covers. Industrial uses of wool include sheets of bonded coarse wool used for thermal and acoustic insulation in home construction, as well pads for soaking up oil spills.


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