High quality knitting is synonymous with merino wool. The indisputable advantages of creating hand knitted wool garments are plentiful. Merino wool is one of the world's most popular fabric materials, but the history of the fiber is not commonly understood.
It is thought that the first Merino sheep lived in southern Spain as early as the 12th century. Some historians think that the Merino sheep was imported from Morocco, while others believe it was the product of cross breeding between a sheep and a ram. In modern times, the Merino sheep are carefully bred to produce the finest possible fibers. The first recorded production of wool from the Merino didn't occur until the 15th century. By the 16th century, wool had become a staple of the Spanish economy. In fact, Merino sheep were smuggled out of Spain until the 18th century when it finally became legal to export the sheep throughout Europe.
The Napoleonic wars collapsed the Merino trade in Spain; however, Merino sheep had spread to Australia. By 1810, more than 30,000 Merino sheep were raised in Australia and they thrived in the sub-tropical climate. Today, Australia boasts more than 53 million Merino sheep and it remains the sheep capital of the world.
The process of making Merino wool can be broken down into five steps.
The Merino sheep is shorn and the wool is gathered for the next step.
The wool is cleaned, sorted, and then carded into strings.
The wool is spun and loaded onto reels.
At this stage, the yarn is weaved or knitted.
The fabric is dyed and treated.
Typically the first choice for knitters, Merino wool has several benefits.
Garments made from Merino wool are breathable. The surface of the fibers are hydrophilic, allowing them to remove perspiration. The interior of the fiber absorbs moisture without feeling wet or cold. This combination makes for a comfortable wool garment.
Merino wool is super fine and silky soft. Garments made from this wool are luxurious and silken. It outperforms cotton in every way and is thought to be one of the most coveted and comfortable fabrics.
Merino wool is exceptional at creating a microclimate for your body, adjusting to the environment. This versatile garment can keep skin warm from the cold and also protect against heat. As an added bonus, it also protects naturally from UV rays.
Since wool is made of mostly protein, it successfully traps viruses and bacteria and prevents them from multiplying. The antibacterial properties keep woolen garments odor-free, even after multiple uses.
Here are a few of our favorite hand-dyed Merino yarns: