Sheep wool

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Sheep wool before further processing
Sheep wool before further processing
Fiber type

natural animal fiber


Domestic sheep ( Ovis orientalis aries )


usually whitish, but also brown and black

Fiber length approx. 4 cm to 7.5 cm (fine wool), up to 14 cm (coarse wool)
Fiber diameter 16 - 40 µm
density Woolen goods contain up to 85% air
tensile strenght Load 15 - 30 g
Elongation at break 30%
Water absorption <33%
Chemical resistance hardly inflammable
Products Textiles; Insulation material

Sheep wool is the wool of sheep . Usually the term is only used for the wool from domestic sheep ( Ovis ammon f. Aries L.), which is processed into textiles by humans , which has been archaeologically proven in Europe since the end of the Neolithic , but based on spindle whorls it is already suspected of the early Neolithic can be.


The term new wool or pure new wool expresses that it is new wool that comes directly from a living animal and not a reused, i.e. recycled product made from old textiles such as shredded wool or that slaughtered from the skins (Schwöde-, Schwitz- or Gerber's wool) or dead (death's wool) from animals. Labeling according to the textile labeling law :

  • WV = pure new wool
  • WO = wool

The former International Wool Secretariat (IWS) introduced the wool seal in 1964 to mark quality products made from pure new wool . Today the trademark rights are held by Australian Wool Innovation (AWI).


Sheep wool is a renewable raw material . It has a so-called natural thermoregulatory property. Wool can absorb water vapor inside the fiber, but the surface repels water. It can absorb up to 33% of its dry weight in water without feeling damp and it may wick away moisture faster than the much-used cotton . Since woolen goods (based on their total volume) consist of up to 85% air, they are good heat insulators: body heat escapes very little. Colloquially it is therefore said that wool "warms" well, although wool itself mainly only reflects the heat radiation of the body. Wool does not accept dirt very well and hardly creases because the fiber is very elastic. Wool is very color-fast and flame-retardant. It doesn't burn, it just charred. In contrast to synthetic fibers, wool takes on few odors (e.g. from sweat) and has a natural self-cleaning function - absorbed odors are released back into the air, and the wool smells neutral and fresh again after a short time in fresh air. Wool tends to lint (Pilling), which is carried lint-free equipment may reduce or processing quality. Without special equipment, coarse wool can feel uncomfortably scratchy directly on the skin, which is not or only slightly the case with fine merino wool.

For technical applications, sheep's wool is suitable as an antistatic and flame-retardant material, e.g. B. in the seats of cars and airplanes. It is used as an insulating material because of its pollutant-absorbing properties.


Sheep shearing
Sheep shearing in the Middle Ages

To obtain wool, the animals are sheared (new wool), some breeds of sheep ( soay ) are plucked (this is painless for the animals, only the almost loose hair is carefully loosened).

Designation according to origin

Wool types differ by fiber texture, see also fineness (textiles) .

Kurkwolle comes from the first shearing of a sheep at the age of about six months. The word Kurkwolle comes from the Persian word for fluff or soft wool. The wool is less than 50 mm long, soft, elastic and smooth and is used for high-quality textiles or carpets .

Merino wool is fine, soft, strongly crimped and a very high quality wool from merino sheep . It is shorter in stacks than the types listed below. The wool is used in high-quality worsted yarns in outerwear. The fiber fineness ranges from 14.5 to 23.5 micrometers. In 2005 the world record for the fineness of merino wool from New Zealand was 11.8 micrometers (human hair 30 micrometers), held by the Italian weaving mill Loro Piana . It is much more arched than z. B. that of crossbred wool, which leads to grip and volume advantages. The merino wool is finer and very elastic. It is therefore particularly suitable for use in close-fitting clothing, for example as a base layer ( onion skin principle ). The commercially used fineness of merino fibers can be up to 16.5µ (super fine merino wool), which leads to extremely fine and high-quality goods. Basically, however, there are the following quality classes: ultrafine: below 16.9 microns; superfine: 17-18.9 microns; fine: 19-21.9 microns; medium: 22-23 microns; strong: 24-25 microns

Crossbred wool is medium staple , medium fine, not as soft and less crimped than merino wool. It comes from Crossbred sheep, a cross between merino and coarse wool sheep. Crossbred wool is used in both outerwear and home textiles. The fiber fineness ranges from 24 to over 40 micrometers.

Cheviot wool is a long-staple, coarse and coarse, rather shiny wool. It is rather little or not wavy. It comes from the Cheviotwollschaf , z. B. the Shetland sheep . Areas of application are e.g. B. the carpet industry or technical applications (insulation material, cover fabrics).

Further processing

First, the wool is gently washed, combed, dyed or bleached and often spun into worsted (more rarely carded yarn ) . The threads created in this way can then be woven into fabrics, used for knitting (knitwear) and jerseys , or they are knotted into carpets by hand or by machine . The cleaned and combed wool can also be processed into felt , a non-woven fabric .

In order to give the wool properties that it naturally does not have, it is finished. Some of these equipments give her e.g. B. Mothproof, felt-free ( Hercosett method), machine washability ( EXP method), etc.


Wool is mainly spun into yarns with 100% wool or blends with other fibers. It can also be used for mattresses or as natural thermal insulation ( sheep wool as insulation ). This is why it is still processed into technical textiles (fire protection, work clothing) today. Even carpets and seat covers in public transportation such as airplanes, trains or buses are made of wool. The new development of highly effective fertilizer pellets made from untreated raw sheep's wool for all gardening enthusiasts, horticultural companies and organic farming complement the possible uses of the natural product sheep's wool.

Special fabrics

"Super 150": 150 meters of the yarn used for this new wool fabric weighs 1 gram

Tweed is a particularly coarse, warm and durable wool fabric. Original Harris Tweed comes from the Outer Hebrides . Well-known Italian weaving mills of high-quality wool fabrics include Cerruti , Zegna , Scabal , Fratelli , Guabello and Loro Piana .

The names like “Super 100”, “Super 120” etc. can be found on every better suit made of new wool. It should be attached to the label of the fabric manufacturer. It describes the fineness of the spun wool yarn, e.g. B. Super 100 means: 100 meters of the yarn weigh 1 gram. The higher the number, the finer the yarn, currently (2005) up to Super 210 for very fine and very expensive fabrics. However, the name is not protected, so you should also pay attention to renowned fabric manufacturers.

Secondary products

Sheep wool contains the wool wax lanolin. It is usually removed before processing in order to later add it back to the cleaned and refined wool or to use it for other purposes in the cosmetics and textile industries. For example, baby care creams ( Penaten , Kaufmann's skin and children's cream ) contain lanolin.


  • Gerhard Fischer, Hugo Rieder, Regina Kuhn (photos), Fridhelm Volk (photos): Good things from the sheep. Wool, leather, meat, milk, cheese. Ulmer, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 978-3-8001-4375-7 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Sheep wool  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Sheep wool - Extensive material information and pictures on

Individual evidence

  1. Katharina von Kurzynski: "... and they call their pants bracas". Textile finds and textile technology from the Hallstatt and Latène periods and their context. IA 22, pp. 20-22
  2. Cristiane Gonçalves Titto, Cecília José Veríssimo, Alfredo Manuel Franco Pereira, Ana de Mira Geraldo, Luciana Morita Katiki, Evaldo Antonio Lencioni Titto: Thermoregulatory response in hair sheep and shorn wool sheep . In: Small Ruminant Research , Vol. 144, 2016, pp. 341-345, doi : 10.1016 / j.smallrumres.2016.10.015 .
  3. ^ ABD Cassie: Absorption of water by wool. In: Transactions of the Faraday Society , Vol. 41, 1945, pp. 458-464.
  4. JD Leeder, AJ Pratt, IC Watt: Wool-polymer systems: Effect of vinyl polymers on water absorption. In: Journal of Applied Polymer Science , Vol. 11, No. 9, 1967, pp. 1649-1659, doi : 10.1002 / app.1967.070110905 .
  5. ^ HE Schiecke: Wool as a textile raw material . 2nd Edition. Schiele & Schön, Berlin 1987, ISBN 3-7949-0446-X . P. 18 ff.
  6. Kaipara Merino Properties of Merino Wool