The results are in, according to the Australia based Cooperative Research Center for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), and wool is the winner. Objective testing has shown ultrafine wool garments can outperform 100 percent cashmere and high quality cotton for comfort and softness.
Sheep CRC commissioned the manufacture of select ultrafine wool fabrics to provide a set of benchmarks for the measurement of next to skin comfort and handle.
"It is the first time that ultrafine wool knitwear has been shown, using objective testing, to be superior to other natural fibers in terms of functional qualities valued by consumers," Sheep CRC chief executive officer professor James Rowe said. "Wools in the ultrafine micron category, used for the manufacture of these test garments, represent about two percent of the Australian wool clip and, therefore, constitute a very rare and valuable fiber resource."
To establish a performance benchmark for wool garments, the Sheep CRC provided wool buyers with fleece specifications for the purchase of four bales of ultrafine wool (14-15.7 micron) through normal market channels.
After purchase, the bales were identified as CRC 1 to 4 and sent to Italy for processing through to fabric. CRC 1 and CRC 3 were high-crimp wools and CRC 2 and CRC 4 were bold low-crimp wools, and each bale was processed separately and their fabric subsequently converted into garments.
Using the measurement systems, the four garments emerged as being in a class of their own - a combination of being more comfortable and with better handle characteristics than any other fabrics used in the trials.
Comparisons in the wearer trials included high quality cashmere and top-of-the-range cotton fabrics.
Notably for the wool and textile industries, the results also showed that there was no significant effect that could be attributed to wool crimp at these fine diameters.
Reprinted in part from Stock and Land, Australia