About Merino Wool
Wool is one of the oldest and most universal fibers and has been used for garments and household linens since the earliest civilizations. Wool textiles have been documented as far back as 3000 B.C. The sheared fleece of sheep, wool is warm, naturally insulating, water-repellent, and extremely durable. Raised in nearly every country worldwide, merino sheep are renowned for the best quality wool. Today, Australia produces about 80% of the world's merino wool.
What is Merino Wool?
Merino wool is made of the finest grades of wool from the Merino sheep. It is prized for being very soft and comfortable against the skin. Modern technology has made it possible to sort and select only the finest merino fibers. Merino wool has a microscopic diameter - about one-third to one-tenth the thickness of human hair. The smaller the diameter, the finer, softer and less scratchy the fabric will be.
Lustrous merino wool produces fabric that can be worn next to the skin without discomfort, is soft and always provides an exceptional hand and distinctive style. In the dress-goods and knitting trades, the term 'Merino' implies an article made from the very best soft wool. Extrafine Merino is a super premium wool used in the highest quality knits.
The Varieties of Merino Sheep
Since the first merino sheep arrived in Australia at the end of the 19th century, sheep farmers have been working to perfect the very creatures that grow such a valuable fiber on their bodies. There are many sub-species of the sheep that provide the merino wool that is so well loved:
1. Poll Merino - this is a comparatively new addition to the breed of merino sheep. It is bred for the ease of handling and lack of horns on the rams.
2. The Fonthill Merino - this breed of sheep was created by crossing an American bred merino with a Saxon strain that is known for its fine wool.
3. The Boorla Merino - this strain of merino sheep has a long breeding season and is extremely fertile.
Grades of Merino Wool
The finest garments and products are made with the highest grades of merino wool. Merino sheep produce wool that is less than 24 microns in diameter. Most wool between 11.5 and 24 microns in fiber diameter are made into clothing. The remainder is used for other textiles like blankets, insulation and furnishings. The finer or lower the number of microns, the softer and more expensive the merino wool.
<17.5 microns - Ultrafine merino
17.6-18.5 microns - Superfine merino
<19.5 microns- Fine merino (also interchangeably called Extra Fine merino)
19.6-20.5 microns - Fine medium merino
20.6-22.5 microns - Medium merino
22.6-<24 microns - Strong merino
Ultrafine wool is the finest in the world and has the micron range of 16.1-17.5. This yarn produces a very light fabric that is silky soft (no prickle) and can be worn directly on the skin. Ultrafine yarns tend to be used in very light weight knitwear, underwear and premium suiting fabrics. Being a fine lightweight fabric makes it trans-seasonal and emphasizes the natural benefits of the fiber: cool in summer and warm in winter.
Fine-medium wool has a micron range of 19.6 - 20.5. The yarn this wool produces is perfectly suited for use in medium to heavy gauge knitwear. It has a soft feel, but maintains its strength and durability for use in an outerwear garment.
Characteristics of Merino Wool
Thousands of years of evolution and selective breeding have resulted in merino sheep capable of producing a super-fine wool fiber. Merino wool products of the fine and superfine grades of wool are much finer and superior than traditional wool, making it smooth against the skin and more comfortable to wear. With many more fibers contained in the fabric, it traps more tiny air pockets and locks in body heat, making it a super insulator.
Merino wool is highly breathable because the individual fibers can absorb up to 30% of their own weight in moisture, wicking moisture away from the body so the wearer stays dry and comfortable regardless of the temperature. This helps to regulate the body temperature, keeping you warm in cold weather and cool in hot.
Merino wool warms naturally. The unique qualities of soft merino wool make it the best material for children's undergarments. A moving and sweat-prone child will feel comfortable in merino wool the wool breathes freely and will not feel cold and sweaty even when damp. Thanks to its warmth, merino wool is also perfect for a child playing quietly. Merino wool, being the softest of all wool types, is often also suitable for allergic skin as it generally does not cause allergic reactions.
The extremely fine, soft and crimped nature of merino wool fibers allow for a strong natural elasticity that enhances its high-performance qualities. The natural anti-microbial properties of Merino wool make it odor-resistant - another big advantage over synthetic fabrics. It is also extremely durable, anti-static and fire resistant, making it ideal for a range of products from performance wear to fine wool suiting.
Don't synthetics do the job just as well?
Scientific tests carried out by the Hohenstein Institute in Germany, the Ergonomics Unit at the Polytechnic Institute of Wales, and the CSIRO in Australia support anecdotal evidence that Superfine Merino provides the wearer with superior overall climate control and moisture absorption than synthetics. Studies have also confirmed that merino offers higher natural UV protection than many other fibers including cotton.
Well-known for its warmth, it is less well known that the same properties make Merino wool the ideal fabric for hot weather. The Bedouin tribes of the Sinai, where temperatures reach extreme highs, have been wrapping themselves in wool for centuries. The merino wool works as a condition buffer; in the heat cooling the body initially through managing the build up of moisture vapor internally, keeping the wearer drier for longer. Then, by not clinging to the skin even when wet, the fabric allows the skin to still do its job through sweating and cooling the body.
What about new natural fibers like bamboo, hemp and cellulose-based fabrics?
Whilst these fibers may be good in hot weather, none of them are capable of managing moisture in the way merino does, nor will they regulate your body temperature, keeping you warm when it's cold, cool when it's hot. They would not keep you warm once they get wet. Also, the nature of these fabrics is not "elastic", so a close-fitting base-layer in these fabrics will not move with your body, restricting movement. Finally, their manufacturing processes are more complex than that for merino, resulting in the use of more energy.
Article from Numei
WHAT DOES A "SUPER 100's" MEN'S SUIT ACTUALLY MEAN?
WHAT IS A SUPER 100's WOOL SUIT
I'm going to clear up the often confusing subject of super 100's suits and what this actually means. After going through this information you will be better informed when sales assistants and online suit stores are selling you on the fact their suits are the finest 100's, 120's or 140's grades of wool.
The 3 most common types of suit fabrics you'll come across when suit shopping are:
Suits made from raw materials which is most commonly wool and less commonly cotton, silk and linen.
Suits made from blended fibres which combines a raw material such as cotton with a synthetic material like polyester.
Suits made from only man made synthetic materials such as polyester.
To put the quality of each into context:
Suits made from raw materials are like the Ferrari of suits.
Suits made from blended fibres are like the BMW of suits.
Suits made from only synthetics are like the Toyota of suits.
Whilst the best quality suits are manufactured in Italy and England, the wool used for these suits is actually sourced from Australia and New Zealand as these countries produce the highest quality wool on earth.
GRADES OF WOOL
When a sheep has it's wool shorn off, the wool is placed under a microscope to measure it's thickness. This wool is measured in microns and graded using a numbers system. This numbers system generally works as follows:
70's, 80's and 90's grade = A very thick, durable wool that creates a heavier, stiffer suit and will warmer for the wearer.
100's, 110's and 120's grade = Whilst still durable, these wool grades create a thinner, lighter suit that is more comfortable to wear but not as warm.
130's and 140's = These higher grades create suits that are very fine, soft wool that is light and comfortable to wear. However the suit is far less durable and not effective at insulating heat and warmth.
150's to 200's grade = Whilst rare, suits made from these high grades of wool will be incredibly fine and almost silk like in their texture and weight. Whilst nice to touch and wear, they are not at practical if the suit is intended to be worn regularly.
Suits with grades ranging from 120's to 200's wool are likely to be made with merino wool which is one of the best quality wool's available. Whilst the sales attendants may say that their suits are made with the finest Spanish merino wool, the wool is actually sourced from Australia and New Zealand.
The wool is technically Spanish though as a flock of sheep were sent from Spain to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in the early 1900's as these countries had the best climates and conditions to produce the finest quality wool. Over the course of the last century, the Australian and New Zealanders have relied on the breeding of these sheep and production of the worlds finest wool as one of their most sustainable and profitable commodities of trade.
WHAT DOES SUPER MEAN ANYWAYS???
When you hear the word super before the number such as super 120's wool. The word super is nothing more than a marketing tactic. It's not a technical or regulated term and should really be disregarded in today's day and age where fierce retail competition and a challenging economic climate can unfortunately result in unethical sales and marketing tactics.
When you are being sold on buying a suit because it is of the finest super 120's or 140's wool, you need to disregard this sales hype and instead consider the following advice I will give you.
When you are buying a new suit, instead of searching for the highest super numbers, you need to instead ask yourself the following 4 questions:
How often will I be wearing this suit? (daily/bi-daily/weekly/monthly/only on special occasions)
What type of climate will I be wearing the suit in? (warm/cold/in between)
How long do I hope to own the suit for? (given my current financial position, when will I be able to afford to buy another suit?)
How important is comfort to me?
Answering these 4 questions first is very important because as an example, let's say you:
Live in a colder climate
Want your suit to last a number of years
You have a corporate job that requires you to wear a suit most days
In the case above, purchasing a suit with a wool grade higher than 120's will not be a good choice for you. Just remember that the higher the wool grade number such as 130's, 140's and up to 200's is a suit that is:
Very fine, soft fabric
More prone to wrinkling, ripping or tearing if worn regularly
More likely to be damaged when manual or dry cleaning is performed.
Less effective at insulating heat and colder for the wearer.
So if you live in a cold climate, will wear the suit regularly and your financial situation won't allow you to buy new suits frequently, you would be far better to buy a suit made from lower grade wool such as 100's or 110's which is more durable, more effective at insulating heat and less prone to wear and tear.
I trust you are now getting a better idea of the whole topic of what is a super 100's wool and I will now go through each of the grades and offer you my advice as to what type of factors would require a man to choose one grade of wool suit over another.
SUITS MADE OF 70's, 80's AND 90's GRADED WOOL ARE BEST FOR MEN:
Who live in very cold climates and require a suit that offers the highest amount of heat insulation possible.
Who will be wearing their suit very often and want the suit to be as durable as possible so they get extended wear.
Who have very skinny frames and want to wear thicker, more sturdy clothing materials that add bulk and structure to their frame.
Who have a limited budget as these grades of suits will generally be more affordable.
SUITS MADE OF 100's, 110's AND 120's GRADED WOOL ARE BEST FOR MEN:
Who require a good quality suit to wear often that is both durable and comfortable to wear.
Who live in a climate that is not bitterly cold
Who have a good build and want a suit with a finer fabric to highlight their body frame.
SUITS MADE OF 130's AND 140's GRADED WOOL ARE BEST FOR MEN:
Who will not be wearing their suit often.
Who live in a climate that is warm all year round.
Who want a lighter suit to be worn in the warmer summer months.
Who wear suits often but place superior comfort above other factors like durability and warmth.
SUITS MADE OF 150's - 200's GRADED WOOL ARE BEST FOR MEN:
Who's only consideration when purchasing a suit is the level of comfort and the realisation they are wearing a rare, luxury item of clothing.
I sincerely hope that today's information has empowered you as a retail suit shopper and you will now have the relevant facts and advice to be able to make an informed decision which is void of any sales spin or marketing hype.
Just remember to start with the 4 questions that I set out for you above and then decide upon the grade of wool that will best suit your occupation, lifestyle and financial position.
The Great English Shoe
The world, it seems, can’t get enough of our English shoes. These traditionally-made, solid-looking footwear styles have been in fashion for the last few years, and they show no sign of falling out of favour any time soon.
Built to last a lifetime, English shoes are designed to be repaired over and over again, and perfectly complement the more refined, tailoring based form of dress that today’s style-conscious gent favours.
To fulfil this worldwide demand, companies such as Church’s and John Lobb are expanding their manufacturing bases in the traditional home of British shoemaking, Northamptonshire. UK Plc is seeing a renaissance in home-grown manufacturing, which can only be a good thing.
Church’s recently announced they were starting work on expanding their St James factory. The two new plots of land will allow the 110,000 square foot factory to add a 130,000 square foot extension, doubling the manufacturing plant, meaning that it will increase its capacity from 250,000 to 300,000 pairs of shoes per year. Church’s already employs 650 people, with another 150 new jobs set to become available after this expansion.
Northamptonshire: The Home Of Shoemaking
The English town of Northampton was once the shoemaking capital of Europe, with 2,000 individual bootmakers working there towards the end of the nineteenth century. The town’s central position and proximity to the eleven rivers running through the county made Northampton an obvious place for cobblers to set up business.
Andrew Loake, Managing Director of Loake, says: “There was a leather industry in Northamptonshire long before there was a shoe trade here. Our understanding is that there were plentiful oak forests in the county and oak bark was used for tanning leather. So it was a natural progression for the shoe trade to develop in the same area.”
The subsequent availability of leather and Northampton’s strategic importance led to it becoming a centre of military bootmaking, with demand soaring due to the Napoleonic Wars of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
A Sign Of Quality: Goodyear Welted Construction
The most famous Northampton technique is the ‘Goodyear welted’ shoe. Invented in 1869 by Charles Goodyear, Jr., the Goodyear welted process is the footwear equivalent of the off-side rule: until somebody sits you down and talks you through it, it’s quite hard to understand.
The process involves approximately 75 components and 200 separate operations. On average, the whole process, from start to finish, takes eight weeks to complete. The main benefit of footwear that is made using Goodyear welted construction is that it can be resoled repeatedly, giving the shoe a longer lifespan.
Essentially, the upper part of the shoe is shaped over the last and fastened on by sewing a leather, linen or synthetic strip – known as the ‘welt’ – to the inner and upper sole. The welt forms a cavity which is then filled with a cork material.
The sole is then attached to the welt of the shoe by some combination of stitching along the edge of the welt and sole itself, and a high strength adhesive like contact cement or hide glue.
“Goodyear welted shoes offer a near perfect balance of weather-resistance, durability, breathability and comfort. And of course, when it’s time to repair/resole them, they can easily be dismantled and rebuilt,” says Andrew Loake.
Yet while England may be famous for the Goodyear welted shoe, he adds that there are other construction processes to look out for:
“There are many other constructions, all with different benefits, for example: moccasins can be very light and flexible, but are not so durable or as well-suited to bad weather. Cemented-soled shoes can look very sleek, but will not feel so sturdy when walking on rough ground, will be less water-resistant and harder to repair.
Blake-stitches shoes have the soles stitched directly to the insoles. This means that, as the shoes are flexed, they can start to leak through the stitch holes. In our opinion, welted shoes provide a kind of ‘best of all worlds’ solution.”
British Shoemakers You Should Know
Still run by the Loake family, Andrew Loake’s great-grandfather, John, opened the first Loake factory with his brothers, Thomas and William, back in 1880. The premium grade Goodyear welted shoes continue to be made in Kettering, England, in the same factory that the three brothers built in 1894.
Manufacturing: Famous for their Goodyear welted shoes, they also offer moccasins, cemented-soled and blake-stitched shoes. Each pair takes around eight weeks to make. Loake estimates they have made over fifty million pairs of Goodyear welted shoes since the company began.
Repair Service: Loake charge £65 per pair, inclusive of return postage within the UK. This covers re-soling on the original last with new soles and heels, fitting new seat socks and re-finishing the upper part of the shoes. The repaired shoes are returned within twenty-one working days of receiving payment.
Famous For: The suede ‘Kempton’ chukka-style boots.
Shoe Care Tips
Once you’ve bought your British-made shoes, you’ll want to make sure you look after them properly. Here are a few tips:
Always use a shoe horn when putting on your shoes. This will keep the backs strong and sturdy.
Look to wear your shoes in dry conditions on the first few occasions – the fine grit picked up by dry leather soles assists water resistance.
Where possible, give your shoes at least twenty-four hours between wears.
Try to avoid excessive wetting. Should this occur always let the shoes dry away from sources of direct heat. Newspaper can be used within the shoes to help draw out moisture.
Invest in quality shoe trees (cedar wood versions are highly recommended) and use when storing your shoes to ensure that there is no loss of shape.
Before polishing your shoes always wipe them over with a dry cloth to get rid of any surface dirt.
Your shoes will benefit from a regular application of quality wax polish. This helps to moisturise the leather, keeping it supple and helping to prevent cracking.
Traditional British shoemakers have hundreds of years of experience and have been perfecting their craft and product over this significant period of time. It’s great to finally see these businesses getting the recognition they deserve as the world begins to increase its appetite for their premium selection of footwear. However, these companies and brands now need to seize this opportunity to build something that will outlast the fickleness of fashion.
It’s also important to remember that while these traditional processes are still very time-consuming and labour-intensive, hence the high price tags, the end product is robust and built to last, making them worthwhile investments. After all, a man is always judged by his shoes.
Why not let us know your favourite English shoemaker in the comments section below and the styles you currently have in your collection…Article from: fashionbeans.com
Most cashmere comes from goats in the Gobi Desert, which stretches from Northern China into Mongolia. Beneath the animals’ coarse hair lies an undercoat of superfine fibers concentrated on the underbelly. In May and June, when the goats molt, local workers comb the belly hair, sort it by hand, and send it to a dehairing facility (usually in China) to be cleaned and refined. Then it’s baled and delivered to Europe, where it’s spun into fine yarn and sold to designers for roughly $114 a pound. With adequate supplies of top-notch raw materials becoming scarce in Asia, Afghanistan has become an unlikely exporter: The country is rich in unadulterated product. As China increasingly blends different qualities of cashmere to achieve volume, Afghan goat farmers are filling the demand for completely pure knits.
The Cashmere Goat
Origin: Northern China, Mongolia, Afghanistan
Average weight: females, 88 lbs.; males, 132 lbs.
Typical yield of fiber from one goat: 180g to 250g (6 oz. to 9 oz.)
1. Check the Weight
A garment made of two plies, meaning it was knitted from double strands of yarn, or more, will often be longer-lasting. The heavier the sweater, the warmer (and more expensive) it will be.
2. Beware of Pilling
Premium cashmere is made from the long hairs of goats—and it’s combed, never sheared. Shearing yields shorter fibers that are prone to pilling. Before you buy, rub the surface of a garment with the palm of your hand and see if fibers begin to roll up and/or shed. This is an indication that there’s excess short-fiber content.
3. Look for a Tight Knit
Durable cashmere is tightly woven. If the construction feels loose, the garment will lose its shape quickly. Gauge quality by holding a piece up to the light—if you can see through, it probably won’t be wearable for longer than a season.
4. Consider the Color
Heavily dyed fiber loses some of its softness. Chinese white from Inner Mongolia is regarded as the finest-quality cashmere because it’s not subjected to coloring or bleach. Outer Mongolia is developing a niche in natural cashmere in camel and brown hues.
5. Read the Label
A garment labeled 70 percent cashmere/30 percent wool frequently contains no more than 5 percent cashmere. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission mandates only pure cashmere sweaters can be labeled “100 Percent Cashmere.” If that’s not indicated on the garment, move along.
How to Wash It
Launder cashmere at home, always inside out. Washing adds moisture back to the fabric; dry cleaning stiffens it.
Use the delicate cycle. Two teaspoons of The Laundress Wool & Cashmere Shampoo is enough.
Put your garment in the dryer for five minutes on the coolest setting. Then spread it on a flat towel to air dry.
Never hang anything made of cashmere. Hangers will stretch the fibers.