Sale by tender can achieve considerable cost savings on wool clips large enough to make it worthwhile for potential buyers to submit tenders. Some marketing firms sell wool on a consignment basis, obtaining a fixed percentage as commission.
The popular wool cotton has been in the Rowan range for many years. It owes its longevity to the high twist blend of wool and cotton which creates knitted designs with a beautiful drape and great stitch definition.
Merino wool is typically 3–5 inches in length and is very fine (between 12 and 24 microns). The finest and most valuable wool comes from Merino hoggets. Wool taken from sheep produced for meat is typically more coarse, and has fibers 1.5 to 6 in (38 to 152 mm) in length. Damage or breaks in the wool can occur if the sheep is stressed while it is growing its fleece, resulting in a thin spot where the fleece is likely to break.
In the United States, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado have large commercial sheep flocks and their mainstay is the Rambouillet (or French Merino). Also, a thriving home-flock contingent of small-scale farmers raise small hobby flocks of specialty sheep for the hand-spinning market. These small-scale farmers offer a wide selection of fleece. Global woolclip (total amount of wool shorn) 2004/2005
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Wool's scaling and crimp make it easier to spin the fleece by helping the individual fibers attach to each other, so they stay together. Because of the crimp, wool fabrics have greater bulk than other textiles, and they hold air, which causes the fabric to retain heat. Wool has a high specific heat coefficient, so it impedes heat transfer in general. This effect has benefited desert peoples, as Bedouins and Tuaregs use wool clothes for insulation.
Woolen is a soft, short-staple, carded wool yarn typically used for knitting. In traditional weaving, woolen weft yarn (for softness and warmth) is frequently combined with a worsted warp yarn for strength on the loom.
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In 2007, a new wool suit was developed and sold in Japan that can be washed in the shower, and which dries off ready to wear within hours with no ironing required. The suit was developed using Australian Merino wool, and it enables woven products made from wool, such as suits, trousers, and skirts, to be cleaned using a domestic shower at home.
In addition to clothing, wool has been used for blankets, horse rugs, saddle cloths, carpeting, felt, wool insulation (also see links) and upholstery. Wool felt covers piano hammers, and it is used to absorb odors and noise in heavy machinery and stereo speakers. Ancient Greeks lined their helmets with felt, and Roman legionnaires used breastplates made of wool felt.
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Since 2000, Loro Piana has awarded a cup for the world's finest bale of wool that produces just enough fabric for 50 tailor-made suits. The prize is awarded to an Australian or New Zealand wool grower who produces the year's finest bale.
Worsted is a strong, long-staple, combed wool yarn with a hard surface.
The carbon footprint of woolen products is difficult to determine and varies considerably according to factors ranging from the conditions in which sheep are bred to the processes used to manufacture the products.
Wool is considered by the medical profession to be allergenic.
The British Wool Marketing Board operates a central marketing system for UK fleece wool with the aim of achieving the best possible net returns for farmers.
Due to decreasing demand with increased use of synthetic fibers, wool production is much less than what it was in the past. The collapse in the price of wool began in late 1966 with a 40% drop; with occasional interruptions, the price has tended down. The result has been sharply reduced production and movement of resources into production of other commodities, in the case of sheep growers, to production of meat.
Less than half of New Zealand's wool is sold at auction, while around 45% of farmers sell wool directly to private buyers and end-users.
Organic wool is becoming more and more popular. This wool is very limited in supply and much of it comes from New Zealand and Australia. It is becoming easier to find in clothing and other products, but these products often carry a higher price. Wool is environmentally preferable (as compared to petroleum-based nylon or polypropylene) as a material for carpets, as well, in particular when combined with a natural binding and the use of formaldehyde-free glues.
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Animal rights groups have noted issues with the production of wool, such as mulesing.
The carbon footprint of a 264.85g woolly jumper made from New Zealand merino wool averages about 1.667 kg CO2 equivalent at the point of purchase by a consumer, implying a carbon footprint of around 6 kg per kg of finished woolen product.
The quality of wool is determined by its fiber diameter, crimp, yield, color, and staple strength. Fiber diameter is the single most important wool characteristic determining quality and price.
Global wool production is about 2 million tonnes per year, of which 60% goes into apparel. Australia is a leading producer of wool which is mostly from Merino sheep, but has recently been eclipsed by China in terms of total weight. New Zealand is now (2016) the third-largest producer of wool, and the largest producer of crossbred wool. Breeds such as Lincoln, Romney, Drysdale, and Elliotdale produce coarser fibers, and wool from these sheep is usually used for making carpets.
Another method of selling wool includes sales direct to wool mills.
Wool fibers readily absorb moisture, but are not hollow. Wool can absorb almost one-third of its own weight in water. Wool absorbs sound like many other fabrics. It is generally a creamy white color, although some breeds of sheep produce natural colors, such as black, brown, silver, and random mixes.
Initial studies of woolen underwear have found it prevented heat and sweat rashes because it more readily absorbs the moisture than other fibers.
Virgin wool is spun for the first time.
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Felting of wool occurs upon hammering or other mechanical agitation as the microscopic barbs on the surface of wool fibers hook together.
In December 2006, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 2009 to be the International Year of Natural Fibres, so as to raise the profile of wool and other natural fibers.
As an animal protein, it can be used as a soil fertilizer, being a slow-release source of nitrogen.
In commercial wool, vegetable matter is often removed by chemical carbonization. In less-processed wools, vegetable matter may be removed by hand and some of the lanolin left intact through the use of gentler detergents. This semigrease wool can be worked into yarn and knitted into particularly water-resistant mittens or sweaters, such as those of the Aran Island fishermen. Lanolin removed from wool is widely used in cosmetic products such as hand creams.
Rag is a sturdy wool fiber made into yarn and used in many rugged applications such as gloves.
Merino wool has been used in baby sleep products such as swaddle baby wrap blankets and infant sleeping bags.
In 2002, the Ermenegildo Zegna Vellus Aureum Trophy was launched for wool that is 13.9 microns or finer. Wool from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa may enter, and a winner is named from each country. In April 2008, New Zealand won the Ermenegildo Zegna Vellus Aureum Trophy for the first time with a fleece that measured 10.8 microns. This contest awards the winning fleece weight with the same weight in gold as a prize, hence the name.