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Superfine wool can be made from cashmere, merino and camel hair, and requires specific kinds of production techniques. It is used to make men's and women's suits, coats, jackets, sweaters and also blankets. As a result of the complex production required, it tends to be more expensive than other wool items. The fabrics made with superfine wool are usually very soft to the touch and long lasting if well cared for. This kind of wool provides warmth while being very lightweight.
Merino Wool Production
Merino wool comes from merino sheep. The most important variable in producing extrafine/superfine merino wool is breeding of the sheep. With good care and good grazing conditions they will grow fuller fleeces, which will mean broader and stronger fibers. When the shearing season arrives, a key job is that of the "classer" who checks each fleece for quality. This person judges style, color, strength, and fineness for sorting into bales. The largest producers of merino wool are Australia, New Zealand and China. There are also merino flocks in the U.S., largely in Vermont.
Cashmere wool comes from the undercoat fibers produced by Cashmere goats. The fibers are collected in the molting season for goats, which takes place for several weeks in spring. The fiber is washed in order to remove dirt, grease and any vegetable matter from the collection process, goes through a process called "dehairing" and is then ready for spinning into wool fiber. Most cashmere comes from high altitude areas of China, Mongolia and Tibet, where the goats are most numerous.
Camel Hair Wool
Camel hair for wool fabrics comes from the Bactrian camel, which has two humps on its back. Like cashmere goats, it is produced from the fine, soft undercoat or underlayer of hair. It is gathered and processed during the spring molting season. After cleaning and sorting it can be woven into wool. The producers of camel hair wool come from China, Mongolia, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, New Zealand, Tibet and Australia.
Uses of Superfine Wools
Camel’s hair can be used alone, however it is usually combined with other fine wool for coats and sportswear clothing for men and women. It is prized for its lightness, softness and color. Most fabrics made with camel hair are left in the natural golden color and some are dyed a darker brown.
Cashmere is often used for sweaters and can be blended with silk, cotton, or other kinds of wool. Merino, like cashmere, is often blended with silk and cashmere, and shares the same qualities of being very soft to the touch, lightweight and warm.
Clothing Made with Superfine Wool
Given the softness, warmth and lightweight qualities of the wools described above, they are used for fine garments, often by top designers like Ralph Lauren, Gucci and Calvin Klein. Camel hair coats are familiar, as are beautifully colored cashmere sweaters for men and women. Soft scarves and gloves are also made with these wools. Merino is also very poplar for outdoor wear for hiking and skiing, including warm and lightweight thermal undergarments, as well as jackets, hats and gloves.
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Wanda Bershen has been writing for over 20 years on Fundraising, Marketing and Planning for arts organizations, including newsletters, proposals & planning documents, and articles for leading art and film publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Bryn Mawr College and a Master of Philosophy from Yale University.