What no one tells you about merino wool

By José Manuel Arias Fernández

July 23, 2022

Una oveja blanca y su cria con montaña al fondo

Since the Neolithic, wool has accompanied us, protecting us from inclement weather . Nowadays there is a lot of talk about wool as a product for multiple uses and in this article we are going to delve into wool, its origin, types, its qualities, properties and its use in sports clothing.

We will see what the wool is like inside and what the process is like from the wool in bales to the thread.

We are also going to talk about the clichés associated with this material . If it itches, if it's too hot or if it doesn't breathe.

We will go into depth into the price disparity that we can find when looking for a wool product and where? The cat is locked in to understand why one product is worth more than another.

We will see what the price variation is at the origin of wool in Australia.


1. The origin of wool.

2. Structure of wool.

3. Types of wool.

4. Merino wool.

5. Uses of merino wool in sportswear.

6. What you thought about Merino wool is not true.

7. Why the price difference between Merino wool?

8. And our Darn Tough merino wool socks.

1. The origin of wool.

The origin of wool begins in the Neolithic , as we have said, with the domestication of the ancestors of sheep , but they had coarser and shorter hair , therefore it was not very suitable for making fabrics. With animal selection, looking for sheep with longer and finer hair, it began in the Middle East and through trade reached Europe.

Wool is a soft, curly fiber. Wool is made of a protein called keratin , the same protein that is present in our nails and hair. Its structure is similar to roof slabs overlapping each other. This structure allows them to resist thermal changes very well.

Depending on the type of wool, the scales vary, varying the elasticity and resistance of the wool.

2. Structure of wool.

Dibujo de la lana al microscopio con  la comparación del poliéster, la lana y el cabello humano

In the photo we can see the internal structure of the wool and the exterior compared to human hair and polyester .

The surface structure, as we have mentioned previously, has a protective layer in the form of overlapping scales, resembling the trunk of a palm tree.

This cuticle structure has a hardness that protects the fiber from any damage .

In addition , it has a waxy layer that prevents liquid water from entering the wool fiber, however, it has the ability to absorb water vapor quickly .

Wool is capable of absorbing up to 40% of its weight in water.

The inner structure is called Cortex and forms 90% of the fiber volume.

Cortical cells are extremely complex.

The arrangement of these cells and their structure during the growth of the fiber within the follicle generates the curl of the wool .

Regarding the chemical composition of wool, it is composed of long-chain amino acids and these united amino acids form a protein .

There are two classes of proteins combined with each other and they differ in the levels of sulfur they have.

"Wool has a waxy layer that prevents liquid water from entering the wool fiber, however, it has the ability to absorb water vapor quickly."

3. Types of wool.

W ool can be classified by origin and physical specifications .

As for the origin , the wool can come from sheep or other animals .

The main types of wool from sheep are Merino wool, Loden wool, Shetland wool, Icelandic wool, Lincoln wool, Correidale wool, RomneyMarsh wool, Melton wool and Lamb 's wool.
The main wools of species other than sheep are Cashmere wool , Alpaca wool, Camel wool, Angora wool and Mohair wool.

Wools can also be classified by physical specifications , these specifications are gauge , clean wool yield , length , color and uniformity .
These qualities will determine the price of the wool. The fineness and variation in gauge throughout the yarn will determine the value of the yarn.

As the textile industry improves, carding, combing, spinning and weaving equipment improves, resulting in better quality yarns. That's why twenty years ago thinking about a merino wool undershirt was unthinkable since it was itchy and now they are the most valued.

4. Merino wool.

Let 's focus on one of the most used wools on the market. Merino wool.

Merino wool is originally from Spain and in the 18th century it was exported to other countries. Currently the main producers are Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina .

The durability and thermal insulation characteristics have been evolving and perfecting over time.

Merino wool is four times finer than human hair and at the same time is longer than ordinary wool, providing greater resistance . In addition, it has a very soft touch.

In this table we can see the different categories of merino wool based on their physical specifications.

Main source: Sheep Production Manual. 1996. American Sheep Industry Association Inc. Production, Education and Research Council

"Merino wool is four times finer than human hair and at the same time is longer than ordinary wool, providing greater resistance. In addition, it has a very soft touch."

5. Uses of merino wool in sportswear.

Thanks to the evolution of textile technology over the years, very important advances have been achieved in the development of textile products made with merino wool .

Within this evolution , finer and more resistant threads have been achieved, achieving, among other things, that garments made with quality Merino wool no longer itch .

The advantages of Merino wool in sportswear are mainly based on three main characteristics of Merino wool. On the one hand, there is thermoregulation , on the other the ability to transport the humidity generated by our body to the outside and on the other the ability to absorb water vapor and repel water in a liquid state .

One of the main applications is its application on garments that are in contact with the skin or first layers, thanks to the ability to remove moisture from our skin, allowing our skin to be dry.

And its thermoregulation capacity allows a reasonable margin of activity before sweat begins to accumulate in certain areas.

In the case of socks, the use of the best merino wool and the best structuring and mixing with other materials is very decisive to allow our feet to be dry at all times.

We must keep in mind that the feet are one of the areas of our body that sweat the most . With the aggravation of the use of sports shoes and in many cases with a waterproof membrane , which makes it even more difficult to transport the moisture generated by our body to the outside.

Another important use is as a second layer or layer in charge of retaining the heat we generate.

In this case , thicker threads are used as they will provide greater capacity to retain the heat we generate.

In this situation, breathability is not as important as the thickness and close-knit fabric in certain garments to offer windproofing capacity to the garment.

Due to the hydrophobic capacity of merino wool, it is also used to make berets with waterproof capacity .

When manufacturing these, carding techniques are used so that water with its surface tension does not enter the fabric.

6. What you thought about Merino wool is not true.

"Merino wool is itchy"

No, Merino wool is not itchy . The human sensitivity threshold is about 25 microns and since merino wool is less than 24 microns thick it will not irritate our skin.

"Merino wool is very warm in summer"

No , because like moisture, wool absorbs and releases heat, it is a very breathable material . What wool does is insulate, in this case from heat.

"Merino wool is very warm in winter"

What Merino wool does very well, as we said in the previous section, is an excellent insulator . The wavy structure of the wool allows it to create hot air chambers that serve as insulation. This trapped air prevents our body from losing temperature.

"Merino wool must be washed like any other garment"

No , Merino wool garments do not need to be washed regularly since keratin breaks down the bacteria that cause bad odor.

7. Why the price difference between Merino wool.

The fundamental difference in the disparity in prices between some Merino wool garments and others is given by several factors, but we are going to focus on two fundamentally that are the main ones.

One is the quality of the Merino wool and another is the amount of Merino wool that is used when making the garment.

In the image we can see in the left column the size of the wool expressed in microns and in the other two columns the price of the Sydney and Melbourne markets expressed in Australian dollars.

In the graph we can see the price difference between 30 micron Merino wool at A$345 and 22 micron wool at A$1445, it is more than quadruple . And if we compare it with the 17 micron one, it is 8 times more expensive .

This data comes from the Australian wool trading market.

Therefore, Merino wool garments with a lower micron will be more expensive and also softer.

If a garment can start to itch at 25 microns, it can be made in 22 microns and not itch like the 17 micron one, but the latter is four times more expensive than the 22 micron one.
We will notice the difference in that the 17 micron one is softer and has better performance.

Another factor is the amount of wool used to manufacture the garment, the more wool you use in the manufacture of the garment, the more expensive it will be.

One way to see this is to try to stretch the stitch and then we can see if there is more or less wool by seeing if there are more or less gaps in the garment.

Captura de pantalla de la bolsa de lana en Australia y Nueva Zelanda

"The difference in price between a 30 micron Merino wool and a 17 micron one is eight times more"

8. And our Darn Tough Merino wool socks.

Logo Darn Tough garantía de por vida

Darn Tough Merino wool socks are made with the best fine gauge Merino wool on the market and with the highest stitch density per square inch that current machines allow, achieving excellent performance and unmatched durability , which is why all socks Darn Tough are guaranteed for life.