Wool is one of the two products sheep producers get from their animals. It is important to understand the characteristics of wool and how to harvest it properly so it can be an additional source of income for you.

Wool is a modified hair structure. It is more fine in diameter and more elastic than hair. Wool has a crimpy, wavy appearance. (see figure)

The Unique Properties of Wool

Wool is elastic. It holds its shape and will regain its shape after stretching. It resists sagging and wrinkling, and is soft, light in weight, and absorbent.

Wool absorbs water more readily than any other textile fiber. It keeps the wearer comfortable and warm because perspiration and outer dampness will not cling to the body.

It also acts as an excellent insulator. It keeps body heat from escaping and keeps the cold air out. It is also nonflammable, strong, and easily dyed.















Image © Ohio State University Extension. Used with permission

Glossary - Wool Terms

Britch - Wool from the hindquarters of the sheep, usually the coarsest on the body.

Cotted - Badly matted or tangled fibers of fleece.

Density - The closeness of the fibers per unit area of skin. This also influences the weight of the fleece.

Diameter - Determines the fineness of the fiber and is primarily what wool is graded on.

Felting - Wool fibers interlocking with each other, as if they were rubbed together.

Fleece - The wool from a single sheep.

Grease - Includes the yolk and soluble matter but not the vegetable matter.

Kemp - Abnormal, coarse, hairy, white fibers in some fleeces.

Luster - The glistening of wool fibers in the light.

Scouring - The process of removing the grease, dirt, etc., from the wool.

Skirting - Removing from the edges of whole fleeces the stained or inferior portions such as belly, legs, and neck.

Staple length - Of the wool fibers, this forms the basis of classifications of wool, determines the use of the wool and influences the weight of the fleece.

Virgin wool - Wool that has not been previously manufactured.

Yolk - The secretion in the wool, commonly called "grease"; main component is lanolin that is used in ointments and cosmetics; also contains cholesterol. The yolk protects the wool fiber from the weather.