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It is a comfortable and versatile fabric, which is warm in winter and cool in summer. The fabric is elastic, drapes well, and repels water droplets. However wool absorbs water vapour. It can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water without feeling damp. The fabric resists wrinkling and returns to its natural shape when relaxed. It stretches by a third when dry, and about half its length when wet. It resists static electricity, except in very dry air. However, wool will discolour and deteriorate under prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Wool fibre and yarn is produced from a special class of animal body hair, mostly from sheep, but also from goats (cashmere, angora and mohair), llamas (alpaca), camels and rabbits. Wool, however, is different from either hair or fur. It has a distinct texture, handle, elasticity and it grows in clusters (called staples). It is obtained by shearing the animal and then removing excess seeds, burr and oils from the resulting fleece. The fleece is then sorted into different quality categories called grades, based on the thickness of the fibre.
The label "100% wool" does not necessarily indicate high quality wool, as recycled wool can be used in its fabrication. Only 'virgin wool is a guarantee of quality. To use this label, the permitted use of other fibres drops to 0.3% Subtypes. Wool spun for the first time is called virgin wool. Two distinct types of wool fabrics are- woolens and worsteds. Woolens are soft, fuzzy and may have a rough texture. The yarns are made of short fibres with a moderate twist. Worsteds are smooth, strong and have more lustre than woollens. The yarns are twisted more. Woollens are easier to sew and less expensive than worsteds. They include bulky tweeds, coatings, washable wools and some flannels. Worsteds are tightly woven and rarely sag or bag. They have a smooth, hard surface. Examples include gabardine, serge, twill and suiting. Many variants of wool can be commonly found.
Wool shrinks substantially when washed, so it should be pre-shrunk before being used to make a garment. Many, but not all wools have good drape, and most have high shear (the ability to retain designed shape). Some popular wool items are knitted gloves, woolen mittens, organic wool gloves, wool sweaters, wool caps, wool scarves etc.