Friday, 25 November 2011 11:00
About Australian WoolWritten by d'Italia
Throughout history, wool has transitioned from being a just warm giving fleece, to a material often used in high fashion – from Christian Dior to Chanel. wool has truly been an integral part of our everyday lives - being a material that we use for different kinds of garments, bags and accessories. But did you know that most of the wool that's used around the world comes from one particular country in Southern Hemisphere?
A Long History of wool production Australia has long been regarded as a major producer of wool. For over 200 years, Australian wool has been exported from the country to many different parts of the world. It all started in 1793, when Captain John Macarthur, who was stationed in Sydney, realized that the Australian climate was well suited for raising merino sheep. In 1797, He brought in merino sheep to the country, cross-breeding them with Australia's native sheep in the aim of producing top quality wool. He then came to England in 1803, bringing his sample of wool, even stating it as being "in softness superior to many of the wools of Spain, and certainly equal in every valuable property to the very best procured from thence." With this potential of a new wool source, especially with England facing issues with importing wool from Spain during the Napoleonic wars, Captain Macarthur was then granted 10,000 acres of grazing land and additional merino sheep to ramp up his Australian wool production. In 1807, the first bale of wool was sent home to England which was the start the wool export industry in Australia. Although for many years, wool was only exported to England, Australian wool export slowly gained popularity in America with wool exports to America even surpassing export to England. Today, as a major wool producer, Australia's wool production industry is one of their most significant agricultural industries which represent 6.3% of their gross agricultural production. In fact, in 2005/2006, it was reported that Australia produced 27% of the world's greasy wool, with wool exports valued at up to $2.64 billion. Australian Merino Wool With over 200 years of wool export, starting with Captain John Macarthur's introduction of Merino sheep to the country, it comes to no surprise that Australia is one of the major sources of Merino wool in the world. Being a top producers of Merino wool, one can find many different types these sheep in several parts of Australia – Fine and superfine merinos Superfine Merino wool has a fibre diameter of 18 microns with a staple length of 70mm while Fine-Wool Merino fibre diameter is 19 microns with a staple length of 75mm. This type of sheep is usually found in the northern and southern tablelands of New South Wales, the western districts of Victoria and the midlands district of Tasmania Medium-wool merinos Found throughout New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia and in extremely high number, these type are grown primarily for wool production with a fibre diameter of 20-22 microns and a staple length of approximately 90mm Strong-wool merinos These are most prominent in western New South Wales, South Australia (where it comprises more than 85% of the state's sheep number) and Western Australia. Well adapted to hot and semi-arid areas of Australia, this type of sheep produces wool with a staple length of 100mm and a fibre diameter of 23 to 25 microns. The Fonthill Merino This sheep is a result of cross-breeding American-bred Rambouillet Merino rams with the fine-wool Saxon strain of Merino to increase the genetic potential of an easy care sheep. They produce 20-22 micron wool. The Booroola Merino Originally developed on the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales, this type of sheep is one that has a high rate of multiple births as well as the ability to breed most times of the year. The Poll Merino This type of Australian Merino is one bred without horns to cater to the demand for easy care sheep as Poll Merinos are less prone to poll strike (maggots behind the horns) than horned ones. Australian Merino wool is well known for its exquisite quality. This remarkable fibre is very soft and also provides excellent insulation. Apart from these qualities, many consider the Australian Merino wool as the perfect fibre for use in making garments. Its water repellent quality helps in preventing stains, its breathability promotes natural sweat and moisture control, which also helps in repelling odour, and its elasticity also provides a great drape. Australian wool – an Eco Friendly choice Besides the many upsides of using wool as a material for garments, it is also one of the most environment friendly fabrics. Aside from the fact that it comes from a natural source compared to other petroleum-based synthetic fabrics, it is also sustainable. wool comes from the fleece that grows on sheep which can be removed without harm to the animal. Being a natural fabric, it also easily decomposes back into earth which makes it biodegradable. Australian wool indeed, is a material, which like many natural materials – has a long and full history. A type of fine, soft fibre that reflects its country's own natural riches, and well known for it's quality, durability and eco-friendliness, it's also one versatile fabric that works well on the catwalk, as it does on cold winter nights in front of the TV.