Wool mixed with other fibres such as cotton, rayon or polyester provides a natural alternative to man-made and animal wool clothing. These types of wool fibers are called "biodegradable textiles" and provide the same comfort, protection and affordability as all natural wool fibers. As the demand for wool has significantly lessened over the years, several synthetic alternatives have emerged like nylon, polyester and denier polyester. These man-made fibers do not contain the same characteristics and properties as pure wool fibers. Some are also more expensive than pure wool. With increasing awareness and interest in green living, wool fiber production is undergoing a revolution.
Synthetic fibers made from man-made sources are more convenient to use, light weight and less expensive than wool fibers. In addition, these fibers are stronger than wool fibers which means that they can be used on more specialized projects and applications. However, these man-made fibers are unable to withstand the rigorous demands of natural wool. Synthetic wool garments must be hand-washed or hand-prepared before wearing and are unable to stand up to the same heat, abrasion and moisture that natural wool garments are able to tolerate.
Wool fibers can be separated into three categories based on the manner in which they are spun. First, the wool fibres are knotted. In non-knotted forms, these fibers are referred to as lambswool. The knotted form gives these wool mixed fibers stretchability and greater resistance to tear. It is advisable to purchase woven forms of wool rather than the knotted wool when shopping for wool mixed clothing.
Second, the yarns come in either Merino silk or thermal blends. Merino wool is considered the best of these, because it produces the highest quality fibers. Thermal blends are also derived from Merino wool but include other materials such as acrylic and nylon instead of pure wool. Silk and thermal blend wool fibers are mixed together to create a thicker, softer and lighter fabric.
The third classification of wool fibers is polyamide or polyethylene. Polyamide wool is man-made by subjecting polyethylene molecules to high temperatures. As a result, the molecule breaks down into smaller molecules, making it much more difficult to pull apart. This results in a finer wool that is not quite as stretchable. However, polyamide fibers still provide excellent moisture absorption and heat insulation qualities.
There are many advantages to purchasing a blend of wool. Since wool is man-made, it is able to be produced in a wide variety of weights and thread counts. The finer yarns are more durable, which means that mixed wool is a good investment. In addition, wool blends are resistant to flame and water, making them better choices for outdoor wear. They also hold up well against cleaning, although it is important to use the right wool cleaner for the fabric.