Wool from Sheep to Shelf

Made in American: Wool
from Sheep to Shelf
Lisa Surber, PhD
Montana Wool Lab
Measuring Wool
• Subjective measurements of wool to determine its
quality and value (i.e. grade) has been practiced within
the sheep industry for decades, the way the industry
measures fiber diameter has been modified and
changed with advances in wool technology.
• Objective fiber testing can be a powerful marketing
and selection tool.
• It allows breeder to make selections and track
improvements in breeding programs (NSIP).
• From a commercial producer’s perspective it can be
equally important because it gives them an actual
micron and not one person’s opinion of grade.
Fiber Diameter
• Fiber diameter is a
function of both genetics
and environmental
conditions such as
nutrition of the animal.
• Nutrition can play a huge
– As the plane of nutrition
increases wool micron will
get coarser.
Fiber Diameter
• When a potential buyers looks at the raw micron value
of a ram he/she should really examine the condition of
that ram.
– Rams that have been fed up and are in really good
condition (maybe even fat) for ram sales will be the
coarsest they will ever be in their life and under range
conditions will get finer.
• Another indication of fiber diameter is the micron EPD.
– A ram with a fiber diameter EPD of 0 is average for the
Targhee breed and equates to a clip micron of around 22
– Negative fiber diameter EPD will producer offspring that
are finer, positive micron EPD will produce offspring that
are coarser.
Fiber Diameter
• Thickness of Fiber measured in Microns
– A micron is
• 1 millionth of a meter
• 1/25,400th of an inch
• Average of thousands of fiber measurements
• Wool Growth is not “uniform” on the animal
– 2 fibers growing next to each other
– Along the growth of a single fiber
Spinning Count: the hanks (560 yards) of
yarn from a pound of top.
Standard Deviation (SD)
• Statistical measurement of the variability
• 2/3 of the fibers fall with in +/- a SD of the mean
or average
• Smaller the number, the more uniform the
• The finer the average fiber diameter the smaller
the SD.
Standard Deviation (SD)
• 23 micron AFD & SD of 3.0 micron
2/3 of fiber measure between 20 – 26 micron
• Why is this important? Uniformity affects wool
processing outcome – spinning of yarn,
uniformity and appearance of product
Coefficient of Variation (%CV)
• Variability expressed in a percentage
• % CV = SD / AFD x 100
Useful as it allows for comparisons of uniformity
with differing AFD’s
• Ideally, an individual animal sample should
have a %CV less than 20%
Comfort Factor (% CF)
• Percentage of fibers equal to or less than 30
micron in diameter
• Opposite of “Prickle Factor” (negative term)
• Fibers over 30 micron in diameter are rigid and
do not bend when they contact the skin
• Products made to be worn next to the skin
require a comfort factor of 95% or more
• A graph showing measurement breakdown of
the wool sample AFD
• Quick and easy way to “view” the sample for
AFD, SD, and CV
Micron Profile
• Along Staple Fiber Diameter Measurements
• Left side tip, Right side base of fiber
• Can see how environmental differences are
affecting the AFD during the growing season
• Unlike an EKG – a “Flat Line” is Good
Micron Profile
• Drastic changes in diameter can cause a
weakness in the fiber strength and can impact
processing ability (breaks)
• Use the information to make management
decisions to grow more sound wool
– Shearing in relationship to lambing
– Feeding strategies
• Measurement of the crimp
• Correlated with Bulk and Resistance to
Compression ratios
Still debating what it really means and how it
affects processing performance of wool
Fee Services
• Wool Samples
• OFDA 2000 13,714 samples as of
1/9/14, up 25% in 12 months
• OFDA 100 – 872 samples
• Fabric – 1,117 samples
• Biggest area of growth in fee
services is on-site use of the OFDA
Worldwide shortage of 21-24
micron wools
US-Made Socks are HOT!
• Companies like Fox River,
Wigwam, Darn Tough,
Title9, and Filson are
making a “Made in the
USA” sock
Made in the USA
with American Wool
New Wool Products – Superwash
Machine wash and tumble dry on low
• Wool shrink treatment processing
(Chargeurs Wool USA Jamestown, SC)
– Washable wool process to US that is currently
being done overseas
– Applied to a sliver of top, created after
combing and produces shrink-resistant wool
US military is the largest consumer of domestic wool
Berry Amendment: requires all textile processes and
products to be entirely of US origin; otherwise they
cannot be used by DOD
Science of Superwash
Process exposes fiber to a mild chlorine
solution, rinsed, polymer resin is added to
• Treatment allows fiber to be machinewashed without felting
• Wool fibers are composed of a series of
overlapping scales
– The Superwash process adheres these scales to
one another, after which the fiber can be
US wool is superior to Australian
wools for some knitting purposes
NZ Bulk
The future
Increased demand for next to
skin fabrics in knitting
• Companies like Rambler’s Way, Icebreaker,
Title 9, VOORMI, and IBEX
From Sheep to Shop, Ibex
Introduces 100% U.S. Resources
in Shak Lite Line for Fall 2012
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