by Sarabeth Parido
While many of Kentucky’s 59,000 head of sheep are raised for meat, many of those breeds also produce wool as well. Wool is an extremely versatile value added product for our producers - and while many people think of the itchy Christmas sweater Aunt Louise knit for them - there might be quite a bit you don’t know about wool.
Clothing items have been thought to have been made of wool since the Ice Age. Items have been found throughout much of the ancient world, from 3,400-year-old Egyptian yarn to preserved fragments of textiles unearthed in Siberian graves dating from the first century B.C.
Wool has been a highly valuable commodity across centuries. When Richard the Lionheart was captured in 1192, part of his ransom was paid in 50,000 sacks of wool.
Woolen erosion-control blankets are being used in research to control run off on some Montana roadways. They found that the biodegradable wool and straw blend controlled erosion as well as weeds and allowed for seedlings to grow along new roadways.
With a high natural ignition point of about 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit, wool is fire-resistant. Unlike synthetic fibers, wool does not drip or melt when it does catch fire.
Inside most baseballs, including those used in Major League Baseball, you’ll find layers of tightly wound wool yarn. Each ball contains about 317 yards of yarn - enough to knit a hat.
The fastest recorded time to shear a single sheep is 37.9 seconds by Ivan Scott of Ireland.
Lloyd Rees of Wales, holds the record for shearing 902 sheep in just 9 hours set in August of 2022. That broke the previous world record of 872, set in 2021. He began shearing sheep at the age of 15.
The flexibility wool fiber makes it extremely durable. A wool fiber can be bent back on itself more than 20,000 times without breaking, compare that to ~3,000 times for cotton and ~2,000 times for silk.
Wool can reduce body odor. Wool has a natural ability to manage moisture by being extremely breathable. So, when you sweat, wool wicks away moisture effectively. Less moisture on your skin means less bacteria able to feed on your sweat, meaning a fresher smelling you!
Wool is green. Well, wool is actually available in many colors, but it’s also 100% biodegradable and one of the most recycled fibers on the planet.
Discover the practical and amazing uses of your own wool today!
Sarabeth Parido, is the Director of the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival and The Kentucky Fiber Trail. She raises her own small flock of sheep in Clark County, Kentucky along with her husband and four sons.