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For centuries man has gratefully accepted the protective qualities of wool. By the carefully crossbreeding of sheep, he has developed fibers of different lengths, diameters, and various degrees of softness and crispness.
Wool is almost custom-made by nature to fit the needs of man. In its processing and manufacture, man takes up where sheep left off. But while new processes and treatments have made wool more versatile in its uses, man has not improved the fiber itself. Wool has a number of characteristic that make it an ideal material. Wool is the only fiber possessing a natural crimp, or wave. It is the crimp which gives wool its resiliency and vitality. Wool can be stretch to 50 percent of its length and return to its original dimension without damage. It can be twisted out of shape and subjected to repeated strain under dry or wet conditions. The crimps will always return to their original position. The outer scaly covering of wool sheds water, making it naturally rain resistant. The protein cortex, on the contrary, readily absorbs moisture. Like a sponge, wool cab absorb up to 30 percent of its weight in water or body vapor without becoming damp. This quality also enables woolen clothing to absorb normal perspiration.
Wool provides the most warmth with the least weight. This is due to the millions of air spaces enclosed within its compression-resistant structure. In clothing, wool acts as a shield against cold and hot air. It regulates the lost or gain of heat and keeps the body at its normal temperature. Wool is the most naturally wrinkle-resistant of all fiber. It spindle-shape molecules have and affinity for one another and a determination to remain folded together in their normal arrangement. Wrinkles cause by body movements during wear or compression in a suitcase displace and stretch the material. When the wool relaxes, it corrects any displacement and returns to its original position, eliminating the wrinkles.
Wool takes dye completely, permanently, and beautifully. Striking evidence can be observed in the dye kettles. When wool is dyed, the dye in the liquid agent is completely absorbed, living behind only a clear solution in the kettles after the wool is removed. Wool resists fading from sunlight atmospheric impurities, and perspirations. It maintains its natural luster for years of service and wear. Even after wool has been worn for many years it can be shredded into fiber to be spun and woven into new fabrics. The recovery and re-uses of wool and low-price fabrics is and industry on its own. Wool is also nonflammable.
Fire insurance recommend the use of wool blankets, rugs or coats to extinguish flames. Practically all laboratory or industrial activity involving highly flammable material required the wool blanket be made available to extinguish small fires or ignited clothing. Wool, unless it is continuing direct contact with flame, will extinguish any fire. The denser the wave and the greater the weight of a wool fabrics, the less likely it is even to char due to its low-oxygen content. Another property of wool is its lack of static. Static attracts dirt from the air and imbeds it in fabrics. This quality makes wool the easies of all fabrics to keep clean.
Freedom from static permits woolen fabrics to hang and drape in natural lines, un-like material woven from artificial fabric or blends. Finally, wool is the living fiber, intricate in its chemical composition and physical structure. It is composed of cells that grow out on the inner follicles in the skin of sheep. Wool forms within the protection of a wax-like substance called wool grease, which protect the fibers as the sheep forages for food. The fiber also contains suint, of perspiration. In the first steps of processing, the wool grease, or suint, and other foreign matter adhering to the fiber, are removed. Refinement of the wool grease produces lanolin, the base of beauty preparations and the perfect carrier for medicinal ointments. The lanolin and its by-products are also used as rust preventive.