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Winter Wool

By Raquel Lynn
Layer on quality wool pieces to stay warm and set trends this winter.

Snowy days and festive-yet-frigid nights out offer a change of scenery but sometimes pose a wardrobe challenge—how do you stay warm while dressing to impress? The answer: Wool.

Warm and fashionable, wool garments are must-have closet staples thanks to the material’s craftsmanship, longtime durability and its ties to southwest style. Before it’s time to bundle up, use this guide to find great wool buys and learn how to wear them with a Western edge.

The Strength of Wool
Dan Gutzman, manager of the wool department at Pendleton Woolen Mills in Portland, Oregon, emphasizes the durability of wool and its lasting qualities with which other fabrics cannot compete.

“Wool is a miracle fiber!” Dan said. “It has an amazing abrasion resistance, which means you can use your Pendleton wool garment or blanket for years, then pass it on to your children and your grandchildren, and it will still look beautiful—a true heirloom.”

Dan says that synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester and viscose can’t compete with wool’s abrasion resistance.

“Abrasion resistance means how many times the fiber can be bent without breaking,” he explained. “Wool gets an A+ for its ability to bend 30,000 times. Compare that to cotton—1,500 times—and rayon, 75 times.”

While quality wool pieces typically require a steep upfront investment, style and durability long outlast sticker shock.

The Right Wool
Animals such as sheep, goats, rabbits and alpacas grow wool fiber, and each species and breed produces a specific type of wool.

“Merino, rambouillet, columbia and targee are the sheep breeds we use for our apparel textile fabrics,” Dan said.

Fibers from these sheep work well for creating Pendleton accessories, blankets and apparel because of their crimp and micron attributes, Dan says.

“Crimp gives the fiber its memory, and when woven into our wool fabric it keeps the dimensions and shape intact,” he explained. “If you’ve ever owned a garment that ‘bagged out’—looked unsightly and distressed after wearing it—you’ll understand the value of having good crimp.”

Micron measures the diameter of the fiber and determines the fineness of the wool; a fiber with a low micron value is finer and softer, while a high-micron value indicates a larger fiber that feels rougher but is likely more durable.

Pendleton strives to balance strength and softness and sets a strict standard for its wool choices, Dan says, and they use a variety of sheep from the United States to accomplish this.

This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2017 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.