Fleece is transformed by spinners, weavers and knitters who combine ancient skills and traditions with modern technologies, to create soft and innovative yarns and fabrics which are embraced by designers and couturiers from all corners of the world.
The unique process from sheep to shop has changed little in the two centuries since Merino sheep were introduced to Australia. However, today's modern and vibrant wool textile industry, with its advanced technology and machinery, is a far cry from the industry's humble origins. The quality of the final product has improved with every generation too, culminating in today's unrivalled clothing ranges made from Australian Merino wool.
Once the Merino fleece leaves the farm it is scoured to remove any dirt and lanolin - the wool's natural grease - which is then used in many cosmetics. The tangled fibres are then opened up into a continuous length, through a "carding" process, and then further aligned and combed into "wool top" - a continuous grouping of twistless fibres.
The top is then spun by drawing it down into a fine roving to which twist is applied, binding the fibres together to form a continuous and strong yarn. "Worsted spinning" converts long fibre-length wool top into yarn with a smooth texture and finish for fine garments such as tailored suits. "Woollen spinning" converts short fibre-length wool into bulkier yarns for knitted garments and woven jacketing.
The yarn produced is the raw material of the fashion industry and can be knitted or woven. Knitting is the manufacturing stage which converts yarn into fabric through the process of interlocking loops. Weaving is the process of fabric formation in which yarns are interlaced at right angles using a weaving machine (loom) - different patterns can be produced by passing each sideways "weft" yarn under or over a varying number of lengthways "warp" threads, forming the weave.
Wool can be dyed at almost any stage of the process - top, yarn, fabric or garment - by applying coloured dyes to the fibre with boiling water.
The "finishing stage" is a critical part of the process and is what helps improve the feel and appearance of the fabric. It is now ready for designers and pattern-makers to work their magic.
Individual components of a garment are assembled and sewn together - this requires great skill and an understanding of how wool 'behaves' so as to ensure that the finished garment exceeds customer expectations for its entire life.
Merino wool provides the perfect blank canvas for designers and manufacturers. New wool technologies and treatments are in constant development, allowing the creation of unique textures and finishes, and further enhancing the fibre's inherent style.
Designers love using Merino wool in their collections - the fibre's unique qualities excite these visionaries. No other fibre provides such a special blend of fineness, next-to-skin comfort, superior handle and drape, versatility and ease of styling.