Wool Rugs

What do you get when you combine sheep, grass, sunlight and water? You get wool, a natural fiber that is both sustainable and biodegradable. In contrast to carpets that are made from synthetic fibers, a wool rug has natural crimp, which means it quickly recovers its pile and shape when weight is put on it. This makes wool carpeting ideal for areas of heavy traffic in your home. Wool rugs come in a wide range of colors and styles and natural wool rugs are an investment in your home that you will enjoy for many years to come.


Wool Rugs – A People and Earth Friendly Choice

In addition to sheep you can substitute other animals like goats, alpaca and even rabbits for wool however wool rugs are always made from durable sheep wool. Human beings have been using wool to make wool carpet and wool area rugs for thousands of years. Sheep fibers contain a wax-like substance called lanolin, which is a natural waterproofing substance. Though most of the lanolin is washed out of the fibers before they’re spun into yarn, enough remains so that wool carpets have a natural resistance to staining. Wool is also naturally flame resistant, and because it is a natural fiber that “breathes,” it helps regulate moisture content in the air around it. Medical experts also consider wool to be generally hypoallergenic; it does not promote the growth of dust mites or bacteria and when they become airborne, individual wool fibers are too coarse to be inhaled.

Much of the world’s wool is produced in Australia and New Zealand. Australian and New Zealand wool rugs are generally regarded as being the finest in the world because manufacturers in those countries for the most part don’t use chemical processes to treat the wool they turn into wool carpeting.

Wool Carpet Construction

Wool carpets are made by sewing many strands of yarn into a canvas-like backing material. This process creates thousands of yarn loops. When these loops remain uncut, the resulting carpet is known as a loop pile carpet. Looped carpets are best for areas of heavy traffic.
When the loops are cut, the carpet is known as a cut pile or texture carpet. A wool shag rug is one with a very high pile. These two basic manufacturing techniques can be combined to create carpets with a wide range of patterned textures.

Contemporary wool rugs can either be made by machine or made by hand. Though hand-tufted rugs are modern wool rugs that are made by artisans, the rug maker does not actually knot the individual strands of wool yarn. Instead the yarn strands are embedded into the backing with the use of a tufting gun. Hand-tufted rugs don’t take very long to make and cost far less than hand-knotted rugs.

The artisans who make the hand-knotted rugs actually ties each individual strand of yarn. The more knots per square inch, the higher the quality of the rug. Depending upon how complex the rug pattern is, a wool area rug can have tens of thousands of knots and take years to complete.

With so many benefits for, your home and the environment a natural wool rug is a beautiful compliment to any environment.


Wool – A Reliable Yarn

WOOLY SHEEPWool has been a favorite textile since Cro-Magnon Man domesticated the first sheep around 12000 BC. The human love affair with wool continues to the present day. We use the versatile fiber in wool carpet and wool rugs, wool blankets and wool clothing such as wool coats, wool sweaters and wool socks. It’s flame resistant, a marvelous insulator and completely biodegradable.


What Is Wool?

Wool is a textile woven or knitted from the dense fleece of sheep, goats and other mammals with coats that are springy and warm.

Wool has many properties that make it useful. Wool is the most flame resistant of all textiles. Wool has wicking properties that pull moisture away from the fiber core, which keeps you dry on a drizzly day. Wool crimps, which means pieces of wool will stick to one another. Finally, wool is an extremely elastic textile that can stretch as much as 50 percent when it’s wet and as much as 30 percent when it’s dry.

Wool is also a natural fiber. In contrast to synthetic fibers created by chemical processes that rely upon petrochemicals as their raw materials, natural fibers are derived from plant and animal sources. Natural fibers are a renewable resource. Research has shown that individuals who wear natural fibers like wool or use them in their households typically suffer from fewer skin rashes or other allergic reactions linked to synthetic fibers.

Wool fibers are divided into grades on the basis of fiber diameter and crimp. The highest grade sheep wool is called Merino and comes from Merino sheep. Merino wool varies from ultra fine Merino wool whose fibers have a diameter between 13 and 15 microns and carpet wools whose fiber diameters vary between 35 and 45 microns. Lamb’s wool is also highly prized for the fineness and softness of its fibers.

Does Wool Only Come From Sheep?

Although sheep fleece is by far the largest source of wool textiles, wool fiber can be obtained from the fleece of many other animals as well including goats, rabbits, alpacas, llamas, yaks and even camels.

Cashmere wool, a very strong, light, silky fiber, comes from the downy undercoats of Cashmere goats while mohair comes from the hair of the Angora goat. Another type of Angora wool comes from the silky coats of Angora rabbits. Alpaca wool is wool harvested from a Peruvian cousin of the camel called an alpaca or a vicuna.

What Are Some of the Popular Products Made from Wool?

Commonly found wool products include:

Wool carpets: Pure wool carpets are a terrific choice for people who want to create a healthy and environmentally friendly atmosphere in their homes without sacrificing style or comfort. Wool fibers can be dyed in a variety of different shades. Wool rugs and wool area rugs are also great for areas of high foot traffic because they’re naturally spring and resilient. The natural lanolin coating on wool fibers also makes them naturally resistant to dirt and spills.

Wool upholstery: Wool fabric is a popular choice for chair covers and other types of furniture upholstery.

Wool mattresses and wool blankets: Wool has been used for centuries in many parts of Europe as a traditional mattress stuffing material, and is becoming an increasingly popular alternative today to synthetic batting. True wool allergies are very rare although some people are sensitive to the chemical processing agents that are used to prepare wool products for the market. When wool batting compresses, it can be removed from a mattress and refluffed. Wool blankets provide warmth throughout the cold months.

Wool clothing: Wool coats, wool sweaters and wool socks are terrific cold weather gear. Wool’s warmth, flexibility and strength allows this textile to resist tears and provide great warmth. Smart Wool is a brand in high demand among aficionados of extreme sports like mountaineering, skiing and snow boarding. The crimping properties of wool fibers create air pockets that act as a natural insulation layer. Because wool doesn’t collect moisture, it rarely becomes infested with molds, bacteria or dust mites. It’s a very elastic material, which means it provides some support for people affected by joint disorders such as arthritis.

What Is the Wool Production Process?

Fleece is typically sheared from sheep on a yearly basis. The object is to shear the fleece with as few strokes as possible to preserve the integrity of the fiber.

After shearing, the fleece is washed to remove organic debris and other impurities such as the oily residue known as lanolin. Lanolin is an important secondary market for sheep owners since it’s used in many personal care products like cosmetics.

After washing, the fibers are graded and then run through toothed rollers in a process known as carding. At this point wool can either be twisted into the yarn used in knitting or spun into finer yarns of various thicknesses and gauges. At this point, wool yarn can either be knitted or woven into a fabric.

What Countries Produce Wool?

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, China is the country that produces the most wool on an annual basis. In 2009, China produced close to 387,000 metric tons of wool. However, China uses much of the wool it produces. The world’s two largest exporters of raw wool are Australia, which produced 382,000 metric tons, and New Zealand, which produced 165,800 metric tons. Other top wool producers include the UK and Iran (67,000 metric tons each), Morocco, Sudan and Argentina (roughly 55,000 metric tons each.)

Wool is making a comeback in a big way among people who appreciate textiles thanks to its affordability, sustainability and hypoallergenic properties. The fabric breathes making it a natural temperature regulator, and it’s fire retardant at a time when tighter restrictions are being placed on materials that can be used in the hospitality industry and interior decor. Wool has been around for a long time and it’s a fully contemporary fabric.

Wool Wise

hacienda-pepper_200Soft, warm, luxurious, fine, superfine, insulating and warm are just some of the adjectives used to describe one of nature’s most popular natural fibers, wool.

Although derived principally from sheep, a member of the Caprinae animal family the hair of other mammals such as rabbits, llamas and goats can also be referred to as wool.

Utilized for centuries for a multitude of applications wool is quite different to hair or fur as it has a distinctive texture i.e. it is crimped and grows in staples or clusters and has an elastic quality. Wool is also a popular yarn because it is fire resistant and can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture and the medical profession consider it to be hypoallergenic.

China is the market leader of wool production closely followed by Australia and New Zealand. The coarser fibers from the wool of breeds such as Drysdale, Lincoln, Tukidale and Romney are generally used to make carpets.

Global wool production exceeds 2.1 million tonnes per annum with 41% of world wool production being classed as coarse wools, 37% as fine wools and 22% as medium wools. Approximately 60% of wool harvest is utilized for clothing manufacture including pullovers, coats, socks, gloves, school uniforms and even cloth diapers and approximately 33% is used for the manufacture of rugs, carpets and upholstery.

If you have ever been privileged enough to wear the beautiful yarns of angora and cashmere you may be a convert from even the finest of merino wools. Cashmere clothing items such as cardigans, shawls, scarves, hats and gloves can come at a very high price, however once worn the value of this beautiful yarn far outweighs the cost. Lamb’s wool is generally softer than the wool of adult sheep and a favorite with baby apparel.

Wool is also a very appealing choice for making rugs and carpets from the Bedouin tribes in the Middle East to the Tibetans of the Himalayan regions and beyond to the far corners of the planet. Carpets and rugs made from a variety of wool fibers are available in a myriad of designs, sizes and colors from hand made with natural dyes to those commercially produced in factories.

Whether you are looking for apparel in beautiful and lasting wool or to decorate your interior with a carpet or rug, wool will always be a premium choice!

Caring for Your Wool Rug

Wool is one of the best natural fiber floor coverings around, and well worth the investment. With proper care, a wool carpet will be long lasting and will keep its beautiful appearance as it ages. Keeping it clean is easy and safe; there’s no need for damaging chemicals.

Regular Care

Regular vacuum cleaning is the best way to maintain a wool carpet’s health and appearance. You can vacuum two or three times a week early on to help prevent the natural shedding that occurs in new wool rugs. Vacuuming once a week will suffice once the carpet settles, depending where it’s located. It may need more weekly attention if it’s in a heavy traffic area.

Run your vacuum cleaner across the carpet in different directions to keep it from matting. Set the beater bar of your vacuum on its highest setting so the brushes don’t dig into the fabric. Avoid using a self-adjusting model; it could adjust itself too deeply into the material.

There are a few things you can do to help your vacuum cleaner do its job. Sweeping the rug beforehand will loosen dirt and make it easier to remove. If you have a wool area rug that’s not too big to handle, take it outside and shake the dirt and dust free before you vacuum, or you can drape it over a line or rail and beat the dirt free.

Lastly, rotate your rug regularly if it’s in a high traffic area to avoid uneven wear. The same goes for rugs that are exposed to a lot of sunlight; too much can cause fading.

Special Care

It’s a good idea to steam clean your wool carpet at least once a year, however it can be a tricky business. Steam cleaning with water that is too hot — over 150 degrees — can cause wool to shrink. It’s best to consult a professional cleaning service, or have them come in and do the job for you. Look for cleaning services that use natural products or claim to be environmentally friendly.

It’s not good to expose a wool rug to too much moisture. In other words, wet-shampoo cleaning isn’t a good idea. Wool retains moisture, making it hard to dry if it gets too wet, as well as creating an unpleasant smell. Don’t use dry powders that can penetrate the fibers. Avoid oxi cleaners as well; they are not designed for natural fiber floor coverings.

Spills and Mishaps

Wool has natural properties that help it resist many spills from penetrating too deep into the fabric. Still, accidents happen, and it’s important to deal with any stains and spills as quickly as possible.

The first step is to soak up as much of the liquid as possible with a clean cloth. Blot the liquid, don’t rub at it; all that will do is grind the stain further into the fabric.

Here are two options that can work against several different kinds of spills:

  • Beer, wine, condiments, coffee, tea, juice or urine: 1 tsp. of a neutral detergent with a tsp. of white vinegar diluted in a quart of warm water
  • Milk, pen ink, crayon, shoe polish: Use an oil-free paint remover.

Dampen a clean cloth with the cleaning mixture relevant for the specific spill and dab at the stain. Blot the area with another clean cloth to soak up any moisture and dry the area; repeat the process if needed.

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew can spoil any natural fiber floor covering, including wool. Avoid placing carpets in areas that are too humid or two hot, which will encourage mold and mildew growth. And of course, keep your carpet clean. Natural, chemical-free maintenance will add years to a wool carpet’s life.

Wool is a very durable material. It’s naturally designed to absorb the wear and tear of everyday life with long-term, eco-friendly benefits.