Merino wool is one of nature’s most beautiful and versatile renewable fibres. Throughout history wool has been highly prized and traded all over the ancient world - worn in dry desert summers as well as icy alpine winters. Today, there still isn’t a synthetic fibre that can offer all of the benefits of superfine Merino wool.
Soft and Comfortable to wear
Merino is the finest and softest wool available and for over 100 years New Zealand and Australia have been breeding Merino sheep entirely for wool quality (we concentrated on wool for a start because for a long time meat was unable to be exported on sailing ships). The best quality, superfine Merino comes from Merino sheep that are farmed in the high country of New Zealand’s South Island. In the harsh mountain environment of the Southern Alps, where it is exceedingly cold in winter (-20°C) and scorching in summer (+35°C), the sheep’s fleece must work at its most efficient to help the animal survive. As a result New Zealand produces some of the best superfine Merino in the world.
Merino is much finer than traditional wool making it smooth against your skin and supremely comfortable to wear. The fineness of wool is measured in microns (one thousandth of a millimetre). Merino wool measures between 15-25 microns, compared to other wools at 30-50 microns (human hair measures 50-100 microns). Strong fibres irritate the skin but a fine fibre will bend and twist when making contact and is sensed as soft instead of scratchy. Tests have shown that Merino, 19 microns or less, is soft and non-irritating even against children’s sensitive skin.
While the micron measurement relates to the diameter, or fineness, of the wool fibres, the fabric weight is measured in gsm (grams per square metre) and relates to the thickness of the yarn used to weave the fabric. Thus, a low micron, low weight fabric is best suited for underwear, and a heavier fabric better suited for outerwear. For example, a top made from 18 micron, 150-200gsm Merino will be well suited as a year-round under layer worn next to the skin. Whereas, 300+ gsm Merino is best suited for 3 Season outerwear.
Temperature Regulating – Warm in cold climates; Cool in hot
Merino’s curly fibres trap many tiny air pockets making it a superior insulator to protect you from extremes in temperature - both cold and heat. Merino has been the fabric of choice for both arctic explorers and desert nomads.
Merino is highly breathable because the individual fibres breathe as well as the fabric, and it wicks moisture away from your body, releasing it into the air. This evaporation process has a cooling effect, lowering the humidity in the micro-climate between the wearer’s skin and the garment. Conversely, if the ambient temperature should drop, moisture from the air is absorbed by Merino, actually generating heat in a molecular process called “heat of sorption”.
There is no “chill zone” when you wear Merino – it maintains some warming properties when damp, which makes it ideal for stop and go activities at varying temperatures (eg skiing in winter or hiking in summer).
Merino’s superior insulation and its ability to absorb and release moisture mean that it is better able to keep the wearer’s skin at a comfortable temperature and humidity, no matter what the weather.
Merino is a hygroscopic fibre which means that it is capable of absorbing vapour at the same time as repelling liquids. The scales on the wool fibre resist water, while the inside of the fibre is highly absorbent. The end result is that Merino wool can efficiently absorb and release moisture, quickly transporting it away to lower humidity around the skin, reducing the uncomfortable sensation of clamminess.
This ability to both absorb and release is very important as it aids our body’s natural cooling process. Sweating during physical activity protects our organs from overheating. If the sweat is transported away from our skin too quickly the body will continue to produce more sweat, putting it under strain as it has to work harder. Merino stores up to 35% of its weight in moisture which maintains the cooling effect without causing discomfort.
Merino is famous for its ability to remain comparatively fresh when worn during hard physical exertion, or multiple use, making it the preferred choice for athletes and travelers. The protein molecules in wool neutralise bacteria resulting in a fabric that naturally resists the build up of odour. Air dry your Merino clothing after use for best results.
Merino fabric is durable and remains beautiful for a long time. It has more crimp (the number of bends per unit length along the wool fibre) than other wools – it can be bent 30,000 times without danger of breaking or damage. Also, the longer and more even fibres of New Zealand Merino result in a durable, smooth fabric, resistant to pilling.
Merino wool is very difficult to ignite, requiring temperatures of 560°C (1040°F) or more, and is self-extinguishing. It will not melt nor stick to skin, making it one of the safest fibres to wear. Also, due to its chemical structures and absorption properties, Merino wool is resistant to static electricity which means it will not cling nor rustle when worn.
Merino fabric offers a high degree of UV protection. There is a growing awareness of the need for protection from the sun and of the disparity in UV protection given by different textiles. A study by Gambichler et al in 2001 found that while cotton, linen and viscose frequently offered poor UV protection, in most cases Merino offered the highest possible UV protection of UPF 50+ (blocks at least 98% of UVA/UVB radiation).
Easy Care and Machine Washable
Traditionally, wool required special care when washing but in time both wool and washing machine technology has advanced. Today, you can gentle machine wash most Merino garments (although it is recognized that your woolen garment will last a little longer if handwashed). However, with Merino wool’s natural odour and soil resistance you should not need to launder your Merino wool garment as often.
The natural elasticity (due to crimp) of Merino means that wrinkles will drop out easily, especially in a moist environment like a shower room. Garments made from New Zealand Merino require little, if any, ironing.
Note: Please follow the care instructions attached to each Merino wool garment.
Merino: Ideal for Activewear
- Highly breathable: the individual fibres breathe as well as the fabric, and it wicks moisture away from your body, releasing it into the air. Merino wool absorbs up to 35% of its own weight without feeling damp or clammy.
- Hygienic: Merino wool is anti-microbial making it resistant to bacteria build-up. This means you can wear your Merino garment for much longer without it becoming smelly - perfect for multi-day hikes.
- No chill zone: Merino retains some of its warmth even when very wet. This means that when you stop for a break you will not feel chilled.
Merino wool – Natural and Sustainable
Merino sheep grow wool from approx. 50-80 million follicles at about 100mm fleece per year. This gives a total length of 6000km of fibre per year which equates to about 5 garments each year.
Merino wool leaves a very light footprint on the planet – it is a renewable resource and involves a natural growth process of converting grass into fibre. It is also biodegradable, returning, in time, to its constituent components.
Zque™ is an accreditation in New Zealand for ethical wool. Through independent Zque™ audits, we can be sure our Merino is grown in free range conditions with the farmers having necessary stock and farm management systems in place to ensure happy, healthy sheep. The wool is shorn from the sheep just prior to summer; helping the animal to remain cool in the heat and allowing time to grow a sufficient fleece to keep warm in the following winter months. No mulesing.
100% natural and sustainable. Soft, insulating, breathable and moisture wicking. Easy care and machine washable.