The finest wool available comes from the Merino Sheep. These sheep were exclusive to Spain but can now also be found in Argentina, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the western United States. These sheep produce the finest and softest wool available.
One way to measure or determine the grade of wool is by its diameter in microns. Merino wool is usually 12 – 24 microns with super fine or ultra fine Merino wool measuring less than 12 microns. The lower the number the silkier the wool is, making Merino wool yarn one of the softest yarns to work with. Baby blankets are amongst some of the things made with this soft silky type of wool.
Other ways to determine the quality of wool is by crimp, length, color, strength and yield. The higher the crimp number the easier the wool is to work with and spin because the crimps help the fibers to adhere to one another. Wools with low crimps per inch make it very difficult to work with because they are hard to bind together. Wool from the Merino sheep is a higher crimp number making it more desirable. The crimp number corresponds to the softness of the wool and Merino can have up to 100 crimps per inch where coarser wools can have as little as 1 to 2 crimps per inch.
Various lengths of wool are used to make different types of products hence making length an important factor to both the producers and manufacturers. Merino wool is typically 3 – 5 inches which is a good length, long enough yet not so long to cause waste.
The most common color of wool is a creamy white. There are some breeds that produce other colors naturally such as black, brown, grey and other mixtures of colors.
When looking to acquire wool, it’s important to know the diameter or micron count. The finer wools, less than 25 microns, work well for clothing. The coarser wools tend to be more durable and work well for outer clothing articles or things such as rugs. Merino wool yarns with their high crimp count and low micron count work extremely well in the making of high quality clothing.
All the above mentioned factors come into play when wool is being judged for its quality. It seems that no matter who or where you ask, the most common answer to the question of what is the finest wool available is the wool from the Merino sheep.