Some wool is very scratchy, and some is quite soft.
You know there are different breeds of dogs, and some have soft fur while others have coarse fur. The same is true of sheep. Some breeds have soft wool, called “fine” or “medium” wool. Other breeds have very coarse wool called, simply, “coarse wool.”
Raising sheep for meat is much more profitable than raising sheep for wool. In many cases, farmers have bred sheep to be prolific (more lambs = more meat = more money), have fast growing lambs (the sooner they grow to market weight, the less days you have to buy feed for them = more money), and be meaty (more meat per lamb = more money). Meat sheep farmers don’t breed for wool quality, and as a result they tend to have low quality, coarse wool that is quite scratchy. Coarse wool is less valuable to the industry and can be purchased very cheaply, so when you buy inexpensive wool clothing it is most likely made from cheap, coarse wool.
But my sheep are not meat breeds.
When compared under a microscope, a piece of fine or medium wool is thinner than coarse wool. Merinos are known the world over for their fine, soft wool. Merinos also tend to have single births (not twins or triplets), so while they are prized by wool farmers the breed is avoided by meat farmers.
My sheep are all fine or medium wool breeds, and the wool is so soft I wear it next to my skin. My children have also been wearing my wool next to their skin since birth. My son is a redhead, and has the sensitive skin that goes along with being a redhed, but has been wearing my wool next to his skin without any trouble since birth.
Some people truly are allergic to wool and should not wear it, but some people who think they are allergic may just be suffering from the effects of wearing coarse, low quality wool. Coarse wool will leave just about everyone with red, irritated skin! Talk to your doctor to determine whether you are truly allergic to wool or not - you may be missing out on the joys of wool when you don’t have to!
Lydia Maria Child
The American Frugal Housewife, 1832
Suzy the Shepherdess
Suzy Beggin Craft
P.O. Box 54
Stockton, IL 61085 U.S.A.
Phone: 815 541-0897