Merino wool – the history
(Sahrij Madrasa built by Merinid – Morocco)
(Merinid walls – Ceuta – Morocco)
Merino sheep are descended from a breed of sheep which originated in Spain in the XII century; the Spanish people kept them exclusively for themselves until the end of the XVII century; at the beginning of the XVIII century, Spain donated some of these sheep to France, hence France became the first country which had permission to breed these special sheep; later, at the beginning of the XIX century, Merino sheep were introduced into Australia, where they found a very favourable habitat, a perfect climate and green pastures. The production of Merino wool fabric had a strong boost during the second world war; among the main reasons were the requiremnts of the clergy who needed clothing which could be worn in all seasons.
Charateristics of Merino
Merino is a breed of sheep valued for its fleece, from which comes an exceptional quality fiber. (see photo).
This wool is particularly soft due to its coat fibers, in contrast to normal wool, Merino fibers are much thinner; in fact, with a diameter less than 20 micron (a millionth of a meter), the fibers bend when they come in contact with the skin, as a result the faric is very pleasant to the touch. Garments made in Merino wool are very hard wearing, crease resistant and extremely light, consequently they can be worn in both the hot and the cold seasons; above all, it has another great advantage: its hydroscopic ability, this wool can assorb and expell up to 35% of its weight in water, without feeling wet, this quality makes it ideal for sportswear.
(Merino wool fiber)
Each merino sheep can produce up to 10 kg of wool and it is estimated that almost half of the world production comes from Australia; in the country of New Zealand there are more Merino sheep than people! There are approx 27,6 million sheep and only 5,5 million inhabitants. Australian Merino wool comes already assembled in bales and is sold in public auctions, where buyers from all over the world partecipate; the Italian wool mills are amongst the largest buyers and the best quality wool is generally reserved for them.