From a sheep to a shirt: Merino wool's journey from pastures to store shelves
Merino wool is a beloved and highly sought-after material in the outdoor enthusiast community. It has gained popularity due to its impressive properties such as breathability, thermoregulating properties and odour resistance.
However, every single piece of Merino wool clothing you see in our range doesn't just come about. On the contrary, the journey of wool from the sheep to your hands and onto your body is one long, complex and fascinating adventure. And the whole story begins in the wild grasslands of Australia.
Life on the farm
The merino wool journey begins on the Australian farms where we source our merino wool. The sheep here have ideal conditions for their lives, which is reflected in the quality of their wool. They are raised on large pastures where they have plenty of space to live a healthy and happy life, under the supervision of skilled and experienced farmers who provide suitable food, plenty of water, shelter and protection from disease.
At ZAJO, we are naturally committed to using wool that is responsibly and sustainably sourced, which is why we work exclusively with the Suedwolle Group, a leading supplier of RWS certified wool.
The Responsible Wool Standard (RWS) is a global standard that ensures that wool used in outdoor products is produced in a way that respects the welfare of sheep, the environment and the people involved in the production process. To meet the RWS standard, wool producers must adhere to strict guidelines that cover everything from animal welfare to land management practices.
When the time is right for shearing, farmers carefully remove the wool from the animal's body. Thanks to the aforementioned RWS certification, we are assured that painful and inhumane methods such as mulesing are not used during shearing.
During the shearing process, electric shears are used to cut the wool from the sheep's back and flanks. The wool is then sorted according to quality, with the highest quality fibres used for clothing and lower quality fibres used for other wool products. The wool is then cleaned and washed to remove any remaining grease and dirt.
Shearing is usually carried out once a year.
When the wool is clean and dry, it is spun into yarn. This process produces a strong and durable thread from which fabric can be woven. Depending on the intended use of the fabric, different spinning techniques can be used to produce either a softer or a stronger thread. For example, wool to be used for clothing may be spun into a finer and softer thread, while wool to be used for blankets or other textiles may be spun into a coarser and stronger thread.
There are several ways of spinning wool, including hand and machine spinning. Hand spinning is a traditional method in which a spinning wheel is used to spin the wool into thread. Machine spinning, on the other hand, is a faster and more efficient method used in large-scale textile production.
After the wool is spun into yarn, the wool is woven into fabric. This process involves interweaving the threads to create a cohesive material that can be cut and sewn into garments. Merino wool is often blended with other materials, such as synthetic fibres, to create fabrics with even better performance properties.
In our case, we are working with two types of merino wool. The first variant combines merino wool with a synthetic core around which the merino wool fibres are wrapped. This makes such merino wool more durable and easier to maintain.
The second variant combines merino wool and bamboo in a "sandwich" method - the outer side is merino wool and the inner side is bamboo. Bamboo has very similar properties to merino wool and does not scratch, so this variant is also suitable for people with very sensitive skin.
After weaving, the fabric is usually dyed. Dyeing wool can be a complex process that requires skill and expertise. Different types of dyes are used for wool, including natural and synthetic dyes. Natural dyes are obtained from plants, insects and other sources, while synthetic dyes are made from chemicals.
After spinning, weaving and dyeing, the wool is ready to be cut and sewn into clothes in factories and workshops.
The first step in production is cutting the fabric into the desired pattern for the garment. This process requires precision and skill to ensure that each piece fits together correctly. Once cut, the fabric is sewn together using specialised machines and techniques.
However, working with merino wool is a real challenge and requires expertise. Wool is a delicate material that can shrink or lose its shape very easily if not handled properly. Therefore, production requires a high level of expertise and plenty of experience.
The finished products then go onto the shelves and directly to you.