Merino Wool: The Fine Art of Felt and Sustainable Fashion

Millions of Merino sheep grazing across Australia are blissfully unaware of their status as “influencers” of fine felting and sustainable fashion.

That’s right, the softest and finest wool undeniably comes from Merino sheep. And 90% of the world’s Merino wool comes from the land down under.

What’s even more attractive is that Merino wool is 100% biodegradable. When a wool garment reaches the end of its life, it can add valuable nutrients – including nitrogen and sulphur – back into the earth. It is also the ultimate sustainable and renewable fibre – Merino sheep grow a new fleece every year.

Now here’s something interesting you may not be aware of. Merino wool is naturally breathable and adapts to body temperature. It can keep you cool as your core temperature rises and it retains heat when your temperature falls. So, while most people associate wool with winter only, it can also keep you cool in spring and summer!

The oldest form of textile creation

Felting is essentially the art of transforming natural fibres like sheep’s wool into strong, permanent pieces of textile. This is done through a process of agitation with a combination of water, soap and heat or by using special barbed needles to permanently entangle the fibres.

Archaeological evidence of felting goes back to as early as 6,500 BC, making it the oldest form of textile creation. Yes, it is older than any weaving, spinning or knitting techniques.

Today, felt artists still use the basis of ancient techniques and concepts but have adapted the process to include modern tools, raising felting to the level of fine art. You can see the results in an array of beautiful scarves, shawls, garments, jewellery, homewares and accessories.

Merino wool – the all-round favourite

In the felting world, Merino wool stands out as the ultimate choice for artists and enthusiasts alike. As a result of its supremely soft and smooth texture, Merino wool is not scratchy against the skin. This makes it a dream to work with, has great aesthetic appeal in the world of fashion and is an absolute joy to wear.

Easy to care for

Contrary to what some people may think, Merino wool products are quite easy to care for. A simple handwash in mild soap, then laid flat to dry, is all it needs.

To summarise, Australian Merino wool is an absolute star in the world of fine felting. It is a dream to work with for felt and fibre artists, can be turned into beautifully designed wearables and is wonderfully soft against the skin. It is also sustainable, eco-friendly, wearable all year round, and easy to care for.

If you haven’t already experienced the many wonders of Merino wool, it might be worth exploring. This magical fibre is a complete win-win as countless people around the world have already discovered.

Alison Gomes, the author, is a textile artist who enjoys working with Merino wool. Click here to view her collection of hand-felted scarves, wraps and jewellery.