Quality is determined by how uniform and defined the crimp of the wool is, as well as how soft the wool is to the touch, the amount of kemp (stiff fibers) that is found in the fleece, and the amount of coarse or coloured fibers.
The fineness of the wool will have an impact on the quality. This fineness is measured in microns (µ) which is an indication of the fiber’s diameter. The smaller the diameter – and therefore micron – the finer the wool will be.
This diameter can be estimated by roughly calculating the number of crimps that are found in 25 mm of wool – the higher number of crimps found in 25 mm of wool, the finer the wool is.
There are a number of factors that will influence the amount and quality of the wool that a sheep produces. This includes:
We will be discussing these factors in depth in a later article.
What is poor quality wool?
A lack of uniformity in the crimp, a harsh or rough to the touch and/or the presence of noticeable coarse or coloured fibers or hair.
What is average quality wool?
Wool with an irregular or watery crimp, with a dull appearance, slightly rough to the touch, and indications of deviating fibers.
What is good quality wool?
A well-defined and even crimp with a soft handle and the absence of deviating fibrers.
The whiteness of wool should also be taken into account as it affects the appearance and may affect the wool’s combing process and ability to accept dye. The colouring is denoted by a Y – Z colour scale, with Y denoting brilliance.
This scale starts at 7 (brilliant white), and ends at 18 (canary yellow), where 8 denotes white, and 11 denotes a creamy colour. Ideally you would select for a whiteness that is between 8 (white) and 11 (creamy).
Keep an eye out for a more in-depth article on the effect of management, nutrition and genetics on the quality and quantity of wool.