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Little-known facts on history of wool

Sheep and wool have been woven into the fabric of human civilisation for more than 10,000 years, beginning in Asia Minor, now Turkey. As people, armies and religions migrated to Northern Africa, Spain, Britain and the Americas, sheep and wool use spread across the world.

lWool is comparatively stronger than steel. Wool fibres resist tearing and can bend back on themselves more than 20,000 times without breaking, compared with cotton, which breaks after 3,200 bends, and silk, which breaks after 1,800 bends.

lWool is fire resistant due to its natural fire-retardant properties. It can resist flame without the chemical treatment involved in fireproofing.

lWool can absorb up to 30pc of its weight in moisture without feeling heavy or damp, compared with cotton fabrics that begin to feel damp after 15pc absorption.

lWool is almost entirely non-allergenic so there are very few people in the world that are allergic to it. Although some people do have a rare natural allergy to lanolin, the oil found in wool, most people's allergy to wool is a reaction to the chemicals involved in the processing of wool into garments and bedding.

lWool fibres trap air because they are crinkled. The trapped air makes wool warm without being heavy. Thin wool fabrics are cool because they carry body moisture away from the body and, as the moisture evaporates, it cools the body.

lWelsh research has shown that people who slept under wool-filled duvets had lower heart rates, suggesting a more restful state of sleep than sleepers using comforters filled with down feathers or synthetic fibres.

lSome low-grade wool is used to clean up hazardous spills because the wool can absorb 10-30 times its weight in oil.

lAstronauts wear wool for comfort in the spacecraft.

lLanolin is used in cosmetics, baby skin products and as an industrial lubricant. It is often applied by sailors to propellors to prevent barnacles sticking on and by baseball players to soften their baseball gloves.

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