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Design & Style

What Is Lambswool? Learn the Difference Between Lambswool and Merino Wool

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 4 min read

Lambswool is quite literally wool from lambs. The young sheep provide soft, fine wool that makes for great clothing and home items. While sheep’s wool is notorious for its potential itchiness, lambswool is generally softer and less likely to cause skin irritation. Lambswool is a multi-purpose natural fiber that is a favorite among knitters and spinners.

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What Is Lambswool?

Lambswool is a type of wool shorn from a sheep aged approximately seven months or younger. The wool generally comes from the lamb’s first shearing, and each wool staple is usually about 50mm long.

The wool is characterized by its fineness and softness, and it will become thicker and coarser as the animal ages, at which point it will be considered sheep’s wool. The undercoat contains the softest of the hair shorn from the lamb. Lambswool can be used in a variety of methods, from upholstery and carpets to clothing and accessories.

What Sheep Breeds Produce the Best Lambswool?

Lambswool can be produced from a variety of sheep breeds—from Shetland, which comes from the shetland isles off the coast of Scotland to Gotland, which is one of the oldest sheep breeds native to Sweden.

Lambswool comes from sheep at their first shearing. While all lambswool is fine and soft, the degree of its softness varies slightly based on the breed.

What Are the Characteristics of Lambswool?

Since lambswool comes from young sheep, it is generally much softer and finer than sheep’s wool. While the characteristics can depend slightly on the breed of sheep from which the wool comes, there are some general characteristics of lambswool.

  • Soft. Lambswool is the softest wool that will ever come from the sheep since it comes from the sheep’s first shearing. It’s extremely downy and soft to the touch.
  • Moisture-wicking. All wool is naturally water repellent and moisture-wicking. This is because wool can absorb one-third of its weight without becoming wet, and its wicking properties come from the outer layer of the wool fiber, which somewhat resembles shingles on a roof with the strands butting up against each other.
  • Hypoallergenic. Lambswool is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, therefore it is good for people who have allergies.
  • Breathable. Like all wool, lambswool is breathable, while also being a natural insulator. Because of wool’s natural crimp, the fibers don’t lay flat on each other, creating small air pockets that can trap and release heat, allowing the wool to maintain the wearer’s body temperature.
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4 Uses for Lambswool

Lambswool is very popular in clothing and knitwear, as wool garments offer breathable and moisture-wicking properties, and it can also be used for home items, like carpets and bedding.

  1. Knitwear. A lambswool sweater offers warmth and breathability, and whether it's a wool sweater or cardigans, lambswool is a soft material that is generally less itchy than standard sheep’s wool. It’s also a popular fiber for knitters, thanks to its soft nature and elasticity.
  2. Accessories. Lambswool is a great textile for hats, scarves, and mittens, as the fiber offers warmth and breathability. It is also a popular material in the world of ballet: padding for ballet dancers’ pointe shoes is often made from lambswool, as it is soft and moisture-wicking.
  3. Bedding. Since lambswool is hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, it is a great natural fiber for bedding, blankets, and linens. Lambswool is also breathable and a natural insulator so it can regulate body temperature.
  4. Carpets and upholstery. While most lambswool is extremely soft and preferable for clothing items, it is also very strong and great for home items like carpets and upholstery, as the material wears well and maintains its structure.

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What Is the Difference Between Lambswool and Merino Wool?

Lambswool comes from young sheep of many breeds, while merino wool comes from merino sheep at any age.

  • Merino wool has a much smaller diameter, around 20 microns, than lambswool, making it even softer and finer.
  • Superfine merino can have a diameter down to 17 microns.
  • Merino wool also has a long staple, up to four and a half inches, which gives it a beautiful drape and is therefore very popular in clothing.

Fabric Care Guide: How to Care for Lambswool

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Lambswool should always be hand washed. Since the wool fibers have many more scales—cuticle cells that protect the outer layer of the fiber—machine washing can destroy the textile’s softness. Hand washing will help prevent pilling and keep your lambswool items in good shape.

To hand-wash your items, follow this step-by-step guide.

  1. Soak the item in a basin of warm water and wool wash. Try not to use regular laundry detergent; instead, use a wash specially formulated for wool items.
  2. Squeeze the soap through the garment, being careful not to wring or stretch the item.
  3. Rinse the item, and remove excess water, again being careful not to wring or stretch.
  4. Reshape the item and lay flat to dry.

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