At henry and grace we take great care in selecting the wool from which our garments are made. This may sound like a simple process given that all our wool comes from a single farm, however the truth is that the process is anything but simple. It takes a number of people, a bit of scientific help and great deal of practice to make these selections. Contrary to many expectations selecting the wool to make henry and grace garments is not only about the fineness or micron of the wool, although that does play a role. There are a number of factors that are taken into consideration before the fineness, all of which are vital to making our henry and grace garments as soft, comfortable, durable and gorgeous as possible. These factors include the strength of the wool, the length of the wool, colour of the wool, and style of the wool, all before micron is assessed.
Much of the pressure of selection falls on the shoulders of the wool classer. It is their job to quickly assess several factors such as strength, colour, and style. It takes a practiced eye and we are very lucky to have one of the best in the business looking over the Gostwyck merino that makes up henry and grace garments. Frank has decades of experience and can see signs of quality in the wool that are imperceptible to the untrained eye, this makes him the perfect person and safest pair of hands for us to put our wool in.
Firstly our wool is selected on strength. By pulling a staple of wool with fingers at either end the classer can test the strength of the wool. Wools that lack strength are labelled as “tender” and removed from consideration for henry and grace. Strong wools will better hold up to the rigours of processing, wearing and washing. Tender wool on the other hand is more likely to break in processing, producing shorter fibres and a weaker yarn, or in wearing leading to pilling.
Secondly our wool is selected on length. The length of wool is important for a number of reasons including durability and most importantly comfort. A longer staple of wool means that when the fibre is spun into yarn it has more connections with other fibres, giving greater strength to the yarn and greater durability to our henry and grace garments. The length of fibres is important in comfort because at times the ends of fibres will protrude from garments. When a short fibre protrudes from the garment it is more likely to retain its shape and irritate the skin. Longer fibres, on the other hand, will bend and give without offering any irritation. For these reasons we only use wool with a fibre length over 60mm
Thirdly the colour of the fleece is examined. Just like Mary’s little lamb we’re looking for fleeces white as snow. This is because the whiter the wool the better it looks when dyed, and the longer the colours will last. For this reason we us only the whitest wools to make sure that your henry and grace garments retain their vibrant colours wash after wash after wash.
Fourthly we look at the style of the fleece. This is where the real art of wool classing comes to the fore. Style relates to the crimp of the wool. Crimp is the alignment of wool fibres into tight waves. It is the crimp that helps give wool its natural elasticity. At henry and grace we make sure that we use tight crimping wool for maximum elasticity. A tightly crimping wool also adds to durability as the elasticity helps to hold all the fibres together
Lastly, our wool is selected based on its micron. The micron of wool is a measure of the diameter of the fibre. The smaller the micron the finer the wool. Only wool that is between 15.0 and 15.9 micron is used in henry and grace garments. The primary benefit of using wool of this fineness is the softness and comfort. The additional benefit is that the benefits of merino are enhanced when compared with broader merino wools. This is because with finer wools there are more air pockets to trap air and produce the insulating effect that allows merino to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter.
In order to measure the micron of our wool we use a laserscan machine during shearing. The laserscan takes a core sample of the fleece. This sample is then cleaned to remove any impurities before the sample is tested. Several hundred tests are run by the laserscan to ensure that an accurate average micron is found. Once the average micron has been found it is added to the information on the fleece so that it can help the classer make his decision.
The result of this rigorous selection process is a fibre and a garment and a feel unlike any other. It is this rigorous selection process that allows us to with confidence that henry and grace is totally comfortable next to skin. The Sheep Co-operative Research Council (Sheep CRC) has developed the wool comfortmeter to test the next to skin comfort of merino garments. Using the wool comfortmeter henry and grace garments have been found to be “world best” according to Sheep CRC CEO.
It is this rigorous selection and testing that allows us to say with conviction that henry and grace is totally comfortable next to skin