Kristi here. Let’s take a moment and play a word association game. I’ll give you a word and you describe the first mental image that word brings forth. Ready?
For me, I think of nubby socks and thick sweaters. I think bulky and occasionally itchy. Some of you may be envisioning the white fluffy stuff still clinging to Dolly’s hide. But unless you know a lot more about wool’s potential than I did, you probably didn’t envision anything like this coat from Italy circa 1800.
(All photos in this article are from Wikimedia Commons.)
Yes. That coat is made of wool!
Wool is an extremely versatile fabric. There are well over two dozen types of wool fabric according to fabric.net. Wool can be turned into anything from felt to tweed to broadcloth to jersey.
While normally wool is associated with thick, warm sweaters and heavy outer coats, lighter weaves of wool are actually great in warmer weather as well. I had the opportunity to handle some woolen fabrics similar to those used in the Regency time period. The fine patterns and delicate weaves astonished me.
Wool is for so much more than knitting an afghan or a pair of boot socks.
So the next time you read that your favorite aristocratic heroine donned a wool dress or the dashing hero shrugged into his wool jacket, don’t think of the rough wool their servants wore. Regency men and women didn’t have to give up any elegance or frippery to enjoy the many benefits of wool.
It isn’t a surprise that they used a lot of wool given the abundance of sheep grazing the English countryside.
What is surprising is that something that starts out like this (Recently Shorn Wool):
Can turn into all of these different things:
And then be used to make all of this:
Woolen Tailcoat, circa 1825 Linen Dress With Wool Embroidery