Virgin wool — straight from the animal

That cashmere scarf may be made of yak hair

The opposite of virgin wool is either reprocessed or reused wool.
  • The opposite of virgin wool is either reprocessed or reused wool.
  • Image by Rick Geary

To Matmail: The boys and I in the sheet metal shop were trying to determine the difference between virgin and regular wool. What gives? — Mike Malone, [email protected]

The royal family had Princess Di inspected before the wedding, but nobody calls in a vet before they shear the sheep. Virgin wool, the top quality, is the stuff that goes straight from the animal to the textile mill to your sweater. The opposite of virgin wool is either reprocessed or reused wool, according to Federal Trade Commission labeling rules. Reprocessed wool is yarn made from the fiber recovered during the cleaning and spinning of virgin wool. The stiff, scratchy reused stuff is made from recycled wool products like carpets and clothing.

The FTC is pretty strict about fabric labeling, but there have been shenanigans from time to time. One recent scandal revealed that your pure cashmere scarf may really be made of the easier-to-harvest yak hair. If you don’t want to be fooled, I’d suggest you follow Rover around and wad up his hair as he sheds it and stuff it in paper bags. When you have plenty, you actually can hire people who make a living spinning dog hair into yarn and knitting things from it. Won’t the guys at the sheet metal shop be impressed when you show up wearing your new pit bull pullover or fox terrier socks or maybe a poodle skirt made from a real poodle.

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