Winter fabric – Types of wool manufactured in India
The wool industry in India has had a long history of being one of the major sectors for the country’s prominent textile and apparel industry since the 1870s. Despite being a relatively smaller sector compared to its cotton or man-made fibre industries, India’s wool-producing industry still plays an important role in country’s economic development and textile exports. The top 10 wool producing states in India accounts for more than 2/3rd of the total wool produced in the country.
Today, India is one of the world’s largest wool producing countries with its woollen products ranging from textile intermediaries to finished textiles, such as carpets, apparel, knitwear, blankets, and so on. In 2014/15, India achieved total wool production of 48 million tonnes, thanks to its 3rd largest sheep population in the world. Out of this, about 85% is carpet grade wool, 5% apparel grade and remaining 10% coarser grade wool for making rough Kambals etc.
Where are wool found in India? Major wool producing and sheep rearing States are Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.
There are many types of wool from different animals, each with its own unique qualities that affect its look and feel.
- Pashmina wool: The highly coveted wool comes from the fine undercoat of a breed of a Himalayan goat. Pashmina goats are reared in the high-altitude areas of Ladakh. Pashmina shawls are sold the world over. While there are many more types of goats found all over the Himalayan region, it is the Changthangi goat of Ladakh which produces the finest fibre or cashmere, also called pashmina wool. And in turn, it is Kashmir, where the best quality Pashmina shawls are found.
- Camel hair: Camel wool has given traditional herders and weavers in Gujarat a new lease on life. A luxurious and warm fine wool with a natural golden-brown colour, camel hair is typically combined with other less expensive types of wool to make it softer and more economical. Camel hair coats first became popular in the United States among polo players in the 1920s. Today, the softer undercoat of camels is still used for coats and other apparel, while its coarser outer hair is used as backing for carpets and upholstery.
- Angora: In India, Angora Rabbit Wool is reared in hilly areas of Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh and in some other states where climatic conditions are suitable for its rearing. Taken from the Angora rabbit (not the Angora goat which produces mohair wool), Angora wool is a soft and fluffy fiber that retains the most heat and has the best moisture-wicking ability of any natural fiber. Since Angora fibers are fragile, Angora is often blended with other fibers to make it stronger. Due to a combination of its valuable attributes and difficult cultivation process, Angora wool products are typically very expensive. Angora goats found in the state of Jammu & Kashmir in India. These are a breed of domesticated goat that produce the lustrous fibre known as mohair.
- Lambswool: Also known as “virgin wool” since it’s taken from a baby sheep’s first shearing when it’s only several months old, lambswool is extremely smooth, soft, hypoallergenic, and is difficult to wrinkle. Since every sheep can only produce lambswool once, it’s a rarer and more expensive wool to
- Cashmere: Cashmere is closely associated with the Kashmir shawl, the word “cashmere” deriving from an anglicisation of Kashmir. One of the most luxurious natural fibers, Cashmere has a high natural crimp, which results in an incredibly soft and lightweight fabric. Cashmere is costly because it’s difficult to obtain (fibers must be combed from cashmere goats instead of sheared), and the cashmere goat produces a very scarce amount of cashmere wool per year. One other downside of cashmere is that it’s not as durable as sheep’s wool.
- Mohair: Sheared from the angora goat, mohair is a lustrous but durable woolthat drapes well and is often woven into a plain weave. Despite being relatively lightweight, it has good insulation to keep you warm. Mohair is often used in dresses, suits, baby clothes, sweaters, and scarves.
What is the best type of wool?
Often considered the most luxurious type of wool, cashmere is a fine fiber that is stronger, lighter, less itchy, and more durable than traditional sheep’s wool. It provides excellent insulation yet can be worn in the spring and you won’t overheat.
Currently, Rajasthan is the largest wool-producing state in India. There are 70 wool processing units in the state, and with over 15 million tonnes of wool production ever year, Rajasthan represents over 30% of the wool production in India. The state has eight different breeds of sheep that are well-known for producing high-quality carpet wool. 85% of wool produced in the state is of carpet grade.
By: Shilpa Kulkarni