Lambswool - like Cashmere has a reputation for being vastly superior to other wools on the market.
Lambswool is a quality fibre, there’s no doubt about it, but it is by no means in a class of its own.
The differences between one quality wool and another may actually seem quite slight but the results and feel can be surprising.
Wool is measured in microns. This is taken from the diameter of the follicle and the smaller the micron count the softer the fibre.
This also usually means the smaller the micron count, the more expensive the wool becomes.
To give you an idea of scale, the hair of a Cashmere goat is around 19 microns whereas human hair is between 40-90 microns.
Which may explain why don’t see many human hair evening coats doing the rounds…
But before we tackle the question of which wool is softer, we need to know the differences between the two.
Lambswool vs Merino
Lambswool is taken from the first shearing of a sheep, usually when it’s around 7 months old.
The fibres are usually no longer than 50mm which makes them very fine and very soft so processing them is straightforward.
However, lambswool can come from any sheep which means the micron count can vary a great deal. It’s rare that you’ll see a lambswool product with the micron printed on the label.
The fact that it’s lambswool and therefore lovely and soft is pretty much the level of specificity that you’re going to get.
Because it’s the first shearing, lambswool is produced in much smaller numbers which makes it more expensive than a lot of other wools on the market.
Exclusivity drives up prices as we well know. This circumvents the traditional sale by weight model.
Merino wool on the other hand comes from specifically Merino sheep and they produce wool throughout their lives.
Although this makes the wool less exclusive, you know that a Merino wool product is made from Merino quality.
Merino wool averages around 21.5 microns although the superfine follicles can measure between 15-18.5 microns making it as soft as cashmere.
This makes Merino wool incredibly versatile and very little of the fleece goes to waste.
Non blended merino drapes and acts as a fabric. It works super well for next to skin base layer garments.
Lambswool is more of a soft knot and has more outwear uses.
While both wools are soft, they are soft in a different way and the properties of the wools make them slightly better at different things.
Uses for Lambswool vs Merino Wool
Generally speaking lambswool is warmer than Merino wool and the soft fibres allow for the spinning of incredibly high quality yarn.
Depending on the knitting and gauge of yearn, you may hear of 2 ply or 3 ply etc. The palliser first clip romney lambswool we use is in 3 ply!
High quality yarn makes for high quality knitwear. It also has a more elastic quality that full grown wool lacks. This allows it to keep its shape better than other wools.
This makes it great for jerseys and other kinds of tops. Lambswool can also be used for hats gloves and scarves.
As it’s a coarse wool this entirely makes sense. It tends to be a little itchier than Merino wool. This is because the ends of the fibre are thicker but at around 27 micron, lambswool is less scratchy than the 30+ micron sheep fleece.
One of the lesser known uses for lambswool is for padding, specifically for dancer’s shoes.
All the benefits of quality wool - including lanolin - as well as that extra elasticity means lambswool is perfect for padding shoes or relieving pressure between toes.
Although not the first use that springs to mind, it serves as a great example of just how versatile wool can be.
Uses for Merino wool on the other hand are as broad as the range of fibres the sheep produces.
Because it has different diameters of fibre it can be woven into different types of garments.
You can get Merino wool socks for pretty much anything...from lightweight dress socks through trekking and cushion sole work socks.
If you are still a fan of the old school coarse sheep wool work socks and aren’t ready to move to modern merino socks you can stop in the middle and get lambswool work socks...
Although Lambswool may be warmer, Merino wool breathes better which allows for more effective core temperature regulation.
It’s used to make a wider variety of knitwear, you can also layer Merino wool so you’re better equipped for variations in weather conditions.
It’s also ideal for workwear, athletic wear and safetywear - specifically the kind of stuff firefighters wear under their Nomex uniforms.
Merino wool is also incredibly hard wearing and possess the same antibacterial properties as lambswool.
Which is softer?
Although lambswool has a reputation for being superfine and ultrafine (yes that’s a real thing) Merino wool can easily give it a run for its money.
Coupled with the fact that lambswool tends to be itchier and less versatile Merino wool is definitely our fibre of choice.
Our recommendations for lambswool garments:
And our favourites for Merino:
If you ever have any questions about which fiber is the best choice for you, our team is super knowledgeable and always happy to help.Visit us in store and let’s find your perfect garment investment!