Merino wool is common in high-end, performance athletic wear. Typically meant for use in running, hiking, skiing, mountain climbing, cycling, and in other types of outdoor aerobic exercise, these clothes command a premium over synthetic fabrics.
Several properties contribute to merino's popularity for exercise clothing, compared to wool in general and to other types of fabric:
- Merino is excellent at regulating body temperature, especially when worn against the skin. The wool provides some warmth, without overheating the wearer. It draws moisture (sweat) away from the skin, a phenomenon known as wicking. The fabric is slightly moisture repellent (keratin fibers are hydrophobic at one end and hydrophilic at the other), allowing the user to avoid the feeling of wetness.
- Like cotton, wool absorbs water (up to 1/3 its weight), but, unlike cotton, wool retains warmth when wet, thus helping wearers avoid hypothermia after strenuous workouts (climbs) or weather events.
- Like most wools, merino contains lanolin, which has antibacterial properties.
- Merino is one of the softest types of wool available, due to finer fibers and smaller scales.
- Merino has an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio compared to other wools, in part because the smaller fibers have microscopic cortices of dead air, trapping body heat similar to the way a sleeping bag warms its occupant.
Silk is one of the popular fabrics because of its unique properties. Silk is most luxurious, comfortable and absorbent fabric, (equal to wool). Having the finest touch. These are some of the factors which make the fabric very popular. The fabric is cool in summer and warm in winter.
Characteristics of Silk Fabrics
- Strength: Silk as a fibre, has good tensile strength, which allows it to withstand great pulling pressure. Silk is the strongest natural fibre and has moderate abrasion resistance. The strength of the thrown yarns is mainly due to the continuous length of the fibre. Spun silk yarn though strong is weaker than thrown silk filament yarns.
- Elasticity: Silk fibre is an elastic fibre and may be stretched from 1/7 to 1/5 of its original length before breaking. It tends to return to its original size.
- Resilience: Silk fabrics retain their shape and have moderate resistance to wrinkling.
- Drapability: Silk has a liability and suppleness that, aided by its elasticity and resilience, gives it excellent drapability.
- Heat Conductivity: Silk is a protein fibre and is a non-conductor of heat similar to that of wool. This makes silk suitable for winter apparel.
- Absorbency: Silk fabrics being protein in nature have good absorbency. The absorptive capacity of the silk fabric makes comfortable apparel even for warmer atmosphere. Fabrics made from silk are comfortable in the summer and warm in the winter. Silk fibre can generally absorb about 11% of its weight in moisture, but the range varies from 10 percent to as much as 30 percent. This property is also a major factor in silk’s ability to be printed and dyed easily.
- Cleanliness and Washability: Silk fabric does not attract dirt because of its smooth surface. The dirt, which gathers can be easily removed by washing or dry cleaning. It is often recommended for the silk garments to be dry-cleaned. Silk fabrics should always be washed with a mild soap and strong agitation in washing machine should be avoided. Silk water – spot easily, but subsequent washing or dry cleaning will restore the appearance of the fabric.
- Reaction to Bleaches: Silk, like wool, is deteriorated with chlorine bleaches like sodium hypochlorite. However, mild bleach of hydrogen peroxide or sodium per borate may be used for silk.
- Shrinkage: Silk fabrics are subjected only to normal shrinkage which can be restored by ironing. Crepe effect fabrics shrink considerably in washing, but careful ironing with a moderately hot iron will restore the fabric to its original size.
- Reaction to Alkalis: Silk is not as sensitive as wool to alkalis, but it can be damaged if the concentration and the temperature are high. A mild soap or detergent in lukewarm water is thus advisable.