Sheep have very thick, warm coats. This is sometimes called wool, or fleece. It can be cut off from the sheep safely and gently—the animals experience no pain, and grow a new coat. Once this is done, the wool can be knitted or woven.
People have been using sheep wool for many, many centuries. Historians believe the practice began in 8000 BCE. The warm wool was the ideal protection against the bitter cold, and was used as a very simple wrap or blanket. Over the years, people found ways to process the material, and also began coloring it and weaving it into different patterns.
Wool is one of the best fibers for making mattresses and rugs, because it is naturally flame-resistant and is quite durable. Wool clothing is also good for humid and damp weather, because it tends to absorb moisture, pulling it away from the skin so people don’t have to endure that uncomfortably, clammy sensation.
Wool is also quite versatile and easy to manipulate to create beautiful designs. It is easy to dye, and once shaped, the fibers are likely to retain their shape. Wool is also made into felt, wherein the fibers are tightly woven together. Felt is often used as an insulator, as well as in craft projects like scrapbooking, sewing, and other arts and crafts.
Wool clothing however needs special care. It should not be stored on hangers, which may cause it to stretch. It cannot be ironed and should, instead, be allowed to dry naturally while laying on a flat surface. Stains should also be quickly brushed off before the discoloration sets in.