Introduction to Merino Wool
Although merino wool is well known and loved within Australia and New Zealand, the benefits of this unique fibre are only just starting to take off internationally, as more and more high-end designers are adding it to their clothing lines. Merino is one of the world’s oldest breeds of sheep which thrives in cooler, harsher climates. As a result of these conditions, the merino sheep’s wool has a very fine micron (diameter of the fibre) which keeps the lucky sheep extra toasty and warm in wild weather, and during the cooler winter months. Considering its extremely fine micron, merino wool is a resilient fibre – an excellent alternative to cashmere as it is super soft while still being machine washable!
Merino wool is used to create beautiful jersey fabrics, in a variety of weights. Lighter weight merino jersey is ideal for undergarments and layering pieces, while heavyweight merino fabrics such as fleece, terry, sweatshirting and ponte are ideal for cooler weather, or for creating fashion pieces with more structure such as boxy jumpers or panelled dresses. Merino wool often has the stereotype of only being good for cold weather, however thanks to its unique thermal properties it is actually ideal for all seasons. Merino wool fibres have a natural crimp, which traps air and acts as a fantastic insulator, while its moisture-wicking properties draw sweat away from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable in summer. Merino is a great natural alternative to classic sportswear fabrics, that tend to get sweaty and trap odour.
Merino is beautifully soft, with a luxurious drape and natural elasticity (thanks again to the natural crimp of its fibres). Because merino is so soft, it can be worn next to the skin, even by many of those who do not normally tolerate wool. In New Zealand, where we have been relying on the benefits of merino for a long time, merino jersey is standard for babies, who are dressed in merino wool garments from birth.
Benefits of Merino
- Super soft against the skin
- Cool in summer, warm in winter
- Moisture wicking
- Machine washable
- A resilient fibre with a natural elasticity
- Odour resistant
- Quick drying
- Naturally static resistant
Sewing with Merino Wool Jersey
Sewing merino is easy, even for a beginner with little experience. As opposed to cotton knits and synthetic knits, merino is stable and holds its shape really well making it a great option for first-timers. The natural elasticity and ease of the merino fibre allows for beautifully smooth and well-finished seams and hems. Because knitted fabrics move and stretch with our bodies, we need to treat them quite differently to woven fabrics and use slightly different sewing techniques and equipment.
Before you start:
- Make sure you pre-wash you merino fabric. As is standard with all natural fibre fabrics, merino wool jersey may incur some shrinkage upon first wash.
Tips and tricks for sewing merino jersey:
- Use ballpoint pins and a ballpoint machine needle to avoid damaging knit fabric while cutting and sewing.
- Always reserve a few scraps to test your needle and machine settings. Test stitches with the stretch of the fabric and against it. Both directions of the fabric will behave differently and may require slightly different settings.
- Do not stretch your fabric as you sew, as this may cause your sewing to pucker. Make sure you support the weight of your project while you sew. Letting it fall to the ground may cause your fabric to stretch out and put stress on your sewing machine, causing an uneven stitch.
- If you do not have access to an overlocker or serger, use a stretch stitch on your seams, and finish your hems with a zigzag stitch. Using a standard stitch on merino jersey will cause your seams to pop, as soon as you place any stress on them.
Merino sewing projects for beginners:
There are loads of great patterns out there, which are ideal for merino/jersey knit first timers. Absolute beginners could start with a simple DIY project, such as our easy merino baby blanket while those with a little experience could try Papercut Pattern’s Kyoto Sweater or Grainline Studio’s Driftless Cardigan.
Caring for your Merino Garments
One of the great things about merino wool jersey is that it can be machine washed! Although hand washing is always preferable when possible, as it places less stress on the garment, merino can generally be washed on a gentle cycle – as long as you follow a few simple rules*.
- Use a gentle, wool-specific soap. Merino jersey requires an extremely gentle washing agent, that will help prevent colour bleeding and damage to its fine fibres. We suggest a natural detergent such as Ecostore wool wash (available in New Zealand & Australia), or Soap Nuts (available in the U.S.A.)
- Use your most delicate cycle to wash your merino jersey. For those with a top loader, using a delicates bag will make sure that your merino doesn’t get stretched around the agitator, which may cause damage.
- Do not use fabric softener as it will coat the merino fibres, reducing their natural ability to breathe and regulate your temperature.
- Dry your merino flat, and in the shade. This will help your garment maintain its shape and avoid fading. In general, merino jersey garments do not require ironing as their natural drape and elasticity means they rarely show creasing. However, if you do wish to iron your merino, make sure it is on a cool, wool specific setting.
*Advice is given in relation to our own range of premium merino jersey fabrics. For store-bought items please refer to their own care labels.
Our Merino Jersey Range
If you are looking to try your hand at sewing your own merino garments at home, then The Fabric Store offers one of the most extensive ranges available to the general public. Our merino fabrics can be purchased in-store at one of our 8 retail stores (located in New Zealand, Australia and Los Angeles) as well as online via our online fabric store. We hold an incredible range of premium merino basics in a range of weights and beautiful on-trend colours, as well as a seasonal (and constantly changing) selection of special weaves, sweatshirtings/terry knits, and activewear blends. As well as solid colors, we also stock a number of super cool striped merinos, marles and jacquards – although these pieces tend to sell out quickly!
Sustainably Sourced Merino Fabrics
Here at The Fabric Store, we run our business with thought and concern for the environment. Our Merino is sourced from a New Zealand based company who are Bluesign® Systems Partners and provide a MAPP guarantee on our full range. The MAPP guarantee ensures environmental, economic sustainability & animal welfare. MAPP merino is produced in ‘free range’ farming systems which are animal and environmentally friendly, and produce superb quality merino. A strict no mulesing policy is followed, and the well-being of the sheep is a high priority. Strict guidelines are followed throughout the entire manufacturing process to ensure environmental responsibility and the use of sustainable processes.
Shop our range of ethically produced merino fabrics online >
Made in Merino
Images above from instagram @wearethefabricstore
Clockwise from Top Left: Sonia in an Ochre Merino turtleneck, Reanna Louise in a Classic Navy Merino t-shirt dress, Steph in a Striped Merino Jersey dress, Reanna Louise in a Bright Teal Merino turtleneck.