Wovember Words: Use of the term ‘wool’

Today for WOVEMBER WORDS we contemplate some sections of the EU guidelines surrounding use of the word ‘wool’ for the purposes of textile labeling. These guidelines were drawn up at the European Parliament and they relate to the labelling and marking of the fibre composition of textile products. If you have read and signed the WOVEMBER petition, you will know that our position on WOOL is slightly different from that laid out in the EU guidelines. We believe the word WOOL should refer to sheep’s wool only, and that there should be a clarification to distinguish between different animal fibres (angora, alpaca, cashmere, and so on) which also possess their own unique properties, qualities and cachet. Every year we are challenged by readers who feel that our woolly celebrations should extend to all fibre-bearing beasts and every year we say the same thing: WOOL is different from HAIR, and using WOOL as a catch-all term for ALL animal fibres contributes to confusion surrounding the composition of textiles. We also do not think it benefits the rich traditions and histories surrounding particular animals – goats, rabbits, musk-ox etc. – to lump them all in together. Part of what makes these textiles special is their distinctness and particularity. Surely it benefits nobody to lump them all in together? We at WOVEMBER feel that confusing guidelines are partly responsible for the mis-labeling of non-woollen goods as being woollen. Put simply, if all animal fibres can be referred to as WOOL then what is to stop proportions of synthetic fibres creeping into that definition? One area of focus for WOVEMBER, moving forward, could involve using our petition to make some changes to the guidelines as set out by the EU. What do you think? Suggestions for reworded legislation very gratefully recieved!!!

Use of the term ‘wool’
(Article 8 and Annex III of the EU Regulation)
12. The fibre name ‘wool’ can be used to describe either fibre obtained from sheep’s or lambs’ fleeces or a mixture of such fibres and certain fine animal hairs (viz alpaca, llama, camel, cashmere, mohair, angora, vicuna, yak, guanaco, beaver, otter). The indication ‘100 % wool’ may describe a mixture of, say, fibre from sheep’s or lambs’
fleeces and cashmere, though if the cashmere accounted for the greater percentage by weight of the product, it would make sense for the higher quality and more expensive cashmere fibre to be named separately, eg ’60 % cashmere, 40 % wool’ and ‘100 % wool’ are equally permissible.

Mixtures containing fine animal hairs
17. Products containing a mixture of fibres from sheep’s or lambs’ fleeces and certain
fine animal hairs (viz alpaca, llama, camel, cashmere, mohair, angora, vicuna, yak,
guanaco, beaver, otter) may either be described as ‘wool’ or the exact nature of such
fine animal hairs may be specified.

Sheep Textiles Label, available from Leafcutter Designs here

Sheep Textiles Label, available from Leafcutter Designs here

These Guidelines are offered by the EU to provide guidance to business on the EU. They do not carry any legal authority and should be read in conjunction with the legislation itself. You can download the entire document here.

This entry was posted by Felicity Ford.

4 thoughts on “Wovember Words: Use of the term ‘wool’

  1. Very interesting post. My friend and I were discussing this very topic only a few days ago.
    Do you think there could either be a replacement of the word “wool” that could be used to encompass all hair and wool for all animals? Instead of using “wool”, which can solely be used to describe sheep’s wool.
    It’s an interesting discussion.

  2. The way the EU describes wool is of course incorrect. I think that instead of using the word wool…they should use “animal protein fiber” and then go on to differentiate between the different fibers. Such as “wool, lambs wool” from sheep or lambs only…”Angora” from rabbits.only…”Cashmere” undercoat from goats only, and so on.

    Just to give you a perspective that I feel the EU is coming from perhaps…I used to work in the trucking industry, and one of my duties was classifying freight. The term wool is used to classify all animal fiber….as the term plastic is used to classify all man made substances…Classifying freight determined the cost of shipping and whether or not it was hazardous. And I think the EU…is using general classification to determine labeling as well. But when one wears the item labeled, the wearer needs to know what qualities they are purchasing, and this general approach does little to inform the purchaser.

  3. Certainly wool from sheep and lambs should be labelled differently than that from other animals. Not least because I have at least one friend who is allergic to wool, but not to alpaca. I expect there are other ranges of allergies too, so the exact composition of animal fibres should be detailed from a point of view of health quite apart from anything else!

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