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Wool is a natural clothing fabric that helps keep you seriously warm and toasty during the long, cold winter months. Whether you like wool in your coat, sweater, pants or all three, wool is to winter what booty shorts are to summer. Wool is versatile and comes from numerous sources. Before you invest in your next favorite winter sweater, decide which type of wool is best suited to your climate and style.
Sheep have been around for tens of thousands of years; back in prehistoric times they had thick, short hair and were hunted mainly for meat. As humans domesticated sheep, they bred them to have the type of fur we're familiar with today. Shepherds shear their sheep and spin their fur to make wool. Sheep's wool is warm, waterproof and easily dyed, so you can enjoy being both warm and stylish every winter.
Soft and luxurious, cashmere is a type of wool made from the hair of goats. Unlike some other wools, cashmere doesn't pill after a few washes, which makes it look newer for longer. Pure cashmere is expensive, but the soft wool is sometimes mixed with other fabrics to give the garment more shape; blends can be less expensive. Cashmere and silk blends drape well and should be slightly cheaper than 100-percent cashmere items. Manufacturers sometimes blend cotton with cashmere to give the fabric a similar luxury at a lower price.
Angora is a super-soft wool made from the fur of angora rabbits. Angora makes any item of clothing baby-soft, and is commonly used for baby clothes. Angora sweaters give an extra hint of softness while keeping you snug and warm throughout the winter. Manufacturers of angora wool tend to either trim the rabbits or pluck molted fur, so the fuzzy bunnies can keep their coats, and you can wear your soft sweater with no guilt.
The alpaca is a native of South America, and resembles a mini-llama. These fuzzy critters live in herds in the Andes mountain range. Their wool is soft, strong, fine and warm. Farmers shear alpaca and spin their fur to make slightly crinkled wool. Alpacas are environmentally friendly creatures that leave little global footprint, drinking minimal water and doing little damage to the terrain on which they live.