- Industrial and Crafts Applications
Industrial application of wool is wide-ranged, from construction to textile and medicine. Natural wool is used as a thermal isolator for outer walls. Even though it was replaced by its synthetic counterparts, today it is valued as a building material with highly natural characteristics. For this purpose, it is pressed in 50-, 75- and 100-millimetre plates. The lanolin oil, which wool contains, is used for making antirheumatic preparations and in cosmetic industry. Additionally, due to the amino acid wool is resistant to viruses and bacteria. In textile industries and crafts, wool has been used as a resistant fibre, making thermally isolating textile that is elastic and durable, and therefore fitting for making both garments and rugs. When coloured, natural wool very slowly, especially if properly dyed with natural pigments. Throughout history it was replaced by synthetic versions of the fibre, whose polluting nature is finally understood today.
- Historical or Cultural Uses
Wool has been used as a material since 4000-3000 BC and imported to Europe from the Near East in the early part of the 4th century BC. In Europe, wool was a dominant textile fibre (alongside linen and leather) until cotton from India and silk from China became widespread, which occurred significantly later. In the Middle Ages and all the way through the Renaissance wool trade was one of Europe’s major economic lines. In the local Serbian context, wool braiding and knitting were a significant realm of female emancipation. Traditionally, the processing of “raw” wool belongs to the female domain and is conducted in the intergenerational gatherings of women named prelo. During the late 1930s and early 1940s it was claimed that women’s rights activists used these events for spreading their ideas. In the aftermath of WWII in the Zlatibor region several female-run communes for producing wool and textile were formed as a means of achieving economic independence for women in rural areas. The best-known and internationally most recognized endeavour of this sort is the establishment of Sirogojno Style, formed and led by Dobrila Vasiljević Smiljanić, producing knitwear based on the locally braided wool and with traditional pastoral motives.
- Environmental Impact
The production of wool is one of the fashion industry’s top five pollutants due to the natural resources needed to raise sheep. Although wool can be composted with other organic waste, a solution for lowering the carbon footprint of its production is searched for. Its venturing into industries where it can replace synthetic materials might be one of the options. For example, producing natural wool for construction and building industries would use less than 14% of energy needed to produce its synthetic counterpart.
- Innovative or Emerging Applications
From the aspect of development of microbial and mycelium-based materials as a plastic and packaging substitute, wool is seen as viable feedstock for the process. Additionally, the trend of making “net-zero carbon” clothing is emerging, and it does involve wool, which in combination with other biomaterials can also be applied in the furniture industry.