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Wool Terminology Explainer: Know Your Shetland From Your Merino

6 min read

Wool Terminology Explainer: Know Your Shetland From Your Merino

One of nature’s finest materials. Used by our ancestors for centuries to protect against the elements. Ethical wool is as relevant today in the sustainable fashion space as it has ever been, with eco fashion brands like TWOTHIRDS still crafting stunning eco-friendly wool jackets, sustainable wool long coats, and ethical wool knits from mulesing-free versions of this incredible material.

What starts off as a relatively simple material soon becomes more complicated when it is turned into sustainable yarns and then eco-friendly fabrics, each of which come with their own complex terminology. With this in mind, we thought we would debunk all the jargon that comes attached to this breathable and yet cosy slow fashion material.

Mulesing-Free Wool

Already mentioned earlier in this piece, the fact that all the ethical wool we use is classified as mulesing-free is incredibly important to us. According to the RSPCA the process of mulesing is described like this: 

“...a painful procedure that involves cutting crescent-shaped flaps of skin from around a lamb's breech and tail using sharp shears… The resulting wound, when healed, creates an area of bare, stretched scar tissue.”

Obviously, as a sustainable clothing brand that prides itself on caring for animals and the environment, we don’t want to encourage this cruel practice. This means that all the wool we source to make our ethical wool sweaters, sustainable wool jackets, and eco wool knits is mulesing-free, no matter if it is Merino wool or Shetland wool. We are given this caste iron guarantee from our yarn and fabric suppliers, whose reputation as members of the sustainable fashion community depends on the stringent eco standards they hold their own raw material suppliers to. With wool being the only animal-derived material we use here at TWOTHIRDS, it is usually safe to assume that any sustainable jacket, eco-friendly knit or ethical coat that isn’t made from wool, will be vegan-friendly.

The only wool we cannot guarantee to be mulesing-free is the recycled wool we use to create sustainable wool knits and eco-friendly wool coats, because tracing this wool’s origins back through multiple supply chain processes would be almost impossible.

Virgin Wool Or Recycled Wool

Virgin wool is newly sourced wool – a raw material if you will – whereas recycled wool is by definition post-consumer waste, repurposed to create one of our sought-after ethical knits or sustainable sweaters. Because wool is such a resilient slow fashion material, it is becoming harder and harder to tell the difference between a sustainable knit made of virgin wool and an eco-friendly cardigan made of recycled wool, although most of our finest workwear wool long coats are made of virgin wool, to ensure the highest quality finish, touch and feel.

Merino Wool

This variety of wool takes its name from the breed of sheep that produces it, the Merino. Known for producing incredibly soft wool, Merino sheep first originated in Spain but are now reared all across the globe. Our design team loves using Merino wool to create a sustainable jacket or ethical jumper thanks to the material’s myriad positive properties. Not only ultra soft, it also possesses antibacterial properties, as well as being moisture-wicking, lightweight and easy to care for. If you won’t have a Merino wool sweater or Merino wool knit in your sustainable wardrobe, perhaps now’s the time to invest in these slow fashion pieces – designed to last a lifetime.

Shetland Wool

The Shetland Islands are an inhospitable place at the best of times, marooned as they are in the furthest reaches of the North Sea, cut adrift from Scotland's northern tip. It is there that Shetland sheep have developed their coats, evolving in such a way as to provide year-round warmth, comfort, and above all, ruggedness. All these qualities come to bear in the sustainable coats and sustainable jackets we craft from Shetland wool – pieces of eco-friendly outerwear able to protect ocean lovers from piercing wind, rain and snow.


Quite literally wool shorn from lambs, lambswool is typically the first fleece that’s ever shorn from a particular sheep. This variety of wool is even softer than Merino wool, making it irresistible to use as part of a sustainable knit or eco-friendly sweater design. Of course, thanks to the fact that all our wool is mulesing-free, no lambs suffer in any way during the shearing process. 

For those who wish to add a lambswool sustainable knit to their slow fashion collection, our Cagraray eco knit is the perfect option, made as it is from deadstock lambswool. It’s a sustainable knit for men, but there’s nothing stopping women buying one as well.

Undyed Wool

There is a fixation with raw material extraction being the be-all and end-all of sustainable fashion, but the truth is that artificial dyes and dyeing processes are sometimes more to blame for fashion industry pollution, especially where rivers and oceans are concerned. That’s why we’re in love with our new range of sustainable knits, many of which come in the colours that nature intended, rejecting the need for dyes of any kind. Some of the undyed sustainable knits to look out for include the Banten, the Aceh and the Kalinmantan, some which feature in our special Neutrals collection.

Deadstock Wool Yarn

Wool waste makes us sad, after all, a sheep took the time and effort to grow it, so the least we can do is ensure that it’s used for as long as possible. That’s why we’re so proud of our Limited Edition Deadstock collections, all of which make use of yarn and fabric left behind by other brands as well as using up every last thread of our own in-house deadstock. Deadstock wool yarn is no different to any other deadstock material, in that we always wish to ensure that none of it goes to waste, especially when it is of the highest quality and sourced from factories and warehouses based a matter of kilometres from our Barcelona design studio. This is the essence of what the term “deadstock” is all about: taking pre-existing fabrics and yarns; putting them to use instead of jettisoning them into landfill or an incinerator.

One thing that slow fashion consumers should be aware of is the difference between deadstock clothing and deadstock fabric/yarn, with the former often relating to fast fashion brands which have overstocked certain products that pack out carbon-intensive warehouse space. With our PRE-ORDER system we try to reduce overproduction in the first place, so that there’s never a need to repurpose deadstock clothing.

Wool Jacket GSM

GSM stands for “grams per square metre” and gives general guidance to people who want to buy a sustainable jacket or sustainable long coat about how heavy a piece of eco clothing will be. This in turn will directly relate to how warm or durable a sustainable garment is, things which are obviously important when you’re searching for that perfect sustainable winter coat or eco-friendly bomber jacket. On most of the product descriptions that accompany our sustainable coats or eco-friendly jackets we will provide the garment’s GSM rating, but if you’re still in doubt about how this relates to its usability, you should feel free to contact our friendly customer service team.