Taking advantage of the explosive growth in demand for activewear, and in particular the opportunity for wool as a technical fibre, The Woolmark Company’s latest edition of The Wool Lab Sport lays the foundation for the latest cutting-edge performance apparel.
Showcasing the most technically performing wool yarns, knitted and woven swatches – enriched with innovative finishing treatments – The Wool Lab Sport connects brands and designers with the world’s best manufacturers. As wool continues to gain ground in the sports and activewear market, we are witnessing and expansion from the already-popular base-layer segment.
Seamless garment knitting and flat knitting technologies are areas where wool is enjoying an explosive amount of growth. Traditionally, wool base-layer apparel was cut and sew production with limited possibilities for variety. Now however, thanks to advancements in technical know-how and machinery, seamless and flat knitting technologies are being employed to manufacture not only base-layer garments, but an extensive range of midand outer-layer garments.
Seamless and flat knit apparel are well-suited to high-intensity sports such as running, cycling, climbing, skiing and cross-fit. With the versatility of knit structures and compression panel effects, garments can be engineered with reinforced zones to provide a more technically constructed, functional yet comfortable garment with cutting-edge style. New patterns have been developed that uses body mapping – a design technique that enables different areas of the garment to be constructed to suit the shape, motion and functional requirements of the corresponding part of the body.
“Whilst not a new process, seamless knitting and flat knitting technologies to produce technical, functional garments in Merino wool apparel has been gaining ground during the past few years and we have now reached a point where there are a greater number of options on the market,” explains The Woolmark Company General Manager, Processing Innovation & Education Extension Julie Davies. “We are now enjoying unprecedented interest in this area from brands and designers and thanks to the continued development of new technologies and machinery there are unlimited opportunities for wool.”
Stoll and Shima Seiki are two examples of manufacturers leading the way with machinery capable of seamless and flat knit apparel. The Woolmark Company has worked closely alongside its partners to take advantage of wool’s recent growth in popularity within the performance market, and companies throughout the supply chain are also acknowledging the importance of this new area of growth. New wool-rich yarns are being developed specifically for this type of seamless knitting, with enhanced yarn strength through core or wrap-spun spinning technologies. “This greater engagement by spinners on developing new yarns, and more importantly engaging directly with sports brands, reflects the growth in this area. At the Outdoor Retailer and ISPO trade shows earlier this year, we saw a greater number of wool spinners, knitters and weavers exhibiting than in previous years, suggesting the level of excitement for innovations in wool continues to be on the rise”.