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Easy care wool shirts from AgResearch technology

Easy care wool shirts developed from AgResearch technology

28 March 2007

In a world first, AgResearch scientists have developed a lightweight, pure wool machine washable shirting fabric that is made shrink resistant without the use of any chemicals and also has high natural stretch and a lively drape.

The Natural Easy Care (NEC) fabric was developed by researchers from AgResearch’s Textiles Group, based at Lincoln near Christchurch, for client Australian Wool Innovations (AWI).

Traditionally, wool has not been used for business shirting fabric because it has to be lightweight. To enable weaving, two single yarns are plied together but they become too thick to use for garments such as shirts.

The NEC fabric utilises a single worsted yarn which is created by specially designed rollers that are easily retro-fitted to an existing spinning frame. The grooved rollers split the wool strand into micro-yarns which are made up of well interlocked fibres. The resulting single yarn has improved surface abrasion resistance, to withstand the stresses and strains imposed during weaving, and can be woven into a light-weight fabric.

AgResearch Senior Scientist Dr Surinder Tandon says the new wool fabric has a number of beneficial qualities.

“It breathes better than other shirting fabrics and does not rely on any chemical treatments for shrink-proofing. This means that there are significant environmental benefits, which we believe will also be an advantage for retailers eager to serve the needs of discerning, environmentally aware consumers.”

Dr Tandon has travelled to China, Korea, Japan and Mexico over the last 21 months advising manufacturers on retro-fitting their spinning frames with the technology. “It is a surprisingly easy conversion,” he says.

It is predicted that over the next few years, wool fabric could capture up to 2 per cent of the Chinese business shirt market.

Dr Tandon says his team of researchers at AgResearch have recently also developed wool trousering and suiting fabrics using the NEC fabric technology. Several companies have started production trials using the fabric.

AWI has also introduced the fabric to Europe where it has caught the attention of top European designers including well-known Italian designer and manufacturer Nino Cerutti. Sydney-based designer Jayson Brunsdon has also shown some interest in the lightweight shirting fabric.


ENDS

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