ONE of wool's big problems - itchy wool - is about to be busted, according to researchers four-years into a study of the problem.
And the weapon, which is about to be deployed or promoted to processors, is the Wool ComfortMeter: a simple table-top device that can detect and measure pesky fibres in a fabric, which cause itch.
The ComfortMeter's development, funded partly by Australian Wool Innovation, has been a key project of the Sheep Co-operative Research Centre and has involved CSIRO, Deakin University and commercial knitting and weaving companies.
Program leader David Tester, formerly of CSIRO and Macquarie Textiles said the ComfortMeter had been developed to a level where it could detect the severity or extent of 'prickle' equal to that of consumer responses, mainly from women, for garments when worn in different conditions and for various activities.
Mr Tester said the ComfortMeter would have two major uses.
It would allow manufacturers of knitwear or next-to-skin wool apparel to develop fabrics free of prickle or itch.
These refinements could be achieved with a change to raw wool specifications, construction and treatment of the yarn, and construction of the fabric.
Mr Tester said the second major use was that for the first time, knitwear manufacturers would be able to measure and guarantee the suitably of a next-to-skin garment.
NSW producer of superfine and ultrafine wool Philip Attard who markets the Gostwyck Merino label said the development of the ComfortMeter was a real breakthrough for wool.
Mr Attard quoted recent Woolmark consumer surveys where 41 per cent of respondents believe all wool was itchy.
"That's the same response Woolmark was getting two decades ago," he said.
Mr Attard saw the ability to measure a garment's suitability for being worn next to skin, as filling one of five customer charters for the marketing of wool, as well as machine washability, thermal qualities. origin of fibre and low pilling.
Mr Tester said was confident of an industry uptake for the ComfortMeter, which was expected to cost between $30,000 and $40,000.
According to Mr Tester the technicians at Mauritius Ceil millwere so convinced about the value of the ComfortMeter they didn't want to part with the prototype.