A wool suiting fabric that can be machine washed and tumble dried has been recognised as a top textile innovation by a group of industry professionals.

The merino wool fabric, developed by AgResearch Textiles in a project funded by Australian Wool Innovation, for the first time achieves its easy-care properties without using a chemical shrink-resist process.

The Natural Easy Care (NEC) shirting, trousering and suiting fabrics, "answers the call of today's modern suit wearer," according to AgResearch Textile Science and Technology section manager, Dr Peter Ingham.

He adds: "While there are many synthetic suit brands on the market that lay claim to being fully machine washable, 100% wool suits always had a drawback.

"So we have combined the positive laundering care aspects of synthetics with all the inherent comfort qualities of wool and developed a unique product."

Dr Surinder Tandon, the scientist who headed the team that developed the NEC fabric, says the technology is easy and cost-effective to adopt. 

"The specially designed device used to create the yarn can be easily retro-fitted to an existing wool spinning frame and the technology is robust in terms of application and performance.

"NEC fabrics are given an improved durable worsted finish using standard worsted finishing machinery - and there's no cost for shrink-resist chemicals."

AgResearch Textiles won the inaugural Product Innovation and Commercialisation Award at the 86th Textile Institute World Conference in Hong Kong.