New knitwear yarns that give garments the look and feel of boiled wool yet are fully machine washable have attracted a “boiling hot” reception from buyers and merchandisers according to their inventor.

The ‘Merino Retract’ knitwear technology from Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) was launched at last month’s SpinExpo trade show in New York and is due to be presented to Asian retailers and brands in September.

“Boiled wool has been available for many years now and is well known for its unique texture and casual aesthetic,” explains Jimmy Jackson, AWI general manager of product development and commercialisation. “But unfortunately, it has also been well known for its stiffness, which tends to restrict it to certain garment styles and it’s difficult if not impossible to make it machine washable.

“However, ‘Merino Retract’ is based on the use of specially engineered wool yarns, which can be simply knitted and the boiled wool appearance and texture is then developed during the subsequent garment finishing process.

“The resulting fabric and garment has the look of ‘boiled’ wool but with excellent stretch recovery properties and is also fully machine washable. In addition the styles of garments which can be produced are not as limited.”

The yarns address the global trend towards a more informal, casual style of dressing where consumers want garments that are versatile enough to be worn in different situations and environments.

AWI’s Merino Casual autumn/winter 2011/12 collection will next appear at the SpinExpo trade event in Shanghai in early September, followed by workshops around the world to apparel brands and retailers’ buying and design teams.