In South Tyrol wool is used to produce a diversity of clothing, from felt slippers through knitted heavy cardigans to loden coats.
Sheep have been farmed in the Alps for thousands of years. Some 45,000 sheep are herded in South Tyrol. The most widespread breeds are the Tyrolean mountain sheep and the closely related blackish-brown mountain sheep. In certain Dolomite valleys the white Funes/Villnöss sheep is also encountered. Its typical features include black markings around its eyes and ears, for which it is also often known as the Brillenschaf or "bespectacled sheep".
High quality fleece comprising the protective covering of the sheep is obtained by shearing live animals. The fleece is then cleaned to remove the "wool grease", the fatty substance which causes water to drip off the wool and which is purified to produce lanolin. The wool is then carded (combed) before being spun into yarn, after which it is knitted or woven into cloth.
Wool hairs are treated with warm water and soap, then mechanical action is applied to cause the interlocking, or matting of fibres, a process called felting to produce a bonded fabric. Popular South Tyrolean felt products include warm winter slippers called "Patschen" or "Toppar".
Loden, a Tyrolean cloth originally woven by peasants living in Loderers in the 16th century comes from the coarse, oily wool of mountain sheep and is thick, soft and waterproof. Loden cloth is usually dyed bluish green and used to make jackets, heavy waterproof overcoats and other items of clothing.
Knitwear: The "Sarner Jangger" from Valle Sarentino/Sarntal is a tightly-knitted, very warm cardigan and is often worn as part of traditional costume. Typical characteristics are the brightly-coloured seam and antler-horn buttons.