Armidale is at the forefront of new developments to better measure the comfort levels of wool with trials being run by the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) comparing ratings from a Wool ComfortMeter tool against subjective assessments by wearers.
The Wool ComfortMeter, a device which tests the comfort levels of woollen garments, is on the cusp of becoming a commercial reality with accuracy testing underway in Armidale.
A group of around 40 Armidale women are participating in specialised wearer trials being held at Curves gym to test the accuracy of the technology.
The women are participating in newly designed sleeve trials, which see them test out two different sleeves at a time, based off research showing that the forearm is most sensitive part of the body to wool comfort.
The volunteers each participate in twelve gym sessions, wearing the sleeves while working through standard circuit exercises.
Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said the use of individual sleeves instead of more generalised wearer trials meant that the research goes beyond any that has been conducted before.
"We're looking at a broader range of fabrics because it's a simpler and more robust test and we can compare two fabrics at the same time," he said.
"A third component which is very important is that we're asking people to rank sleeves in term of their willingness to pay for their comfort."
The ComfortMeter has been developed by the Sheep CRC in conjunction with the CSIRO, Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), the Australian Wool Testing Authority (AWTA), Deakin University and the Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA) and will pick up any fibres sticking up within a garment which are likely to cause discomfort.
Mr Rowe said Meat Standards Australia's success was proof that consumers appreciated quantifiable measures of quality.
"We expect to find a similar thing here, that people are willing to pay for a quality that is measurable and predictable," he said.
"The comfort of wool is just so, so important if people are going to wear wool next to the skin.
" Wool's got all these really great properties, but people won't appreciate them if the thing isn't comfortable."
The ComfortMeter is currently being tested at the world’s biggest knitwear company, the Crystal Group, in its Chinese mills, Mr Rowe said.
"There's no reason to think it will be very long before it's being used within the supply chain," he said.