Woolen fabric is made from the fleece of sheep.
History of the use of wool
Wool was probably the first animal fiber to be made into cloth. The art of spinning wool into yarn developed about 4000 B.C. and encouraged trade among the nations in the region of the Mediterranean Sea.
The Romans established the first wool factory in England in 50 A.D. in Winchester. In 1797, the British brought 13 Merino sheep to Australia and started the countrys Merino sheep industry.
There are 40 different breeds of sheep in the world producing a rough estimate of 200 types of wool with varying standards. The major wool producers in the world are Australia, Argentina, China and South Africa.
Production of Wool
The processing of wool involves four major steps. First comes shearing, followed by sorting and grading, making yarn and lastly, making fabric.
In most parts of the world, sheep are sheared once a year, in early spring or early summer. The best wool comes from the shoulders and sides of the sheep.
Grading and sorting, where workers remove any stained, damaged or inferior wool from each fleece and sort the rest of the wool according to the quality of the fibers, follow this. Wool fibers are judged not only on the basis of their strength but also by their fineness (diameter), length, crimp (waviness) and colour.
The wool is then scoured with detergents to remove the yolk and such impurities as sand and dust. After the wool dries, it is carded. The carding process involves passing the wool through rollers that have thin wire teeth. The teeth untangle the fibers and arrange them into a flat sheet called a web. The web is then formed into narrow ropes known as silvers.
After carding, the processes used in making yarn vary slightly, depending on the length of the fibers. Carding length fibers are used to make woolen yarn. Combing length fibers and French combing length fibers are made into worsted yarn.
Woolen yarn, which feels soft, has a fuzzy surface and is heavier as compared to worsted wool. While worsted wool is lighter and highly twisted, it is also smoother, and is not as bulky, thus making it easier to carry or transport about.
Making worsted wool requires a greater number of processes, during which the fibers are, arranged parallel to each other. The smoother the hard surface worsted yarns, the smoother the wool it produces, meaning, less fuzziness. Fine worsted wool can be used in the making of athletics attire, because it is not as hot as polyester, and the weave of the fabric allows wool to absorb perspiration, allowing the body to "breathe".
Wool manufacturers knit or weave yarn into a variety of fabrics. Wool may also be dyed at various stages of the manufacturing process and undergo finishing processes to give them the desired look and feel.
The finishing of fabrics made of woolen yarn begins with fulling. This process involves wetting the fabric thoroughly with water and then passing it through the rollers. Fulling makes the fibers interlock and mat together. It shrinks the material and gives it additional strength and thickness. Worsteds go through a process called crabbing in which the fabric passes through boiling water and then cold water. This procedure strengthens the fabric.
Care of your woolen garment
It is better to hand wash your woolen products. Shampoos can be used to wash such garments. Use a good shampoo not one containing "crθme rinse". If shampoo can clean your hair without leaving residues, it can clean your woolen products too. Be careful of what softener you use because softeners may add products to your wool. Some types of softeners may leave a coating on the fiber making it feel softer and smoother, but at the same time causing your wool to lose its absorbency.
Properties of the wool
- It is hard wearing and absorbs moisture.
- It does not burn over a flame but smolders instead.
- It is lightweight and versatile.
- Wool does not wrinkle easily.
- It is resistant to dirt and wear and tear.
Wool is used to make sweaters, dresses, coats, suits, jackets, pants and the lining of boots. It can also be made into blankets and carpets.