How Wool is Made

Wool is a fabric made from the follicles of sheep. Hair from llamas and goats can also be made into wool. It is different from fur and hair because it is crimped and the strands overlap into one another like the tiles on a roof. It can be used to make clothes.

To make wool, you have to shear the sheep first. This is often done by hand. There are also computer-controlled machines that can clip the fleece through the use of robot-like “arms.” An experienced shearer can shear 200 sheep in one day. He can also keep the fleece in one piece. Keeping the fleece in one piece while shearing is impotant to produce good wool.

While the fleece is in one piece, it is then broken up according to quality. During this process, the fleece at the shoulders and the sides of the sheep are separated to be used for clothing. These parts usually contain the highest quality and therefore produce high-quality wool. The fleece collected from the lower legs of the sheep is considered of lesser quality. It is used to manufacture rugs.

When the fleece is broken down and properly segregated, it is called “raw” or “grease” wool. It still contains all the dirt, sweat, and contaminants that make the wool heavy. To get rid of such contaminants, it is bathed in soap, water, and soda ash. This is called an alkaline bath. This process produces lanolin, which is saved and used as an ingredient in a lot of household products.

Water is squeezed out of the wool. Oil is applied to make it more manageable. The fibers are straightened and blended into slivers under metal-teethed machines. This is called carding. It removes the last dirt in the wool. The wool is then gilled and combed to take out the shorter fibers and make the longer ones parallel to each other. The shorter fibers are used to make worsted yarn. The other process in the carding stage is called drawing. It means compacting and thinning of the sleeker slivers.

After the wool is carded, it is ready for spinning. Fibers are formed together to make yarn strands. The yarn is then spun around cones or bobbins.

Now that the yarn is ready, it will be made into fabric. It can be woven through plain weaving or twilling. Elaborate and smoother patterns are usually achieved through twilling. Twilled wool costs higher than plainly woven wool.

The wool undergoes a series of strengthening and beautification processes. The fabric is submerged into water to make the slivers lock together and set the lock. Dyeing can also be done. Decating is also needed to prevent the material from shrinking.