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The first step is shearing; the process of removing the woolen fleece from sheep, normally once a year. After the wool has been shorn, it is sent to a mill to be sorted.
The fleeces are graded by the fiber’s fineness, length and color. This process is vital, as each wool product is made from a different type of fiber, making each sheep breed an essential piece of the industry.
Scouring, Blending and Dyeing: The next step is to wash or scour to remove grease and impurities such as dirt, dust or sand. After the scouring process its common to end up with only half the weight of wool.
The wool is then disentangled using a roller with metal teeth to create a soft, fluffy mass of fibers. At this point, the wool is ready to be dyed.
Carding passes the clean and dry wool through wire rollers to straighten the fibers, producing soft rolls of wool called rovings, which can be spun into yarn.
Spinning the rovings into yarn is the next step. Spools of roving enter a spinning frame where the ends of the rovings are drawn through small rollers to extend the fibers. Spinning machines then twist the rovings into various yarns. In the 19th century, fast and efficient spinning machines were invented, transforming the wool industry.
Warping, Weaving and Finishing: Warping is one of the most intricate of all textile processes, with all the threads for the warp piece of a piece of cloth placed in the correct order and color sequence, before weaving. Weaving turns the yarn into cloth; made up of two sets of threads. The warp thread runs vertically, and the weft threads are woven under and over the warp.
Finally, the wool can be finished by washing, drying, fulling, napping and pressing.
Following is an overview of wool's amazing characteristics which are being rediscovered by those searching for comfort, longevity and sustainability.
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Natural fibers have been used by civilizations for thousands of years. Wool textiles date back to the second millennium BC, and are still revered today as a premium fiber for clothing, bedding, and many other uses due to its strength, breathability, comfort, odor resistance, easy care and sustainability.
Today, wool is a global industry, with Australia, Argentina, the United States, and New Zealand serving as the major suppliers of raw wool. While the United States is the largest consumer of wool fabric, Australia is the leading supplier.
What for centuries was a small home-based craft has grown into a major industry. The annual global output is now estimated at 4 billion pounds. Though cotton is the number one plant source used for fabrics and the number one fiber overall, the number one source for animal fiber is still wool.
Wool helps to protect your body by helping regulate temperature and moisture levels, helping to keep you warm. Wool will absorb moisture, which helps draw any perspiration away from the body. Combined with wool’s fiber crimps which create tiny air pockets help insulate you in colder temperatures.
Wool helps to protect your body by helping regulate temperature and moisture levels, helping to keep you cool. Perspiring is our body’s natural way of regulating temperature, and wool allows for this moisture to be released from the body to promote the cooling effect of evaporation while keeping a layer of dry air next to the skin.
Recent scientific studies show that wool bedding and sleepwear promote a better night’s sleep through its ability to keep us dry and comfortable. Wool fiber is twice as effective as cotton and 10 times more effective than polyester at moving moisture vapor through fabric. By regulating body temperature far better than any other fiber, wool helps keep you in the thermal comfort zone during sleep.
For centuries, fishermen chose to wear heavy-knitted sweaters when they headed out to sea. Wool is hygroscopic and can absorb up to a third of its own weight in moisture without feeling wet. Only when saturated with 30% of its own weight will it feel wet to the touch.
Naturally flame resistant, wool is harder to ignite than any other textile such as nylon, polyester, and cotton. The temperature needs to reach a searing 570°C before wool will ignite. With cotton, it’s less than half that. If wool does catch a fire, it smolders and self-extinguishes and crucially does not melt.
Wool does not promote the growth of bacteria which causes much of the odor in most fabrics. Wool has natural resistance to mold and mildew by absorbing and repelling moisture and allowing the moisture to move through the fibers without getting trapped.
Most wool is washable, at least by hand, or the super wash wool can even be machine washed. However, due to wool’s natural properties of being odor and stain resistant, wool garments need washing less often. Wool refreshes itself best in fresh air and is washed on short, lower temperature wool cycles, reducing the environmental impacts of laundering.
Wool is a natural fiber formed in the skin of sheep. It grows quickly and replaces itself naturally. Its is also biodegradable - imminently earth friendly as it releases its valuable nutrients back to the soil. Synthetic fibers like polyester are oil based, and take considerable resources to produce and add to our landfill issues.