We learned some basics about clothing manufacturing technology in a previous introductory article. Now clothes can be made from different fabrics, and we will take up the more prominent ones here, one at a time. This article will discuss the manufacturing processes related to making woolen fabrics right from the start.
Although several animals could be used as the source for wool, such as camels, goats, llamas and so forth, it is the good old sheep which dominates the field. Yet we shall start with a brief description of the wool from these various sources.
Angora goats yield fleece which is known by the name of Mohair. It is quite strong and lustrous, hence used in home decoration as well as garments.
Angora rabbits yield fleece which is very soft and often used for making baby clothes, and goes by the name of angora wool.
Kashmiri goats yield fleece which goes by the name of Cashmere and is quite expensive material.
Vicuna is another soft quality of wool obtained from the animal vicuna. Unfortunately the animal is mostly killed to remove the wool which makes it vulnerable to extinction.
The above are but a few main varieties of wool, but now back to the basics and let us see how wool is made out of the hair of sheep. In fact this holds true in general for other sources of wool as well, but we will confine ourselves to our childhood friend – The Baa Baa Sheep.
Wool is removed from the body of the sheep and technically this process is known as shearing, which is carried out either with the help of manual or powered shear tool. It is up to the expertise of the shearer to see that the sheep does not sustain any injuries during the process of shearing.
The wool is sorted in factories in different grades depending on the physical characteristics and the unsuitable wool is disposed of by experienced personnel.
This wool is now scoured which means that it is washed, rinsed and baled for further processing.
The water in which the wool is washed contains lanolin which is a grease like substance used in industry for various purposes. This lanolin is thus removed from the water.
The wool may or may not be dyed before sending it for the next process which is known as carding which makes it suitable for the next step.
Wool is then spun into yarn after which it is steamed and stored on bobbins until it is used to make that piece of cloth that adorns your body.
Let me add that the above is but a basic description of the process and the exact process is more elaborate and involves various sub-steps as well. But despite that, this should act as a good introductory report about the conversion of wool from fleece to yarn. So next time you go out dressed in your favourite woolen dress, just think of the processes that have went into making that possible – not to forget the Baa Baa Sheep.