Wool production is produced by follicles there are small cells located in the skin. The follicles are located in the upper layer of the skin called the epidermis and push down into the second skin layer called the dermis as the wool fibres grow. Follicles can be classed as either primary or secondary follicles.
Wool is produced from the raw fibre into yarn via either the woolen or worsted processing system. Yarn is then manufactured into knitted and woven wool textiles and products.
The process or acts of making fibre into wool follows shearing, scouring, sorting, cleaning of burrs, dyeing, straightening, wool socks, wool blanket, etc. Australia produces about 345 million kilos of wool every year.
Australia is the world’s leading producer of wool, followed by China, Russia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa, the UK, and Uruguay.
Most Australian wool is used for the manufacture of apparel products. The act of turning the raw wool fibre into fabric involves the production of yarn via two main manufacturing methods, which are the worsted system and the woolen system.
The interplay of the two fibre parts which compose the wool is responsible for the moisture management of the wool, the multilayer outer shell is hydrophobic, so water repellent, but it allows water vapor to pass through the fibre.
Thus, wool fibres can absorb about 30% of their weight of water without the wool feeling wet and the wool remains dry.
Another fibre-based property of wool is its mechanical self-cleaning quality.
Strands of two different types of fibres entwined with each other in a liana-like manner in the filament trunk swell to different degrees when moisture is absorbed or released. strongly connected, they the wool fibre are put in motion.
This self-movement of the fibre repels dirt particles lying on the fibre surface. These dirt particles remain only on the surface, they cannot penetrate the fibre. Due to this natural process, wool doesn’t get dirty so fast.
The Seven (7) Best Sheep for Wool Production
In wool production generally, the following sheep breeds are known for producing the highest quality and quantity of wool and demanding the least maintenance. The seven (7) different best sheep for wool production include the following:
1. Lamb’s wool
The best quality lamb wool is obtained from the first shearing of the sheep. They are considered as the softest and finest wool and it typically shorn from lambs that are not yet seven months old.
Sheep produce wool depending on their bread, age, and other health factors, but the yield is about 1 to 13 kilos annually. Some breeds produce more resilient wool, usually used for carpets, rugs, or upholstery, while softer wool is used for clothing.
2. Merino wool
It is considered to be the finest and softest sheep wool and it’s named after a sheep breed. Merino wool is popular among luxury clothing brands, It’s so fine that it can have a diameter of down to 17 microns.
Merino sheep originated from Spain, but most of the Merinos come from Australia (up to 80%).
Merino needs to be processed because it can be spun to a yard because the wool needs scouring to get rid of the fatty grease lanolin, only about half of the initial fleece can be used to produce clothing items.
Cashmere is obtained from goats and more precisely from the undercoat of the Cashmere goat. Cashmere is fine material. The diameter of the fibre is around 18 microns which makes it similar to the finest merino.
The fines cashmere is collected from the neck region of the undercoat and need to be combed over one to two weeks.
One goat usually yields only about 150 grams of cashmere each year, which explains why this material has such a high price.
Cashmere is similar to the one of sheep’s wool because it’s finer and more delicate and softer on the skin.
Angora is obtained from the undercoat of the Angora rabbit. The fibre is very fine, only about 10-15 microns in diameter. This is why Angora is so incredibly soft compared to other types of wool. The quality of angora depends on the proportion of the guard hair mixed with the undercoat.
Four rabbit breeds are used for the production of the angora, they include the English rabbit, the French rabbit, the Giant rabbit, and the Satin rabbit, because angora fibres are not as resilient, they are mixed with stronger elastic materials.
Alpaca wool is obtained from the hairs of the Alpaca, an animal native from South America that produces the finest hair. Alpaca hairs are very fine and soft, having a diameter of only 15-40 microns, but those that are over 30 microns can be itchy so they’re not suitable to make clothing items. In most cases, alpaca fibre is blended with other wool to improve its draping qualities.
The undercoat of camels is very soft making it a good choice for producing clothing items. Camel’s hair has very good insulation properties, even better than wool.
There is also an important disadvantage to camel hair, asides from being rarer to obtain, it’s less resilient and can become worn out easily.
They are obtained from the domesticated Alaskan musk ox and it usually has a taupe-grey color. The main advantage of this fibre is that it is eight times warmer than wool, although it has the same weight. Therefore, it’s used for gloves, sweaters, hats, scarves, and other types of winter clothing.
Wool Production Process
Most people know that wool comes from sheep, but how it is transformed from a sheep’s fluffy coat to material that is ready to be worn is a journey.
The wool goes through a multi-step process to get clean, regularize, and transform into soft yarn. Although machinery can make the process much mover faster today, in most ways the process is the same as how people have been preparing wool for centuries.
1. Shearing the Sheep
At the end of winter, sheep farmers shear their sheep using an electric tool similar to a razor that removes the sheep’s entire fleece in one piece. A single sheep’s annual fleece can weigh over 8 kilos, although most are around 3- 4kgs.
When done with care, shearing doesn’t harm the sheep which is a key priority of our wool vendors at Baabuk.
Shearing leaves them with a thin, cool coat for the summer months, without shearing, the sheep’s fleece can severally overgrow, such as the famous case of “Shrek the Sheep”. The wool is then sorted and prepared for cleaning.
2. Cleaning the Wool
The steps were taken during the washing of the wool which removes dirt, other contaminants, and natural oils from the wool.
Some of these by-products of cleaning the wool get used for other purposes. Lanolin, a wax secreted by sheep that help to protect their wool, is included in many beauty products such as skin moisturizer.
3. Carding the Wool
Next is the wool fibres that go through carding, a process that pulls them through fine metal teeth. Sheep wool is naturally curly, carding straightens out the fibres and makes them soft and fluffy. Carding is done by hand using two metal combs.
Today, most manufacturers use machines to card large batches of wool more quickly. By the end of carding, the wool fibres are lined up into a thin, flat piece. These sheets can then be drawn into long, thin pieces called rovings
4. Spinning the Wool into Yarn
Spinning turns the wool pieces into usable material. Spinning uses a wheel to spin 2- 5 strands of wool together. They form long, strong pieces of wool that you would recognize as yarn. Different processes create different kinds of yarn that work for distinct final products.
Worsted spinning, for instance, makes a smooth, thin yarn that is perfect for suits and other garments made with finer material. Woolen spinning, on the other hand, makes a thicker yarn that is perfect for knitting.
5. Weaving and Knitting
Some wool yarn is sold directly to consumers, who use it to craft handmade scarves, sweaters, and other clothing. Other yarn forms the raw material for all kinds of wool products, from shoes to coats. It’s woven into pieces of fabric that are ready to be shaped by fashion designers.
Wool quickly absorbs water which makes it very easy to dye. It can be dyed at almost any stage of the process, depending on what the final product will be.
Simply submerging the wool into boiling water with the dye material or applying colorful dyes directly to the fabric materials with the desired color.
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