One of the oldest fibers. Though it’s unclear how far it exactly dates back, there has been wool discovered to date back 34,000 BCE and maybe even before this.
One the earliest fibers to be spun into yarn and woven into cloths
Sheep were mostly likely one of the first animals to be domesticated
Wool was mostly plucked out by hand or bronze combs, rather than shears which were most likely invented in the Iron Age.
Primitive sheep then had long, hairy outer coats (or kemp) and a light downy undercoat
Spanish then developed the Merino sheep which had no kemp fiber.
In 1609, in Jamestown, Virginia and in the Massachusetts settlements in 1630, Sheep-raising on the Atlantic seaboard began.
Sheep raising expanded swiftly and in 1643 in the Massachusetts bay colony, English wool combers and carders started to produce and finish wool fabric.
After the the Civil War, sheep production expanded with the opening of free grazing lands west of the Mississippi.
By 1884, the peak year for wool in the US, 50 million sheep were found in the US. Since then, the number of sheep have steadily declined.
Types of Wool
Properties of wool
Wool sweaters, suits, carpets, and upholstery are the standard “looks” by which manufactured fibers are measured.
Drape, luster, texture and hand vary depending on the choice of yarn structure, fabric structure and finish.
Wool is durable. They have moderate abrasion resistance.
Has excellent elongation and elastic recovery.
Wool has good resiliency (doesn’t wrinkle much).
Atmospheric moisture keeps it flexible.
Hydroscopic- (it can get wet, dry out and then never feel wet).
In light rain or snow, water will run off or bead on the fabric surface. This is because wool evolved to protect sheep from severe weather.
High thermal retention. Keeps in heat well. Its resiliency also contributes to its warmth.
Allergic and irritation potential. Amino acids in wool make it more allergenic unlike cellulose fibers. It’s also coarse and itchy feeling which can cause irritation
Does not soil readily, so it doesn’t need to be cleaned after every use.
Wool gets 1/3 weaker when it’s wet, therefore, dry cleaning is the best way to care for wool.
After it’s wet and dries out, it has tendency to excessively and progressively shrink
You shouldn’t use bleach since bleach will cause wool to dissolve. It’s also very sensitive to alkilis such as strong detergent which will also cause it to dissolve.
Wool is susceptible to moths and other insects. They need to be stored carefully and cleaned before stored.
Wool burns slowly and usually self-extinguishes itself. It is generally regarded as flame resistant and is used a lot in furniture and the fireman uniforms.
Production of Wool
New Zealand: 11%
United Kingdom: 2%
South Africa: 1%
United States: 0.77%
Merino sheep produce the most valuable wool. Australia produces about 42% of merino wool.
Fine wool is produced by the US by four breeds of sheep: Delaine-merino , Rambouillet, Debouillet and Targhee. The majority of this wool is produced in Texas and California.
The greatest share of US wool production is of medium grade wools removed from the animals raised for meat. Their wools is mostly used for carpeting because of their high resiliency and great abrasion resistance.
Sheep are typically sheared once a year. They can also be fed a chemical additive or injected with a chemical that causes the sheep’s wools to become brittle and can be pulled off within a week or so. These methods decrease shearing costs.
The grazing habits of sheep - They pull grass out by roots. This would cause soil erosion
Disposable of the manure can cause diseases to be transmitted to humans.
Treatment of predatory animals (e.g. wolves)
The processing of the fiber - They have to be extensively cleaned. Chemical use, water use, energy use to process them
Wool is attacked by insects since it’s a protein
About 85% of wool sold in Australia is sold by open cry auction.
About 7% of Australian wool is sold by private treaty on farms or to local wool-handling facilities.
About 5% of Australian wool is sold over the internet on an electronic offer board.
The British Wool Marketing Board - operates a central marketing system for UK fleece wool with the aim of achieving the best possible net returns for farmers.
Less than half of New Zealand's wool is sold at auction, while around 45% for farmers sell wool directly to private buyers and end-users.
In the US, sheep producers market wool with private or cooperative wool warehouses.
Australian Wool Exchange
Organic Trade Association
International Wool Textile Organization
National Colored Wool Growers Association
Australian Wool Growers Association
Canadian Wool Growers Association
Federation Of Wool Merchants (Inc.)
Massey Wool Association New Zealand (Inc)
Wool is used for a variety of different things like apparel, blankets, insulation, carpets and upholstery.
In apparel, it’s used because it doesn’t wrinkle and hides dirt well. It also retains its shape if you stretch it out.
Wool fibers are hydrophobic on the outside and hydrophilic on the inside.
Wool is also often used in firemen’s coats because of their natural ability to self-extinguish flames.
Because of it’s durability and resistance abrasion, it’s often used in upholstery and carpeting. It also does not soil easily, so one doesn’t have to clean so much.