The magic hands of the wool seamstress
We all had a mother, a grandmother who used to knit for us : Gloves, hats and socks, maybe a jumper once in a while. Those wonderful women used to have o much patience doing this art of work. Knitting was a art back then ! But have you ever wondered where did they get their raw material?
I remember my mother used to have a draw full of colourful wool rolls, red, pink, yellow, blue, green, all she could have there! Where on earth did she get all that? I knew back then that the raw material was called wool. But as far as my mind could go, the wool from the sheep was some sort of dirty white or black, nothing like the wonderful colours she had.
At that age I thought my mum was a sort of magician and could turn out the dirty white raw wool into beautiful colours just for me, but as I grew up I figures out that it asn't really the case, even though she was doing wonders. Iinstead she had a wool provider who supplied her with all she needed for my stylish garments. First thing in my mind was, how is the wool produced and processed from the sheep before being delivered to my mother’s skilful hands ?
The process of making wool
After a bit of research I was able to identify 5 important steps in the
process of wool production as a final product:
1. Shearing of wool-bearing animal
2. Cleaning the wool
3. The carding Processs
4. The Spinning Process
5. The Weaving Process
6. The Finishing Process
Let’s have a brief look at what all this steps mean and what happens
when are executed.
1. The Shearing of the wool-bearing animal
The first step in the production of wool is the shearing of wool-bearing animal. We tend to only think at the sheeps, but there are plenty other animals that bear wool such as rabbits, camels and goats. Depending on the type of animal, they can bear wool once a year or multiple times throughout the year.
2. Cleaning the wool
Once the workers have sheared the wool-bearing animal, the next step is to clean the wool in water with special detergents.
3. The carding process
The fibers are passed through a series of metal teeth that straighten and blend them into slivers. Carding also removes residual dirt and other matter left in the fibers. Carded wool intended for worsted yarn is put through gilling and combing, two procedures that remove short fibers and place the longer fibers parallel to each other. From there, the sleeker slivers are compacted and thinned through a process called drawing. Carded wool to be used for woolen yarn is sent directly for spinning.
4. The spinning process
The roving as it comes off the card has no twist. It is held together by the oil and natural hooks that exist on the surface of the wool fibers. The spinning frame will put the actual twist on the roving and turn it into yarn. This is collected on wooden bobbins cones, or commercial drums.
5. The weaving process
During this step, the wool yarn is woven into fabric. Wool manufacturers use two basic weaves: the plain weave and the twill. Woolen yarns are made into fabric using a plain weave, which produces a fabric of a somewhat looser weave and a soft surface with little or no luster.
6. The finishing process
Then, both worsteds and woolens undergo a series of finishing procedures including:
Fulling (immersing the fabric in water to make the fibers interlock);
Crabbing (permanently setting the interlock);
Occasionally, dyeing(from here we have the magical and beautiful colours). Although wool fibers can be dyed before the carding process, dyeing is generally done after the wool has been woven into fabric.
An eco-friendly wool industry
The wool in its production process travels from the animals following a clear and simple route, from the shearing the wool bear animal to the finishing process. Like all the responsible and eco-friendly industries, the wool industry tries to minimise the waste , not only because of the financial aspect but also in regards of the impact it has on the environment. All the waste resulted from this processes are used again and byproducts are resulted from it.
So when you will be knitted for your children and they'll start to wonder how the wool is made, you'll be able to explain the magic to them !