Wool ProcessingWool is an amazing natural fiber that has many benefits, which can be used in many items. What are the steps needed in order to process wool from sheep? Here are the major steps involved in wool processing:
- Shearing sheep is typically done once per year, often in the spring. The fleece recovered from a sheep can weigh between 6 – 18 pounds.
- Grading and sorting of fleece is done based on quality.
- Cleaning and "scouring" wool is done to remove contaminants, such as sand, dirt and grease.
- "Carding" is the process that disentangles the wool and straightens it so it's ready for processing.
- Threads are formed by spinning together the wool to create one strand of yarn.
- Weaving is the process in which the yarn is woven into a fabric. There are two basic weaves; plain weave and twill. Woolen yarns used in fabric is plain weave, and worsted yarns are created using the twill weave.
- Finishing is the process where the wool fabric undergoes a series of finishing procedures:
- "Fulling" (fabric is immersed in water to make the fibers interlock)
- "Crabbing" (this permanently sets the interlock)
- "Decating" (which is shrink proofing)
- Sometimes it is dyed.
Types of WoolThere are different types of wool that can be used for clothing items. Different types of wool have different properties. Here is some information about the more popular types of wool:
Merino woolMerino wool comes from merino sheep and is popular due its high density. This wool produces a fine sheep fleece, which is soft and breathable. Merino sheep produce a much finer fiber than standard sheep’s wool, which means it does not have an itchy or coarse feel. Most merino sheep are raised in Australia and New Zealand.
CashmereA soft fiber that comes from the Kashmir goat. Since each goat can only produce a few ounces of cashmere per year, it's one of the most expensive fibers in the world. Cashmere is usually reserved for garments.
Angora woolAn amazingly soft fiber that comes from the fur of an angora rabbit. Angora wool has the highest heat retention of any natural fiber. This wool is fragile because the fibers are so fine; pure angora fibers are combined with other wool to make garments.
Determining the quality of WoolWool is an amazing natural fiber that has many great qualities. However, not all wool is of the same quality. There is variation in the quality that's sold, which is why the price can vary so much. Here's a list of some factors that determine quality:
Fiber DiameterSingle most important factor that determines quality and price. For the most part, the finer the wool, the more valuable it is.
Uniformity of FibersThe more uniform the length and density of fibers, the higher the value
Staple StrengthThis refers to the amount of force needed to break a wool fiber of a certain thickness. It refers to the fiber's ability to withstand the production process. The higher the staple strength, the less waste.
Benefits of WoolWool is a beautiful natural fiber that looks and feels amazing. However, this fiber comes loaded with some important health benefits:
- One of the most important and well known benefits, is how wool can prevent bedsores. This is due to wool being a very springy fiber and how it supports and distributes your body weight better than any natural or synthetic fiber. Studies have shown that using sheepskin wool will dramatically help to prevent bed sores.
- Wool can actually help to keep your heart rate lower. A study was done to measure the effects of different fibers on people while they slept. They found that wool tended to keep the skin drier, but more amazing was that the test subjects had lower heart rates. This lower heart rate indicates a deep sleep, which is very beneficial. The test subjects with other fibers had a normal or higher heart rate compared to the people sleeping on wool.
- Wool can help to provide allergy relief due to its natural properties. Wool is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites. This resistance to dust mites is due to the lanolin in the fibers which repels dust mites. Also, the fact that wool dries quickly helps to keep dust mites away.
- Wool has a natural temperature regulating property. Wool is able to do this by wicking perspiration away in hot temperatures and creates an insulating barrier in cold temperatures, which helps you retain heat. The benefits are that you will be more comfortable and drier.