When we think about wool and how is wool made we tend to think of sheep being the animal to supply the wool, and not the process required to get the wool to look as we know it when we buy for our knitting projects.
There are so many sources of wool now other than sheep, including various camels, goats, and rabbits. These animals all product hair that is now classified as wool.
The Origin And History Of Wool
Anthropologists believe the use of wool came out of the challenge to survive in early human history. Humans had to find a means of warmth and protection. This served as the beginnings if we want to look at how is wool made.
Most early humans in the Neolithic Age wore animal pelts as clothing. These were durable, warm and comfortable. Humans soon started developing basic processes and primitive tools for making wool.
By the year 4000 B.C., Babylonians were clothed in garments made of crudely woven fabric, but not at all how wool is made today.
When people started keeping herds of wool-bearing animals, the wool of a sheep was soon recognized as one of the most practical materials to use for clothing.
The wool trade was very prosperous during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The English became the experts at raising sheep while the Flemish had the skills for processing the wool. Britain sold its wool to the Flemish, who processed it and then sold it back to the English.
Being ambitious, the British soon began to produce and process their own wool and they enhanced their position by passing certain laws that would increase domestic production. One law was that judges, professors, and students wear robes make of English wool, and another was that the dead must be buried in English wool.
When the Americans tried to compete with Britain, the English passed more laws in an attempt to protect their wool, and one of the laws threatened the amputation of the hands of colonists caught trying to improve the bloodline of American sheep.
Nowadays, wool is a global industry with the major suppliers of raw wool being Australia, Argentina, USA, and New Zealand.
Australia is the leading supplier, supplying a fourth of the world’s wool and the USA is the largest consumer.
So what was essentially, for centuries, a small home-based craft, has grown into a massive industry. The number one source for fiber worldwide is wool, which is even higher than cotton is.
How Is Wool Made Into Material?
If you are here to find out how wool is made, here it is in a nutshell:
The wool is first shorn off of the sheep.
It is then sorted by color and quality.
Next, it is washed. The first step is to run the wool through a machine called the Picker, which cleans the wool of foreign materials like dung, mud, burrs and whatever other things the sheep have embedded in their coats.
The wool is then put through a duster to free the wool of pollens and excess dust.
It is then sent through a shredder to separate and align the fibers.
After that, the wool is run through a series of carders or brushes which align all of the fibers. The wool could also be dyed at this point. The wool is then twisted and elongated or spun into yarn or thread by a Mule-Spinner and wound onto bobbins. When the bobbins are full, they are spot-checked on the Thread Length Counter.
The resulting yarn is knitted or woven into fabric or sold as balls of wool.
The woven fabric is washed for hours in liquid soap and hot water to pre-shrink and soften it. The water temperature has to be controlled exactly for good results.
The wool package above can be purchased online. There are 50 pretty colors in the pack and it’s going for a steal. Click on the picture for more details.
After washing and being placed in the Extractor to remove excess moisture, the cloth is hung outside on tenter hook fences to air dry.
When dry, the cloth is trimmed on the Decating or Shearing Machine.
Another machine removes the nap and lint from the cloth.
The cloth is then steam-pressed and folded or rolled into the finished product, ready to be sold or used ………
The dye can be added at any point in the manufacturing process, depending on the result desired.
Well, now you know how wool is made.
If you want to find out about the history of knitting, click here.
6 thoughts on “How Is Wool Made?”
Very good information here. I learned a lot just from reading this post. I’m not really into knitting but I think I would like it and your site could be my source of help. Would you be interested in helping me get started?
Do I need to use wool or some other material?
Thank you let me know if you can help me thanks.
Wool, needles and practice is all you need. There is a basic video on how to do Purl knitting at this page you can check out. You can also get a lot of help and ideas on Ravelry.
I come from a long line of needle-women. Unfortunately, the string thing — anything to do with manipulating yarn and cords and string into knots and artistic twists and twirls– seems to have bypassed me. (I tend to end up with massive tangles. Sigh!) I have the highest respect for anybody who can actually DO that stuff!
Your site is very inviting-looking, and the information is most interesting. I have a knitter friend who loves playing with yarns and strings made from bamboo, hemp, and other plant things. She loves the novelty yarns.
Sorry to hear that the bug skipped a generation, but don’t give up hope just yet. Have you tried loom knitting?
I love this post since I’ve never really thought about the topic itself. I’ve knitted some scarves but didn’t stop and ask myself how wool actually comes from the sheep.
I will look more into the origin that helps turning that big chunk of fur into… wool. It is all very interesting. I wonder if they use the same process for mohair.
Thanks for sharing!
Good question. I think so more or less, but I suppose they need to be more gentle with the rabbits.