Wool

Wool is the textile fiber obtained from sheep and other animals, including cashmere and mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, from hide and fur clothing from bison, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camelids;[1] additionally, the Highland and the Mangalica breeds of cattle and swine, respectively, possess wooly coats. Wool consists of protein together with a few percent lipids. In this regard it is chemically quite distinct from the more dominant textile, cotton, which is mainly cellulose.[1]

Royal Winter Fair Wool 2
Wool before processing
Sheep eating grass edit02
Unshorn Merino sheep
Sheep at Llanddewi Brefi, in Ceredigion, Wales
Shorn sheep

Characteristics

Hogget fleece
Champion hogget fleece, Walcha Show

Wool is produced by follicles which are small cells located in the skin. These 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 fibers grow. Follicles can be classed as either primary or secondary follicles. Primary follicles produce three types of fiber: kemp, medullated fibers, and true wool fibers. Secondary follicles only produce true wool fibers. Medullated fibers share nearly identical characteristics to hair and are long but lack crimp and elasticity. Kemp fibers are very coarse and shed out.[2]

Wool fleece and top
Fleece of fine New Zealand Merino wool and combed wool top on a wool table

Wool's scaling and crimp make it easier to spin the fleece by helping the individual fibers attach to each other, so they stay together. Because of the crimp, wool fabrics have greater bulk than other textiles, and they hold air, which causes the fabric to retain heat. Wool has a high specific thermal resistance, so it impedes heat transfer in general. This effect has benefited desert peoples, as Bedouins and Tuaregs use wool clothes for insulation.

Felting of wool occurs upon hammering or other mechanical agitation as the microscopic barbs on the surface of wool fibers hook together.

Wool has several qualities that distinguish it from hair/fur: it is crimped and elastic.[3]

The amount of crimp corresponds to the fineness of the wool fibers. A fine wool like Merino may have up to 100 crimps per inch, while coarser wool like karakul may have as few as one or two. In contrast, hair has little if any scale and no crimp, and little ability to bind into yarn. On sheep, the hair part of the fleece is called kemp. The relative amounts of kemp to wool vary from breed to breed and make some fleeces more desirable for spinning, felting, or carding into batts for quilts or other insulating products, including the famous tweed cloth of Scotland.

Wool fibers readily absorb moisture, but are not hollow. Wool can absorb almost one-third of its own weight in water.[4] Wool absorbs sound like many other fabrics. It is generally a creamy white color, although some breeds of sheep produce natural colors, such as black, brown, silver, and random mixes.

Wool ignites at a higher temperature than cotton and some synthetic fibers. It has a lower rate of flame spread, a lower rate of heat release, a lower heat of combustion, and does not melt or drip;[5] it forms a char which is insulating and self-extinguishing, and it contributes less to toxic gases and smoke than other flooring products when used in carpets.[6] Wool carpets are specified for high safety environments, such as trains and aircraft. Wool is usually specified for garments for firefighters, soldiers, and others in occupations where they are exposed to the likelihood of fire.[6]

Wool causes an allergic reaction in some people.[7]

Processing

Shearing

Merino shearing
Fine Merino shearing Lismore, Victoria

Sheep shearing is the process by which the woolen fleece of a sheep is cut off. After shearing, the wool is separated into four main categories: fleece (which makes up the vast bulk), broken, bellies, and locks. The quality of fleeces is determined by a technique known as wool classing, whereby a qualified person, called a wool classer, groups wools of similar gradings together to maximize the return for the farmer or sheep owner. In Australia before being auctioned, all Merino fleece wool is objectively measured for micron, yield (including the amount of vegetable matter), staple length, staple strength, and sometimes color and comfort factor.

Scouring

CSIRO ScienceImage 11160 Siroscour
Wool before and after scouring

Wool straight off a sheep, known as "greasy wool"[8] or "wool in the grease", contains a high level of valuable lanolin, as well as the sheep's dead skin and sweat residue, and generally also contains pesticides and vegetable matter from the animal's environment. Before the wool can be used for commercial purposes, it must be scoured, a process of cleaning the greasy wool. Scouring may be as simple as a bath in warm water or as complicated as an industrial process using detergent and alkali in specialized equipment.[9] In north west England, special potash pits were constructed to produce potash used in the manufacture of a soft soap for scouring locally produced white wool.

In commercial wool, vegetable matter is often removed by chemical carbonization.[10] In less-processed wools, vegetable matter may be removed by hand and some of the lanolin left intact through the use of gentler detergents. This semigrease wool can be worked into yarn and knitted into particularly water-resistant mittens or sweaters, such as those of the Aran Island fishermen. Lanolin removed from wool is widely used in cosmetic products, such as hand creams.

Fineness and yield

Raw wool has many impurities; vegetable matter, sand, dirt and yolk which is a mixture of suint (sweat), grease, urine stains and dung locks. The sheep's body yields many types of wool with differing strengths, thicknesses, length of staple and impurities. The raw wool (greasy) is processed into 'top'. 'Worsted top' requires strong straight and parallel fibres.

Common Name Part of Sheep Style of Wool
Fine Shoulder Fine uniform and very dense
Near Sides Fine uniform and strong
Downrights Neck Short and irregular, lower quality
Choice Back Shorter staple, open and less strong
Abb Haunches Longer, stronger large staples
Seconds Belly Short, tender, Matted and dirty
Top-not Head Stiff, very coarse, rough and kempy
Brokes Forelegs Short irregular and faulty
Cowtail Hindlegs Very strong, coarse and hairy
Britch Tail Very coarse, kempy and dirty
[11]
Wool samples 2
Various types and natural colors of wool, and a picture made from wool

The quality of wool is determined by its fiber diameter, crimp, yield, color, and staple strength. Fiber diameter is the single most important wool characteristic determining quality and price.

Merino wool is typically 3–5 inches in length and is very fine (between 12 and 24 microns).[12] The finest and most valuable wool comes from Merino hoggets. Wool taken from sheep produced for meat is typically more coarse, and has fibers 1.5 to 6 in (38 to 152 mm) in length. Damage or breaks in the wool can occur if the sheep is stressed while it is growing its fleece, resulting in a thin spot where the fleece is likely to break.[13]

Wool is also separated into grades based on the measurement of the wool's diameter in microns and also its style. These grades may vary depending on the breed or purpose of the wool. For example:

Merinos
Diameter in microns Name
< 15.5 Ultrafine Merino[8]
15.6 – 18.5 Superfine Merino
18.6 – 20 Fine Merino[8]
20.1 – 23 Medium Merino
> 23 Strong Merino[8]
Breeds
Breeds Diameter
Comeback 21–26 microns, white, 90–180 mm long
Fine crossbred 27–31 microns, Corriedales, etc.
Medium crossbred 32–35 microns
Downs 23–34 microns, typically lacks luster and brightness. Examples, Aussiedown, Dorset Horn, Suffolk, etc.[14]
Coarse crossbred >36 microns
Carpet wools 35–45 microns[8]

Any wool finer than 25 microns can be used for garments, while coarser grades are used for outerwear or rugs. The finer the wool, the softer it is, while coarser grades are more durable and less prone to pilling.

The finest Australian and New Zealand Merino wools are known as 1PP, which is the industry benchmark of excellence for Merino wool 16.9 microns and finer. This style represents the top level of fineness, character, color, and style as determined on the basis of a series of parameters in accordance with the original dictates of British wool as applied by the Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) Council. Only a few dozen of the millions of bales auctioned every year can be classified and marked 1PP.[15]

In the United States, three classifications of wool are named in the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939.[16] "Wool" is "the fiber from the fleece of the sheep or lamb or hair of the Angora or Cashmere goat (and may include the so-called specialty fibers from the hair of the camel, alpaca, llama, and vicuna) which has never been reclaimed from any woven or felted wool product".[16] "Virgin wool" and "new wool" are also used to refer to such never used wool. There are two categories of recycled wool (also called reclaimed or shoddy wool). "Reprocessed wool" identifies "wool which has been woven or felted into a wool product and subsequently reduced to a fibrous state without having been used by the ultimate consumer".[16] "Reused wool" refers to such wool that has been used by the ultimate consumer.[16]

History

Tibetan spinning wool
A 1905 illustration of a Tibetan man spinning wool

Wild sheep were more hairy than woolly. Although sheep were domesticated some 9,000 to 11,000 years ago, archaeological evidence from statuary found at sites in Iran suggests selection for woolly sheep may have begun around 6000 BC,[17][18] with the earliest woven wool garments having only been dated to two to three thousand years later.[19] Woolly sheep were introduced into Europe from the Near East in the early part of the 4th millennium BC. The oldest known European wool textile, ca. 1500 BC, was preserved in a Danish bog.[20] Prior to invention of shears—probably in the Iron Age—the wool was plucked out by hand or by bronze combs. In Roman times, wool, linen, and leather clothed the European population; cotton from India was a curiosity of which only naturalists had heard, and silks, imported along the Silk Road from China, were extravagant luxury goods. Pliny the Elder records in his Natural History that the reputation for producing the finest wool was enjoyed by Tarentum, where selective breeding had produced sheep with superior fleeces, but which required special care.

In medieval times, as trade connections expanded, the Champagne fairs revolved around the production of wool cloth in small centers such as Provins. The network developed by the annual fairs meant the woolens of Provins might find their way to Naples, Sicily, Cyprus, Majorca, Spain, and even Constantinople.[21] The wool trade developed into serious business, a generator of capital.[22] In the 13th century, the wool trade became the economic engine of the Low Countries and central Italy. By the end of the 14th century, Italy predominated, though Italian production turned to silk in the 16th century.[21] Both industries, based on the export of English raw wool, were rivaled only by the 15th-century sheepwalks of Castile and were a significant source of income to the English crown, which in 1275 had imposed an export tax on wool called the "Great Custom". The importance of wool to the English economy can be seen in the fact that since the 14th century, the presiding officer of the House of Lords has sat on the "Woolsack", a chair stuffed with wool.

Economies of scale were instituted in the Cistercian houses, which had accumulated great tracts of land during the 12th and early 13th centuries, when land prices were low and labor still scarce. Raw wool was baled and shipped from North Sea ports to the textile cities of Flanders, notably Ypres and Ghent, where it was dyed and worked up as cloth. At the time of the Black Death, English textile industries accounted for about 10% of English wool production. The English textile trade grew during the 15th century, to the point where export of wool was discouraged. Over the centuries, various British laws controlled the wool trade or required the use of wool even in burials. The smuggling of wool out of the country, known as owling, was at one time punishable by the cutting off of a hand. After the Restoration, fine English woolens began to compete with silks in the international market, partly aided by the Navigation Acts; in 1699, the English crown forbade its American colonies to trade wool with anyone but England herself.

A great deal of the value of woolen textiles was in the dyeing and finishing of the woven product. In each of the centers of the textile trade, the manufacturing process came to be subdivided into a collection of trades, overseen by an entrepreneur in a system called by the English the "putting-out" system, or "cottage industry", and the Verlagssystem by the Germans. In this system of producing wool cloth, once perpetuated in the production of Harris tweeds, the entrepreneur provides the raw materials and an advance, the remainder being paid upon delivery of the product. Written contracts bound the artisans to specified terms. Fernand Braudel traces the appearance of the system in the 13th-century economic boom, quoting a document of 1275.[21] The system effectively bypassed the guilds' restrictions.

Before the flowering of the Renaissance, the Medici and other great banking houses of Florence had built their wealth and banking system on their textile industry based on wool, overseen by the Arte della Lana, the wool guild: wool textile interests guided Florentine policies. Francesco Datini, the "merchant of Prato", established in 1383 an Arte della Lana for that small Tuscan city. The sheepwalks of Castile shaped the landscape and the fortunes of the meseta that lies in the heart of the Iberian peninsula; in the 16th century, a unified Spain allowed export of Merino lambs only with royal permission. The German wool market – based on sheep of Spanish origin – did not overtake British wool until comparatively late. The Industrial Revolution introduced mass production technology into wool and wool cloth manufacturing. Australia's colonial economy was based on sheep raising, and the Australian wool trade eventually overtook that of the Germans by 1845, furnishing wool for Bradford, which developed as the heart of industrialized woolens production.

Sheep club2
A World War I-era poster sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture encouraging children to raise sheep to provide needed war supplies

Due to decreasing demand with increased use of synthetic fibers, wool production is much less than what it was in the past. The collapse in the price of wool began in late 1966 with a 40% drop; with occasional interruptions, the price has tended down. The result has been sharply reduced production and movement of resources into production of other commodities, in the case of sheep growers, to production of meat.[23][24][25]

Superwash wool (or washable wool) technology first appeared in the early 1970s to produce wool that has been specially treated so it is machine washable and may be tumble-dried. This wool is produced using an acid bath that removes the "scales" from the fiber, or by coating the fiber with a polymer that prevents the scales from attaching to each other and causing shrinkage. This process results in a fiber that holds longevity and durability over synthetic materials, while retaining its shape.[26]

In December 2004, a bale of the then world's finest wool, averaging 11.8 microns, sold for AU$3,000 per kilogram at auction in Melbourne, Victoria. This fleece wool tested with an average yield of 74.5%, 68 mm long, and had 40 newtons per kilotex strength. The result was A$279,000 for the bale.[27] The finest bale of wool ever auctioned was sold for a seasonal record of AU$2690 per kilo during June 2008. This bale was produced by the Hillcreston Pinehill Partnership and measured 11.6 microns, 72.1% yield, and had a 43 newtons per kilotex strength measurement. The bale realized $247,480 and was exported to India.[28]

In 2007, a new wool suit was developed and sold in Japan that can be washed in the shower, and which dries off ready to wear within hours with no ironing required. The suit was developed using Australian Merino wool, and it enables woven products made from wool, such as suits, trousers, and skirts, to be cleaned using a domestic shower at home.[29]

In December 2006, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 2009 to be the International Year of Natural Fibres, so as to raise the profile of wool and other natural fibers.

Production

Global wool production is about 2 million tonnes per year, of which 60% goes into apparel. Wool comprises ca 3% of the global textile market, but its value is higher owing to dying and other modifications of the material.[1] Australia is a leading producer of wool which is mostly from Merino sheep but has been eclipsed by China in terms of total weight.[30] New Zealand (2016) is the third-largest producer of wool, and the largest producer of crossbred wool. Breeds such as Lincoln, Romney, Drysdale, and Elliotdale produce coarser fibers, and wool from these sheep is usually used for making carpets.

In the United States, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado have large commercial sheep flocks and their mainstay is the Rambouillet (or French Merino). Also, a thriving home-flock contingent of small-scale farmers raise small hobby flocks of specialty sheep for the hand-spinning market. These small-scale farmers offer a wide selection of fleece. Global woolclip (total amount of wool shorn) 2004/2005[31]

  1.  Australia: 25% of global woolclip (475 million kg greasy, 2004/2005)
  2.  China: 18%
  3.  United States: 17%
  4.  New Zealand: 11%
  5.  Argentina: 3%
  6.  Turkey: 2%
  7.  Iran: 2%
  8.  United Kingdom: 2%
  9.  India: 2%
  10.  Sudan: 2%
  11.  South Africa: 1%

Organic wool is becoming more and more popular. This wool is very limited in supply and much of it comes from New Zealand and Australia.[32] It is becoming easier to find in clothing and other products, but these products often carry a higher price. Wool is environmentally preferable (as compared to petroleum-based nylon or polypropylene) as a material for carpets, as well, in particular when combined with a natural binding and the use of formaldehyde-free glues.

Animal rights groups have noted issues with the production of wool, such as mulesing.

Marketing

Australia

CSIRO ScienceImage 1054 Wool Fibre of the gods
"Wool: Fibre of the gods, created – not man-made" CSIRO marketing poster describing the benefits of wool
Wool samples
Merino wool samples for sale by auction, Newcastle, New South Wales

About 85% of wool sold in Australia is sold by open cry auction[33]. "Sale by sample" is a method in which a mechanical claw takes a sample from each bale in a line or lot of wool. These grab samples are bulked, objectively measured, and a sample of not less than 4 kg is displayed in a box for the buyer to examine. The Australian Wool Exchange conducts sales primarily in Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, and Fremantle. About 80 brokers and agents work throughout Australia.

ABS-7215.0-LivestockProductsAustralia-BrokersDealersReceivalsTaxableWool-AllSeries-BrokersDealersReceivalsTaxableWool-Australia-A2060656A
Wool received by Australian brokers and dealers (tonnes/quarter) since 1973
Wool auction
Wool buyers' room at a wool auction, Newcastle, New South Wales

About 7% of Australian wool is sold by private treaty on farms or to local wool-handling facilities. This option gives wool growers benefit from reduced transport, warehousing, and selling costs. This method is preferred for small lots or mixed butts to make savings on reclassing and testing.

About 5% of Australian wool is sold over the internet on an electronic offer board. This option gives wool growers the ability to set firm price targets, reoffer passed-in wool, and offer lots to the market quickly and efficiently. This method works well for tested lots, as buyers use these results to make a purchase. About 97% of wool is sold without sample inspection; however, as of December 2009, 59% of wool listed had been passed in from auction. Growers through certain brokers can allocate their wool to a sale and at what price their wool will be reserved.

Sale by tender can achieve considerable cost savings on wool clips large enough to make it worthwhile for potential buyers to submit tenders. Some marketing firms sell wool on a consignment basis, obtaining a fixed percentage as commission.

Forward selling: Some buyers offer a secure price for forward delivery of wool based on estimated measurements or the results of previous clips. Prices are quoted at current market rates and are locked in for the season. Premiums and discounts are added to cover variations in micron, yield, tensile strength, etc., which are confirmed by actual test results when available.

Another method of selling wool includes sales direct to wool mills.

Other countries

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% of farmers sell wool directly to private buyers and end-users.[34]

United States sheep producers market wool with private or cooperative wool warehouses, but wool pools are common in many states. In some cases, wool is pooled in a local market area, but sold through a wool warehouse. Wool offered with objective measurement test results is preferred. Imported apparel wool and carpet wool goes directly to central markets, where it is handled by the large merchants and manufacturers.[35]

Yarn

Worsted wool yarn
Woollen yarn

Shoddy or recycled wool is made by cutting or tearing apart existing wool fabric and respinning the resulting fibers.[36] As this process makes the wool fibers shorter, the remanufactured fabric is inferior to the original. The recycled wool may be mixed with raw wool, wool noil, or another fiber such as cotton to increase the average fiber length. Such yarns are typically used as weft yarns with a cotton warp. This process was invented in the Heavy Woollen District of West Yorkshire and created a microeconomy in this area for many years.

Worsted is a strong, long-staple, combed wool yarn with a hard surface.[36]

Woolen is a soft, short-staple, carded wool yarn typically used for knitting.[36] In traditional weaving, woolen weft yarn (for softness and warmth) is frequently combined with a worsted warp yarn for strength on the loom.[37]

Uses

In addition to clothing, wool has been used for blankets, horse rugs, saddle cloths, carpeting, insulation and upholstery. Wool felt covers piano hammers, and it is used to absorb odors and noise in heavy machinery and stereo speakers. Ancient Greeks lined their helmets with felt, and Roman legionnaires used breastplates made of wool felt.

Wool has also been traditionally used to cover cloth diapers.[38] Wool fiber exteriors are hydrophobic (repel water) and the interior of the wool fiber is hygroscopic (attracts water); this makes a wool garment suitable cover for a wet diaper by inhibiting wicking, so outer garments remain dry. Wool felted and treated with lanolin is water resistant, air permeable, and slightly antibacterial, so it resists the buildup of odor. Some modern cloth diapers use felted wool fabric for covers, and there are several modern commercial knitting patterns for wool diaper covers.

Initial studies of woolen underwear have found it prevented heat and sweat rashes because it more readily absorbs the moisture than other fibers.[39]

Merino wool has been used in baby sleep products such as swaddle baby wrap blankets and infant sleeping bags.

As an animal protein, wool can be used as a soil fertilizer, being a slow-release source of nitrogen.

Researchers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology school of fashion and textiles have discovered a blend of wool and Kevlar, the synthetic fiber widely used in body armor, was lighter, cheaper and worked better in damp conditions than Kevlar alone. Kevlar, when used alone, loses about 20% of its effectiveness when wet, so required an expensive waterproofing process. Wool increased friction in a vest with 28–30 layers of fabric, to provide the same level of bullet resistance as 36 layers of Kevlar alone.[40]

Events

Lady Weaving Wool
Andean woman sorting wool as part of the theme park Los Aleros in Mérida, Venezuela

A buyer of Merino wool, Ermenegildo Zegna, has offered awards for Australian wool producers. In 1963, the first Ermenegildo Zegna Perpetual Trophy was presented in Tasmania for growers of "Superfine skirted Merino fleece". In 1980, a national award, the Ermenegildo Zegna Trophy for Extrafine Wool Production, was launched. In 2004, this award became known as the Ermenegildo Zegna Unprotected Wool Trophy. In 1998, an Ermenegildo Zegna Protected Wool Trophy was launched for fleece from sheep coated for around nine months of the year.

In 2002, the Ermenegildo Zegna Vellus Aureum Trophy was launched for wool that is 13.9 microns or finer. Wool from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and South Africa may enter, and a winner is named from each country.[41] In April 2008, New Zealand won the Ermenegildo Zegna Vellus Aureum Trophy for the first time with a fleece that measured 10.8 microns. This contest awards the winning fleece weight with the same weight in gold as a prize, hence the name.

In 2010, an ultrafine, 10-micron fleece, from Windradeen, near Pyramul, New South Wales, won the Ermenegildo Zegna Vellus Aureum International Trophy.[42]

Since 2000, Loro Piana has awarded a cup for the world's finest bale of wool that produces just enough fabric for 50 tailor-made suits. The prize is awarded to an Australian or New Zealand wool grower who produces the year's finest bale.[43]

The New England Merino Field days which display local studs, wool, and sheep are held during January, in even numbered years around the Walcha, New South Wales district. The Annual Wool Fashion Awards, which showcase the use of Merino wool by fashion designers, are hosted by the city of Armidale, New South Wales, in March each year. This event encourages young and established fashion designers to display their talents. During each May, Armidale hosts the annual New England Wool Expo to display wool fashions, handicrafts, demonstrations, shearing competitions, yard dog trials, and more.[1]

In July, the annual Australian Sheep and Wool Show is held in Bendigo, Victoria. This is the largest sheep and wool show in the world, with goats and alpacas, as well as woolcraft competitions and displays, fleece competitions, sheepdog trials, shearing, and wool handling. The largest competition in the world for objectively measured fleeces is the Australian Fleece Competition, which is held annually at Bendigo. In 2008, 475 entries came from all states of Australia, with first and second prizes going to the Northern Tablelands, New South Wales fleeces.[44]

Wedding Anniversary

Wool is known as one of the traditional materials for the 7th Wedding anniversary. [45]

See also

Production

Processing

Refined products

Organizations

Miscellaneous wool

References

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  39. ^ ABC Rural Radio: Woodhams, Dr. Libby, New research shows woollen underwear helps prevent rashes Archived 2011-08-23 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2010-3-24
  40. ^ Blenkin, Max (2011-04-11). "Wool's tough new image". Country Leader.
  41. ^ "2004/51/1 Trophy and plaque, Ermenegildo Zegna Vellus Aureum trophy and plaque, plaster / bronze / silver / gold, trophy designed and made by Not Vital for Ermenegildo Zegna, Switzerland, 2001". Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Archived from the original on 2007-05-19. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  42. ^ Country Leader, 26 April 2010, Finest wool rewarded, Rural Press, North Richmond
  43. ^ Australian Wool Network News, Issue #19, July 2008
  44. ^ Walcha News (2008-07-24, Fletcher Wins Australian Fleece Comp, p. 3
  45. ^ Wedding anniversary

External links

Angora wool

Angora hair or Angora fibre refers to the downy coat produced by the Angora rabbit. While the names of the source animals are similar, Angora fibre is distinct from mohair, which comes from the Angora goat. Angora fibre is also distinct from cashmere, which comes from the cashmere goat. Angora is known for its softness, thin fibres, and what knitters refer to as a halo (fluffiness). It is also known for its silky texture. It is much warmer and lighter than wool due to the hollow core of the angora fibre. It also gives them their characteristic floating feel.

Angora rabbits produce coats in a variety of colours, from white through tan, gray, and brown to black. Good quality Angora fibre is around 12–16 micrometres in diameter, and can cost as much as US$10–16 per ounce (35 to 50 cents/gram). It felts very easily, even on the animal itself if it is not groomed frequently.

Yarns of 100% angora are typically used as accents. They have the most halo and warmth, but can felt very easily through abrasion and humidity and can be excessively warm in a finished garment. The fibre is normally blended with wool to give the yarn elasticity, as Angora fibre is not naturally elastic. The blend decreases the softness and halo as well as the price of the finished object. Commercial knitting yarns typically use 30–50% angora, in order to produce some halo, warmth, and softness without the side effects of excessive felting.

Blanket

A blanket is a piece of soft cloth large enough either to cover or to enfold a great portion of the user's body, usually when sleeping or otherwise at rest, thereby trapping radiant bodily heat that otherwise would be lost through convection, and so keeping the body warm.

Carding

Carding is a mechanical process that disentangles, cleans and intermixes fibres to produce a continuous web or sliver suitable for subsequent processing. This is achieved by passing the fibers between differentially moving surfaces covered with card clothing. It breaks up locks and unorganised clumps of fibre and then aligns the individual fibers to be parallel with each other. In preparing wool fibre for spinning, carding is the step that comes after teasing.The word is derived from the Latin carduus meaning thistle or teasel, as dried vegetable teasels were first used to comb the raw wool.

Cashmere wool

Cashmere wool, usually simply known as cashmere, is a fiber obtained from cashmere goats or pashmina goats and other types of goat. The word cashmere is an old spelling of Kashmir.

Common usage defines the fiber as wool, but it is finer, stronger, lighter, softer and approximately three times more insulating than sheep wool.In the United States, under the U.S. Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939, as amended, (15 U. S. Code Section 68b(a)(6)), a wool or textile product may be labelled as containing cashmere only if the following criteria are met:

such wool product is the fine (dehaired) undercoat fibers produced by a cashmere goat (Capra hircus laniger);

the average diameter of the fiber of such wool product does not exceed 19 microns; and

such wool product does not contain more than 3 percent (by weight) of cashmere fibers with average diameters that exceed 30 microns.

The average fiber diameter may be subject to a coefficient of variation around the mean that shall not exceed 24 percent.

Felt

Felt is a textile material that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing fibers together. Felt can be made of natural fibers such as wool or animal fur, or from synthetic fibers such as petroleum-based acrylic or acrylonitrile or wood pulp-based rayon. Blended fibers are also common.

Long underwear

Long underwear, also called long johns or thermal underwear, is a style of two-piece underwear with long legs and long sleeves that is normally worn during cold weather. It is commonly worn by people under their clothes in cold countries.

In the United States, it is usually made from a cotton or cotton-polyester-blend fabric with a box-weave texture, although some varieties are also made from flannel, particularly the union suit, while many newer varieties are made from polyester, such as the Capilene trade name.

European manufacturers use wool blends or even 100% wool, usually Merino or other high-quality wool. Some models might include a thin layer of polyester to transport moisture away from the skin. Wool, in addition to being fire retardant, provides highly effective insulation and will keep its insulating properties even when wet, as opposed to cotton.

The type known as "thermal underwear" is made from two-ply fabric of either a wool layer and an artificial fibre, only wool or – again mostly in the U.S. – two layers of only artificial fibres, which uses trapped body heat to insulate against cold air.

Merino

The Merino is one of the most historically relevant and economically influential breeds of sheep, much prized for its wool. The breed was originated and improved in Extremadura, in southwestern Spain, around the 12th century; it was instrumental in the economic development of 15th and 16th century Spain, which held a monopoly on its trade, and since the end of the 18th century it was further refined in New Zealand and Australia, giving rise to the modern Merino.

Today, Merinos are still regarded as having some of the finest and softest wool of any sheep. Poll Merinos have no horns (or very small stubs, known as scurs), and horned Merino rams have long, spiral horns which grow close to the head.

Mineral wool

Mineral wool is any fibrous material formed by spinning or drawing molten mineral or rock materials such as slag and ceramics.Applications of mineral wool include thermal insulation (as both structural insulation and pipe insulation, though it is not as fire-resistant as high-temperature insulation wool), filtration, soundproofing, and hydroponic growth medium.

Mohair

Mohair is usually a silk-like fabric or yarn made from the hair of the Angora goat (not to be confused with the Angora rabbit which produces Angora wool). Both durable and resilient, mohair is notable for its high luster and sheen, which has helped gain it the nickname the "Diamond Fiber", and is often used in fiber blends to add these qualities to a textile. Mohair takes dye exceptionally well. Mohair is warm in winter as it has excellent insulating properties, while remaining cool in summer due to its moisture wicking properties. It is durable, naturally elastic, flame resistant and crease resistant. It is considered to be a luxury fiber, like cashmere, angora and silk, and is usually more expensive than most wool that is produced by sheep.Mohair is composed mostly of keratin, a protein found in the hair, wool, horns and skin of all mammals, but its special properties are unique to the Angora goat. While it has scales like wool, the scales are not fully developed, merely indicated. Thus, mohair does not felt as wool does.

Mohair fiber is approximately 25–45 microns in diameter. It increases in diameter with the age of the goat, growing along with the animal. Fine hair from younger animals is used for finer applications such as clothing, and the thicker hair from older animals is more often used for carpets and heavy fabrics intended for outerwear.

The term mohair is sometimes used to describe a type of material used for the folding roof on convertible cars. In this instance, mohair refers to a form of denim-like canvas.

Pashmina

Pashmina is a fine type of cashmere wool. The textiles made from it were first woven in Kashmir. The name comes from Persian: پشمینه‎ / pašmina, meaning "made from wool". Pashmina came to be known as 'cashmere' in the West because Europeans first encountered this fibre in Kashmir. The wool comes from a number of different breeds of the cashmere goat; such as the changthangi or Kashmir pashmina goat from the Changthang Plateau in Tibet and part of the Ladakh region, the malra from the Kargil area in the Kashmir region, the chegu from Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayas of northern India, and the chyangara or Nepalese pashmina goat from Nepal. Often shawls called shahmina are made from this material in Kashmir and Nepal; these shawls are hand spun and woven from the very fine cashmere fibre.

Sheep

Domestic sheep (Ovis aries) are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like most ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name sheep applies to many species in the genus Ovis, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries. Numbering a little over one billion, domestic sheep are also the most numerous species of sheep. An adult female sheep is referred to as a ewe (), an intact male as a ram or occasionally a tup, a castrated male as a wether, and a younger sheep as a lamb.

Sheep are most likely descended from the wild mouflon of Europe and Asia. One of the earliest animals to be domesticated for agricultural purposes, sheep are raised for fleeces, meat (lamb, hogget or mutton) and milk. A sheep's wool is the most widely used animal fiber, and is usually harvested by shearing. Ovine meat is called lamb when from younger animals and mutton when from older ones in Commonwealth countries, and lamb in the United States (including from adults). Sheep continue to be important for wool and meat today, and are also occasionally raised for pelts, as dairy animals, or as model organisms for science.

Sheep husbandry is practised throughout the majority of the inhabited world, and has been fundamental to many civilizations. In the modern era, Australia, New Zealand, the southern and central South American nations, and the British Isles are most closely associated with sheep production.

Sheepraising has a large lexicon of unique terms which vary considerably by region and dialect. Use of the word sheep began in Middle English as a derivation of the Old English word scēap; it is both the singular and plural name for the animal. A group of sheep is called a flock, herd or mob. Many other specific terms for the various life stages of sheep exist, generally related to lambing, shearing, and age.

Being a key animal in the history of farming, sheep have a deeply entrenched place in human culture, and find representation in much modern language and symbology. As livestock, sheep are most often associated with pastoral, Arcadian imagery. Sheep figure in many mythologies—such as the Golden Fleece—and major religions, especially the Abrahamic traditions. In both ancient and modern religious ritual, sheep are used as sacrificial animals.

Sheep shearing

Sheep shearing is the process by which the woollen fleece of a sheep is cut off. The person who removes the sheep's wool is called a shearer. Typically each adult sheep is shorn once each year (a sheep may be said to have been "shorn" or "sheared", depending upon dialect). The annual shearing most often occurs in a shearing shed, a facility especially designed to process often hundreds and sometimes more than 3,000 sheep per day.Sheep are shorn in all seasons, depending on the climate, management requirements and the availability of a woolclasser and shearers. Ewes are normally shorn prior to lambing in the warmer months, but consideration is typically made as to the welfare of the lambs by not shearing during cold climate winters. Except in high country regions where pre lamb shearing encourages ewes to seek shelter among the hillsides so that newborn lambs aren't completely exposed to the elements. Shorn sheep tolerate frosts well, but young sheep especially will suffer in cold, wet windy weather (even in cold climate summers). In this event they are shedded for several nights until the weather clears. Some sheep may also be shorn with stud combs commonly known as cover combs which leave more wool on the animal in colder months, giving greater protection.Sheep shearing is also considered a sport with competitions held around the world.

It is often done between spring and summers

Shetland sheep

The Shetland is a small, wool-producing breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles, Scotland but is now also kept in many other parts of the world. It is part of the Northern European short-tailed sheep group, and it is closely related to the extinct Scottish Dunface. Shetlands are classified as a landrace or "unimproved" breed. This breed is kept for its very fine wool, for meat, and for conservation grazing.Although Shetlands are small and slow-growing compared to commercial breeds, they are hardy, thrifty, easy lambers, adaptable and long-lived. The Shetland breed has survived for centuries in difficult conditions and on a poor diet, but they thrive in better conditions. Shetlands retain many of their primitive survival instincts, so they are easier to care for than many modern breeds.

Spinning (textiles)

Spinning is the twisting together of drawn-out strands of fibers to form yarn, and is a major part of the textile industry. The yarn is then used to create textiles, which are then used to make clothing and many other products. There are several industrial processes available to spin yarn, as well as hand-spinning techniques where the fiber is drawn out, twisted, and wound onto a bobbin.

The yarn issuing from the drafting rollers passes through a thread-guide, round a traveller that is free to rotate around a ring, and then onto a tube or bobbin, which is carried on a spindle, the axis of which passes through a center of the ring. The spindle is driven (usually at an angular velocity that is either constant or changes only slowly) and the traveller is dragged around a ring by the loop of yarn passing round it. If the drafting rollers were stationary, the angular velocity of the traveller would be the same as that of the spindle and each revolution of the spindle would cause one turn of twist to be inserted in the loop of yarn betweem the roller nip and the traveller. In spinning, however the yarn is continually issuing from the rollers of the drafting system and, under these cirmunstances, the angular velocity of the traveller is less than that of the spindle by an amount that is just sufficient to allow the yarn to be wound onto the bobbin at the same rate as that at which it issues from the drafting rollers. Each revolution of the traveller now inserts one turn of twist into the loop of yarn between the roller nip and the traveller but, in equilibrium, the number of turns of twist in the loop of yarn remains constant as twisted yarn is passing through the traveller at a corresponding rate.

Textile

A textile is a flexible material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibers (yarn or thread). Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, hemp, or other materials to produce long strands. Textiles are formed by weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting or tatting, felting, or braiding.

The related words "fabric" and "cloth" and "material" are often used in textile assembly trades (such as tailoring and dressmaking) as synonyms for textile. However, there are subtle differences in these terms in specialized usage. A textile is any material made of interlacing fibres, including carpeting and geotextiles. A fabric is a material made through weaving, knitting, spreading, crocheting, or bonding that may be used in production of further goods (garments, etc.). Cloth may be used synonymously with fabric but is often a piece of fabric that has been processed.

Textile manufacturing

Textile manufacturing is a major industry. It is based on the conversion of fibre into yarn, yarn into fabric. These are then dyed or printed, fabricated into clothes. Different types of fibres are used to produce yarn. Cotton remains the most important natural fibre, so is treated in depth. There are many variable processes available at the spinning and fabric-forming stages coupled with the complexities of the finishing and colouration processes to the production of a wide ranges of products.

Vicuña

The vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) or vicuna (both , very rarely spelled vicugna, which is actually the name of its genus) is one of the two wild South American camelids which live in the high alpine areas of the Andes, the other being the guanaco. It is a relative of the llama, and is now believed to be the wild ancestor of domesticated alpacas, which are raised for their coats. Vicuñas produce small amounts of extremely fine wool, which is very expensive because the animal can only be shorn every three years, and has to be caught from the wild. When knitted together, the product of the vicuña's wool is very soft and warm. The Inca valued vicuñas highly for their wool, and it was against the law for anyone but royalty to wear vicuña garments; today the vicuña is the national animal of Peru and appears in the Peruvian coat of arms.

Both under the rule of the Inca and today, vicuñas have been protected by law, but they were heavily hunted in the intervening period. At the time they were declared endangered in 1974, only about 6,000 animals were left. Today, the vicuña population has recovered to about 350,000, and although conservation organizations have reduced its level of threat classification, they still call for active conservation programs to protect populations from poaching, habitat loss, and other threats.

Until recently, the vicuña was thought to not have been domesticated, and the llama and the alpaca were both regarded as descendants of the closely related guanaco. But recent DNA research has shown the alpaca may well have vicuña parentage. Today, the vicuña is mainly wild, but the local people still perform special rituals with these creatures, including a fertility rite.

Worsted

Worsted ( or ) is a high-quality type of wool yarn, the fabric made from this yarn, and a yarn weight category. The name derives from Worstead, a village in the English county of Norfolk. That village, together with North Walsham and Aylsham, formed a manufacturing centre for yarn and cloth in the 12th century, when pasture enclosure and liming rendered the East Anglian soil too rich for the older agrarian sheep breeds. In the same period, many weavers from Flanders moved to Norfolk. "Worsted" yarns/fabrics are distinct from woollens (though both are made from sheep's wool): the former is considered stronger, finer, smoother, and harder than the latter.

Worsted was made from the long-staple pasture wool from sheep breeds such as Teeswaters, Old Leicester Longwool and Romney Marsh. Pasture wool was not carded; instead it was washed, gilled and combed (using heated long-tooth metal combs), oiled and finally spun. When woven, worsteds were scoured but not fulled.Worsted wool fabric is typically used in the making of tailored garments such as suits, as opposed to woollen wool, which is used for knitted items such as sweaters.

Yarn

Yarn is a long continuous length of interlocked fibres, suitable for use in the production of textiles, sewing, crocheting, knitting, weaving, embroidery, or ropemaking. Thread is a type of yarn intended for sewing by hand or machine. Modern manufactured sewing threads may be finished with wax or other lubricants to withstand the stresses involved in sewing. Embroidery threads are yarns specifically designed for needlework.

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