The advantages of wearing wool clothing are undeniable. Wool is warm, attractive, moisture resistant, and even has the ability to naturally clean itself. But have you ever stopped to wonder about where your wool clothing comes from?
Another advantage of wool is that it is a natural fiber that requires very little processing to be made into clothes.
Shearing the Sheep
Sheep grow a thick wool coat every year, and every year this coat can be turned into a variety of wool clothes. Sheep are shorn right at the end of the cold weather, before they start shedding their coat, but after they are most likely to freeze. The trimmed wool is sorted, and any wool that is too dirty or otherwise unusable is discarded.
The first step in preparing wool to be made into yarn is removing the natural oils. This can be done by washing the wool thoroughly with soap and water. Some wool manufacturers may treat it with acid, though the natural companies will stay away from harmful chemicals.
Next, the wool is combed with increasingly smaller brushes in a process called picking and carding. Combing the wool opens up its natural fiber loops and makes it softer and fluffier. After that, the wool is dyed. Wool takes and holds color easily, so the dying process is often only a matter of submerging the wool in a vat of dye and does not require extensive chemical treatments. Finally, the wool is spun into thin, consistent strands of yarn. Multiple strands of yarn are twisted together to make a finished product that is strong and flexible.
The finished yarn can be used for creating clothing and other wool products. Wool is very easy to work with, and a favorite of knitters and other people who prefer to make their own clothes by hand. However, most commercial wool items are made in an industrial setting by machines. A final wash and dry fluffs the wool and makes it ready to wear.