Sheep wool products: technology, production methods, useful properties
When buying clothes or woven household goods, you are often interested in the composition of the raw materials from which the goods are made. The designation on the “wool” label guarantees the naturalness and high quality of the material. This article will introduce you to the properties of wool and the process of manufacturing fabrics, yarn and products from them.
Features of sheep wool
Wool is a textile fiber obtained from shearing sheep. It is a complex protein that has been formed over millions of years to protect warm-blooded animals in different climatic conditions and is one of the most environmentally friendly, naturally renewable and completely biodegradable materials.
Product quality is determined by the diameter and length of the fibers, tortuosity, color and adhesion. Fiber thickness is the most important characteristic of wool, which determines quality and price.
Woolen fiber is elastic and elastic - it can be bent 20 thousand times without damage (cotton breaks after 3 thousand bends, silk - 2 thousand). It has a natural crimp, which allows you to stretch it by a third with a return to its previous state.
Fibers have a complex cellular structure, so they easily absorb moisture vapor by almost a third of their own weight, but repel liquid. The absorbent properties of the fiber provide comfort in both heat and cold.
When warm, the same absorption capacity absorbs perspiration and retains the heat of dry air near the skin, making natural thermoregulation more efficient.
Wool ignites at a higher temperature than cotton and some synthetic fibers.
It has a lower flame propagation rate, low heat, low combustion temperature, does not melt and does not drip, emits less toxic gases and smoke. It absorbs sound, like many other fabrics.
Wool is resistant to the accumulation of static electricity, since moisture held inside the fabric conducts charges, so woolen products are much less likely to spark and stick to the body. The natural colors of the fleece are white, cream, black, brown, silver, but the fibers are well dyed.
Thanks to this ability, wool is known for its beautiful and rich colors. Sometimes the wool "pricks" - this discomfort is caused by coarse fibers (more than 28 microns) in the composition of the product. Wool can be treated with chemicals or mixed with other fibers to eliminate the stitching effect.
Wool contributes to a healthy lifestyle, has a therapeutic effect based on gentle contact with the skin.
- It also has healing properties:
- antimicrobial and antibacterial properties - absorbs unpleasant odors and inhibits the growth of mold, fungi and bacteria, does not support the growth of dust mites, which are the cause of asthma attacks and respiratory diseases;
- contact with the fibers stimulates the circulatory capillary system, stabilizes the heart rate, and thanks to the mild heating effect, the muscles relax, relieving stress and the effects of stress;
- relieves pain with arthritis and fibromyalgia, which contributes to a healthy sleep;
- in case of chronic skin diseases and eczema, wearing ultrafine merino wool does not cause irritation and facilitates the course of the disease;
- It has a naturally high level of protection against ultraviolet radiation and provides thermoregulation of the body to create a comfortable temperature;
- the fibers contain lanolin, which is produced by the sebaceous glands of sheep, it is used in cosmetic and medical preparations and is effective against rheumatism, enlarged pores of the skin, provides breathing of the whole body, improves blood circulation under the skin and slows down the aging process.
Important! Recent studies have shown that wool allergies come from lanolin alcohols, a protective wax layer that covers every strand of sheep’s wool. If there are allergic reactions to cosmetics containing lanolin, then there will be manifestations to the coat.
Production, processing, sorting
The way of wool fiber from sheep to light industry is a technically complex and unique process, which includes several steps for the production of knitted yarn and cloths, namely: shearing, cleaning, sorting, scratching, spinning, weaving and finishing:
- A haircut. Sheep is sheared once a year, usually in spring. Fleece weighs an average of 3-8 kg.
- Classification and sorting. Fleece is sorted into fibers of different quality from different parts of the body. The best quality is from the shoulders and sides of the sheep, it is used for clothing, the lowest quality is from the lower legs, it is used for carpet yarn.
- Cleaning. Raw wool contains sand, dirt, grease, sweat, which is 30–70% of the total weight. To remove these contaminants, the wool is washed in soap-alkaline solutions, squeezed and dried with a hairdryer. At this point, lanolin is separated.
- Carding. Fibers are passed through a series of metal teeth that straighten them and form parallel strands. This removes short fibers and residual impurities.
- Spinning. Strands of fibers are twisted together into one thread, which can consist of 3-4 strands. Since the fibers have good adhesion, they can easily be combined, stretched and twisted into yarn, which is then wound onto bobbins. Yarn can be coarse for carpet production, finer yarn is used for upholstery, very finer yarn is used for high-quality clothing that can be woven or knitted. Worsted yarn is thin and smooth, while knitted yarn has a more voluminous texture.
- Weaving. Next, the yarn is woven into a fabric. This can be done in two ways: a knitted fabric is obtained by joining loops on knitting machines, woven fabrics are obtained on looms by weaving weft threads with warp threads that determine the length of the fabric.
- Finish. Finished fabrics, worsted and knitted, go through a series of finishing works to give the wool a characteristic softness and texture - washing, steaming, shrinkage, ironing and dyeing. After that, the fabric is ready for the work of designers and fashion designers for the production of clothing, knitwear and woven interior products.
Directions in the wool industry
Wool is distinguished by its density, color, gloss and other important properties, depending on the breed of sheep, age, time of shearing, feeding ration and grazing places. In the breeding of sheep wool there are 4 directions, depending on the thickness of the resulting fiber.
The thinnest (10–14 μm) and thinnest (15–25 μm) fibers 75–100 mm long are obtained from wild sheep (mouflons), the undercoat of certain types of coarse-haired sheep, and merinoes of the old wool type. These are various merino breeds of sheep from Australia (80%), New Zealand, South Africa and others. The breeds are characteristic of desert and steppe regions.
Did you know? Napoleon's conquest of Spain in 1809 made it possible to spread merino breeds to other countries. Prior to this, the export of merino from the borders of Spain until the 18th century was punishable by death.
The best Australian and New Zealand merino wool with a fiber thickness of less than 16.9 microns is the industry benchmark for quality. It is elastic and can be bent 20,000 times to break and damage.
The finer the fiber, the softer the wool, so merino wool is popular among luxury clothing brands. Merino sheep can give fleece up to 4-6 kg per year. Rams give more than sheep, because of their larger size. This amount of raw material is enough for 4-5 sweaters.
Such raw materials come from sheep bred in regions with a mild, humid climate - the Tsigai breed, new breeds of semi-fine-crowned sheep of Russia, short-haired breeds of England (Romney March, Lincoln), crossbreeds of fine-grained and coarse-haired sheep and some coarse-haired breeds. The average fiber thickness is 26–40 microns.
The thickness of the semi-coarse-haired fibers (such as tanning or carpet) is 41-60 microns. Raw materials are obtained from coarse-haired and some species of long-haired breeds, which are grown in mountainous regions.
Long-haired sheep give the raw material not as soft as merino, but it is long-fiber (up to 20–25 cm) and durable, which is convenient for spinning, and products made from such raw materials acquire a silky sheen.
Sheep, from which they receive a rough fleece, are species of deserts and semi-desert lands. Breeds of meat and meat-and-milk direction also produce coarse and semi-coarse fiber. The thickness of the coarse fibers is over 61 microns. They are used for outerwear, the manufacture of felt or carpets. They are more durable and less prone to pilling (pellet formation).
Did you know? The ancient Greeks put felt on their helmets, and the Roman legionaries used bibs made of wool felt to protect them from puncture wounds.
Application: where and for what use
Humanity has been using sheep’s wool for thousands of years. Spinning, felting, weaving are some of the most ancient crafts. We know such products as shoes used by Sumerians, woven fabrics of Egyptian pharaohs, felt yurts of nomadic tribes.
Today, most of the wool (11.5-24 microns in diameter) turns into soft fabrics for clothing and yarn for knitted fabric. The rest is used in the manufacture of sweaters, socks, blankets, rugs, carpets, thermal insulation and upholstery.
Woolen carpets are fireproof and are used for safety in trains and airplanes. Wool is used in clothing of firefighters, soldiers and people of other professions where there is a risk of fire.
The use of woolen car covers or carpets reduces the risk of electric shock due to the accumulation of static electricity when a person touches a grounded object.
Wool felt covers piano hammers; it serves to absorb odors and noise in heavy equipment and stereo speakers. Caps for a sauna and slippers are also made of felt.
On the pool table, the cover is made of woolen cloth, and 200 m of yarn is wound inside the baseballs to compensate for the impact force.
Wool is used in reusable cloth diapers. The outer side of the wool fiber is hydrophobic (repels water), and the inside is hygroscopic (attracts water), which ensures absorption and leaves the upper part dry.
In addition, the wool material is waterproof, breathable and antibacterial. Merino wool is used in the production of baby blankets and sleeping bags. Wool underwear, according to recent studies, prevents irritation and a rash from sweat, because it absorbs moisture more easily than products made from other fibers.
A mixture of wool and Kevlar is widely used in body armor, making them lighter, cheaper and more effective in wet conditions than one Kevlar, which loses 20% of its effectiveness when wet. The interweaving of wool and Kevlar fibers reduces the number of layers - body armor with 28-30 layers of mixed fabric can provide the same level of bullet resistance as 36 layers of one Kevlar.
As an animal protein, wool can be used to fertilize the soil - it is a source of nitrogen (17%) with a slow release. In general, sheep’s wool is quite versatile and mixes easily with the fibers of other animals and plants to produce materials of different composition.
How to make clothes from the wool of sheep
In Egypt, during archaeological excavations, clothing made of wool, made about 3400 years ago, was discovered, which emphasizes the fact that people considered it useful and convenient from ancient times.
- Advantages of wool clothing:
- not wrinkled;
- easy to clean and resist pollution;
- provides comfort in heat and cold;
- keeps the form;
- possesses antistatic properties - it does not “stick” to the body and does not accumulate charges;
The factory method of manufacturing clothes implies the presence of a technological process, special equipment, qualified personnel, designers and fashion designers. This allows you to produce products in large volumes and high quality.
Stages of factory production:
- preparation of models, specifications and cutting methods;
- supply of materials, fabrics and accessories;
- creation of patterns, patterns, sorting by size;
- review of samples and preparation for mass production;
- production and quality control;
- delivery to the consumer.
You can manually process raw wool, spin yarn, weave linen and tapestry, knock down felt from which hats, sets for saunas, shoes (slippers and felt boots) are made, medical clothes for heating (belts, knee pads). The ability to knit will allow you to create handmade things from yarn - sweaters, scarves, hats, socks, gloves and mittens.
The ability to sew and the presence of a sewing machine will help to make individual and unique things from a finished woolen cloth. Toys, paintings, clothes, shoes, bags are made using the felting method. The manual method is often called "handmade" and such a product is much appreciated.
For creative people, there are many ways to combine finished woolen fabric or clothing with handmade products. For example, you can add a finished dress with a knitted collar, sew woven pockets or appliqué on a hand-knitted sweater. From a finished knitted fabric, you can sew a dress or jacket.
Did you know? The seventh wedding anniversary is called woolen. The best gift for this anniversary will be a woolen blanket or a handmade blanket.
What products do
Today, wool is used to make such products as:
- fabrics (tweed, drape, cloth, felt, felt);
- bedding, mattresses, mattress covers, blankets, rugs;
- scarves, hats;
- gaiters, socks, tights;
- rugs, carpets, tapestries;
- gloves, mittens;
- jumpers, sweaters, cardigans;
- pants, suits, coats.
Features of processing at home
In many areas of sheep breeding, the technique of processing the fleece into yarn at home is still preserved. This process is not much different from industrial processing and can become a valuable skill that will allow you to make a lot of useful things and clothes for your family or business.
The processing process is time consuming, and the development of the spinning wheel is likely to be the most difficult part of this task, but with practice, you can master it.
Video: how to wash sheep’s wool
It will take several steps to turn the raw materials into yarn:
- Remove debris and dirt.
- Wash the raw materials in hot water with soap, adding 1 cup of soda ash at the first wash, if the coat is oily (a lot of lanolin). Do not let the water cool, otherwise the lanolin will again “grab” for the coat.
- Wring and rinse the coat several times.
- Lay on a towel or net for ventilation and dry.
- Fluff and comb with rough brushes or combs, combining into long unidirectional fibers (you can use objects for combing pets).
- Form from the fibers by dividing and pulling ribbon strands (roving) and wrap them on bobbins. You can use the lid with a hole through which to push and pull the wool with a needle - the thinner the ribbons, the thinner the yarn will turn out.
- The last step is spinning. Here you can use hand spinning wheels or spindles. Single strands are spun, or several are joined, depending on the desired thickness of the yarn. Sometimes, for greater strength, cotton thread is taken as the basis.
- Yarn is ready for further work, whether weaving or knitting.
Important! If soda is used during washing, you can’t keep the wool in water for more than 20 minutes - this can damage the fiber.
How to make a sheep’s blanket with your own hands
The well-known large fluffy Carpathian sheep’s blankets are made using special handmade technology on a wooden loom.
The masters assure that it is not difficult to master the weaving technique, but you must have special equipment and skills. You can knit a blanket using ready-made yarn, or sew a "blende" by laying a wadding of cotton between layers of cotton fabric.
Video: pillow blanket by yourself
A quilt with wool filler can also be made in several ways:
- Blanket made of pillows. Depending on the desired size of the blanket, squares-pads are cut out of the fabric, which are filled with clean and fluffy wool. The pads are sewn together end-to-end with a zigzag seam, forming a whole web. For a double blanket (220 × 180 cm) you will need 396 squares 10 × 10 cm in size. When cutting, allowances for seams should be taken into account, so you need to cut out details for 1 pillow 22 × 12 cm in size. Factory quilted blankets perform a single filler flooring, which sometimes happens uneven. This causes voids to appear in some places. And in this blanket from pillows there will be no voids.
- Solid flooring blanket. A cover made of fabric the size of a future product is sewn for such a blanket. On the seamy side, the flooring is laid out. One side of the cover is twisted together with a layer of filler and turned completely on the front side. The resulting “bag” with wool is quilted with a manual stitch. Such blankets are often made in the Caucasus.
Video: do-it-yourself wool blanket
Having become acquainted with the properties of wool and its processing, you can find training videos on the Internet and master any technology for making fiber yarn and creating finished products that will bring satisfaction from the creative process and labor results.