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Wool & Other Fiber Production Processes

Instructor: Brianna Whiting

Brianna has a masters of education in educational leadership, a DBA business management, and a BS in animal science.

Many of us have an article of clothing that is made out of wool. In this lesson, we will learn how that piece of clothing came to be, starting with the sheep and ending with yarn that can be used for manufacturing.

The Wool Industry

We have all probably experienced a petting zoo at one time in our lives. Typically there are goats, pigs, ponies, cows, and sheep. While the sheep are easily recognizable by their wool, how many of us really think about how that wool is used? Sure, it is soft and fluffy, but how does that ball of wool make the clothes we love? In this lesson, we will learn all about what happens within the wool industry.

Shearing

The entire process all starts with sheep. A sheep grows wool all over its body that can be collected over and over again. Once the sheep has grown a full wooly coat, the first step in the conversion of wool to clothing begins. Shearing is the method of removing the wool from the sheep by cutting it with a tool that resembles an electric razor found in many of our homes.

The process of shearing is a pain-free step that does require an individual with experience so the sheep doesn't get cut. Much like men cut themselves shaving, sheep can also get cut if shearing is not done correctly. Keep in mind that some family farms prefer to use scissors to shear their lambs, but for a larger farm, something more time conservative, like electric shears, are used.

Carding

The next step is called carding. Carding is the task of brushing the wool fibers. This step helps remove tangles and organize fibers into a product that can be spun later. A hand carder looks like a big square brush that allows the wool to move through it. The wool can be carded with the natural ''grease,'' or lanolin, left in it, or it can be carded after it has been cleaned and washed.

Spinning

Next comes spinning. Spinning takes the wool and twists it into a single thread. This is often done using a device called a spinning wheel. The spinning wheel makes a finished product that can be used to make various products, such as bats of yarn or your favorite wool sweater.

Fiber Mills

Although some people are ambitious and strive to make a wool sweater from scratch, doing each process on their own, others use what is called a fiber mill. A fiber mill does basically everything except raising the sheep and shearing them. So, once the wool has been removed from the sheep, a fiber mill can be of great help for anyone wanting wool at its finished state to make that perfect wool item. Below are the services and/or machines found at a fiber mill.

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