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The history of wool dates back to over 10,000 years ago, when the primitive man started using the skin of sheep that he slaughtered for food.  He discovered that this type of fabric is versatile and durable enough to provide him   warmth and protection. Soon after, people eventually learned the process of spinning and weaving in producing one’s clothing.

Image of Raw Wool Fleece

Photo from ABC News

Weaving is one of the methods of textile production that intertwines a set of vertical threads, called wrap, with a set of horizontal yarns, known as weft. Spinning, on the other hand, is the act of converting fibers into yarn.

The early tribes of Northern Europe do spinning by taking the wool in one hand then drawing it out, twisting within a thread with the fingers of the other, resulting to a thick and jagged yarn. A crude spindle was later on established through fitting a clay or stone ring at the end of a short, wooden stick. The ring and stick was eventually replaced by the spinning-wheel. This wheel is connected by a pulley to the spindle that is horizontally mounted on a frame. One turn of a big spinning-wheel gives a result of what 20 turns of the spindle could do, thus making the spinning process quicker.

The Britons in the 55 BC developed the wool industry. The business inflated upon the arrival of the Norman conquerors in 1066 and by the 12th century, wool has become England’s greatest asset. After the heightened production during the 13th century, and because of conflict in politics, the wool commerce deteriorated for a lengthy period.

The wool industry blossomed once more during the first half of the 14th century. And notwithstanding obstructions, manufacturing and exporting of wool grew larger.  By the late 18th century and during the Industrial Revolution, new inventions were created to speed up the process of weaving and spinning. The industry continued to prosper since then.

At present, wool is already a global industry with Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States as leading suppliers.


Types of Yarn

In the making of wool fabric, there are two types of yarn being used: the Worsted and the Woolen. These two yarns differ from their weight and size, as well as the preparation and the way of spinning.

Worsted yarn is made from long-staple fibers that are roughly the same length and are parallel to each other. They are only overlapping at the tips, with no space between the individual worsted wool fibers.

On the other hand, Woolen yarn comes from the dense, warm, and soft coating of sheep. Its individual fibers vary in length and go in many different directions. They overlap each other at dissimilar angles with air spaces between the individual fibers.

Image of woolen and worsted yarn construction

Photo from Commonwealth Manufacturing

Manufacturing process

There are several steps to be followed in manufacturing of wool. The first few stages in making woolen and worsted yarn are almost alike. The first step is the shearing process that can be done either by hand, or by the use of machines. The next stage is grading and sorting. Grading is the breaking up of the fleece, whereas sorting is breaking up of the wool into sections depending on the fiber quality.  After the grading comes the cleaning and scouring. The wool is scoured in a series of alkaline baths to clean the sand, dirt, and sweat from the fleece, and then the rollers in the scouring machines crush the water from the material.

Preparation, spinning, and weaving

Worsted and woolen yarns vary on how they are prepared, spun, and woven:

image of traditional antique spinning wheel

Photo from My Little Sheep

Worsted Yarn

The preparation of the worsted yarn is through the use of gilling machines. The long wool is arranged through combing to remove unneeded short fibers and align them to make them lie parallel to each other. They also undergo the process of drawing to make the slivers thin and compacted.

For worsted fiber spinning, a short draw is used; the fibers are separated in one of the spinner’s hand, while a small mass of thread is being pulled by the other. This type of spinning creates a firm, strong, and smooth type of yarn.

Worsted yarns are done by twill weaving. This results to having tightly woven and smooth fabric with delicate patterns.

Woolen Yarn

Wool for woolen yarn goes directly to spinning. Spinning of woolen yarn is done on a mule spinning machine using the long draw technique. The first step in spinning is the carding of the fiber into a rolag.  This is done by twisting into a short segment of the rolag, then pulling back until achieving the desired thickness of the yarn. When twisting is enough, the yarn is wounded on the bobbin, and then the process starts once more.

Wool yarns are made into fabric through plain weaving. This type produces a fabric of a loose weave and soft surface.

image of woven yarn example

Photo from Eva Stossel’s Weaving Blog

Both woolen and worsted yarns also go through some finishing procedures. First, the fabric is immersed to interlock the fibers. It then undergoes crabbing to permanently set the interlock, and then decating to reduce shrinkage. Other times, dyeing is also done after the wool has been knitted into the textile.

Characteristics and Uses

Woolen Yarn

Image of white cotton yarn cone

Photo from Academia

Absorbency, fire resistance, and durability are among the numerous properties of wool yarn. Wool can absorb up to 30% weight in moisture which makes it good for all climates; and it has moisture in every fiber that is why it can repel flame. It burns slowly when exposed to flame, and will immediately stop burning when flame is eliminated. Wool fiber is very flexible – it can be stretched up to 50% of its measurement when dry, and 30% when wet. Its stretch ability makes it very resilient.

Wool is used for different kinds of clothes - coats, dresses, jackets, pants, sweaters, and suits. It can also be used for blankets and carpets, either hand-knitted or machine made. Merino wool is used in baby sleep products like wrap blankets and sleeping bags. Moreover, it is used to cover cloth diapers. In addition, wool can be used as a soil fertilizer.


                Worsted Yarn

worsted yarn example image

Photo from Academia

Long fiber wools of worsted yarns are usually used by manufacturers because they are more resilient. Fabric from worsted wool gives off a warm and dry feeling against the skin even when wet. Worsted yarn can absorb up to 30% of weight in moisture. It is also flame resistant, making it a good choice for baby and firemen’s blanket. It is lightweight and has a rough texture. It also returns to its natural shape easily.

This type of yarn is ideal for suits and trousers. It is used for gloves, stockings, and even carpets.

Interested in arts and crafts?

example of craft knitting yarn


finished hand knit garment example - crafting

Photos from Unsplash

Makers' Mercantile is an independently owned craft shop that offers a variety of knitting products for crafters and hobbyists. Here you can buy gifts, look for kits, and even take classes!

You can also visit its facility that has a lounge, classrooms, and meeting space where individual artists, groups, and guilds can meet. The RylieCakes Gluten-Free Bakery is available too, because “crafting is always better with a warm drink and a sweet treat”.



History of wool - http://www.iwto.org/wool/history-of-wool/

Worsted - http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEsummer09/KSFEATsum09glossary.php

Woolen - http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEfall09/KSFEATfall09glossary.php

Steps - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yafkK0uk65U

Makers’ Mercantile - http://www.makersmercantile.com/

gifts - http://www.makersmercantile.com/gifts.html

kits - http://www.makersmercantile.com/project-kits.html

classes - http://www.makersmercantile.com/classes.html



Wool1 - http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-19/australian-export-wool-industry-divided-over-animal-welfare/7184304

Wool2 - http://www.commonwealthmfg.com/blog/2016/1/24/wool

Wool3 - http://mylittlesheep.com/SpinningBabydollWool.htm

Wool4 - https://evasweaving.wordpress.com/weaving-drafts/

Wool5 - http://www.academia.edu/3052643/Comparison_of_Wool_and_Worsted_Yarn

Wool6 - http://www.academia.edu/3052643/Comparison_of_Wool_and_Worsted_Yarn

Wool7 and Wool8 - https://unsplash.com/photos/zaI26hWyrPY