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Clothing Fabrics - Fabrics Of Wool

( Originally Published 1924 )

"Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
Have you any wool?"
"Yes, sir; Yes, sir, three bags full.
One for my master, one for his dame,
And one for the little boy who cries in the lane."

There are approximately six hundred and twenty million sheep which furnish wool for clothing and other purposes, yet statistics tell us that there is by no means enough for every little boy who cries in the lane to have what he needs. So we have had to supplement sheep's wool with the hair of goats, llamas, and camels.

To the making of woolen fabrics there is no end. One manufacturing company of America annually makes enough woolen fabrics to extend around the world one and one half times. It is estimated that there are over thirty-five thousand varieties of woolen fabrics shown each season. In the manufacture of this infinite variety are used virgin wool, pulled wool, waste wool, new and old cloth reduced to fiber and called "shoddy," and combinations of wool with cotton and silk. Two-thirds of the wool used in America is raised in the United States, and of the wool production of the world, the United States furnishes one tenth.

Not only the location where the sheep grows but that part of the sheep where the wool grows and the kind of sheep which furnishes the fleece has much to do with the quality of the fiber. The Lincoln and Leicester sheep have the heaviest fleeces, but the wool of the various Scotch, Welsh, and Devonshire breeds is particularly fine; that of the super Southdowns is claimed to be the best produced anywhere. Australia is the largest producer of the best wool.

The finest part of the fleece, so far as softness and evenness of length are concerned, come from the shoulders and sides of the sheep. The whole fleece of the sheep sticks together when it is removed by a skilful shearer, so that it can be spread out like a bear-skin rug. Bales or bags are made up of the fleece, each tied up separately. The bales or bags weigh from one to five hundred pounds each.

The wool is sorted according to length of fiber, possibly into eight assortments. Just as raw silk contains gum which must be "boiled out," so wool contains a greasy matter, called yolk. Yolk keeps the wool from matting except at the ends. The sheep gets very dusty because this greasy substance absorbs dirt, but the coating thus formed protects the under fleece. The dusting process must some-times precede the process of scouring. The wool is run through a huge washing machine and scoured thoroughly with warm soapy water until it is as white as snow. It is then dried in a dryer, unless it is to be dyed wet, then subjected to oiling, which is done by spraying with some one or a combination of oils, such as olive-oil and tallow. This process may be carried on by hand or with machinery.

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