Extraction of Wool from Sheep
The steps involved in wool production are as follows.
- Shearing – The process of removal of the woollen coat or fleece from the animal is called shearing. This is done without harming the animal by using shearing tools such as scissors, hand blades and electric shears. Shearing is usually done during the hot season. This allows them to grow back hair by the time winter arrives. The amount of wool produced by one sheep varies from 1 to 3 kg.
- Scouring – Wool taken directly from the sheep is called raw or grease wool. The raw sheared wool is washed with detergent and alkali in tanks to remove grease, dust and dirt. This is called scouring. Nowadays it is done by machine.
- Sorting and grading – After scouring the damaged or inferior wool is removed. This process is called sorting. The process of sorting the wool according to the length, colour and texture of fibres is called grading.
- Carding – Before wool can be used for making fabric it is disentangled and cleaned. The intermixed fibres are separated to form continuous fibres. This process is called carding, the wood fibres are passed through a series of metal teeth to straighten the fibres.
- Making yarn – Carded wool is twisted into a rope called silver. The silver is stretched and twisted into a thin yarn. Spinning for woollen yarns is typically done on a mule spinning machine.
- Washing and finishing – Woollen yarn is woven or knitted into fabric which is then used to make finished products such as clothes, table cloths and bags.
Animals Yielding Wool
Wool fibres are obtained from sheep, goat, angora rabbits, goats, alpaca and even camels.
- Sheep – Most sheep have two types of hair from which the wool is obtained. The outer coarse hair is known as Kemp. The fine, soft undercoat close to the skin is the true wool from which wool fibre is obtained.
- Cashmere goat – The fine soft fibre obtained from the undercoat of the cashmere goat is called cashmere. The outer coat hair fibres are quite coarse and high quality cashmere is obtained by “dehairing” or combing. Cashmere goats are found only in mountain regions of china.
- Yak – Yaks are found in Tibet and Ladakh. Their coats consist of outer long coat hair and an undercoat of soft and silky wool. The colour usually ranges from brown to black.
- Camel – Camel fleece consists of a soft, fine undercoat and an overcoat of long coarse hair that grows up to 15 inches long. Camel wool is considered a healthy natural product. It has excellent thermal insulation properties.
- Angora rabbit – Soft white fibre called a goraw wool is obtained from the angora rabbit. Stiff, long, guard hair growing through the soft coat has to be removed before the fur from these rabbits is combed out. The soft white fur obtained is then spun into yarn that is used to make sweaters.