Wool is secreted by the hair the hair bulb, and out through the pores of the skin of sheep. The quality varies according to race of the animal, and depending on the position occupied on the body of sheep. The finest fibers lie on the shoulders and neck of sheep.




The glands secrete sudore sheep wool, and the sebaceous glands suintine, and each fiber is coated with fat, which becomes a protective coating. (Italics in the text comes directly from the book ’5000 know-how.) Wool is a very complex keratin fiber and multi-cellular covered with « scales « . Depending on the breed of sheep and metabolism,the morphology of the fiber, the shape of cells that compose it are different. Merino is made of two types of cells, each forming fine fibers and small, other fiber-forming larger.These two types of mixed fibers give the waves or curls of merino wool. The diameter of the fibers of merino wool varies according to their quality: the extra-fine fibers have a diameter of 17 to 19 microns, fine fibers with a diameter of 19-23 microns, average fiber diameter of 23 to 32 microns and fiber coarser in diameter from 33 to 42 microns.The wool fiber is very tough, losing 10-20% of its characteristics when wet. The elasticity of the fiber gives it loft and wrinkle.

There are a wide variety of breeds of sheep, but we can admit three main varieties :

- The fine-wool sheep, whose fibers are of 30-125 mm in length, rather short but fine:merino wool. Merino sheep were exported from Spain to Australia in the late 18thcentury, England and Japan become the largest importers of Australian wool. The famous Woolmark has been created and submitted by ’The Australian wool board in 1963. In 2004, under pressure from organizations fighting pure well-being of animals,Australian wool producers are committed to radically change the method of shearingsheep.
- The sheep wool from 125 to 300 mm in length, fiber fineness average.
- The long-wool sheep: 200 mm or more and large diameter such as race and EnglishLeicester wool is processed and Lincoln.




« Pre-wash: it eliminates the biggest contaminants. Chemical washing: hot water,detergent, soda, to remove the greasy fibers.
After washing, the wool is dewatered and dried. In the Middle Ages, the wool waswashed with soap and warm water, then after spinning, wool was treated with fuller’s earth, a mixture of clay, aluminum silicate hydrate, which removed the natural fats. Then the wool was placed in large vats, we walked over and tapped on it with large sticks,fulling, which was a sweet finish to fabrics. Carbonizing: acid treatment phase, whichremoves debris still present in plant cellulose wool. Opening – mixed: homogenization oflots of wool to work. Carding: parallelization fiber ribbon. Combing: elimination of shorter fibers. »

France, especially Mazamet, was an important center Pulled from the mid 19th century until the mid 80s. »The skins of sheep were immersed in tanks, cleaned by sandblastingand processed in an oven. Then the machines separated wool leather, wooltransformed by the wool industry and the leather tannery in the region. »



In India, the finest grades of wool came from the fiber ’Pashm’ neck and underbelly of thegoat Ibex plateaux of Ladakh and Tibet, and antelope Chiru, the highlands of the Himalayas . The diameter of the fibers of this antelope measuring from 9 to 12 microns,1 / 5 the size of a human hair. Fabrics woven from these fibers were weaving woolshawls, Kullu – Himachal Pradesh / Himalaya – India, 2002 and very light air. Unlike theIbex goat, whose hair was harvested by hand, painting the animal, the antelope waskilled to take his fleece and this species is now endangered, it is forbidden to hunt, itsfibers are more commercialized. Pashmina fibers are woven into today’s region ofIndian Kashmir.
Originally, the wool fibers used in India does not come all the sheep and the hairs weretaken from cats, rabbits, but there were also feathers of owls. Woven wool was placedon the ground, or used as hedges, thick as curtains or worn as a shawl. Like clothing notsewn in Ancient Greece, the Indians shawls draped over the body and lent themselvesto multiple uses.





In the Middle Ages, England was known for producing wool as fine a wire spider web.The breed of sheep ’Cotswold’, was named the gold fiber, and appreciated throughout Europe.
This breed descended from sheep raised on farms by the Romans during their occupation of England. Nowadays, ’the British wool marketing board, has a sixty species of sheep, including 17 endangered and protected. English designer Nicky Thomson uses and for its collection of jackets, shawls, heated shoulder capes, hats andscarves, wool Columbia, she mixed with angora and alpaca, pinned to single these outfits, and the incomparable warmth afforded by the mixture of these materials.


Sources :

Tissu et vêtement, 5000 ans de savoir-faire,

Catalogue de l’exposition, 1986,

Musée archéologique départemental du Val-d’Oise.

Indian Shawls, Mantles of splendour, AshaRani Mathur.

Selvedge Magazine, n° sept.oct. 2008, www.selvedge.org


By Valerie Ferrat, mySeelk

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