At this time of year I get countless orders for men’s and women’s wool vests. This is understandable since the temperature just dropped below zero in the Northeast! I’m making a special trip to Portland, Ore. on Feb. 7, 8, and 9 to find more woolen fabrics to add to my site this spring and I’ll let you know when I have the new vests for you to see!!!
As most people know, wool fabric cleans easily, resists wrinkles and hold its shape well. But the important thing at this time of year is that wool is one of the warmest fabrics available.
Why does wool keep us warm?
Wool ‘s warmth comes from a high concentration of special fibers. The fleece of sheep is made up of cylindrical fibers that have overlapping scales on the surface, like shingles on a roof . These fibers have a natural waviness that work together with the scales to give it extra bulk that traps air pockets, acting as an insulator. Thus, warmth!
Types of wool are determined by the quality of the sheep’s fleece. This depends on the age, physical condition and the climate in which they live. The softest wool is called lamb’s wool and comes from sheep 6 to 12 months old. Hog wool is from a sheep that is 12 to 14 months old. Pulled wool comes from dead animals and is used in felts and blankets.
Although every state produces wool, Texas and Wyoming produce the most. Even so, the US does not produce as much as it consumes and has to import wool from the world’s leading producers: Australia, New Zealand, and China
Yarn and Fabric
Many steps occur between the sheep and you:
- Shearing: Done with electric shears and usually during early spring and summer. The best wool comes from the shoulders and sides of the sheep.
- Sorting and Grading: Workers remove any stained , damaged or inferior wool and then grade by the wool strength, length of fiber, fineness of strand and waviness (“crimp”). Natural crimp produces the elasticity that keeps the strand’s shape after being stretched. White/natural wool is most desirable since it is easier to dye than the darker colors that must be bleached before dye can be applied.
- Making Yarn: The wool is washed and the oily coating (“yolk”) is removed (called “lanolin” when used in hand cream. As the wool dries it is combed (“carded”) and then it is run through rollers with wire teeth that untangle the strands They are arranged into a flat sheet called a “web” and then formed into ropes called “slivers”. Slivers are slightly twisted to form thinner stands and spun into yarns which are bulky and fuzzy. “Worsted” slivers are smooth, longer, highly twisted, and run in parallel.
- Making Fabric: Wool manufacturers take the yarns and weave or knit them into fabrics that you and I wear.