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How is wool made?

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The quality of sheep hair depends on various factors such as breed, food fed, health and the surroundings. Immunisation of animals against diseases, feeding healthy food and proper cleaning and prevention of animal hair from insect infestation by dipping the animal hairs in chemicals.

The steps in wool production is as followed:

• Shearing:
It is the process of removal of hair and can be done using various tools and chemicals such as: 1. Hand shearing (It is a labor-intensive process that involves the use of huge scissors) 2. Machine Shearing (It utilises electrical shears i.e. power operated machines) 3. Chemical Shearing (In this method the animal is fed a chemical as a result the animal hair shed off in about two weeks) 4. Depilatory Cream (It is used in case of pulled wool) 5. Epidermal growth factor (It is a chemical that is injected into the animal).

• Grading and Sorting:
Criteria used for categorising the animal hair are length, fineness, colour, age of the animal, part of the body, crimp and impurities. There is a variation in hair obtained from a single sheep such as the good quality hair is obtained from the parts that are shoulders, sides and back of the sheep while the inferior quality of wool is obtained from the underbelly and lower legs.
The grade of wool is measured qualitatively in a range of 1 (best) and 4 (worst). After the animal hair is removed and then sorted it is sent to the next step.

• Scouring:
This process is carried out in order to remove impurities, grease, fats and oil by treating the fleece with a warm, alkaline, soap solution. The natural oil and lanolin are procured and used in the cosmetic industry, ointment and soap. As the impurities wash away the weight of fleece decreases to almost half.

• Carbonizing:
It is a process of destroying the cellulosic matter that may be present in wool by trading the scoured wool in a solution of dilute sulphuric acid. The cellulosic matter includes leaves, twigs, and other vegetable matter collected by sheep during grazing which gets entangled in the hair over a period of time.

• Carding:
It is the process of straightening the wool fibers using fine wire-teethed cylinders. After which the coarse and bulky yarns are produced by employing a woollen spinning system.

• Combing:
It is an optional step in order to produce yarns that are smooth and fine (worsted wool). Worsted fabrics are smoother, lighter, lustrous and can hold crease when compared with woolens. The worsted wool is used in the manufacturing of apparel such as men’s suits while the coarse wool obtained from the carding step is used in the manufacturing of carpet wool.

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