Interesting facts about wool

Wool is the textile fiber.

It is obtained from sheep and other animals, including cashmere and mohair from goats, qiviut from muskoxen, hide and fur clothing from bison, angora from rabbits, and other types of wool from camelids.

Wool is used for fabrics because it is easy to spin (individual fibers attach to each other and stay together).

People use wool fiber to make clothing, blankets, and other things to keep warm.

Wool has scaling and crimp and because of that it is more bulky which causes it to retain air and with air – heat. That helps with isolating the body from outside cold but also from the heat. It is also easy to felt the wool.

Wool is a natural protein fiber that grows from the follicles of the sheep’s skin. It is like human hair in that it is composed of keratin-type protein. Chemically these proteins contain 5 elements: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur.

Each wool fiber is a molecular coilspring making the fiber remarkably elastic. The flexibility of the wool fiber also makes it more durable. A wool fiber can be bent back on itself more than 20,000 times without breaking, compared to about 3,000 times for cotton and 2,000 times for silk. The natural elasticity of wool also makes woolen fabrics resistant to tearing. In addition, the outer skin of the wool fiber acts as a protective film, giving wool cloth improved resistance to abrasion.

Although human race domesticated sheep somewhere between 9000 and 7000 BC they were more hairy than wooly and had to be bred by selection somewhere around 6000 BC. First woven wool garments date from 400 to
300 BC.

In Roman times, wool was extravagant luxury goods and the finest wool came from Tarentum, a coastal city in today’s Puglia, Southern Italy.

In medieval times, as trade connections expanded, the Champagne fairs revolved around the production of wool cloth in small centers such as Provins. The network developed by the annual fairs meant the woolens of Provins might find their way to Naples, Sicily, Cyprus, Majorca, Spain, and even Constantinople. The wool trade developed into serious business, a generator of capital. In the 13th century, the wool trade became the economic engine of the Low Countries and central Italy.

The Medici and other great houses of Florence had built their wealth on their textile industry based on wool.

In Spain a thriving wool trade helped finance the voyages of Columbus and the Conquistadores.

In 1377, England’s King Edward III, “the royal wool merchant,” stopped woven-goods imports and the domestic weaving of foreign wools and invited Flemish weavers fleeing the Spanish invasion to settle in England where the industry thrived.

The importance of wool to the English economy can be seen in the fact that since the 14th century, the presiding officer of the House of Lords has sat on the “Woolsack”, a chair stuffed with wool.

England’s “empire of wool” peaked during the 1509-47 reign of King Henry VIII. He seized the flocks of the monasteries and redistributed them to court favorites. This caused unemployed shepherds to be sent to prison for non-payment of debts and was one of the unfair treatments which incited immigration to America.

By 1660 wool textile exports were two-thirds of England’s foreign commerce.

Columbus brought sheep to Cuba and Santo Domingo on his second voyage in 1493, and Cortez took their descendants along when he explored what is now Mexico and the southwestern United States. Navajo and other Southwest Indian tribes are famous yet today for their magnificent woolen rugs and colorful wall hangings.

The Industrial Revolution introduced mass production technology into wool and wool cloth manufacturing.

Australia’s colonial economy was based on sheep raising, and the Australian wool trade eventually overtook that of the Germans by 1845, furnishing wool for Bradford, which developed as the heart of industrialized woolens production.

In middle 20th century, wool production falls because of the appearing of the synthetic fibers. Superwash wool (or washable wool), a type of wool that is specially treated so it can be washed in machine and tumble-dried, first appeared in the early 1970s.

In 2007, a new wool suit was made from Australian Merino wool in Japan that can be washed in the shower and dried within hours with no ironing required.

Australia is the world’s largest producer of raw wool, growing about 30 percent of the total world supply..

The United States government allows the fiber from alpaca, camel, llama, vicuña, Cashmere goat, and Angora goat to be labeled as wool, but these can also be labeled by their own fiber names.