While you are waiting for the samples of wool serges, galatea, and sateen, let us study about wool. Wool is the most important textile fiber. All girls should know about it, whether you will use wool or cotton for your bloomers.

In the picture (Fig. 115) you will see a very peaceful scene. The sheep are grazing and storing up food and energy to be converted into food for us to eat and clothing for us to wear. Mr. Allen has over a hundred sheep on his farm. How grateful we should be to the patient sheep. This animal fiber called wool is a variety of hair, and varies in fineness. The coarser varieties are called hair. Hair is obtained from the angora goat, the camel, and alpaca. Perhaps your teacher has a microscope. Look at the fibers under the glass. You can see how hair differs from wool. There are tiny serrations on the wool surface which look like the scales of a pine cone, lapping one over the other. This is a wonderful thing to see; for it is on account of these tiny serrations which close up when in hot water that one must be so careful about laundering woolens.

Fig. 115.   These peaceful looking sheep provide our wool clothing.

Rosa Bonheur. Fig. 115. - These peaceful looking sheep provide our wool clothing.

Wool looks wavy in length. It is fine and has a luster; while hair has a smooth surface and lies straight.

Have you ever seen sheep sheared of their wool?

Perhaps it is done on your farm. Sheep are usually sheared only once a year, in April or May. If there are only a few sheep, it is easy to use the hand shears like those in the picture (Fig. 117); but where there are many sheep, the machine clippers must be used. These clipping machines can be run by hand or other power. They shear close and save wool.

Notice the machine which the man in the picture (Fig. 118) is using; it is just like the one Mr. Allen uses. Frank or John sometimes helps. The coating of wool from one sheep is called a fleece. On the large sheep ranches of the West the fleeces are tied into bundles, and these bundles are put in sacks holding about 400 pounds to be shipped to certain wool-purchasing centers where the buyers examine the wool and buy in quantities. What do you know about the sheep industry? Our sheep industry is very important. The western states, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Oregon, support about 38 million sheep. That is a large family to shear and feed.

Other countries grow sheep for clothing wools, too. Australia, England, South Africa, South America, Spain, and Germany all give much attention to sheep raising.

Fig. 116.   Wool fibers magnified.

Fig. 116. - Wool fibers magnified.

Fig. 117.   The hand shears.

Fig. 117. - The hand shears.

This industry is very old. We read in the Bible that wool was used long ago and that King David of Israel wrote psalms as he tended his sheep on the hillside. Abel, the brother of Cain, was a keeper of sheep. Can you find these stories in the Bible? Writers of many ages tell about wool - Pliny, Homer, and Virgil. Alexander too, when he journeyed to India in early days, saw beautiful woolen shawls being made.

Fig. 118.   Sheep shearing by machinery.

Courtesy of Chicago Flexible Shaft Co. Fig. 118. - Sheep shearing by machinery.

Some sheep give a better quality of wool than others. The Merino wool is the very finest. The camel furnishes a beautiful soft fiber. Then, there is the angora goat of Asia Minor, which provides us with mohair. This is a lovely soft fiber resembling silk. Can you find this country on your map? Look for Peru and for Chili. The sheep there furnish the alpaca and llama wools.

Some wool fibers are long, and some are quite short. The length of fiber, or staple as it is called, varies. An average length is 7 or 8 inches. How does this compare with the silk or linen fiber? Is it as long as cotton?

The fibers also vary in strength and luster, fineness, softness, and elasticity. What do these words mean?

Can you find them in your dictionary? The tiny serrations on the wool fiber cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are, however, very important; for it is this characteristic of wool which makes it felt, and, because these tiny serrations interlock, it is possible to make the fine texture of broadcloth and other fine wool materials. We shall study how later. Do you think we wish the tiny serrations to interlock when we wash woolen articles? If they do, what will happen to the garment? Do you know how this can be prevented? If you have sheep on your farm or near, will you bring some of the wool to school. It is dirty. Perhaps you can wash it at school, and see how soft and fine and lustrous it is. You may also be able to dye some. The center of the wool fiber is rather porous, and this enables the fiber to take up dye easily.

The wool from some sheep farms varies on account of the differences in climate, soil, and breed of sheep. The sheep of southern England produce short and fine wool; while in the north, where it is colder, the wool is stronger and coarser. Wools from Saxony and Silesia . are very fine. The English and Australian wools are of several qualities. The long wools come from Lincoln and Leicestershire, and the shorter from Suffolk and Shropshire. Can you find these places on your map of England? The long coarse wools are used for carpets and for knitting, because they are so strong. The short wools used for clothing are about 3 to 4 inches in length. The long wools, about 10 inches in length, are called combing wools and are used for materials which are loosely woven like serges, homespuns, and others.

Next lesson we shall study our samples of woolen materials. Bring all the scraps of different kinds which you can contribute. Put them in the surprise box. We shall learn the names of the most common ones. Will you make a sample book for these too ?

Exercises And Problems

1. Find on the map the principal countries producing wool.

2. If your teacher has a microscope, compare wool and hair. How do they differ ?

3. Why do woolen garments shrink when washed in hot water ?

4. Why is wool the most important fiber of commerce ?

5. Tell some of the uses of long coarse wools; of the finer wools.