Wool. A form of hair distinguished by its soft and wavy or curly structure, and by its highly serrated or scaly surface. It would be idle to attempt to determine the vexed question of precedence between wool and flax, or to attempt to determine whether the honor of first manufacturing wool belongs to the Greeks or Egyptians, for both of which nations it has been claimed. It is sufficient to know that wool has been in use for clothing from a prehistoric period, for wherever traces of man are found, there we are almost sure to find the remains of sheep. Among the interesting relics of the lake-dwellers have been found fragments of woven woolen cloth, and the barrows of the early Britons have likewise contained bodies wrapped in woolen cloths, the cloth frequently not being woven but simply plaited. Throughout the history of Greece and Rome the culture of sheep was second to no other occupation in importance, and was mixed up with their religion, their commerce, and indeed with all the relations of their life. From this time downwards until the rise of the cotton manufacture, wool formed the principal staple in the commerce of the world, and contributed prosperity and splendor to unnumbered nations and cities. Next to cotton, wool is the most important of textile fibers, and from the earliest dawn of human history has formed a striking feature in the condition of mankind. Owing to the ease with which it may be made into thread, and to the comfort derived from clothing of woolen texture, it would naturally be one of the very first textiles used by man as a covering to shield him from the elements. The testimony of all ancient records goes to prove the high antiquity of woolen textures and the early importance of sheep. While sheep are by far the most important producers of wool, they are, however, not the only animals which yield wool employed for industrial purposes. The alpaca, the llama, the Angora goat, and the camel are all wool-producers; while the Cashmere goat of the Himalayan mountains yields the most costly wool in the world. At what point it can be said that an animal fiber ceases to be hair and becomes wool, it is impossible to determine, because in every characteristic the one class by imperceptible gradations merges into the other, so that a continuous chain can be formed from the finest and softest merino to the rigid bristles of the wild boar.

As has already been indicated, the distinction between wool and hair lies chiefly in the great fineness, softness and waved delicacy of woolen fiber, combined with a highly serrated surface. Upon these minute points of difference the value of wool in a great measure depends, especially with regard to the variety of its applications. If each fiber were straight and smooth, as in the case of hair, it would not retain the twisted state given to it by spinning, but would rapidly untwist when relieved from the force of the spinning-wheel; but the wavy condition causes the fibers to become entangled with each other, and the little projecting points of the scales hook into each other and hold the fibers in close contact. Moreover, the deeper these scales fit into one another the closer becomes the structure of the thread, and consequently of the cloth made of it. This peculiarity also gives to wool the quality of felting. [See Felting, Broadcloth] These scales or serrations are most numerous, acute and pointed in fine wools, as many as 2,800 per inch having been counted in specimens of the finest Saxony wool. In Leicester wool, which is long and bright, the scales are fewer in number, counting about 1800, and are also less pronounced in character, the fiber presenting a smoother and less wavy appearance. In inferior wools the serrations fall as low as 500 per inch. A similar difference may be noted in the fineness of the fibers: Saxony lamb's wool has a diameter of from 1-1500 to 1-1800 of an inch, while Texas "coarse" may rise to a diameter of 1-275 of an inch. In length of staple wool also varies greatly, attaining in "combing" wools a length of 15 to 20 inches. As a rule the fine felting wools are short in staple, these constituting the "carding" or "woolen" yarn wools. The longer are lustrous and comparatively straight, thus being more suitable for "combing" or "worsted" wools. The latter approach mohair and alpaca in their characters, being spun and prepared by the same machinery.

It becomes necessary here to indicate the specific difference between worsted and woolen yarns and cloths. In a general way it may be said that woolen yarns are those made from short wools possessed of high felting qualities, which are prepared by a process of carding, in which the fibers are as far as possible crossed and interlaced with each other, forming a sort of light, fluffy yarn, which suits the material when woven into cloth for being brought into the semi-felted condition, by fulling, which is the distinguishing characteristic of woolen cloth. On the other hand, worsted yarns are generally made from the long and lustrous varieties of wool, the fibers, instead of being carded, are so combed as to bring them as far as possilbe to lie parallel to each other, the yarn being spun into a compact, smooth, and level thread, which when woven into cloth is not fulled or felted. Worsted yarn requires to be harder twisted, because the fibers have not the felting qualities of the woolen, and hence would be liable to untwist and not wear well. The surface of a woolen fabric is soft, oily, and pleasant to the touch, but a worsted surface is hard and slippery, and is therefore unpleasant in feeling. Each has its merits and defects. The felting quality of woolens causes the fabric to to draw together or shrink when wet, a defect which can only be overcome by special care in washing, which is seldom possible to command. A worsted fabric is much less affected by water, because the structure of its fibers precludes much drawing together. At all points, however, woolen and worsted yarns as thus defined cut into each other to some extent - some woolens being made from longer wool than some worsteds and vice versa; while fulling or felting is a process done in all degrees, from a very little to a great deal, woolens sometimes not being at all fulled, while to some worsteds a felted finish is given. The fundamental distinction between the two rests in the crossing and interlacing of the fibers in preparing woolen yarn while for worsted yarn the fibers are treated by processes designed to bring them into a smooth, parallel relationship to each other. Broadcloth, doeskin, cassimere, kersey, cheviot, frieze, etc., are representatives of the woolen class; while corkscrew, diagonal, serge, rep, etc., represent a few of the worsted class. Hosiery forms a class apart, as do also the wools used in the manufacture of carpets, shawls, alpaca and mohair textures. The range of woolen and worsted manufacture is very wide, the raw material for one class not being at all suitable or fitted for the other. Much more than in the case of any other textile industry, we have in the wool trade practically a series of separate and distinct industries, each with a different class of raw wool. The main distinctions are (1) carding wools, in which felting qualities are desirable; (2) combing wools, requiring length of staple and brightness of fiber, for making hard-spun, non-felting worsteds; and (3) carpet and knitting wools, in which a long and strong and somewhat coarse staple is the essential quality. The wool market is supplied from almost every quarter of the globe, the qualities and varieties being numerous. The world's production for the year 1891 is given as follows:

 

Pounds

Europe:

 

Russia___..................._________..........................

291,500,000

Great Britain and Ireland......................................

147,475,000

France..................______.................___.....______

124,803,000

Spain____________......____......_____.............._____

66,138,000

Germany...........____ __________...........____..........

54.894,000

Hungary______________............-------......---------------------

43.146.000

Italy_______..........................._________________.....

21,885,000

Austria.....____________...........................____.....

11,155.000

Portugal............___________ ____..........____..........

10,362,000

Belgium_________ _......... ________ .......________. ...

4.409,000

Sweden________..............________........................

3,307,000

All other Europe....._..........................................

8,818,000

Total Europe.............................________________

787,392,000

North America :

 

United States.....___...............................________

307,100,000

British North American Provinces _

12,000,000

Soutli America:

 

Argentine Republic____...........................................................................

376,700,000

Brazil......................................................

1,875,000

Pern..........................................____..............

6,700,000

Uruguay........____________..............................

42,000,000

Australasia_______.............................................

550.000.000

Asia:

 

British East Indies..............................._____________

72,000,000

Russia .........................

66,000,000

Afghanistan, Beluchistan and Thibet exports to India ...............

12,200,000

Sivas Syria}Asiatic Turkey..........................................

8,300,000

The consumption of wool in Europe and North America for 1891 is estimated at 1,944,000,000 pounds. Of this stupendous amount, England used 487,000,000 pounds and North America 456,000,000 pounds. In 1880 the capital invested in the wool manufacture in the United States was $159,000,000; in 1890 it was $320,000,000. During the ten years the cost of wool, etc., used, rose from $164,000,000 to $203,000,000, and the value of the products from $267,000,000 to $338,000,000. The greatest wool market in the United States is Boston, with Philadelphia a good second. The centers of the manufacturing industry are New England, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. In the value of products Pennsylvania leads all the states, its figures for 1890 being $89,000,000; Massachusetts comes next with $72,000,000, and then New York with $53,000,000.

Wool comes into the mill dirty, greasy, burry, sometimes washed by the farmer, but generally just as it is sheared from the sheep, a filthy and unwholesome thing, giving little sign of the beautiful, flossy substance into which it is soon converted. It must be first sorted, each fleece containing from six to eight qualities, which the careful manufacturer separates, devoting each quality for the purpose to which it is best suited. This operation of sorting is one of the most important about a woolen mill. No skill in carding, spinning, weaving, or finishing can possibly produce a soft or fine piece of goods from coarse, hard fiber. When woolen thread is to be spun to the length of 15,360 yards to the pound, or in the case of worsted thread to twice that number of yards to a pound, everything depends upon care in the selection of the fleece and in the sorting. The operation is very far removed from being a mere mechanical process of selecting and separating the wool from certain regions of the fleece, because in each individual fleece qualities and proportions differ, and it is only by long years of experience that a sorter is enabled, almost as it were by instinct, rightly to divide up his lots by minute gradations, in order to produce even qualities of raw material. These sorts are impregnated with a greasy substance called the yolk or suint, caused by the animal secretions and the perspiration of the skin, which must be completely eradicated. The elimination of the yolk, dirt and foreign substances common to all wool results in a shrinkage of from 50 to 70 per cent. After scouring, the wool has to be burred and oiled before it is in a condition to be carded. Woolen yarns are exclusively made by the process of carding. The object of this operation is to separate and equally distribute a mass of wool into a long, continuous, uniform lap. To prepare it for spinning, this lap must now be divided into a series of equal strips, and these in turn condensed sufficiently compact to bear winding on a bobbin. The mule-frame is employed for spinning woolen yarns, being the same in principle as the spinning-mule used for fine counts of cotton yarn. [See Spinning] Yarn as delivered from the mule in woolen spinning (or from the throstle in case of worsteds), is in the condition known as singles. For twisting the singles into yarn of two or more ply it is wound from two or three bobbins onto one. The twist is given in the reverse direction from that in which the singles are spun, and thereby the single is to some extent untwisted. Yarn of two, three, and five-ply, and upwards, are made. Sometimes different sizes of yarn are twisted together; and yet again, as is often the case, yarns may be made of different fibers, such as wool and cotton, or wool and silk, etc. Numerous variations of the method of twisting are employed to produce loops, knots, and other irregularities in yarn, for convenience in weaving fancy textures.

Asia:

Pounds.

Mesopotamia.....................................____

. 31,555,000

Persia (exports to India)

3,470,000

Africa:

 

Cape Colony }

Natal }...........................-...............

128,681,600

Egypt..........................................................

2,800,000

All other countries...............................................

48,000,000

Total production of the world................____________

2,456,733,600