The New Student's Reference Work/Wool

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Wool, one of the most important of all animal substances, ranks next to cotton in its use in the manufacture of clothing. It is a sort of hair, growing on sheep and on goats. The fiber differs from a hair in being crinkly or wavy and in having very minute scales, both of which properties fit it for its uses. The wavy twist keeps it from unwinding when made into yarn, and the scales make the threads catch each other, a process known as felting. Wool varies in quality with different species of sheep and also with the food, shelter and climate. The Saxon wool has the most of the felting property, and the wool of the Angora goat, called mohair, is the whitest, while that of the Kashmir goat is very soft and rich though short. The merino sheep furnishes one of the best varieties of wool, a single fleece usually weighing about four or five pounds. In the manufacture of woolen goods the wool is sorted into different grades, washed, scoured and dried. It is then dyed, if to be dyed in the wool, and carded or made into threads, ready for weaving. After weaving, the cloth is scoured to remove the oil and dust, dyed, if dyed in the piece, and dried on stretchers. It is then fulled, a process that shrinks the cloth and makes it more compact. Teasling, a process to raise the threads, and shearing, which cuts them the right length to form the nap, follow, shearing often being repeated several times. The boiling of the cloth, which prevents spotting and gives a luster, brushing, pressing and folding finish the work. Broadcloths, cassimeres and beavers are strictly woolen goods, while merinoes, bombazines, delaines etc. are worsted goods, named from the town of Worsted, England, in which the processes of manufacture are somewhat different, the wool being combed, which prevents its felting as closely, and also differently spun. The introduction of machinery and steam-power revolutionized the manufacture of woolen goods. A woman could card one pound of wool a day by hand, spin two skeins of yarn, and weave two or three yards of cloth. Now, by the use of machinery, one worker can card 150 pounds of wool, spin 500 pounds and weave from 35 to 50 yards of cloth in a day. The amount of wool produced throughout the world one year was estimated at 2,643,533,794 pounds, nearly half of which came from Australasia, South America and South Africa. Australasia then produced 400,000,000 pounds; Argentina 370,000,000; Russia 361,100,000; the United States 291,783,032; Great Britain and Ireland 133,124,762; Spain 102,600,000; and South Africa 100,000,000. Great Britain has been the largest producer of woolen goods, but the manufacture is growing rapidly in the United States both in extent and in the quality of the goods.