Wednesday, May 8, 2013

History of Wool

These little ladies just needed to say HI!
Sheep were domesticated around eleven thousand years ago.  The earliest wool came from sheep that were more hairy then wooly.  Some of the earliest wool was found in Iran dating back to around 6,000 BC.    The oldest European cloth was found preserved in a Danish bog around 1500 BC.  During medieval times the trading of wool made a huge impact on the European economy.  During the 1200’s England dominated the market and for many centuries to come.  By the time the American colonies came into existence they were forbidden to trade wool with anyone but England.

Spinning yard has evolved from spinning by hand, to the spinning wheel, then to the modern day textile mills.  The very first fibers were spun by holding the wool in one hand and drawing it with the other hand.  The thread was bulky and uneven.  The first spinning wheel was crude in design but did the job.  As time progressed the spinning wheel was redesigned to make it more efficient… but that is for another blog.

Wheel barrel full of wool that needs to be cleaned.
Some feel spinning is a lost art; however it really isn’t.  People have never lost the desire to spin their own fiber.  Though the need to create our own fabric has changed, there are many people who still enjoy the art of spinning.  There are thousands of spinning guilds in existence from the very experienced spinner to the novice.  It is impressive to see the art of spinning with a drop spindle.  I, myself, am not coordinated enough to do that and stick with a modern spinning wheel.

As with everything, time has changed the wool world.  Today, of the one billion sheep in existence only 30 million are in England.  Australia has become the dominated force in the wool industry.  Sheep adapt well to almost any environment and can be found in all parts of the world.  There are nearly 40 recognizable breed of sheep in the world.  England has lost its place as the dominate force in the wool industry.

Hand dyed wool from Wooly Bully Yard
As with all fibers, the different types of wool have different types of usage. The fiber diameter, color and strength of the fiber determine the quality of the wool.  Fiber diameters of 25 microns are used for garments.  Fibers larger than 25 microns are normally used for carpeting and rugs.

Long gone are the days of scratch wool clothing.  There are many different kinds of wools and when blended with each other or other natural fibers they create luscious fabrics.  Shetland, Merino, lampswool, mohair, angora, alpaca are just a few wools that can be blended to make wonderful garments or can be spun alone.

I want one of each... Wooly Bully Yarn .
Wool can be dyed in an array of colors or left natural.  It can be dyed either before or after spinning.   The creators of Wooly Bully Yarn have a variety of wool and colors to pick from and are always pushing the boundaries when it comes to drying the fiber.

***All photos are courtesy of a of Deb Austin-Johnson owner of Glass Onion Bead Co and Wooly Bully Yarn

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