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WORSTED AND WOOLLEN MANUFACTURES WOOL

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Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 808 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WORSTED AND WOOLLEN MANUFACTURES WOOL. Wool is a modified form of hair, distinguished by its slender, soft and wavy or curly structure, and, as seen under the micro-scope, by its highly imbricated or serrated surface. At what point an animal fibre ceases to be hair and becomes wool it is impossible to determine, because the one 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. Thus the fine soft wool of the Australian merino merges into the cross-bred of New Zealand; the cross-bred of New Zealand merges into the long English and lustre wool, which in turn merges into alpaca and mohair-materials with clearly marked but undeveloped scale structure. Again, such animals as the camel and the Cashmere goat yield fibres, which it would perhaps be difficult to class rigidly as either wool or hair. • Wool is one of the most important of the textile fibres. Owing to the ease with which it may be spun into thread, and the com- fort derived from clothing made of wool, it would naturally be one of the first textiles used by mankind for clothing. Ancient records prove the high antiquity of wool textures and the early importance of the sheep. The different kinds of wool and the cloth made from them in antiquity are described by Pliny and referred to by other writers, and among the arts which the British Isles owe to the Romans not the least important is the spinning and weaving of wool. The sheep certainly was a domestic animal in Britain long before the period of the Roman occupation; and it is probable that some use was made of sheep skins and of wool. But the Romans established a wool factory whence the occupying army was supplied with cloth- ing, and the value of the manufacture was soon recognized by the Britons, of Whom Tacitus remarks, " Inde etiam habitus nostri honor et frequens toga " (Agric. c. 21). The product of the Winchester looms soon established a reputation abroad, it being remarked that " the wool of Britain is often spun so fine that it is in a manner comparable to the spider's thread." This reputation was maintained throughout the middle ages, and the fibre was in great demand in the Low Countries and other continental centres. There are many allusions to woollen manufactures in England in early times; but the native industry could not rival the products of the continent, although the troubles in various industrial centres, from time to time, caused skilled workers in wool to seek an asylum in England. In the time of William the Conqueror Flemish weavers settled under the protection of the queen at Carlisle, but subsequently they were removed to Pembrokeshire. At various subsequent periods there were further immigrations of skilled Flemish weavers, who were planted at different places throughout the country. The cloth fair in the church yard of the priory of St Bartholomew was instituted by Henry II.; gilds of weavers were established; and the exclusive privilege of exporting woollen cloth was granted to the city of London. Edward III. made special efforts to encourage wool industries. He brought weavers, dyers and fullers from Flanders; he himself wore British cloth; but to stimulate native industry he prohibited, under pain of life and limb, the exportation of English wool. Previous to this time English wool had been in large demand on the continent, where it had a reputation exceeded only by the wool of Spain. The customs duties levied on the export of wool were an important source of the royal revenue. Edward III.'s prohibitory law was, however, found to be unworkable, and the utmost that both he and his successors were able to effect was to hamper the export trade by vexatious restrictions and to encourage much smuggling of wool. Thus while Edward III. limited the right of exporting to merchant strangers, Edward IV. decreed that no alien should export wool and that denizens should export it only to Calais. Legislation of this kind prevailed till the reign of Elizabeth, when the free exportation of English wool was permitted; and Smith, in his Memoirs of Wool, points out that it was during this reign that the manufacture made the most rapid progress. In 166o the absolute prohibition of the export of wool was again decreed, and it was not till 1825 that this law was finally repealed. The results of the prohibitory law were exceedingly detrimental; the production of wool far exceeded the consumption; the price of the raw material fell; wool-" running " or smuggling became an organized traffic; and the whole industry became disorganized. Extraordinary expedients were resorted to for stimulating the demand for woollen manufactures, among which was an act passed in the reign of Charles II. decreeing that all dead bodies should be buried in woollen shrouds—an enactment which remained in the Statute Book, if not in force, for a period of 120 years. On the opening up of the colonies, every effort was made to encourage the use of English cloth, and the manufacture was discouraged and even prohibited in Ireland. It was not without reason that the attention of monarchs and legislators was so frequently directed to the wool industries. Wool was indeed " the flower and strength and revenue and blood of England," and till the development of the cotton trade, towards the end of the 18th century, the wool industries were, beyond comparison, the most important sources of wealth in the country. Towards the close of the 17th century the wool produced in England was estimated to be worth £2,000,000 yearly, furnishing £8,000,000 worth of manufactured goods, of which there was exported about £2,000,000 in value. In 1700 the official value of woollen goods exported was about £3,000,000, and in the third quarter of the century the exports had increased in value by about £5oo,000 only. In 1774 Dr Campbell (Political Survey of Great Britain) estimated the number of sheep in England at Io,000,000 or 12,000,000, the value of the wool produced yearly at £3,000,000, the manufactured products at £12,000,000, and the exports at £3,000,000 to £4,000,000. He also reckoned that the industry then gave employment to 1,000,000 persons. These figures, in the light of the dimensions of present-day industries, may appear small, but they bore a predominant relationship to the other great sources of employment and trade of the period. In 1800 the native crop of wool was estimated to amount to 96,000,000 lb; and, import duty not being imposed till 1802, the quantity brought from abroad was 8,600,000 lb, 6,000,000 lb of which came from Spain. In 1825 the importation of colonial wool became free, the duty leviable having been for several previous years as high as 6d. per lb, and in 1844 the duty was finally remitted on foreign wool also. Sheep were introduced at Jamestown in Virginia in 'floe, and in 1633 the animals were first brought to Boston. Ten years later a fulling mill was erected at Rowley, Mass., Wool in " by Mr Rowley's people, who were the first that set America. upon making cloth in this western world." The factory woollen industry was, however, not established till the close of the ,8th century, and it is recorded that the first carding machine put in operation in the United States was constructed in 1794 under the supervision of John and Arthur Schofield. For centuries the finer wools used for cloth-making throughout Europe had been obtained from Spain—the home of the famous merino breed developed from races of sheep originally introduced into the Peninsula by the Moors. Till Merwool. ino ~' early in the Igth century the superiority of Spanish merinos remained unchallenged, but the Peninsular War and its attendant evils produced a depreciation of quality concurrently Wool in Britain. with the introduction of Saxon and Silesian wools, which suddenly the merino wool characteristics. The most marked development in this direction was effected by the introduction of the United States merino or Vermont breed. Opinions differ as to the wisdom of this introduction. The weight of fleece carried per sheep has been remarkably increased, and the fact that up to the present weight multiplied by price per lb paid in London or elsewhere has been entirely in favour of first and second cross Vermonts, has undoubtedly influenced breeders in its favour Against this must be placed the fact that the Australian-Vermont merino cross produces a sheep of unstable physique, naturally unable to withstand drought, and—worst of all so far as London is concerned—producing a fleece very difficult to judge for yield of pure scoured wool. Again, the Australian-Vermont first cross is very liable to produce a very strong botany wool, while what is required is a long but fine wool technically termed a long and shafty 6o's to 64's quality. Hardly second in importance to Australia as a wool-growing country comes South America, or more correctly Argentina along with Patagonia, Punta Arenas and the Falkland Islands. In most years Australia has produced the Sout woolh/n greater bulk, but just occasionally S. America has come America out top and is likely to do so more frequently in the future owing to the remarkable developments there taking place. The history of the introduction of the merino sheep into S. America may be briefly summed up as follows. In 1842 Henri Solanet, a Frenchman, began to shear the comparatively few sheep round Buenos Aires. His example was soon followed by Edouardo Olivera and Jose Platter. The idea almost at once came to these pioneers of importing well-bred rams, and as S. Afherica is essentially a Latin country it was but natural that the French flocks of Rambouillet should be first drawn upon. With the development of the meat trade—just as in the case :of Australia and New Zealand—a larger carcass was then sought after. This led to the introduction of the Lincoln ram and the development of cross-bred flocks about the year 1885. Perhaps this cross was favoured owing to the skill of the Bradford spinners, who made excellent use of the cross-bred wool produced. Flocks of sheep were first introduced into the Falkland Islands in 1867. The pasturage here being limited, the flocks have probably attained their limit, but from the Falkland Islands flocks have been passed on to Punta Arenas, where there is practically unlimited pasturage. The chief centres from which wool from S. America comes to Europe are Buenos Aires, which exports chiefly long and cross-bred wools, Montevideo, which exports chiefly merino wools, and the Falkland Islands and Punta Arenas, which export mostly wools of the finer type. The industry is largely in the hands of Englishmen. Unfortunately, however, the British manufacturer early took a dislike to the Buenos Aires, &c., wools, and consequently these wools go largely to the continent of Europe. To-day they by no means merit their previous bad name, and the Bradford comber and spinner are endeavouring to make up for lost opportunities. Prior to the introduction of the merino sheep into Australia it had been introduced into S. Africa by the Dutch. There the climate was not so helpful as was that of Australia. The newly acclimatized sheep appears to have cast its Sowouth ol in wool at about the fifth generation and to have generally Africa. deteriorated, necessitating the reintroduction of fresh blood form Europe. In this manner have been developed the Cape flocks and the considerable Cape wool trade—largely centred at Port Elizabeth, East London, Cape Town, Mossel Bay and Port Natal. The country is evidently specially adapted for the rearing of the merino type of sheep, as cross-bred Cape wool is practically unknown. The term snow-white Cape wool, on the other hand, betokens a quality of whiteness no doubt due to the atmospheric and pasturage conditions. Cape wools are also known as non-felting wools, and consequently are largely employed in the manufacture of flannels. In 1907 most marked endeavours were being made to develop the Cape flocks by the introduction of some thousands of Australian merino sheep. The opinion of wool experts was that the Cape had a great future before it as a wool-producing country. supplanted the product of Spain. The Spanish merino sheep had been introduced into Saxony by the elector in 1765, and by judicious crossing with the best native race developed the famous electoral breed. Merinos were carried to Hungary in 1775, and to France in 1776, and in 1786 Daubehton brought them to Rambouillet, whence a famous race developed. In 1802 the first merinos known to have left pure descendants were taken to the United States, and in 18o9-1810 an importation (4000) of merino sheep was made. The introduction of the merino sheep into the United States was an important move, but its results are not to be compared with the results of the introduction of the merino sheep wool in into Australasia about the end of the 18th century and Austral- main. into South America a little later. It is probable that the marked improvement in the appearance of the first sheep taken out by the early colonists suggested the possibilities of Australia as a wool-growing country. As has been noted above, marked endeavours were being made at this time to extend the merino breed of sheep, so that it was but natural that this woof In breed should be given the first chance. That marked Australia. success did not attend the first endeavours is shown by the fact that the London Colonial Wool Sales originated in the necessity of selling Australian wools just for what they would bring under the hammer, as distinct from the private treaty method of selling and buying the more highly priced continental merinos. It should here be noted that the Australian fine wools were first shipped from Botany Bay, hence the now universal term " botany " for fine wools. The colonists were not to be repressed however, and eventually, through the endeavours of Captain MacArthur, Sir J. Banks, the Rev. Samuel Marsden and others, the merino breed became established on a firm basis, and in a comparatively short time Australian wools were no longer a drug on the market. The evolution was not to stop, however, with the development of merino flocks and the exporting of merino wool. No doubt early in the 19th century the possibilities of raising larger sheep on the better coastal pasturage was naturally suggested. Until about 1885 this tendency was largely repressed owing to the demand for merino as distinct from cross-bred wool. In other words wool was the dominating factor. But with the possibilities and the development of the frozen meat trade from 188o to 1890 this condition was changed, and the tendency to breed a large sheep with a valuable carcass and mediocre wool grew apace. New Zealand was specially adapted for this development; thus New Zealand frozen mutton completely dominated New Zealand wool. In this manner it came about that cross-bred wool supplanted merino wool to a very considerable extent throughout Australasia. This change would have been serious for the wool comber and spinner had not the Bradford combers, spinners and manufacturers put their shoulder to the wheel and developed a world-wide renown for their cross-bred tops, yarns and fabrics. Again the change was not altogether for the bad so far as the Australian sheep was concerned. Sheep-breeding developed into a real science, and remarkable results were obtained with such crosses as Merino-Lincoln, Merino-Leicester, Merino-Shropshire; all probably originating in the first place in the desire to produce a large-bodied early-fattening sheep, but later developing into a strenuous endeavour to develop more useful types of wools. Thus the wool produced from the first cross Merino-Lincoln might be very defective judged from a pure merino stand-point, but by breeding back to the merino practically none of the useful merino characteristics were sacrificed, while length of staple was added and the weight of the fleece perhaps doubled. A somewhat different evolution has taken place in later years with reference to the interior sheep stations. The merino sheep will thrive where a larger sheep would starve, hence its value for the stations where salt-bush dominates all vegetation. But the merino sheep is a " wool " sheep, not a " frozen mutton " sheep, hence all crossing here was carried out with the idea of simply developing the weight of fleece and if possible retaining Large quantities of wool also come from the East and from Russia, while even Iceland contributes its quota. It is interesting to note that, notwithstanding all the developments instanced, Europe still maintains its supremacy as the chief wool-producing continent, though, as the wool is largely manufactured locally, one hears little of European wools. The following statistics give an idea of the development of the colonial and foreign wool trade as gauged by the London wool sales: Bales. Bales. 1814 . 165 187o 673.314 1824 I,62o 1890 1,509,666 1834 . 16,926 1901 I,602,726 1840 44502 1903 . 1,319,365 185o . 158,558 It must not be forgotten, however, that a large quantity of S. American, W. Indian, Russian, &c., wools, along with mohair and alpaca, come through Liverpool, and consequently are not taken into account here. With reference to wools grown in the United Kingdom the truth seems to be that a fine short wool has never been produced. English wool is known the world over as being of a long and lustrous type, which was doubtless that so much in demand in the middle ages. That it was as long and lustrous as the typical Leicester or Lincoln of to-day is doubtful, as the new Leicester breed of sheep was only fully developed by Mr Bakewell after the year 1747, and the latter day Lincoln was even a later development of a similar character. What the exact type of English wool or wools was prior to the 18th century will probably never be decided, but from the closing years of that century there is no difficulty in being fairly precise. As already remarked, the long and lustrous wools are the typical English, being grown in Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, Nottingham-shire, Devonshire, &c., in fact in all those districts where the pasturage is rich and specially fitted for carrying a heavy sheep. It is claimed that the lustre upon the wool is a direct result of the environment, and that to take a Lincoln sheep into Norfolk means the loss of the lustre. This is partially true, but it is perhaps better to take a larger view and remember that the two influencing factors are race and environment: which is the more potent it is impossible to say. Attempts were made in the 18th century to develop a fine wool breed in England, George IV. importing a number of merino sheep from Spain. The discovery was soon made that it was impossible to maintain a breed of pure merinos in Great Britain, but the final outcome was by no means unsatisfactory. By crossing with the indigenous sheep a race of fairly fine woolled sheep was developed, of which the present day representative is the Southdown—a sheep which feeds naturally on the Downs of Sussex, &c., forming a marked contrast to the artificially turnip-fed Lincoln, Leicester, &c., sheep. Following the short, curly Southdown but rather longer, come such as the Sussex, Oxford and Hampshire Down sheep; these are followed by such as the Shropshires and Shropshire crosses, Kent and Romney Marsh, until at last the chain from the Southdown to the Lincoln is completed. Of course there are several British wools not included in this chain. Scotch or black-face wool is long and rough, but well adapted for being spun into carpet yarns. Welsh wool has the peculiarity of early attaining its limit of shrinkage when washed, and hence is specially chosen for flannels. Shetland wool is of a soft nature specially suited for knitting yarns, while Cheviot wool—said to be a cross between merino sheep saved from the wreck of the Great Armada and the native Cheviot sheep—has made the reputation of the Scottish manufacturers for tweeds. North wool—wool from an animal of the Border Leicester and Cheviot breed—Ripon, Wensleydale and Teasdale wools are also specially noted as lustre wools, Ripon and Wensleydale wools being, by many judges, considered superior so far as lustre is concerned to Lincoln and Leicester. Such remarkable advances have been made in the weights of fleeces carried by sheep of particular breeds that it is difficult tosay if finality has been reached. The following list gives average weights: Shetland . . 4lb Cashmere . . 4 oz. In 1885 the average weight of wool per sheep per year was about 5 lb, while 7 to 8 lb is now the average weight. Roughly speaking the weights of Australian fleeces are to-day about double as compared with 1885. The prevailing colour of sheep's wool is white, but there are races with black, brown, fawn, yellow and grey shades of wool. For manufacturing purposes generally white wool is, physical of course, most valuable, but for the homespuns, which character-in earlier times absorbed the bulk of wool, natural istks of colours were in many cases used with good effect. In woo-domestic spinning, knitting, and weaving, natural colours are still largely taken advantage of, as in the cases of rough yarns, Shetland knitted shawls, Highland tweeds, &c. As has already been indicated, the distinction between wool and hair lies chiefly in the great fineness, softness, and waved delicacy of woollen fibre, combined with a highly serrated surface. These peculiarities are precisely the characters which give wool its distinctive value as a textile fibre, the mest distinctive characteristic of all being the serrated structure which specially belongs to wool and markedly aids the important property of felting, upon which many of its applications depend. The serrations of wool and the wavy structure it assumes are closely connected, those wools which have the greatest number of serrations being usually most finely waved in structure. The appearance presented by wool under the microscope is shown in figs.,-6 (Plate). Under the influence of moisture and pressure, aided by alkalis or acids, masses of wool thoroughly mat together, by the mutual inter-locking of the fibres. It is thus that the shrinking and thickening of woollen textures under washing is accounted for, the capacity of wool cloth for felting or fulling being due to this condition of the fibre, possibly along with a certain shrinkage of the true fibre mass. The serrations are most numerous, acute, pointed and distinct in fine merino wools, as many as 2800 per in. being counted in specimens of the finest Saxony wools. In the Leicester wool of England, on the other hand, which is a long bright staple, the serratures are not only much fewer in number, counting about 1800, but they are also less pronounced in character, so that the fibre presents a smoother, less waved character. In some inferior wools the serrations are not so many as 500 per in. A similar difference may be noted in the fineness of the fibres. The finest wool has a diameter of from -Folo-o to ok in., whilst coarse Algerian wools may rise to a maximum diameter of about TIT in. Other distinguishing qualities of good wool consist in uniformity and strength of fibre with freedom from tender or weak portions in its length, a condition which not unfrequently arises from ill health in the sheep, or is due to violent climatic changes. In ill-bred wool there may also be found intermingled " kemps " or dead hairs—straight, coarse, dull fibres which show conspicuously among the wool, and become even more prominent in the manufactured and dyed goods, as they will not take dye. Wool also possesses a softness of touch and an elasticity both in the raw and manufactured condition which distinguish it from all other fibres. In length of staple it varies very much, attaining in combing wools to a length of as much as 15 to 20 in. In dealing with wool from a practical point of view it must be recognized that it is by no means a simple body, but has a somewhat complex physical structure. Its composi- Chemical tion in the raw state may be said to be threefold. characters Thus there is the wool-yolk—what may be termed a istics of natural impurity; the wool-fat, which is not only woot present in the yolk but also permeates the fibre and seems to give it its plastic and soft handle; and the cell structure proper of the fibre. The natural impurity or wool-yolk is truly a skin product and is a protector of the wool-fibre rather than part of the true fibre substance. The wool-fat also may be regarded as Wool in other countries. British wools. Weight of Average Fleece. Merino (Australian) 6 lb Merino (South American) 62 lb Merino-Lincoln 8-lo lb Breed. Breed. Weight of Average Fleece. Southdown 6 lb Lincoln I2 lb independent of the true fibrous substance, but it is well to recognize that if the wool-fibre be entirely freed from the wool-fat it loses its plastic and elastic nature and is considerably damaged. In cleansing wool the true fibre mass may be disturbed and partially destroyed not only by dry but also by " wet " heat, and may be entirely disintegrated by means of alkalies, &c., with heat. The wool-fibre will almost free itself from the natural impurities—the yolk—in the presence of tepid water. This is taken advantage of in the various steeping machines placed on the market, which partially scour the wool by means of its own yolk—principally through the potash salts present. According to Hummel the composition of the average wool-yolk is as follows: Moisture; . . 4 to 24% Dirt . . 3 to 24% Yolk . . . . 12 ,, 47% Wool-fibre. . . 15 „ 72% The potash salts are usually recovered from the wash-water products and a marked economy thereby effected. The natural wool-fat—popularly known as " lanoline "—may be partially got rid of in the steeping process, but it is almost invariably necessary to free the wool still further from it by actually scouring the wool on either the " emulsion " or " solvent " method, in either case the action being largely physical. As previously pointed out, however, all the wool-fat must not be taken away from the fibre, or the fibre will lose its " nature." According to Dr Bowman, the chemical composition of the cell structure of the average wool-fibre is: Carbon 50.8 Hydrogen 7.2 Nitrogen 18.5 Oxygen 21.2 Sulphur 2.3
End of Article: WORSTED AND WOOLLEN MANUFACTURES WOOL
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