The History Of Wool

Have you ever wondered about the connection between a sheep and a wooly sweater? Wool is a fiber that grows on sheep, alpaca, and even a species of rabbit (known as the "Angora"). It is collected from the animal in a process known as "shearing," which is when the wool is shaved and taken away to be washed and processed into yarn. People have used wool for centuries because it has many benefits. It is an excellent fiber that absorbs moisture (such as sweat) and keeps the body dry and warm. It is also less likely to catch on fire because it has a lot of nitrogen and water. Wool even has a natural waxy coating that makes it durable and water resistant.

There are many types of wool. The most common type of wool is made from the fleece of a sheep. Merino wool, named after the breed of sheep, is another common wool. It is popular because of how soft it is, and when it is washed often it doesn't get little balls or fluffy spots). Angora is another popular type of soft wool. This is made from the long-haired Angora rabbit. Another common wool is mohair, which is actually from a breed of goat called the Angora goat. This fiber is known for being soft and itchy. Alpaca wool-made from the fur of the Alpaca animal-is a fiber that has been getting more popular. Alpacas are a lot like llamas except that they have been exclusively bred over the years for their fiber. Another popular type of wool is cashmere, which is made from the extra-soft fleece of the Cashmere goat.

Wool has been the go-to fabric of people for thousands of years. There is evidence of wool being spun in Northern Europe as far back as 10,000 BC. Between 50 and 100 AD, the spinning wheel was created. Wool was one of Britain's top exports by the 12th century. In order to create wool yarn from the fleece of an animal, the fiber must first be washed and rinsed. During the washing process, a substance called "lanolin" is removed from the fiber-this is very moisturizing and often used in soaps. It is then cranked through many rollers, dried, and brushed. After the wool is clean and dry, it is formed into different types of yarn by a process known as "spinning." It can then be woven into fabric and sewn into clothes.

Wool is truly one of the best natural fibers for many reasons. It can be used for a lot of things and is comfortable in hot and cold temperatures and is more resistant to water and flames than a lot of other materials. It can be easily dyed and spun into a variety of sizes of yarn. No artificial fabric has ever been able to match the benefits of natural wool.

Check out these great resources to learn more about wool:

  • All About Sheep for Kids – This page contains information about different kinds of sheep and wool.
  • 102 Fun Facts About Sheep – This list of fun facts includes information about how wool is gathered and the types of wool that comes from sheep.
  • About Wool – Basic facts about the benefits of wool from the Campaign for Wool.
  • Did You Know? Amazing Facts About Wool – A great wool fact sheet that includes information about how wool is collected and processed.
  • Kool-Aid Yarn – This fun project for kids involves dyeing wool yarn with Kool-Aid.
  • 25 Surprising Facts About Sheep – Includes facts about the history and benefits of wool.
  • About the Angora Rabbit – A brief list of facts about the Angora rabbit, a type of rabbit bred for its long, soft fur.
  • All About Wool – Learn about wool from this fact sheet from the American Sheep Industry Association.
  • From Sheep to Textile – An interactive game about how wool from a sheep is transformed into a rug.
  • Sheep & Wool – A fact sheet from the Missouri Department of Agriculture about sheep and shearing. Includes a page of math calculations related to shearing.
  • Word Scramble – This word puzzle includes words related to sheep, wool, and wool byproducts.
  • Sheep Shearing Crossword – A crossword puzzle from Washington Crossing Historic Park related to wool and sheep shearing.
  • Wool- It Will Keep A Body Warm! – A webquest for fourth graders to help discover the process of turning a sheep's wool into clothes.