Fibers





All the materials used in the manufacture of clothing are called

textiles and are made of either long or short fibers. These fibers

can be made into a continuous thread. When two different sets of

threads are interlaced, the resulting product is called cloth.



The value of any fiber for textile purposes depends entirely upon the

possession of such qualities as firmness, length, curl, softness,

elasticity, etc., which adapt it for spinning. The number of fibers

that possess these qualities is small, and may be classified as

follows:



Animal Fibers: Wool, Silk, Mohair.



Vegetable Fibers: Cotton, Flax, Jute, Hemp, etc.



Mineral Fibers: Asbestos, Tinsel, and other metallic fibers.



Remanufactured Material: Noils, Mungo, Shoddy, Extract, and Flocks.



Artificial Fibers: Spun Glass, Artificial Silk, and Slag Wool.



=The Structure of Wool.= A large part of the people of the world have

always used wool for their clothing. Wool is the soft, curly covering

which forms the fleecy coat of the sheep and similar animals, such as

the goat and alpaca. Wool fiber when viewed under the microscope is

seen to consist roughly of three parts:



1st. Epidermis, or outer surface, which is a series of scales lying

one upon the other.



2d. Cortex, or intermediate substance, consisting of angular,

elongated cells, which give strength to the wool.



3d. Medulla, or pith of the fiber.





=Difference between Wool and Hair.= Not all animal fibers are alike.

They vary in fineness, softness, length, and strength, from the finest

Merino wool to the rigid bristles of the wild boar. At just what point

it can be said that the animal fiber ceases to be wool and becomes

hair, is difficult to determine, because there is a gradual and

imperceptible gradation from wool to hair.[1] The distinction between

wool and hair lies chiefly in the great fineness, softness, and wavy

delicacy of the woolen fiber, combined with its highly serrated

surface--upon which the luster of the wool depends.



=Characteristics of Wool.= The chief characteristic of wool is its

felting or shrinking power. This felting property from which wool

derives much of its value, and which is its special distinction from

hair, depends in part upon the kinks in the fiber, but mainly upon

the scales with which the fiber is covered. These scales or points

are exceedingly minute, ranging from about 1,100 to the inch to nearly

3,000. The stem of the fiber itself is extremely slender, being less

than one thousandth of an inch in diameter. In good felting wools the

scales are more perfect and numerous, while inferior wools generally

possess fewer serrations, and are less perfect in structure.



In the process of felting the fibers become entangled with one

another, and the little projecting scales hook into one another and

hold the fibers closely interlocked. The deeper these scales fit into

one another the closer becomes the structure of the thread.



=Classification of Wool.= The various kinds of wool used in commerce

are named either from the breed of the sheep or from the country or

locality in which the sheep are reared. Thus we get Merino wool from

Merino sheep, while English, American, and Australian wools are named

from the respective countries. As the result of cross breeding of

different sheep in different parts of the world, under different

climatic conditions, physical surroundings, and soil, there exist a

great many varieties of wool. The wool of commerce is divided into

three great classes: (1) Short wool or clothing wool (also called

carding wool), seldom exceeding a length of two to four inches; (2)

long wool or combing wool, varying from four to ten inches; (3) carpet

and knitting wools, which are long, strong, and very coarse.



The distinction between clothing or carding wools on the one hand, and

combing wools on the other, is an old one. Combing wools are so

called because they are prepared for spinning[2] into yarn by the

process of "combing"--that is, the fibers are made to lie parallel

with one another preparatory to being spun into thread. Carding

wools--made to cross and interlace and interlock with one another--are

shorter than combing wools, and in addition they possess to a much

greater degree the power of felting--that is, of matting together in a

close compact mass. Combing wools, on the other hand, are not only

longer than the carding wools, but they are also harder, more wiry,

and less inclined to be spiral or kinky. It must be understood,

however, that under the present methods of manufacture, short wools

may be combed and spun by the French method of spinning just as the

long wools are combed and spun by the Bradford or English system.



Carpet and knitting wools are the cheapest, coarsest, and harshest

sorts of wools. They come principally from Russia, Turkey, China,

Greece, Peru, Chili, etc., and from the mountain districts of England

and Scotland. Carpet wools approach more nearly to hair than other

wools. The only staple of this class produced in the United States is

grown on the original Mexican sheep of the great Southwest. Few of

these Mexican sheep are left, for they have been improved by cross

breeding, but they constitute the foundation stock of most of our

Western flocks, which now produce superior clothing and combing wool.



=Sheep Shearing.= In order to get an idea of the importance of the

sheep industry in the United States, one must take a glance at its

condition in the big states of the West. Wyoming has more than

4,600,000 sheep within its borders. Montana, which held the record

until 1909, has 4,500,000 sheep. Then comes Idaho with 2,500,000,

Oregon with 2,000,000, and so on down the list until the nation's

total reaches 40,000,000 sheep, four-fifths of which are west of the

Missouri river.






To harvest the wool from such an enormous number of backs is a task

that calls for expert shearers, men who can handle the big shears of

the machine clippers with a skill that comes from long practise. The

shearing must be done at the right time of the year. If the wool is

clipped too early, the sheep suffer from the cold; if the shearing

comes too late, the sheep suffer from intense heat, and in either case

are bound to lose weight and value.



To meet the exacting conditions a class of men has risen expert in the

sheep-shearing business. These shearers begin work in southern and

middle California, Utah, etc. Another month finds them busy in the

great sheep states of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon, where they

find steady employment until July, when they go to the ranges of

Canada. In this way the shearers keep busy nearly all the year, and at

high wages.



The Mexicans are particularly expert with the hand shears, though this

form of clipping is being done away with, owing to the installation of

power plants for machine shearing. These plants are installed at

various points on the great sheep ranges. Long sheds are erected and

shafting extends down both sides of the shearing place. Twenty or more

shearers will be lined up in one of these sheds, each man operating a

clipping machine connected with the shafting. The sheep are brought in

from the range in bands of 2,500 or more, and are put in the corrals

adjoining the shearing sheds. Then they are driven down chutes to the

shearers.



A shearer reaches into a small corral behind him and pulls out a

sheep. With a dexterous fling the animal is put in a sitting posture

between the shearer's knees, and then the steel clippers begin

clipping off the wool. The machine-shearing saves much wool, as it

gets closer to the skin of the sheep and shears more evenly. In fact,

some sheep owners say that the increased weight of their fleeces at

each shearing is enough to pay the extra expense of running a power

plant.



As fast as the sheep are turned out by the shearers they are run along

a narrow chute and each one is branded. The branding mark is usually a

letter painted on the back of the sheep so that it can be plainly seen

when they are coming through a chute. The mark remains on the fleece

and is always easily distinguished.



=Fleece.= There is a great variation in the weight of fleeces. Some

sheep, such as those on the best ranges in Oregon, Montana, and

Wyoming, will average an eight-pound fleece full of natural oil, while

sheep from the more sterile alkaline ranges of New Mexico will not

average much more than five pounds of wool.



The shearing season on the plains is much like the threshing season in

agricultural communities. With a crew of first-class shearers working

in a shearing shed, it is not long until the floor is a sea of wool.

Boys are kept busy picking up the fleeces, tying them into compact

bundles, and throwing them to the men who have been assigned to the

task of filling the wool sacks. These sacks, which hold about 400

pounds, are suspended from a wooden framework, and as fast as the

fleeces are thrown in, they are tramped down until the sacks will not

hold a pound more. Most of the sacks are shipped to warehouses in such

wool centers as Casper, Wyoming, or Billings, Montana, the latter

place being the greatest wool shipping center in the world. Here they

are sold to Eastern buyers, who examine the clips at their leisure and

make their bids.



=Value of Wool Business.= Some idea of the fortunes at stake in the

wool business can be gathered from the fact that the total wool

product of the country in 1909 was valued at $78,263,165. It is

expected that the returns from the wool clip in a fairly good year

will pay all a sheepman's running expenses, such as hire of herders,

cost of shearing, etc. He then has the sale of his lambs as clear

profit. Enormous fortunes are being made in the sheep business in the

west, owing to the high price of wool and mutton.



=Saxony and Silesian Wool.= Among wools of all classes the Saxony and

Silesian take the first place, and for general good qualities,

fineness, and regularity of fiber, they are unequalled. The fiber is

short in staple, possesses good felting properties, and is strong and

elastic. This wool is used chiefly in the manufacture of cloths where

much milling[3] is required, such as superfines and dress-faced

fabrics.



=Australian Wools.= Australia furnishes wools of a superior character,

and some of the choicest clips rival the Saxony and Silesian wools.

They are used both for worsted[4] and woolen yarns. They are generally

strong and of an elastic character, possess numerous serrations, and

are of good color, with good felting properties. The principal

Australian wools are Port Philip, Sydney, and Adelaide wools. These

are the best brands imported from that country.



=Port Philip Wool.= Port Philip wool is suitable for either worsted or

woolen yarns. The fiber is not quite as fine as Saxony, but it makes a

good thread, is fairly sound in staple, and is of good length and

color. It is very wavy and serrated. The longest and best of this wool

is used for the very finest worsted yarns, and will spin up to 130's

counts.[5] The sheep are descendants of the original Spanish Merino.

Cross bred Port Philip wool is from the same Merino sheep crossed with

Leicesters, which yield a medium quality fleece of sound fiber and

good quality for spinning counts from 40's to 56's. The yarn has a

bright, clear appearance.



=Sydney Wools.= Sydney wools are moderately fine in fiber and of

medium length. They are rather deficient in strength, uneven in color,

and often contain yellow locks which make them undesirable when

required for dyeing light shades. They are used for nearly the same

purpose as Port Philip wools, but do not spin quite as far in worsted

yarns, nor are they equal in milling qualities.



=Adelaide Wool.= Adelaide wool has a reputation for sound Merinos,

the average quality being a little lower than for the Port Philip and

Sydney wools. Its fiber is moderately fine, but not of uniform length;

its color is not so good, and it contains a large amount of yolk.[6]

Adelaide wool is used for worsted dress goods, weft (filling)[7] yarn

up to 60's, and certain worsted warps.[7] It is used for medium

fancy woolens.



=Van Wool from Tasmania.= The climate of this island is well suited to

the growing of wool, and produces excellent qualities, fine in fiber,

of good length, and strong in the staple, which will spin as high

counts as 70's and 80's worsted. This wool is useful for mixing with

other good wools. Its color is very white, which makes it a useful

wool for dyeing light shades. Its milling properties are good, and the

shorter sorts are suitable for woolens.



=New Zealand Wools= are very supple, which make them valuable to the

spinner. These wools are suitable for almost all classes of Merino and

crossbred yarns. They are of good length, sound staple, have good

felting properties, and are of good color. They are useful for

blending with mungo and shoddy, to give to these remanufactured

materials that springy, bulky character which they lack.



=Cape Wools.= Cape Colony and Natal produce merino wool that is

somewhat short in staple, rather tender, and less wavy than some other

wools. The sheep are not so well cared for, and are fed on the leaves

of a small shrub. The absence of grass leaves the ground very sandy,

and this makes the fleece heavy and dirty. Its color is fair, but it

lacks elasticity. It is used chiefly to cheapen blends[8] of 60's

top.[9] The short wool is combed for thick counts for weft and

hosiery, and is also used for shawls and cloths where felting is not

an essential feature.






=Wools from South America.= These wools are of the same standard of

excellence as the Australian wools, but they are generally deficient

in strength and elasticity. Buenos Ayres and Montevideo wools are

fairly fine in fiber, but lack strength and elasticity, and are

deficient in milling properties; they are also burry. The climate

suits the sheep well, and the feed is good, but the careless methods

of classing and packing have earned for these wools a poor reputation

that is well deserved.



The best 60's wool is combed in oil, but a large portion of the

shorter is combed and used in thick counts,--20's to 36's worsted for

the hosiery trade.



=Russian Wool.= The staple of this is generally strong, and the fibers

are of a medium thickness; the color is milky white. It is useful to

blend with Australian or other good wools. It produces a good yarn,

and is very often used in the fancy woolen trade and in fabrics that

require to be finished in the natural color.



=Great Britain Wools.= These may be divided into three groups: (1)

long wools, of which the Lincoln and Leicester are typical examples;

(2) short wools, which include Southdown, Shropshire, Suffolk, and

others; and (3) wool from the mountain or hilly breeds of sheep, such

as the Cheviot, Scotch Blackface, Shetland, Irish, and Welsh.



=Lincoln Wool= is a typical wool obtained from the long wool sheep,

and noted for its long, lustrous fiber, which is silky and strong. The

staple varies from ten to eighteen inches in length, and the average

fleece will yield from ten to fourteen pounds in weight.



=Leicester Wool= has a somewhat finer fiber than Lincoln. It is a

valuable wool, of good color, uniform and sound in staple, curly, with

good, bright luster and no dark hairs. While luster wools are grown

extensively in England, they also grow in Indiana and Kentucky, and

are commonly known in the trade as braid wool.



=Southdown= is one of the most valuable of short staple wools. It

possesses a fine hair, is close and wavy, and fairly sound in staple,

but rather deficient in milling qualities. The shorter varieties are

carded and made into flannels and other light fabrics, while the

longer qualities are used in the production of worsted goods. The

weight of a Southdown fleece averages from four to five pounds.






=Shropshiredown= wool is of good quality, with strong, fine, lustrous

fiber, of good length. It resembles Southdown, but is not as lustrous

as mohair, the natural colors being either white, black, brown, or

fawn. It is used chiefly in the manufacture of dress goods.



=Cashmere Wool= is the fine, woolly, extremely soft, white or gray fur

of the Cashmere goat which is bred in Thibet. There are two kinds of

fiber obtained: one, which is really the outer covering, consists of

long tufts of hair; underneath this is the Cashmere wool of commerce,

a soft, downy wool of a brownish-gray tint, with a fine, silky fiber.

It is used for making the costly oriental (Indian) shawls and the

finest wraps.



=The Norfolkdown and Suffolkdown Wools= are fairly fine in fiber and

soft, but slightly deficient in strength and elasticity.



=Cheviot Wool= may be taken as representative of the hilly breeds of

sheep. It is an average wool, with staple of medium length, soft, and

with strong and regular fiber; it is of a good, bright color, and

possesses desirable milling properties, being used for both woolen and

worsted, but chiefly in the fancy woolen trade. The average weight of

the fleece is about 4-1/2 pounds. The black-faced or Highland breed

yields a medium wool, coarser and more shaggy than the Cheviot, and

varying much in quality. It is almost all used in the production of

rugs, carpets, and blankets.



=Welsh Wools= lack waviness and fineness of fiber. They are chiefly

used for flannels.



=Shetland Wools= are similar in character to Welsh wools, but slightly

finer in fiber and softer. They are used in the manufacture of knitted

goods, such as shawls and wraps. They lack felting properties.



=Irish Wools= possess a strong, thick hair of moderate length and fine

color. They are similar in many respects to the Welsh wools, and are

often classed with them. They are used in the production of low and

medium tweeds--fancy woolen cloths not requiring small yarns or

milling qualities.



=Mohair= is a lustrous wool obtained from the Angora goat, which

derives its name from the district of Asia Minor from which it comes.

These animals have also been successfully bred in Spain and France.

The hair is pure white, fine, wavy, and of good length, and possesses

a high luster. It is used in making plushes, velvets, astrakhans, and

curled fabrics, also half silk goods and fine wraps.



=Alpaca Wool= is the fleece of the Peruvian sheep, which is a species

of llama. The staple is of good length and soft, but is not quite as

lustrous as mohair, the natural colors being either white, black,

brown, or fawn. It is used chiefly in the manufacture of dress goods.



=How Wool is Marketed.= The bulk of the wool of commerce comes into

the market in the form of fleece wool, the product of a single year's

growth, and cut from the body of the animal usually in April or May.

The first and finest clip, called lamb's wool, may be taken from the

young sheep at the age of eight to twelve months. All subsequently cut

fleeces are known as wether wool and possess relatively somewhat less

value than the first clip.





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