The 2 Systems Of Wool Manufacturing

There are two systems of wool manufacturing that produce very different end products. These are called the Woolen System and the Worsted System. Although you are probably aware of the products, you may not be aware how their manufacture differs. If you are interested in designing and producing clothing items made from wool, this information will be of great importance to understand.


The Woollen System

The woolen system is a method of producing a fabric with a hairy or raised look. It is used to produce Lamb's wool, Shetland and Guernsey sweaters or fabrics used for coats, jackets or tweeds and is one of the two systems of wool manufacturing.

Fleece from the low quality area of the sheep are used to make this fabric. The wool usually comes from the sheep's underbelly and legs. This is often blended with short wool fibers that are a waste product from the worsted system called noils.

Due to the amount of debris in the wool from the sheep's underbelly and legs, such as mud, seeds, burrs, grass and so on, the wool is put through a process called Carbonizing to help remove it. This process is only used in the woolen system. Here is the manufacturing process broken down:

1. Scouring and Carbonizing

Scouring simply means washing. This removes impurities such as dirt and grease. Carbonizing is them used to further remove the remaining impurities.

2. Dyeing and Bleaching

Once the fleece has been cleaned of impurities, it is ready to be dyed or bleached into the required color.

3. Carding

Carding is then done by a machine to produce rovings, thin strands of condensed wool that are suitable for spinning. The purpose of carding is to disentangle clumps into individual fibers, align these fibers so that they become more parallel to one another, blend the fibers together, remove remaining contaminants.

4. Spinning

Most people have heard of thread count when it comes to cotton sheets. Wool also has a similar system called a yarn count. The more threads of yarn, the tighter the fabric weave. The woolen method produces fabrics with a lower yarn count than worsted fabrics.

There are two spinning methods, ring-spun or mule spun. Ring spinning is used for coarse wool, while mule spinning is used for finer wools.

Once the wool has been spun into a continuous thread, it is then usually twisted with other threads to produce 2, 3 or 4 ply wool thread.

5. Knitting

Woolen method yarns are typically used to knit sweaters on special knitting machines. These produce classic, high-quality sweaters.

6. Weaving

Weaving the yarn is done by looms where the threads are interlaced in a crisscross fashion over each other the fixed vertical strands are known as the warp, while the horizontal interwoven strands are known as the weft.

7. Finishing and Making Up

Both knitted and woven fabrics require finishing. Finishing involves several processes:

  • Stabilization of the garment

  • Removal of any processing stains

  • Removal of processing additives which can include lubricants and oils used to assist the manufacturing process

  • Milling, which is washing the fabric to consolidate its structure and give its hairy texture.

  • Adding shower-proofing of any anti-microbial elements to the fabric

  • Ensuring the articles are ready for sale, without faults

Making up is simply the sewing together of panels that were created on the machines.

The Worsted System

In contrast to the woolen system, the worsted system produces finer, smoother fabrics that are typically used to make garments such as tailored suits, uniforms, base layers, underwear, sportswear, and socks. It is also used by clothing manufacturers to make sweaters with a smooth appearance.

Worsted materials use the fleece from the sheep's body, the back, and sides. This wool has a longer fiber length than the wool from the underbelly and legs. It is this longer fiber length that creates the smoother yarn appearance.

As with the woolen system, worsted fabrics also follow a production process:

1. Scouring

Wool naturally contains grease known as lanolin along with other contaminants. These have to be removed before it can be made into a textile. This is done by soaking the wool in alkali detergents that dissolve the contaminants.

2. Top-Making

This process is unique to the worsted system. It prepares the wool to be spun by blending the fibers together, ensuring the fibers are parallel to on another, removing short fibers and remaining contaminants, ensuring the continuous strand of wool fibers (known as the sliver), has a uniform length and weight.

3. Drawing

Drawing is a process, which refines the sliver by passing it through a roving machine. This machine rubs the strands together, which effectively compacts them into a stronger material that will break less easily in the spinning process.

4. Spinning

The spinning machine twists the roving into a single yarn. This yarn is then sent to a machine that winds the yarn. It also has a special device that can even out any areas that are too thick or thin, giving an even result. This single ply yarn can then be twisted with another to make a double ply yarn if required.

5. Knitting

There are several different types of knitting, flat-bed, fully fashioned and circular.

  • Flat Bed. These machines are the most common. They are popular due to their versatility and can be programmed with an unlimited number of different designs. Pockets and trims can be knitted as an integral part of the panel reducing the amount of joining required later. Modern whole garment machines can knit the entire garment without the need for any additional joining. The garment is almost ready to wear straight from the machine.

  • Fully Fashioned. These machines create panels that are shaped. Once knitted the panels are linked together to create the high-quality garment.

  • Circular. Produce a tube of fabric that is slit and is extremely uniform. It is ideal for the creation of seamless garments. Circular machines are very fast and the finished fabric can easily be made up into garments.

6. Weaving

As with the woolen system, the material is woven on a loom. Different types of loom can be used to create woven woolen fabrics. The only exception is a water jet loom as wool is too absorbent. Raper looms are the most popular due to the quiet running.

7. Dyeing and Bleaching

Dyeing and bleaching can be carried out at almost any stage. As wool is a natural product, it readily accepts dyes, and intense colors can be achieved.

8. Finishing and Making Up

Is done as shown in the woolen system to produce fabric or garments that are ready for sale.

The Two Systems of Wool Manufacturing both have similarities, but also differences. The key elements are that the woolen system produces a rougher material with low yarn count. While the worsted system produces higher quality, a smoother material with high yarn count.