History of wool

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The origin of wool ...

The wool is a fiber of animal origin which is none other than the hairs coming from the mowing of certain species. The qualities may vary depending on the animal and its environment.

There are many species of sheep that will give wool with various characteristics. In fact wool is a complex fiber composed of Keratin which can be multicellular and covered with scales. Depending on the breed, sheep, the little changed fiber and the shape of the cells may be different. For example, Merino consists of two types of cells, some are fine and small and the others are larger in size. Once these fibers are mixed they give ripples what characterizes the Merino. These will be the finest wool that can be found in sheep. Other species produce an average wool of 125 to 300 mm in length, and others will have a length of 200 mm such as the English sheep Leicester and Lincoln.

The little history...

Everything begins in prehistory - 10,000 years before J-C in Asia Minor. The sheep is used for food, clothing and shelter. Before the invention of the shears - probably during the Iron Age - the wool is torn by hand or by bronze combs.

In 2,500 BC J.-C, the looms around the Mediterranean produce exceptionally fine fabrics. The sheets of the Egyptian tombs show a spinning and weaving up to 100 threads per cm. The mobility of sheep allows the Persians, Greeks and Romans to introduce sheep and their wool throughout Europe. In Roman times, wool, linen and leather are the main raw materials for the clothes of the European population. Romans particularly appreciate the British weaving skills. The establishment of Roman woolen factories in Winchester, England, in 50 BC. BC, helps the British to improve their methods using vertical looms; the chain is then stretched between two horizontal bars. They are still used today for tapestry, for example. Their wool becomes superior to others thanks to a selective breeding.

In medieval times, as the trade, the network developed by the annual fairs extend into North Africa, Greece and even Egypt. During the twelfth century, weaving in Florence, Genoa and Venice was stimulated by the Norman conquest of Greece. In the 1200s, greater mechanization was introduced in the production of cloth in the form of water mills to beat or tread the woven wool: the fuller. The fuller is used to degrease and soften the wool by tightening the threads after weaving. For the loom, pedals are used to lift in turn a number of different heddles, ie different frames, to obtain more complex patterns. This invention is probably of Chinese origin. As for the way of passing the weft thread through the crowd, it remains the same for a long time: we use a shuttle containing the weft thread, to slide it by hand in the crowd, which limits the width of the web. 'work. To make large pieces, two weavers must pass the shuttle.

In the 13th century, the wool trade became the economic engine of the Netherlands and central Italy. Before the Renaissance, the Medici and other major banking houses in Florence built their wealth and banking system on their wool-based textile industry, controlled by the Arte della Lana, the wool guild. At the end of the 14th century, Italy predominated, although Italian production turned to silk in the 16th century.

Like Spain, England freezes its frontiers to exports of raw wool. In 1377, the King of England Edward III, "the royal wool merchant", stops the imports of woven products and domestic weaving of foreign wool and invites Flemish weavers to flee the Spanish invasion to settle in England. The wool industry in England culminates during the reign of King Henry VIII (1509-47). He seizes the flocks of the monasteries and redistributes them to the favorites of the Court. This causes unemployed shepherds to immigrate to America. In 1660, exports of woolen textiles accounted for two-thirds of England's foreign trade.

In Spain, the wool trade can finance the trips of Christopher Columbus and conquistadors. Christopher Columbus brings sheep to Cuba and Santo Domingo on his second voyage in 1493, and Cortez takes their offspring as he explores what is now Mexico and the southwestern United States. The Navajos and other Southwest Indian tribes are still famous today for their beautiful wool carpets and colorful wall hangings. In order to preserve its sources of income, Spain introduces the death penalty to anyone who exports sheep until 1786.

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