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Fabrics Wool
One of the most important of natural textile fibres, wool is obtained from the domesti- cated sheep; it has been spun and woven since the days of antiquity. Most animal fibres are in the form of hair, some animals being covered with hair only and some having an inner coat of wool and an outer one of hair. Most breeds of domesticated sheep carry a fleece of wool only, though the primitive wild sheep, as well as some later, domesticated breeds, have both hair and wool coats (see also Furs). Woollen fabric can also be woven from mixtures of hair and wool from other animals including the alpaca, the angora goat and the llama. The ancient Egyptians made woollen cloaks from their coarse. dark-coloured sheep and the Greeks and Romans produced finer woollens to make into draped gar- ments as well as outer wear. A lightweight, fine wool was being woven in India several centuries before the coming of Christ. In Britain the making of woollen cloth has always been a staple industry. The sheep was domesticated here before the coming of the Romans and, from the early Middle Ages until the development of the cotton trade in the second half of the eighteenth century, it was the country's greatest revenue earner. English wool was, during the Middle Ages, regarded as of fine and lustrous quality. A finer wool was devel- oped in the eighteenth century by cross- breeding the natural English stock with the Spanish merino sheep. Though not fully successful, this led to the breeding of a fairly fine-woolled sheep of which the Southdown is the modern descendant. Other breeds have produced quality wools also, notably the Hampshire, Oxford, Lincoln, Suffolk and Romney Marsh sheep. Some sheep have produced wools suited for specific purposes, for example, the black- face wool for carpet yarns, Welsh wool for flannels, Shetland wool for knitting yarns and Cheviot wool for tweeds. This breed is said to have been perfected by a cross between the indigenous Cheviot sheep and some merino sheep carried in the Armada ships of 1588. Outside Britain the Spanish merino sheep had traditionally produced the finest wool since it was brought into the peninsula by the Moors. From the eighteenth century onwards the breed was introduced into France, Germany and Hungary as well as Britain and, among the crosses made between the merinos and indigenous flocks, was produced the famous Saxony breed. The merino was also introduced into the Americas, South Africa and Australasia. In South America and Australia in parti- cular, enormous quantities of fine wool have been produced by the cross-breeding of this and other types of sheep. In Australia these fine wools were first shipped from Botany Bay, hence the use of the term Botany wool which has become a synonym for such yarns. The colour of a sheep's fleece is most often white but wool from black, brown, fawn and grey fleeces is also used, being especially suited to the rougher tweeds and knitting yarns. Wool is graded and sorted according to the length and quality of the fibres and its felting (scefelting) propensities. In general, the shorter fibres are made into woollen yarns and the longer, lustrous ones into worsted yarns (see also Textile Processes). Worsted is named after a Norfolk village, north of Norwich, which was called Wurthstede, Worthstede and later Worth- sted but has now become Worstead. Tweed is a twilled woollen cloth made in many qualities from coarse homespun to the finest of wools. It originated in southern Scotland, its manufacture still being pre- dominantly Scottish, and often two or more colours are combined to make the yarn. The word tweed appeared in the first half of the nineteenth century and seems to have derived from an error caused by the misreading of the word tweel (Scottish for twill). The nearby River Tweed also possibly influenced the adop- tion of the term as a trade name for woollen weaves of the area. Among the varieties of named woollen materials produced over the centuries are included:

Angora - the goat from this area of Asia Minor which has a coat of long, silken wool (see Angora). Baize - a coarse, woollen cloth with a long nap made from the sixteenth century in different colours but later predominantly green.

Bar@ge - a very fine, lightweight wool named after Bar@ges in France (see Bar@ge).

Batiste - an extremely fine, lightweight wool fabric (see Batiste).

Botany - a fine worsted made from the wool of the merino sheep in Australia and first exported from Botany Bay. Later the term came to refer to any high quality wool or worsted.

Bure - (see Bure). Caddis - a plain-woven woollen fabric made since the Middle Ages, used for garments and for padding.

Cashrnere -a fine, soft wool originally made in Kashmir from the wool of the Tibetan wild goat. Similar goats are now bred in the west and cashmere is made from this wool mixed with sheep's wool.

Cassimere, Kerseyrnere - a soft, lightweight woollen cloth, often twilled.

Cheviot - a woollen cloth or tweed made from the wool of the Cheviot sheep and used for suits and coats.

Cotswold - fine quality wool from Cotswold sheep. Crdpe - a lightweight worsted.

Donegal tweed - originally a heavy home- spun tweed made in Ireland. Now machine- made and used for heavy suits and over- coats.

Duffel, Duffle - a heavy woollen cloth with a thick nap named after the Belgian town of Duffel. Warm coats and cloaks were made from duffel from the seventeenth century onwards and duffle coats were worn in the early days of motoring (see Overcoat).

Estarnin - at first an open woollen fabric but later a finer, twilled dress material.

Flannel - a warm, soft woollen fabric of plain or twill weave (see Flannel).

Frieze - a coarse, thick woollen cloth with a nap, made particularly in Ireland and used primarily for outdoor wear.

Harris - a famous tweed woven on the islands of the Outer Hebrides. Heathermixture-acombinationofeoloured fibres intermingled in the yarn and used especially for tweeds and knitting wools to resemble heather colouring.

Kelt - a homespun woollen frieze generally made of mixed black and white yarn and used especially in Scotland and northern England in the sixteenth to eighteenth century.

Kendal - a green, woollen cloth named after its town of origin in north-west England.

Kersey - a coarse, ribbed woollen cloth made in narrow widths suitable for stock- ings from the Middle Ages onwards. Possibly named after the Suffolk village of Kersey.

Kilrnarnock - a woollen serge named after its town of origin.

Melton - a heavy, felted woollen cloth with a short nap, originally made in England. Suitable for outdoor wear as protection in cold weather.

Merino - a soft, fine woollen or worsted material or knitting yarn made from the wool of the merino sheep. A high quality yarn, resembling cashmere in its woven form.

Penniston, Pennystone - a coarse, heavy woollen cloth originating at Penistone in Yorkshire and made into outdoor wear in the sixteenth to eighteenth Century.

Perpetuana, Perpets, Petuna - a durable (hence everlasting), glossy-surfaced woollen cloth made in England from the late sixteenth century. Worn especially by the Puritans of the seventeenth century in England and also later in the American Colonies.

Petersham cloth - a heavy wool overcoating with a knotted surface finish.

Prunella -a fine, durable worsted in smooth or twill weave used from the seventeenth century especially for academic, legal and ecclesiastical gowns and vestments.

Rapcloth - a coarse, rough, undyed, home- spun woollen cloth made in Britain from the sixteenth century-

Rateen, Ratinet - a coarse, friezed cloth of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Ratinet was a thinner version.

Satara - a ribbed, lustred woollen cloth from Satara in the Bombay district of India.

Saxony cloth - the name given, in the later eighteenth century, to a fabric made from merino wool produced in Saxony. Later the tenn came to apply to any fine, smooth woollen material of merino or botany quality. Serge - a twilled worsted (see Serge).

Shalloon - a lightweight, fine, closely- woven woollen fabric, twilled on both sides and used chiefly for linings. Shetland - a knitting yarn and a woven fabric made from the wool of Shetland sheep, both lightweight and warm.

Stamin, Starnrnel - a coarse woollen or worsted cloth, usually dyed red, made from the early Middle Ages and used especially for underwear.

VicuFza - wool from the vicufla, a member of the llama family, very soft, fine and expensive due to the rarity of the animal (see Furs). Wadmal - from the Middle Ages a coarse woollen cloth used for rough clothing and bed coverings.

Witney - a heavy woollen cloth with a nap, made in Witney, Oxfordshire from the eighteenth century and used chiefly for men's overcoats.

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2006 March 28