** fabrics for boys' clothing -- wool textile history









Wool History


Figure 1.-- Apadana Staircase at Persepolis. It is part of the oldest building phase of Persepolis, built in the first half of the 6th century BC, although some portiins may be ealier. It was at first believed to be part of original design by Darius the Great, but may be even eralier. The the reliefs are full of religious symbolism as well as being a record in stone of the New Years procession. The southern panel shows the reception of the subject nations. This part of the relif shows the Sogdin delegatijon. The Sogdians were an Iranian people whose homeland, Sogdiana, was located at the center of several of those routes making up the early Silk Road. It is locted in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Notice the rams with very full fleeces.

Wool has been used since ancient times in the manufacture of thread and yarn for textiles. Prehistoic man was not, however, gifted with a modern sheep and a heavy fleece that could be easily spun for yarn. The earliest samples of yarn and fabric of any known to date were found near Robenhausen, Switzerland--bundles of flax fibres and yarns and fragments of plain-weave linen fabric (estimated 5,000 BC). Of course this is only what has been found. The husbandry of sheep is much older. It is widely believed that sheep hair was originally very similar to that of other grazing animals like deer--short and thick, not long, fine, and curly. Thus sheep were originally hunted for meat and hides. People in western Asia gradually began to doesticate sheep (arond 10,000 BC). Sheep are generally believed to be among the first animals domesticated. We are mot sure just why, but size may have been a factor. Human interest in sheep was at first was primarily because of the meat. Hunters might or might not find animals. Meat from domesticated flocks was always available. This also meant that milk was available. These early hearders also used the hide for leather. Some might have left the hair on creating something like a fur coat. But there was no flece and wool. The process of breeding sheep to create modern wool is lost to history. But we know this occurred as it would not have happened without human intervention. The original wild species had long, coarse outer hair protecting their short fleece undercoats. Breeders selectively bread to for this desirable underlayer. And the result is the modern sheep. It was a process that took millenia and may have occurred only after man had developed the technology of spinning and weaving. The earliest clothes were surely amimal skins. Making textiles were an enormous technological leaps. No none knows which fiber was first used. Of course once the techology of weaving was developed, it was relatively easy to develop yarn from other fibers. Since men had already domesticated sheep, sheepskins were readily available for clothing. And once weaving was developed, early man must have looked for other fibers. Sheep hair (too thick and brittle)mwas not of much use, but someone must have noticed that the hair from underside of the sheep, was better than the rest. And they must have notice variations among individuals. Thus at some point someone began selecting for the best hair characteristics. When this process began we do not know. But we know when ancient civilizations finally had hair that could be called wool and spun. Wool may have not beem the first material used for weaving, but it has a lot of advantages over plant fibers. A statuette of a modern looking wooled sheep has been found at an archeological site in Iran (4,000 BC). This strongly suggests that slepherds had sucessfully developed woolly sheep. The first known fleece is suggested by a crude clay image found at Sarab in Iran (3000 BC). The earliest surviving woolen textile has been found in a Danish bog (1500 BC), but this was because the preservation circumstances were perfect. There is extensuve evidence of modern wooly sheep Mesopotamia. We note Babylonian art and books (3000 BC). The Babylonians were famous for their wool and textiles (1300 BC). The people distinguished food sheep from wool sheep. There was also a unique grading of the wool into three groups; Mountain Wool, Second quality, and Good quality. The oldest fine woolen fabric was found at the Greek colony of Nymphaeum in the Crimea (5th century BC). These are all Western Asia/European finds. Future findings may throw more light on this process. Eventually, sheep breeds became highly specialized. Sheep farmers destined breeds for mutton roasts and breeds for fine wool yarn. The husbandry of sheep and the role of boys as shephards appears in the Old Testament, but predates even biblical times. The finest wool during Roman times came from Tarentium in about 37 B.C. and during these times there were definite signs of selective breeding. The Romans developed a special strain of sheep called the Terenton that had a superior fleece, but required special care, as it lacked hardiness. Wool played a major role in the medieval European econonomy. Wool was nedieval England's main export trade. Every European country relying on England for it. And the Low Country's location close to England was one reason that helped make the region so important as Europen emerged from the medieval era. Wool was so important that there were more than 300 British laws detailing every aspect of the sheep trade (late 18th century).

Pre-history

Anthropilogists speculate that early humams scraping fiberous hairs from animal hides began noticing when twisted together that they could be formed into lengths creating threds and yarn. Notice scraping swas involved. It woulkd be millemnia before shears were invented. And prehistoic man was not, however, gifted with modern sheep and other animals with a heavy fleece that could be easily spun for yarn. This would require domestication and selective breeding. The husbandry of sheep is much older. It is widely believed that sheep hair was originally very similar to that of other grazing animals like deer--short and thick, not long, fine, and curly. Thus sheep were originally hunted for meat and hides. People in western Asia gradually began to doesticate sheep (arond 10,000 BC). And domesticatiin led to animals with heavier fleeces. This was just bdfore that humans akso began taking the first early stps toward agriculture. Sheep are generally believed to be among the first animals domesticated. We are mot sure just why, but size may have been a factor. Human interest in sheep was at first almost because of the meat. Hunters might or might not find animals. Meat from domesticated flocks was always available. This also meant that milk was available. These early hearders also used the hide for leather. Some might have left the hair on creating something like a fur coat. But there was no flece and wool. The process of breeding sheep to create modern wool is lost to history. But we know this occurred as it would not have happened without human intervention. The original wild species had long, coarse outer hair protecting their short fleece undercoats. Breeders selectively bread to for this desirable underlayer. And the result is the modern sheep. It was a process that took millenia and may have occurred only after man had developed the technology of spinning and weaving. The earliest clothes were surely amimal skins. Wool as a raw material has been widely available since the domestication of sheep. Wool would have first been harvested using a comb or just plucked out by hand. Without shheers of course the amount bharvested would have been limited.

Ancient Times

Wool has been used since ancient times vital in the manufacture of thread and yarn for textiles. This is difficult to know with any cerataintty. Wool is perishable. Unlike stone tools and pottery , almost all early textiles have been lost. The earliest samples of yarn and fabric known to date were found near Robenhausen, Switzerland--bundles of flax fibres and yarns and fragments of plain-weave linen fabric (estimated 5,000 BC). Egyptian yarn has been found (1,400 BC). Of course this is only what has been found.

Ancient Civilization

Making textiles were an enormous technological leaps. No none knows which fiber was first used. Of course once the techology of weaving was developed, it was relatively easy to develop yarn from other fibers. Since men had already domesticated sheep, sheepskins were readily available for clothing. An imprtant step before wood could be effectively used was chemicl tratmnt. This brought about surely what is one of the worst jobs in history--the fuller. We have no idea who and when this was discovered, but it was well know at the ealiest stages of the ancient world. And what was done bedore the advent if chemists was to trat raw wool with human urine. This was done by placing the raw wool in barrels of stale urine and trampling the wool to produce cleaner abd softer cloth. When this was developoed we do not know. There are Biblican referehnces. The most detailed descrotions were Roman, but the process was almost certainly developed vefore Roman times. And once weaving was developed, early man must have looked for other fibers. Sheep hair (too thick and brittle) was not of much use, but someone must have noticed that the hair from underside of the sheep, was better than the rest. And they must have notice variations among individuals. Thus at some point someone began selecting for the best hair characteristics. When this process began we do not know. But we know when ancient civilizations finally had hair that could be called wool and spun. Wool may have not beem the first material uzed for weaving, but it has a lot of advantages over plant fibers. A statuette of a modern looking wooled sheep has been found at an archeological site in Iran (4,000 BC). This strongly suggests that slepherds had sucessfully developed woolly sheep. The first known fleece is suggested by a crude clay image found at Sarab in Iran (3000 BC). The earliest surviving woolen textile has been found in a Danish bog (1500 BC), but this was because the preservation circumstances were perfect. There is extensuve evidence of modern wooly sheep Mesopotamia. We note Babylonian art and books (3000 BC). The Babylonians were famous for their wool and textiles (1300 BC). The people distinguished food sheep from wool sheep. There was also a unique grading of the wool into three groups; Mountain Wool, Second quality, and Good quality. The oldest fine woolen fabric was found at the Greek colony of Nymphaeum in the Crimea (5th century BC). These are all Western Asia/European finds. Future findings may throw more light on this process. Eventually, sheep breeds became highly specialized. Sheep farmers destined breeds for mutton roasts and breeds for fine wool yarn. The husbandry of sheep and the role of boys as shephards appears in the Old Testament, but predates even biblical times. The finest wool during Roman times came from Tarentium in about 37 B.C. and during these times there were definite signs of selective breeding. The Romans developed a special strain of sheep called the Terenton that had a superior fleece, but required special care, as it lacked hardiness.

Medieval Wool Trade

Wool played a major role in the medieval European econonomy. The Romans as early as 200 BC are know to have worked on improving their flocks through breeding. This was the origin of the famed Spanish Merino sheep. The wool trade was especially importnt to the English abd developing European economy. The ancient Britons kept sheep and wove wool before the Roman invaded. The establishment of Roman rule (1st century AD) led to important improvements in methods. The Romans built a factory at Winchester. William the Conqueror introduced skilled Flemish weavers (11th century). English King Richard the Lion Hearted was captured (1192). The HolyRoman Emperor demanded a huge ransom. The necessary payment was collected all over England. At the time monastaries were an important oart of the English economy. Cistercian monks provided 50,000 sacks of wool. Henry II promoted wool industries through laws, cloth fairs, and guilds of weavers. Edward III brought more weavers, dyers, and fullers from Flanders. England developed, however, as primarily a wool producing country, not a wool weaving. England was the great wool-producing country of Europe. Wool was medieval England's main export trade. Every European country relying on England as a source for wool. Weaving was the most important industry ib Europe, making the Low Countries the richest provinces in Europed making the region so important as Europen emerged from the medieval era.

Modern Era

Wool was the staple of English industry until the Industrial Revolution resulted in the manufacture of inexpensive cotton fabric (18th century). Wool was so important that there were more than 300 British laws detailing every aspect of the sheep trade (late 18th century). The American colonists brought sheep to Jamestown and Plymouth (17th century). English laws against importing wool from non-English sources were passed to force the Colonists to use English wool. This actually caused the Colonists to raise their own wool and was one of the many British colonial policies that helped to spread the idea of indeoendence. None iother than George Washington imported sheep to raise at Mount Vernon and brought spinners and weavers from England. After indeoendence, imported Merinos greatly improved the existing American stock (Early-19th century). Spinning and weaving were early New England industries. At first this was piece work at home and later in small factories. With independence, Btitish laws restricting industry not longer applied. The first American textike mill (factory) used water power to weave wool at Hartford, Connexticut (1788). The owner received a tax exemption and a bounty for every yard woven.







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Created: 6:05 AM 6/5/2011
Last updated: 10:13 PM 6/13/2021