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Uploaded:2018-10-10
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You might have clothes, like a hat or a warm, cozy sweater, that are made of wool. You might even know that a lot of wool comes from sheep! But do you know how wool goes from growing on a sheep to being made into a sweater?
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SOURCES:
http://ag.ansc.purdue.edu/sheep/ansc442/semprojs/2004/uses/wool.htm
https://econation.co.nz/wool/
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-34135805
♪.

It’s starting to get a bit chilly outside, so today, I’ve put on a thick sweater to help me keep cozy. [Squeaks squeaks]. It is really soft, and it’s also really warm.

This sweater is extra warm and cozy because it’s made out of a special material. It’s made out of wool from a sheep. Wool is actually the hair, or fiber, of animals like sheep, alpacas, and some kinds of goats and rabbits.

Like lots of animals, sheep are covered in hair. But sheep’s hair is different, because it’s not straight or short. Instead, sheep are covered in thick wool fibers, and their wool can be very curly.

Sheep grow wool to keep themselves warm outside, especially during cold winters. The wool can catch on fences or low tree branches that a sheep walks through, and little pieces of it are shedding off all the time, so a sheep has to constantly grow more wool. But when winter is over and the warm spring begins, sheep usually don’t need their wool to stay warm.

So that’s when farmers can give them a haircut. [Squeaks squeaks]. Good question, Squeaks! He wants to know how we get the hair off the sheep!

A sheep haircut is a lot like the haircuts people get, except we call it shearing. To shear a sheep, farmers take a large pair of clippers and trim off the wool. [Squeaks squeaks]. Nope, if shearing is done correctly, it shouldn’t hurt the sheep at all.

Just like how getting your hair cut doesn’t hurt, shearing a sheep only cuts the wool, not the sheep. An average sheep produces around 10 kilograms, or about 20 pounds of wool every year. That’s a lot of wool!

It’s as a 2 year old human baby! Once a sheep has been sheared, the sheep can go back to its usual life in the fields. But there’s still a lot of work to be done to make the wool into a sweater.

The wool is taken to a place called a mill, which is like a wool factory. When it arrives, it’s dirty, and it still looks like it just came off of a sheep. So, first, the wool is separated into different categories.

Wool from the top of the sheep might be long and fine, but wool from the legs or the stomach of the sheep might be shorter or thicker. These different kinds of wool will make different things, like sweaters, socks, jackets, or even hats. For a really soft sweater like this one, we’d use some of those long, fine pieces of wool.

Next, the wool has to be cleaned. Sheep tend to roll around in the dirt and run through a lot of plants, so their wool can be filled with leaves, twigs, and even bugs. [Squeaks squeaks]. You're right, Squeaks! it is like a collection of things from the sheep’s home.

But I don’t want that whole collection in my sweater, so all of the wool is washed with soap and water. As the wool is washed, the dirt and plant bits come off, as well as lanolin, a greasy wax that covers and protects the wool. Lanolin can be used to make hand lotions and other supplies, so it’s collected for later.

Once that’s done, the wool is clean! Raw wool, or wool fresh off of the sheep, feels a bit waxy and looks dusty, but this clean wool feels softer and looks bright. Once the wool is clean, it can be carded.

That’s when we pull all of the wool fibers apart, make sure they’re all going the same direction, and pull out any last seeds, twigs, or leaves stuck in the wool. Most of the time this is done by a big machine. Then the wool fibers are pulled into long pieces called roving. [Squeaks squeaks].

It is almost ready to be made into a sweater, but the roving has to be turned into one final product: yarn. The roving pieces are spun together super tightly, making a long, thin rope of yarn, which can be dyed any color we want. Once the yarn is finished, it can be used to knit or crochet a sweater just like mine.

Making wool into new clothes is like a giant science experiment, with people all over the world always trying new ways to raise healthy sheep, new tools to clean and card and spin the wool, and new patterns for making the comfiest clothes. That includes new patterns like the one I used for your sweater, Squeaks. I’m so glad you like it!

Try it on! You look as warm and woolly as a sheep. What would you like to make with sheep’s wool?

Do you have any questions about life as a sheep, or how things are made, or anything at all? We’d love to hear them! Ask a grown-up to help you to leave a comment below, or go to patreon.com/scishowkids and send us your questions.

We’ll see you next time here at the Fort! ♪.