Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Wool sorting

The processes of producing worsted cloth in a factory are essentially the same as those carried out by the local cottage producers - preparing and cleaning the wool, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing the cloth. The difference lies in the industrial scale of the operation and the huge size of the machinery used. Bradford's Industrial Museum has examples of many different types of machine with displays explaining the processes. Since the museum building, Moorside Mill, was once a small worsted spinning mill, it's easy to imagine how Salts Mill might have looked inside - though Salts was massive in comparison.

But even in the big mills, until as recently as the second half of the 20th century, the initial processing was done by hand. When the raw wool fleeces were brought in, the wool was first hand-sorted by quality and condition. The sorted fleece was tossed into huge wicker skips beneath the workbench. Wool sorting was a highly skilled trade using sight and touch and woolsorters were proud to pass their unique knowledge down from father to son, often through several generations.

6 comments:

  1. I love to handle sheeps wool. The smell of the lanolin..!

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  2. Wow so nice !! I would love to touch them !!

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  3. It always fascinates me ho these pretty messy piles of fleece make it to a skarn of wool.

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  4. I was thinking about the lanolin too! What an interesting process.

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  5. Is there still a cottage industry doing it the old way

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  6. My father, Grandfather and Great Grandfather all served their apprenticeships as wool graders in Bradford. The business died out in the late sixties

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