Where Clothing Comes From
Did you know that clothing is an agricultural product?
Clothing comes from three different sources: animals, plants and oil.
- Sheep Wool – Once a year sheep have their fleece cut off or sheared. Wool is made from the very same substances that our own hair and fingernails are made of.
- Silk – Silk is produced mostly by moth caterpillars in building their cocoons, but the finest silk comes from the large white moth caterpillar commonly called the silk worm.
- Angora Goats – The white hair of Angora goats is called mohair. An angora goat’s mohair grows an inch every month. Angora goats are sheared twice a year. Mohair is used in the same ways as wool but is softer.
- Leather – Although leather is not a fiber, it is widely used as a fabric. Cattle hides are the source of most leathers; deer, goat, pig, and sheepskin are also widely used. It is used to make a variety of items including shoes, boots, belts, gloves, jackets, hats, shirts, pants, purses and saddles. The United States is one of the largest producers of leather today.
- Linen – Linen is made from the inner stalk of the flax plant. It is generally considered to be the oldest natural textile fiber.
- Cotton – Cotton grows best where it stays warm and sunny for at least half the year. Most cotton in the US is grown in the South. The fruit of the cotton plant is called the boll. When the fruit is ripe, the boll bursts open to show the cotton. More things are made of cotton then any other fiber. Why? Because it costs less to harvest cotton fibers than most other fibers.
- Hemp – Hemp plants are grown for their strong, durable fiber. Hemp fibers come from the inner bark of the stalk and are used to make rope, cord, string, twine, and coarse fibers such as sacking and canvas.
Synthetic Fibers are man-made by chemists. They fall into two broad groups: Cellulose Fibers and Oil By-products.
- Cellulose Fibers are natural fiber forming materials such as cellulose. Cellulose is wood pulp, generally obtained by trees. Examples are rayon and acetate.
- Oil By-Products includes polyester, acrylic, nylon, and spandex. They are formed chemically from by-products of oil-refining process. They can be woven into cloth and are often mixed with natural fibers.
What do you do once you have obtained the fibers?
Animal, plant, and synthetic fibers must be gathered and processed.
Activity: How did my sweater come from a sheep?
- First the sheep must be given a hair cut, and the wool washed, and carded. Carding the wool is like brushing your hair; it pulls the tangles out of the wool so it can be spun.
- Second the wool has to be spun.
There are many ways you can spin the wool.
Then the yarn must be made into clothing.
- Using your bare hands.
- Using a drop spindle.
- Using a spinning wheel.
- By machine (most wool today is spun by machines).
- Yarn can be made into clothing by knitting or crocheting it with your hands, similar to tying knots in the yarn.
- Yarn can also be woven on a loom. A loom is a wooden structure on which you can make fabric.
- Today there are powered looms and other machines that make our clothing. This way more clothing can be made in a shorter amount of time and it takes less people.