Wool is an incredibly versatile fabric that has been used for as long as humans have been aware of the existence of sheep. The ability of wool to provide warmth, as well as light-weight clothing that can protect from the rain, has caused it to be a popular material. It is true to say that there is no other material in existence with the same natural qualities as wool. Through selective breeding of high quality sheep, it has been possible to create better wool that makes an even better product. It is undoubtedly one of the oldest commodities produced in the United Kingdom and is deeply ingrained in the countries heritage.
As far back as 10,000 BC, sheep were being reared for wool production. The manufacturing process was of course incredibly primitive and done by hand, resulting in a yarn that was uneven. It wasn’t until much later that the first spindle was created, comprising of a piece of wood with a stone ring attached at the end. This method of spinning wool was adopted for many thousands of years and is actually still in practice in certain remote tribal areas.
Moving on from this spindle, the first loom was developed. This was a beam with yarn hung over it which was then weighted at one end with heavy stones. This yarn was then threaded from side to side and came together. This method of spinning wool was more efficient than the spindle and became the favourite way to do so for thousands of years to come. There were many small improvements made to the loom during this time.
It was in the thirteenth century that the production of wool reached its height. It was constantly in demand across the country and was also exported. After a brief period of political unrest which saw wool production drop temporarily, the following century brought wealth to farmers of wool. This was a time when exports were high and the taxes on doing so had been lowered after the war. By the time the end of the fifteenth century came around, the United Kingdom was known to be an established country of sheep farmers. The country was also held in high regard for cloth manufacturing.
Things continued much in the same way up until the Industrial Revolution which began in 1750. This is when the process of manufacturing wool started to become mechanized. This was opposed by the working class who feared they would lose their jobs to machines but their opposition was ignored. Manufacturing centres began to develop, especially in Scotland, and production continued to boom. The production techniques of the Industrial Revolution have been improved to reach the standards and techniques that are utilised in Britain today.