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Monday, 10 January 2011

The wonder of woollens

It was heartening to see a BBC news item  this morning that the British woollen industry is enjoying a revival. This interesting video shows wool being processed into yarn at Laxton's Specialist Yarns and includes some archive footage from the 1960s of woollen cloth being woven.

All the workers in the video are adults, but in the nineteenth century, the woollen and worsted industries were heavily reliant on child labour: a thirteen hour working day was customary in some mills, and children even worked up to eighteen hours a day in others.
Woollen fabrics (broadcloths and kerseymeres) were made from wool spun from short fibres. In worsted and ‘stuffs’ manufacture, wool was combed into long fibres before spinning. Worsted yarn was woven into blankets, flannels, and merinos.
In my forthcoming book The Children History Forgot (Robert Hale) I’ll be looking at conditions in Yorkshire woollen mills and Richard Oastler’s fight to help limit children’s hours, as well as other industries.

Image: Wheel for combing worsted. Charles Knight’s Pictorial Gallery of Arts Vol. I, (c.1862).

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