1 sheep, 2 sheep, 3 sheep:

how we turn wool into clothes

Just like we wear sweaters in winter, sheep have fluffy coats to keep them comfy.

Long ago, farmers noticed that sheep dropped some of their wool, and they had a clever idea. They started picking the wool to keep themselves warm too! 

Then, they learned to gently take the wool off the sheep. This helped the sheep feel cooler in summer, while people knit clothes or blankets for winter. By then, the sheep would have grown a new coat.

Sheep go to a barber called a “shearer”

When it’s time to gather the wool, the shearer gives the sheep a haircut called “shearing”. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt the sheep.

The best shearers can trim the wool in one big piece, in about 5 minutes. Usually, they shear the whole herd in one day. That’s more than 100 sheep!

In New Zealand, shearers compete to see who’s the fastest. The winner gets The Golden Shears Trophy. It’s a big honor!

How do we turn wool into clothes?

Once the wool is sheared off, it looks like a big, fluffy blanket. But it’s not quite ready to be turned into sweaters or quilts just yet. 

1. First, the freshly cut wool needs a good scrub

To make sure it’s squeaky clean, the wool gets a few baths in big tubs of water. Otherwise, our clothes would have all the twigs and grasses that get caught on the sheep! 

While scrubbing, the wool washers collect the wax that comes off, called Lanolin. That wax works like a raincoat. It keeps the sheep nice and dry when it rains.

Lanolin also makes skin smooth. Instead of throwing it away, people put it in lotions.

 

If you ever pet a sheep, you’ll get softer hands from the Lanolin! 

2. Time for some grooming

After the bath, the wool gets spread out to dry in the sun. Then, it’s time to comb out any tangles. 

Sheep wool is quite curly — combing it straightens the fibers, so it’s easier to spin into yarn.  

3. Spinning a yarn

The fluffy wool gets pulled into strands. A few of those strands get twisted together, around and around, to make a thin rope. 

Today, we have machines that do this quickly. 

But back in the day, our great-great-great grandmas spun their own yarn on a spinning wheel. With that yarn, they could knit anything! Sweaters, scarves, socks…even teddy bears.

4. A final splash of color

Our great-great-great grandmas made dyes from nature’s treasures. They used berries, flowers, and even bugs. 

They mixed them with the wool in boiling water and baaa-m! They got clothes in any color they wanted.

Today, color makers play with chemicals in a lab to dye clothes.

Why do we count sheep to sleep?

Well, we could count other animals. But picturing fluffy sheep jumping over a fence feels calm and cozy. 

It’s a fun way to drift off to dreamland.

Originally, shepherds counted their flocks on the way home. After checking all the sheep were safe, they would go to bed.

Sheep don’t really jump over fences. They’re more likely to squeeze under them. But in our bedtime stories they can do anything!

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