Wool Classing

My Former Career

This afternoon I received a message from PacificParatrooper’s Guest Poster, GreatestGenerationLessons seeking clarification of the term: Wool Classing (my former career).

This was to be an addition to my ‘About’ page, but I decided to make it a post as it was too long.

Wool classing, as I refer to it, takes place in wool sheds/shearing sheds, usually when sheep are being shorn. After the wool is shorn off each sheep fleeces are picked up by a shed hand and thrown onto the wool table to have the lower quality, or undesirable, wool removed, skirted. The main wool to skirt off is fribs. We wash perspiration off with the next shower.  Sheep do not have this luxury and when they perspire the moisture stays in the wool capturing dust and builds up to be a black greasy lump known as frib.  The main thing wrong with this wool is that it needs extra washing ($) to clean so it is removed because buyers will pay for the lowest quality they see on display on sale day. Think of two family members wearing same clothes, one works in an office the other works in a greasy or dirty environment…one set of clothes will need (cost) more cleaning.

Burry wool, yellow wool, cotted/matted wool, or non-conforming wool are other examples of wool destined to be ‘skirted’ off the fleece.

After each fleece is skirted the Wool Classer ‘classes’ or sorts it, based on:

  • staple length – short or mixed staples lengths are processed separately.

  • colour – whiter wool is better as pale shades of fabric can be created from pure white wool.  As the amount of colour increases, so do limitations for wool’s use.  Darker wool can only be used to create dark coloured fabrics.

  • fibre diameter (measured in microns. 1micron = 1millionth of 1 metre/39 inches). Prior to actually measuring wool fibre classers relied on visually assessing the size and regularity of the crimp to convey information about the fibre and how fine, or strong/coarse it was.  Finer, or finest wool is used for apparel, e.g. Women’s clothing, Italian wool suits, whereas stronger/coarser wool is used for outer garments (jackets, coats) and carpets (coarsest wool).

  • soundness (staples should be able to withstand a 7 pound tug during processing)

  • fleece softness (softer is better for making fabric worn close to skin)

Depending on the grower’s wishes and size of flock, the skirting process, along with how wool is classed varies from flock to flock, location to location and grower to grower. Unfortunately wool producers were slow to change procedures. If their great-grandfather had been skirting wool this way then that is how they wanted it done!

Wool Classers are said to be able to “dazzle you with brilliance or baffle you with bull“. Five hundred words is time to stop dazzling you!!

Wikipedia was not my source for this post but I did check to see if there was anything imagerelating to wool classing…..and found a great deal.


I will also happily answer any reader’s questions, about Wool Classing, to the best of my ability.


January, 9th, 2014

Just noticed that I did not mention that there are over 1,000 different types of wool.  Generally we do not see anywhere near this amount, of types, within one flock or wool clip.  From the producers perspective it makes sense to have as few types of wool as possible as more of it can be sold in one ‘line’.  A ‘line’ is three or more bales of the same type of wool.

Going Bananas in Cairns

Our visit to Cairns was in April just a few after cyclone Yasi had ravaged Queensland hit the area in late January, early February of 2011.

We had heard that the banana plantations had been badly effected and accordingly banana prices had risen sharply in Victoria.


However, I did not know that bananas were a quick-growing plant and it appeared that some growers had cut their plants just above ground level prior to the cyclone. in doing this the ‘trunk’ of each plant could, or was blown down by cyclone Yasi but the root remained safely in the ground thereby saving the plants. By mid-April banana plants (not trees) had regenerated and were again approaching 15 to 20 feet in height.


A quick look in Wikipedia will inform states that banana plants can grow up to 30 feet tall and while banana plants do look like trees they are giant shoots as the banana plant is a herb not a tree. In fact, the banana is the largest plant on earth without a woody stem.

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