Worsted

Worsted is a high-quality type of wool yarn, the fabric made from this yarn, and a yarn weight category. The name derives from Worstead, a village in the English county of Norfolk. That village, together with North Walsham and Aylsham, formed a manufacturing centre for yarn and cloth in the 12th century, when pasture enclosure and Liming rendered the East Anglian soil too rich for the older agrarian sheep breeds. In the same period, many weavers from Flanders moved to Norfolk. "Worsted" yarns/fabrics are distinct from woollens (though both are made from sheep's wool): the former is considered stronger, finer, smoother, and harder than the latter.
Worsted was made from the long-staple pasture wool from sheep breeds such as Teeswaters, Old Leicester Longwool and Romney Marsh. Pasture wool was not carded; instead it was washed, gilled and combed (using heated long-tooth metal combs), oiled and finally spun. When woven, worsteds were scoured but not fulled.
Many spinners differentiate between worsted preparation and worsted spinning. Worsted preparation refers to the way the fibre is prepared before spinning, using ginning machines which force the fibre staples to lie parallel to each other. Once these fibres have been made into a top, they are then combed to remove the short fibres. The long fibres are combined in subsequent gilling machines to again make the fibres parallel. This produces overlapping untwisted strands called slivers. Worsted spinning refers to using a worsted technique, which produces a smooth yarn in which the fibres lie parallel.
Roving and wool top are often used to spin worsted yarn. Many hand spinners buy their fibre in roving or top form. Top and roving are ropelike in appearance, in that they can be thick and long. While some mills put a slight twist in the rovings they make, it is not enough twist to be a yarn. The fibres in top and rovings all lie parallel to one another along the length, which makes top ideal for spinning worsted yarns.
Worsted cloth, archaically also known as stuff, is lightweight and has a coarse texture. The weave is usually twill or plain. Twilled fabrics such as whipcord, gabardine and serge are often made from worsted yarn. Worsted fabric made from wool has a natural recovery, meaning that it is resilient and quickly returns to its natural shape, but non-glossy worsted will shine with use or abrasion.
Before the introduction of automatic machinery, there was little difficulty in attaining a straight fibre, as long wool was always used, and the sliver was made up by hand, using combs. The introduction of Richard Arkwright's water frame in 1771, and the later introduction of cap and mule spinning machines, required perfectly prepared slivers. Many manufactories used one or more preparatory combing machines (called gill-boxes) before worsting, to ensure straight fibres and to distribute the lubricant evenly.