2048 WOOLLEN MANUFACTURES.
Whether spinning or weaving was invented first, is now hopelessly beyond discovery, tlaough the conjecture may be hazazded, with a great probability of truth, that it was the latter. The form it would probably assume would be the interlacing of vegetable reeds obtained from the banks of rivers, which art in some places has survived to the present day. The discovery of a method of making a continuous thread from short fibres, most probably wool, by draught and torsion, would place a highly increased power in the bands of the weaver, and enable him to produce a fabric of greatly enlarged dimensions. Tbe art of spinning is one of the most important developments of human ingenuity, and has probably contributed more to the comfort and happiness of mankind than any other single invention. It would be interesting, if possible, to divine bow it occurred. There is a probability that the world is indebted for it to some ancient shepherd boy, who, whilst reclining in the shade with his flock grazing around him, laid hold of a stray lock of wool within reach, and amused himself by pulling it into a light mass ; maybe be then began to twist a few of the fibres between his fingers, drawing them out at the same time, and observing that he could thus produce a continuous thread. He may or may not have realized the fact that he had made a great discovery : probably not. Assuming the correctness of this supposition, the first thread was woollen, not worsted—a difference that will be explained subsequently.
At the dawn of tbe historic period, the twin arts of manufacturing flax and wool rise into view together, showing a parallel advance. At that time, the Egyptians had so far perfected and organized the industry, that rudiments of the modern factory system are discoverable amongst their remains. These are found in the paintings on the mummy coffins and the interiors of their tombs. That wool was one of the materials extensively wrought up into fabrics, scarcely admits of a doubt, and the fact that no specimen of the cloth has come down to modern times probably arises from the certainty that its nature unfitted it for the particular use that bas preserved the linen one. With a linen fabric, the dead could be swathed much naore firmly and closely than with one of wool, owing to the perfectly extended form of the fibres in the former, whilst the latter can scarcely be freed from its natural curvature. During their sojourn in Egypt, the Israelites acquired a knowledge of the native spinning and weaving as there practised. On their depaiture, and during their wander
ings in the wilderness, it is stated that, on the occasion whoa contributions were being made for the construction of the tabernacle, the women who were wise-hearted spun with their hands, and brought in the yarn, the blue and the purple, the scarlet and tbe fine linen, which others were inspired to work up into suitable fabrics. A prohibition issued during the same period incidentally reveals that union fabrics were customarily made even at that early time, for it is ordered that " a garment mingled of linen and woollen shall not come upon thee." The sacred writings, through all the subsequent history of the Jewish nation, afford plenty of testimony to the high development of the textile arts, not only amongst themselves, but also among neighbouring nations, the Egyptians, Assylians, Babylonians, Plmenicians, and others. In a similar manner, classical writers reveal the condition of these aits amongst the Greeks, the Romans, and their contemporaries, the less civilized nations who successively fell under the influence of their dominion. In a previous article (Linen Manufactures), their progress has been traced, and as the manufacture of wool and flax appear to have always advanced hand in band, any further detail here would he needless repetition.
The instruments in use were the same for both industries, being the distaff and spindle for spinning, and, as occasion required, both the vertical and the horizontal loom were employed. All improvements that tool- place subsequently were equally applicable to both purposes, and were adopted by both classes of workers as quickly as the limited means of communication permitted. Coming down to modern times, in which more nicety of manipulation has been attained, a greater divergence in the processes has been introduced, arising from more regard being paid to the essentially different nature of the two materials, wool and flax. During the current century, a great advance has been made in the productive capacity of the woollen industry, owing to the introduction therein, with the necessary modifications, of the remarkable inventions that have dis tinguished the growth of the cotton trade, and have placed it in a position of such notable eminence. This example has also been of indirect benefit to the woollen industry, by s.timulating independent invention, which has not been inconsiderable of late years.