How does top-making ensure high quality suiting fabric?

How does top-making ensure high quality suiting fabric?

How does top-making ensure high quality suiting fabric?

Preserved for generations, Dormeuil’s know-how is largely based on the  mastery of the intricacies of textile production. Before a cloth can be woven, many steps are required to transform the precious fibres, like those on a sheep’s back, into yarns destined for the weaving loom. This is the first instalment of a series of articles on the many levels of expertise that go into producing high-quality wool fabrics for suits. We open the topic on a crucial part of the process called top-making. As you will see, this step plays an integral part in achieving the level of excellence required for Dormeuil’s suiting fabric collections.

What is the top-making process?

A semi-processed interval between several stages early on in the production process, the wool top greatly determines the quality of a textile. The process of making wool tops helps to create a uniform texture and quality, which makes the fibre easier to spin and weave. In short, top-making constitutes an important intermediate product in achieving the quality required in Dormeuil’s wool fabric collections.

What is the worsted wool process?

The top-making process falls under the worsted system. In short, it is made by washing and carding raw wool fibres to remove impurities, before aligning the fibres so that they all run in the same direction. This produces a continuous "roving" of wool, which is then twisted into a compact “rope-like” form, called a top.

There are two systems: woollen and worsted wool processing. Each system serves a different purpose. Textiles resulting from the Woollen process are usually bulky and knitted into jumpers and socks, for example. The worsted system includes more steps and aims to produce finer textiles, like the ones that are categorised as suiting fabric. Named after the Worsted region in England where it was first developed, the worsted wool process transforms raw  fibres into lustrous and smooth high-quality yarns. 

The steps of the worsted system of wool manufacturing 

The worsted system differs from the woollen system in that it requires longer and smoother fibres. This is why additional steps are necessary to ensure that the fibres are combed to remove the shorter ones. This part of top-making is essential to achieving high-quality wool suiting fabric. The steps are numerous and must be respected in the following order to arrive at the level of quality Dormeuil’s  wool fabric selection aims to achieve.

  1. Scouring

Raw wool is washed to remove any impurities, such as dirt and grease. The scouring process consists in washing the wool with hot water and detergent before rinsing and drying.

  1. Carding

The wool fibres are carded, which involves passing it through a machine with metal teeth. This stage separates and aligns the filaments, producing a long, narrow web called a carded sliver. 

  1. Gilling

A method of preparing wool fibres for spinning into yarn, gilling involves carding to blending different fibres together to create a consistent and homogeneous mixture. This process typically involves passing the top through a series of rollers covered in wire or bristle brushes. 

  1. Combing

After gilling, the carded sliver is passed through a combing machine that removes the shorter fibres, aligns the longer ones and clears out any remaining impurities. This process results in a smoother wool top. 

  1. Drafting 

The wool top is then passed through a series of drafting rollers to further align and stretch the fibres. This stage seeks to even the thickness and density of the wool top. 

  1. Inspecting

The wool top is inspected to ensure that it meets the desired quality standards. Any remaining impurities or defects are then removed by hand.

  1. Worsted Spinning

The combed wool fibres are spun into yarn using the worsted spinning method. This method produces a smooth, strong, and lustrous yarn, perfect for suiting fabric. 

As previously mentioned, the worsted system of wool manufacturing produces a finer and smoother yarn than the woolen system. Worsted yarns are highly sought after for their strength, durability, and luxurious feel, making them ideal for different suit fabric types.

Why is top-making important?

Wool tops are often made from fibres renown for their softness and fineness, such as the Merino breed used in Dormeuil’s wool fabric selection. In this sense, top-making may include a range of different grades of wool, and can also depend on blends between different types of wool to create a desired texture or colour.

Top-making is an important step in wool production for several reasons:

  1. Quality control: Top-making includes the removal of any impurities, such as dirt and grease, that may have been present in the raw material. Without it, the wool’s quality would lack consistency and not meet critical standards of excellence: strength, fineness, and length. The categorisation of suit fabric types depends heavily on consistency and thickness.
  2. Versatility: With top-making, different grades of wool can be separated and used for specific applications. A finer and softer handle may be appropriate for suiting fabric, while a more resistant and thicker cloth with a natural inclination for water-repellency will work well for outerwear. 
  3. Ease of processing: Wool tops are easier to handle thanks to the higher level of consistency in the fibres. This makes the spinning stage easier amongst other necessary processes in textile production.
  4. Improved texture: Top-making results in yarns with a smoother texture, which is a key indicator of quality in luxury textiles.

Top-making plays a critical role in weaving high quality textiles as seen in Dormeuil’s wool fabric collections. It is essential in creating a cloth that matches its purpose, whether in the case of a groom’s made to measure wedding suit or for sharp everyday outerwear. 

How is high quality wool evaluated? 

The grading process is based on several factors, including fibre diameter, length, crimp, colour, and cleanliness. The grading process is usually performed by a person trained as a wool classer or grader, who knows how to evaluate  the quality of fibres.

The most important factor in grading wool is the diameter, which is measured in microns. The finer the diameter, the higher the quality of the wool. A diameter inferior to 18.5 microns is considered to be "superfine" and is typically used in high-end suiting fabric. At Dormeuil, the Merino wool sourced for our textiles starts at a diameter as low as 11.20 microns. 

In addition, the length of the fibres is also important as it is correlated to strength and durability. Dormeuil uses pure long filament Merino wool throughout its collections. 

Consistency is key in achieving high-quality textiles. The crimp, or wave, is another factor that determines the final cloth’s grade. Wool fibres with a consistent crimp are preferred, as they are easier to spin and produce a smoother yarn. The Merino wool sourced by Dormeuil features a fine crimp which provides good elasticity, translating into excellent tailorability and wrinkle recovery.

Another factor taken into consideration when grading is the colour of the wool, as some colours are more desirable than others. For example, white wool is typically preferred over its coloured counterpart, as it can be dyed to a wider range of hues.

Finally, the cleanliness of the wool is also important, as a top that contains fragments of dirt or other impurities can lessen the quality of the finished product. Wool that is free of contamination is considered to be of higher quality.

The grading process for high quality wool involves a careful evaluation of multiple factors. With this in mind, the mastery of the top-making process guarantees a higher quality right from the onset of the wool production process.