Yarn that has been re-spun from shredded, recycled textiles is called shoddy. The term was probably first applied to the waste thrown off or shed during the process of wool manufacture.
Today, throughout Europe, the collection of worn clothing is a well-organized industry. Sorters either collect clothing directly from networks of clothing banks, or increasingly, in the UK, organize house-to-house collections or buy surplus clothing from charity shops and jumble sales. Charity shops remove the cream of the clothes received from the public and then sell the rest at prices which can vary from nothing to up to £250 per tonne (1999). The total sorting output across Europe is estimated at over 750,000 tonnes per year. About half of this is produced by Holland and Germany, whilst the UK accounts for nearly 250,000 tonnes per year.
India and Pakistan are also producers of shoddy yarn. In fact, Panipat in India, has the distinction of having one of the largest numbers of shoddy spinning units in the world.
The process of making shoddy yarn was developed by Benjamin Law in 1813. He devised a technique of spinning recycled, shredded woolen rags with virgin wool to make fresh yarn. Later, his nephews refined the process further. They also incorporated tailors’ clippings, along with shredded wool, into the process, thus creating an altogether different yarn known as Mungo.
Shoddy yarn was born out of an increased need for raw material to feed England’s textile industry, which was growing exponentially with the introduction of spinning and carding machines. The shoddy industry was centered in and around the towns of Batley, Morley, Dewsbury and Ossett in West Yorkshire. By 1855, nearly 15,876 tonnes of rags were being processed in England to make mungo and shoddy.
How Shoddy is Made
- First, woolen rags are sorted into piles of different colors. Shoddy cannot be dyed effectively and retains the color of the rags with which it was made. Hence, this first step is very important in the production of shoddy.
- Then, these piles are run through huge shredders, which turn the textile back into what looks like a fibrous mass of uncombed yarn.
- This product is put into a combing machine and re-spun.
- Often a few strands of synthetic yarn or virgin wool are added at this stage to give the final product greater strength.
- Then the product is twisted mechanically to make it smoother and stronger.
- Last, it is rolled into hanks and is ready to be spun or woven.
Significance of Shoddy
Shoddy yarn can be woven into blankets and carpets. Since it is a fraction of the price of virgin wool, it substantially brings down the cost of production. It can also be used as cheap filler for pillows and soft toys.
However, the significance of shoddy does not just lie in the fact that it is cheap. Even in these days of increased environmental awareness, an estimated million tonnes of textiles are land-filled every year in the UK alone. Recycling some of this into shoddy, which in turn can be used to make blankets that even the poor can afford, makes perfect environmental sense.