Fulling Wool Cloth

What is fulling? Most people, even long time knitters, probably have no idea what fulling is. But it has been around for centuries.

Fulling is a process that takes knitted cloth and pounds and shrinks it into a mat that is warmer, water proof and immune to shrinking (because it has already shrunk). Think Alpine loden cloth. It’s sort of like frizzing your hair and twisting it into one giant dreadlock.

In Roman times and middle ages stale urine, a great source of ammonium salts, was used to full wool. (I kid you not!) Urine was so valuable in Roman times it was taxed. And medieval peasants made a few pennies from their urine. Fuller’s earth, (hydrous aluminum silicate), a soft clay like material, came into use sometime in the middle ages.

Once the cloth was soaked it must be pounded. Without mills, the cloth is soaped and stamped on by bare feet. The first mill, however, came into being in France during the 11th century and by the 12th century were in England as well.

In the early US, fulling parties were organized where the men stamped the soapy knitted wool into submission. Will Rees would probably have participated in a few such parties.

Fuller, Tucker, Walker are all synonyms for this process. So people with these surnames had a distant ancestor who fulled cloth.

 

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