This newsletter is transcribed from the Fibre Guild’s old website.
Newsletter for November Crown A.S. XXXVIII
From the Editor
Greetings to everyone,
My sincere apologies for the lateness of this missive. Unfortunately November coincided with many assignments and mundane family problems for me.
As your new chronicler I probably should introduce myself. I am Mistress Rohese de Fairhurst, known mundanely as Meroe M. Cahill. Currently I am a resident of Stormhold, however we are on the move again in January, this time to the Barony of Politarchopolis.
I love knitting, which is what I was laurelled for , but I’m also interested in loads of other things (and easily distracted by new and exciting topics!). Currently I am researching and playing with sprang, so unless people send me other articles future newsletters will be filled with sprang!
Many thanks to our previous chronicler Viscountess Yolande Kesteven, who did a marvelous job starting the newsletter. We shall all miss her witty editorial style! We wish her all the best in her upcoming reign, and we shall have to plan a special gift for her and Ædward!
From the Guildmaster
Welcome to the second issue of the small but growing Fibre Guild of Lochac.
I’m very encouraged by the conversations at the meetings held at Twelfth Night at BordesCros and Autumn Crown Tourney at Arrowreach. I’m sure we will still have lots to share at Midwinter Investiture at Stowe on the Wowlde.
Congratulations to the two new fibre Laurels, Mistress Eleanor of Orkney for her spinning and weaving in particular, and Mistress Rohese de Fairhurst for her knitting and hats.
Welcome to our new Wardens : Baroness Glynnyhvyer at RiverHaven and Mistress Eleanor at St Florians. Wardens make the running of the Guild much easier, ensuring we are known and co-ordinating with local A&S and members.
This last point is important for any Guild, new or old, and has been discussed at our meetings. Apologies for the delay in this issue, but I’m sure you understand how busy our Chronicler, Viscountess Yolande has been when wearing her other hat as Chairman of the SCAA.
In this day and age a website is also useful and I am very pleased to accept Mistress Acacia’s offer to be our webminister and Master Del’s offer of space on sca.org.au. Please send Mistress Acacia scans or digital photos of your work, with or without the documentation, working notes and patterns if you want. It’s a great way to show our members’ skills not just to Lochac but to the world.
The newsletters, our charter, ranking guidelines and guild structure will also be on the website.
While I missed Festival, I’m told of some fun classes, good handouts and new enthusiams for textile works. Thanks and well done to all who volunteered and shared their knowledge and love of fibre things . Work is going ahead on our presentation pieces for Their Majesties. Nine months goes very fast, can I call for ideas for TRH Alaric and Nerissa’s presentation pieces? It is lovely to work in with their preferred period and style, so all ideas and hints are welcome.
I’d also like to mention our own email list – email@example.com – this is a quiet list which is a bit unfortunate. Sounds like great opportunities for our Chronicler to get articles?
Some ideas came out for wardens and members to do : sponsor a local A&S comp – give the how to lecture before hand, provide a prize on the day, help judge. Present a fibre project or work in progress or research paper as part of your local A&S timetable. Present the local group with the tassells for the tourney winners.
Guild competitions were mentioned, perhaps alternating one quickly done project with one more intensive. With very few, read nil, entries in the three competitions so far, I have decided to put Comps on the back burner until others push for them. I’m undertaking to have a guild meeting with or without workshop/show and tell at every Kindgom event (and Festival of course).
I have been fortunate also to be able to start compiling a list of volunteers to take workshops. The Chronicler and I may also request the odd article from you too.
Enough from me, till we meet again
I’ve found some fun email lists on yahoo and most are setup with the SCA period and style of A&S in mind. Most are fairly quiet lists, I’m getting one short digest a day from each. To subscribe for individual messages put the name of the list then
or for digests use
(that’s a hyphen and not an underline.)
Check out the files sections and links. There are some very talented and generous textile workers out there.
Happy hunting on-line and I hope it doesn’t lead to more projects started than finished!
Tissus D’Egypte Temoins du Monde Arab VIIIc-XVc siecles: Collection Bouvier”
This is a beautifully presented museum catalogue. Unfortunately the text is in French, however it is readily decipherable using your head and a dictionary or online translator.
This book examines textiles from medieval Egypt.
It contains pictures and details of 13 knitted pieces from 10th-13th century Egypt. The text includes details of the number of stitches and rows per centimeter, the type of yarn used, and the colours, and a detailed description of all the pieces.
Photographs are clear enough to use to graph the designs used.
The pieces are all lovely, and include multicoloured wool fragments, narrow pouches (or possibly belt ends- the actual use of these pieces is uncertain) and some fragments which are probably from stockings.
This book also contains woven tapestry pieces and embroidered items.
This book is available through various internet book dealers, but unfortunately is rather expensive. A copy is located in the State Library of Victoria.
Knitted fragment, knitted from coloured wools at a gauge of 7 stitches and 15 rows per centimeter.
Roe’s Exciting Adventures in Fulling
Fulling is the process of felting wool which has already been made into a piece of fabric, whether by weaving, knitting, nalbinding or any other method.
What you shouldn’t do
Well, I knitted this green and red hat for a friend. And it came out a smidge too big.
And I thought
“If I fulled this hat, maybe it would miraculously end up the right size”.
So I vigorously wash it in warm water. Nothing happens.
So I vigorously wash it in alternating warm and cold water. Nope, nothing happening.
So I boil it for 10 minutes and throw it in cold water. Repeat twice. No shrinkage, no fulling, nothing.
So I throw it in the washing machine with some towels on a hot cycle. Nup. If anything it is slightly larger from being stretched while washed, and now it has towel fluff all over it.
At this point I consider two more options- try it with fullers earth or fermented urine, both period methods. Now Toowoomba has this bright red earth which stains everything that it comes in contact with, so I was pretty sure that it wasn’t fullers earth.
And I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to ferment urine on the off chance that it would be the magic ingredient.
Then I read the label for the wool I used to knit the hat, and there were the magic words.
“Machine washable.” The stupid wool had been specifically treated so that it wouldn’t felt.
What you should do
Having failed my first attempt at fulling. I then decided that it might be a good idea to do some research before attempting it again.
Fulling is the process of felting wool which has already been made into a piece of fabric, whether by weaving, knitting, nalbinding or any other method. I will concentrate on fulling knitted items, but the principle remains the same for fulling other items. The process of fulling goes back to the sixth century B.C., and played an important role in the textile industry throughout the SCA time period. Woollen fabric is treated with soap, grease, fuller’s earth or other special clays or stale urine, and then agitated with mositure until the fulling process occurs. The agitation was originally provided by people physically agitating the fabric with their feet or arms, but by the tenth century water driven fulling mills had begun their spread across Europe. Later the fulling process was controlled by guilds, as it was an important part of the production of high quality woollen fabric.
There are several advantages to fulling a knitted item.
- It was often done in period, especially with caps such as Monmouth caps.
- The knitted fabric is much denser, stiffer and more water resistant.
- You can cut it without it unravelling (there is a cap with a slashed brim in “A History of Handknitting” which was probably slashed after fulling).
- The structure of the stitches is less obvious, especially if you use a teasel to fluff up the surface fibres.
- The knitted piece doesn’t curl up at the edges, like an unfulled piece of knitting will.
Before you begin, many commercial wools will NOT work for fulling, as they are often treated with chemicals so that they can be machine washed. This basically glues all of the wool scales in place so that they cannot open, and so they won’t be able to full.
This is why it is essential to test the wool before commencing the real knitting project.
Knit several identical sample squares from your wool. Measure them and count the number of rows and stitches. Calculate the unfulled gauge (stitches/inch and rows/inch). One of these squares will be your control piece – don’t do anything to it, as you want to use this one to compare the others to.
Now full the other sample pieces. Three things are needed for fulling to occur- heat, agitation and a change in the pH of the water. Changing the pH causes the scales of the wool to open. The easiest way to change the pH is to add some soap, as pure soap is alkaline. I make a soft paste by dissolving pure soap (such as Velvet laundry soap) in hot water, and then add some of the paste to the hot water used for fulling.
Use the different sample pieces to test different methods of fulling. Use warm to hot water, and agitate the sample piece. I have found rubbing and mooshing it around in my hands to work best for me, but you could also rub the piece on a rough surface (remember those old washboards? Perfect.) or stomp on it in the bathtub. Another alternative would be to wet your piece with hot soapy water, wrap it up in bubble wrap or cane blinds, roll it up and knead it (this is how I do felting). Alternatively, you could try fulling in your clothes dryer (add some old sneakers to help with the agitation), however I have no experience with this as we don’t own a dryer.
Continue with the fulling process until the outline of the knitting stitches is no longer visible and no more shrinkage is occurring. When the sample pieces are dry, measure them and work out the shrinkage in each direction. Note that knitted pieces usually shrink at different rates horizontally and vertically- you will have to take this into account when doing the calculations for your knitted piece.
The aim of these calculations is to estimate how much bigger you will need to make your knitted piece, so that it ends up the right size and proportions after fulling.
Original width/finished width gives you the shrinkage ratio. You will calculate two of these shrinkage ratios- one for the width, and one for the length.
|Shrinkage ratio||Calculating the starting size||Calculating the number of stitches & rows required|
|Calculating the number of stitches required||Original width / Finished width||Starting width = Desired width x width ratio||#stitches = starting width x unfulled stitch gauge|
|Calculating the number of rows required||Original length / Finished length||Starting length = Desired length x length ratio||#rows = starting length x unfulled row gauge|
Then knit your piece. Remember that it will be larger than the final fulled size! After knitting your piece, you need to full it. Follow the method that worked best for you when doing your sample pieces.
After fulling, you may want to fluff up the surface fibres to give a velvety appearance. This was done on a small sixteenth century cap to give the appearance of velvet, and I suspect that many of the Tudor caps seen in paintings may have been produced via this method. Traditionally a teasel (a stiff part of the plant Dipsacus fullonum) was used in this process, however modern substitutions could include a stiff hairbrush (or my cat’s hairbrush looks like it would work perfectly!).
Fulling is a technique which played an important role in the medieval period, as evidenced by Fuller’s guilds. It is also an effective and useful technique, and is fun to play with!
- Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Pritchard, Frances, Staniland, Kay. “Textiles and Clothing c1150-1450”, HMSO.
- Malanima, Paolo. “The First European Textile Machine”, Textile History, V16(2), pp 115-28, 1986.
- Rutt, Richard. “A History of Handknitting”, Interweave Press, 1980.
Report on Guild Event
Present at the meeting were (will those present please tell me if I’ve forgotten someone?):
- Eleanor (St Florian-de-la-riviere)
- Edla (St Florian-de-la-riviere)
- Lucretzia (Riverhaven)
- Annika (Lismore[Mordenvale?])
- Beatrice (Castellum Montanum [Riverhaven])
- Sigurd (Castellum Montanum [Riverhaven])
The following topics were discussed
There was general consensus that a badge to identify the guild and its members would be good. Images put forward as being possible choices were a skein of yarn, a spindle, knitting needles or woven fibre (ie a grid of lines). It was agreed that the earlier suggestion of a fleece on a green ground was a nice image too. It was su ggested that samples be drawn up and displayed on the web page for members to comment on.
The issue of wardens was raised, but noone present knew what being a warden entailed. It was decided to seek clarification as to what the responsibilities of a warden are.
Workings of guild
The major discussion of the meeting was on the topic of “what do we want out of the guild and how can this be reflected in its structure”. This led to a discussion of ranking.
A number of those present expressed a desire for a more structured ranking system, that would assist in ensuring a consistent approach across the kingdom, and give guild members a more clear idea of what level of expertise would be expected for each level.
Other suggestions were that the following information be clearly posted on the website:
- who can rank and where they are situated
- a list of persons ranked at each level (so that people know who to go to for advice and information in a given area)
- how to submit items for ranking (what documentation is required, what forms, if any, need to be completed
- what the process entails i.e. where is the information sent to for filing, how are decision recorded and notifications made etc
Annika showed the meeting documents from the Middle Kingdom website which was put forward as an example of a structured approach to ranking. She agreed to research the way other kingdoms approach this, and post the results to the list.
Annika also suggested that it would be useful and informative if guild work and items submitted for ranking to the website so that the rest of the guild could see them.