Crafts and Trade

Textile Production

Textiles in Norman England were principally made from wool and linen, although silk was also available.

Hand combing  of wool (York Archaeological  Trust)Hand spinning (York Archaeological Trust)Weaving on a vertical loom (York Archaeological Trust)The first stage in wool textile production was combing which aligned the fibres so that they could be spun into thread. Spinning required awooden spindle weighted with a spindle-whorl. The thread was woven on one of two types of loom. The first was a vertical loom with a beam at the top and bottom which could be rotated to keep the warp (vertical) threads taut. This loom was primarily used for weaving blankets, rugs and tapestries. More widely used was the horizontal loom, driven by foot-powered treadles which allowed an increased rate of production of both wool and linen textiles than was possible hitherto.

Woollen cloth was often fulled which involved soaking and pounding it in troughs to shrink and thicken the fabric giving it a matted appearance. After fulling the cloth was stretched over a tenting frame to dry. The so-called 'nap' on the surface of the cloth was then raised using teasels and finally it was clipped to give a velvety finish. Cloth was coloured using vegetable dyes including woad (blue), madder (red), and greenweed (green and yellow).

The Bayeux Tapestry - an embroideryLinen was made from flax and underwent a series of processes to separate the fibre from the plant and prepare it for spinning and weaving. It was finished by beating and smoothing to give it shiny finish.

A variety of sewing techniques was used to make clothing and other items, but a specialised branch of needlework was embroidery. The most famous example is the Bayeux Tapestry which is made from coloured woollen thread embroidered on linen cloth. Celebrated also in Norman times was embroidery using gold thread which is found on furnishings, altar hangings and ecclesiastical garments.

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