piled-fabrics-msg - 1/6/98
Period piled fabrics. Those fabrics with inserted fibers or tufts of
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
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Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
Date: Sun, 21 Dec 1997 22:47:13 -0800
From: Brett and Karen Williams <brettwi at ix.netcom.com>
To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Error Condition Re: Fake fur
> Vlad commented on the Ealdormere list,
> > Sylard wasn't advocating the banning of false fur, or cheap
> > non-period material.
> I have heard rumours to the effect that fake fur was exported in
> period from one of the nordic countries . . .
> ::hunts through easy-to-find papers to no avail::
> I think it _might_ have been one of the unindexed snippets in
> the Known World Handbook (a wonderfully handy source, but I fear
> I cannot credit most of it as more than hearsay), and that the
> country may have been Holland or Denmark . . .
> Does anybody have any idea whereof I speak?
> If so . . . any mre details? Obviously, it wouldn't be the
> acrylic stuff one sees in shops today . . . a completely
> uneducated guess would say it might be fur hairs woven into a
> normalish cloth . . . but hey, this _is_ the person who can't
> even remember her source :-)
> Hoping somebody knows about what she's talking,
> since she clearly does not ;-)
(shuffle-thump) A stack of books falls over...
There are several sources. For purposes of this discussion, I'm leaving
out mention of the more typical fabric one thinks of when discussing
pile-weave, which is a rug.
Piled fabrics are nothing new. There are fragments of piled fabrics
extant from Neolithic Swiss villages and 5th Dynasty Egypt. Polynesians
were fond of feathers woven into their cloaks-- especially Hawaiian
Primary physical documentation of a Viking period piece (10th Century
Scandinavian) of 'artificial fur cloth' exists as a rectangular piece of
wool 'fur' in the Archaeologisches Landesmuseum in Schleswig, catalog
H19, found in the Haithabu harbor excavation. It is catalog number 57 in
_From Viking to Crusader, Scandinavia and Europe 800-1200_, Rizzoli
Books, ISBN 0-8478-1625-7, which was recently found remaindered at $20.
This particular book is a catalog from a massive museum exhibit that
started in Paris in 1992, then traveled to Berlin and Copenhagen. The
description says in pertinent part: "Such fabrics had many functional
advantages, but this was not the only reason why they became popular.
This type of material, dyed in different colors, was also used as a
substitute for fur by the less wealthy for various garments, and as
trimmings around the hem or neck. The 'fur' is often of a different
color from the rest of the garment."
The piece is described as a piece of cloth with an unusually heavy nap.
The book does not go into any detail on how the nap was formed, either
by teasing a woolen thread after weaving as part of the finishing, or by
insertion of loosely spun or unspun wool into the fell as the weaver was
making the cloth. I can give a reference to an even more obscure
article, in German, if anyone is interested in pursuing this piece of
At any rate, there is also the Irish traditional brat, of which I
suddenly have the suspicion might have been inspired by the Norse
incursions into the Dublin area-- there are physical remains of two
Irish cloaks, one preserved as a relic in Belgium, another as
fragments-- that are made similarly to the latter technique I describe
in the above paragraph. Such a fabric would be well-nigh waterproof,
especially if lanolin were left in the unspun wool. Smelly, but dry.
Irish brats are described by tradition as being oiled after completion,
which suggests to me that perhaps the sheep-poop smell was removed, and
an oil applied after the fact of weaving.
Citations for the brat consist of:
"An Irish "shaggy pile" fabric of the 16th century -- an insular
survival?" by Elizabeth Wincott Heckett, (p.158-168) in Archaeological
textiles in Northern Europe : report from the 4th NESAT Symposium 1.-5.
May 1990 in Copenhagen, edited by Lise Bender Jorgensen & Elisabeth
Munksgaard. Copenhagen, 1992. (Tidens Tand Nr, 5) 87-89730-04-6.
McClintock, H. 1936: "The mantle of St. Brigid", Journal of the Royal
Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 66, 32-40.
I haven't read these to date, though.
Then, for the more later period folk, take a look at the silk and wool
pile fabrics that make up some of the hats in Janet Arnold's "Patterns
of Fashion, 15560-1620", ISBN 0-333-38284-6. Methodology of construction
is detailed and extensive. Admittedly these techniques are for hat
And lastly, look at the iconography for St. John the Baptist. He is
usually depicted in a shaggy cloak of sorts. Again, this is a
representation of a piled wool cloth used as a raincoat for one with an
outdoor occupation, such as shepherd. Specifically take a look at page
50, plate 64, in Boucher's _20,000 Years of Fashion_, second edition,
ISBN 0-8109-1693-2, a photograph of an early 13th century statue of St.
John the Baptist from the Church of Saint-Urban, in France. He is
clearly wearing a mantle made of cloth with inserted wool locks-- in
fact, Boucher goes into some detail of the survival of a Sumerian
garment, the kaunakes, 'until well into the Middle Ages', in a
subsection of an early chapter from pp. 49 through 51.
Speaking as one with some weaving experience, making a raincoat like
this wouldn't be too terribly difficult, especially using a
Date: Mon, 22 Dec 1997 09:08:57 -0600 (CST)
From: "Donna Holsten" <holsten at nature.Berkeley.EDU>
To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Re: Error Condition Re: Fake fur
> insertion of loosely spun or unspun wool into the fell as the weaver was
> making the cloth...
> At any rate, there is also the Irish traditional brat...
> And lastly, look at the iconography for St. John the Baptist. He is
> usually depicted in a shaggy cloak of sorts. Again, this is a
> representation of a piled wool cloth used as a raincoat for one with an
> outdoor occupation, such as shepherd...
> Speaking as one with some weaving experience, making a raincoat like
> this wouldn't be too terribly difficult, especially using a
> warp-weighted loom.
And, speaking as someone who has woven such fabric for a brat <G> (I
don't know if the fabric has *yet* been made into a cloak, though...),
it's not difficult at all. Time consuming, extremely. But not
difficult. I actually spun a very loose, thick yarn and cut it into
pieces, and inserted the pieces as I wove. The fabric ended up
looking *very* much like a fake sheepskin rug or car-seat cover. I
imagine that after one or two wearings in the rain, it'd end up matted
and messy and even warmer and more water-proof than before.