Home Page

Stefan's Florilegium


This document is also available in: text or RTF formats.

wool-hist-msg - 8/8/95


History of the wool trade. types of wool.


NOTE: See also the files: wool-clean-msg, weaving-msg, spinning-msg, linen-msg, silk-msg, textiles-msg, livestock-msg, animal-prices-msg.





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.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: cjcannon at ucdavis.EDU (Carol Cannon)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Regarding woolens for medieval reproductions (fwd)

Date: 31 May 1995 15:47:20 -0400


Could anyone help Teresa Shannon?  Please reply to her:  

tws at csd.uwm.edu  not to me.  Thanks!  Grannia


---------- Forwarded message ----------

Date: Wed, 31 May 1995 13:05:35 -0500 (CDT)

From: Teresa Shannon <tws at csd.uwm.edu>

Cc: h-costume at andrew.cmu.edu

Subject: Regarding woolens for medieval reproductions


I am very interested in researching the time period 1327-1415,

approximately the time from the ascension of Edward III until Henry IV,

most specifically England, but some French, Flanders, and Italy.  I have

been reading several books on the English Wool Trade in the Middle Ages

and would like some possible advice.  Originally, from as far back as

Charlemagne's time, the English have been know for their fine woolens.  

The native sheep of England had been a variety by county, of both

long-haired sheep and short-haired sheep.  The short-haired sheep produce

the shorter length fine wool that was made into woolens in Flanders and

England and sold as far abroad as the southern mediterranean region since

the crusades.  The long-haired wool, known as worsted, was much coarser

and was general used for the poorer-quality wools like russet, and for

home-spun.  Worsteds were exported, but in very small quantity and

without much demand.


        Sometime in the fourteenth century, but more progressively from

the sixteenth century onwards those who owned sheep wanted both good

mutton and good profit for the wool (doubtless a constant concern, but

the greater mercantile opportunities from the hundred years war and the

black death accelerated this business attitude).  Many of the native

short-haired sheep were replaced, in both the hills, mountains, and low

pastures throughout England, Scotland, and Wales.  The long-haired sheep

just seemed to adapt better, and breed better than the short-haired

sheep, and they had the advantage of being bigger of mutton properties.  

(As a side note, the English never managed to get the best of both

worlds, the bigger sheep had tougher and fattier mutton that never tasted

as good, and of course the wool was very course.)  Soon almost all

short-haired sheep had disappeared with the affect that high-quality

woolens were mainly replaced by coarse worsteds.  There were complaints

of the quality of woolens, that were not as fine as they had been from

the late fourteenth century onward.  By the sixteenth century England

exported almost entirely worsteds through World War II, not a bad thing,

the market expanded for worsteds and a hefty profit was continually

made.  Efforts to bring in Spanish short-haired sheep, Merinos, and breed

them with the now dominant long-haired sheep (this was in the seventeenth

century, I think, but all the books and articles are at home).  Anyway,

it didn't work, all offspring had the worst of both breeds and the wool

was a disaster, but as worsteds now sold well there was never a

revolution to weave the fine woolens of yesteryear.


So what I want to know is:  All the wool I find in the stores are coarse

worsteds, where can I find fine, smooth high-quality woolens?  I would

order from overseas and could order in quantity.  How can I tell woolens

from worsted, and how can I approximate the fineness of it.  I want (hah)

Cloth of Ypres, and Cloth of Ghent, they used to make batiste out of wool

in the fifteenth century.  If there is no english mill making woolens of

this quality, perhaps italy or spain?  I only know wool from what I have

read, I know the names of many breeds of sheep but have very little

practical experience with the fabric.  Other than buying what can be

gotten in stores, and the combination wool/silk from Thai silk I have no

leads.  Will follow up on any advice and others research. Thank you for

your time.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org