Craft of Clothworking

Picture of craft of clothworkingClothworking was the craft of ‘finishing’ wool cloth after weaving – cleaning the freshly-woven cloth, which resembled loose greasy fabric, drying it, stretching it, removing impurities from the surface, raising a nap, and shearing off the excess (which is different to shearing the sheep at the start of the process).

Teasels are the dried thistle-like plant heads of Dipsacus fullonum, Fullers’ teasels, once exclusively used to remove impurities and raise the nap.

Habicks are the flexible double-ended hooks used to attach cloths which are being finished to the padded shearing bench.

Teasels and habicks appear in the Company’s coat of arms.

Historically, the processes involved in the production of wool cloth were separate and strictly defined. Clothworking represented only one stage in the manufacture and is not synonymous with clothmaking.

The steps of production were:
  • Shearing the sheep
  • Washing the wool
  • Carding the wool (to break up clumps and align the fibres)Pictures of men tentering and shearing cloth
  • Spinning the thread
  • Dyeing (either before weaving – in the wool – or after – in the piece)
  • Weaving the cloth
  • Fulling, or cleaning, the woven cloth, using a mixture of water and grease-absorbent Fullers’ earth
  • Stretching, or tentering, the cloth by drying it under tension
  • Teaselling, to raise the nap (or roughness) of the cloth, using Fullers’ teasel heads in hand-held frames, to rake off impurities
  • Shearing the cloth to remove the excess nap and loose fibres and create an even surface
  • Planing or flattening the fabric

The stages of fulling and stretching were originally controlled by The Fullers' Company and the final stages by The Shearmen's Company. These two Companies merged in 1528 to form The Clothworkers' Company.