All About the Teasel Hand
Last week in Weaving Today’s main post we published a photo of a brush for woolen cloth that involved a mystery seed. Almost as soon as the newsletter hit mailboxes, we received many emails from some wonderful readers who let us know that the seed pod in question is from the teasel plant, specifically from the aptly named fuller’s teasel, and that set those of us at BeWeave It Headquarters down the path of research to learn more about these nifty tools. The teasel hand or teasel cross is a simple tool made up of a wooden handle, a wooden frame, and some teasel seed pods.
This tool was used to brush woven cloth to raise the nap of the wool. Workers would carefully brush the woolen cloth with the teasel hand and then the nap would be trimmed evenly and close to the cloth to give it an even texture. Later, a machine known as a teasel gig was invented which was like a large grindstone with teasel pods covering much of the surface. The gig would spin over the cloth and do the work of many hand-brushers.
Now, there is some debate over whether or not the teasel was used for carding wool to prepare it for spinning. Part of the confusion comes from the fact that sources such as the Oxford English Dictionary make no distinction between carders used for wool and carders used for woven wool. From what little we can gather here at BeWeave It, the teasel was used on woven wool and carders similar to the ones we know today were used on loose wool. There’s a wonderful post one the subject here if you’d like more information.
And what of teasel hand today? Well, on the hole metal brushes are used to raise the nap on woolens most of the time, although there are still weavers the world around who use teasel. Some say metal brushes can’t match the fine work of the teasel, and where metal tools can potentially rip or otherwise damage fabric, if the teasel hits a snag it will simply break.