Many years ago, waulking or fulling wool to create a felt-like fabric was done in social groups. I’ve read about women sitting in circles singing bawdy songs and manually fulling large pieces of wool fabric. There was even a scene in the first season of Outlander that showed a group of women waulking. So romantic and charming compared to how most of us do it today ... in our washing machines with a timer set.
About 30 years ago, I foolishly combined socializing with modern-day fulling. I was in a clothing group, and for the ruana I was planning, I had woven 9 yards of wool. My best friend had a washing machine that you could stop just by opening the door, unlike my top-loader that wouldn’t stop unless you begged it. I carefully finished the edges of my fabric and took it to her house. We put it in her washing machine, and I checked the fulling progress a few times during the first wash cycle. We were upstairs in Amy’s house, drinking coffee while we waited for the second cycle to get going.
That was when I forgot what I was there for. She was reorganizing her upstairs closets, and we started talking about different ideas. And then I heard a buzzer go off, signaling the end of the spin cycle.
I was still hopeful when I took the fabric out, but it didn’t take long for me to realize I had over-felted my fabric. It had changed from a beautiful soft wool into a thick rumpled mess. I took it home to throw away, ordered more wool, and started over. The second time, I felted the fabric in the bathtub not waulking but walking on the fabric until it was fulled to the right amount. For a long time after that, I couldn’t bring myself to put fabric in a washing machine for fulling. I use my washing machine now, but I set the timer, stay in the vicinity, and keep distractions at bay. Lesson learned!
Weave and full well,