Medieval Monday: What is a Lavender?

washing clothLavender—it’s not just a fragrant plant. In the Middle Ages, a lavender was a craftswoman who washed or fulled fabric.

Fulling was a way to clean and thicken newly woven fabric that shaped it and made it shrink-resistant. Sometimes fuller’s earth was used, but stale urine could also be collected and used for this purpose.


 

Fulling was a chore that Morganne and Elowyn from Journey to Aviad had to do at home:

Fulling was the most dreaded chore Elowyn was required to help with, and she never managed to get out of it. Her mother would lay a length of newly woven wool cloth in the big wooden trough behind the cottage, then pour over it warm water and stale urine that had been saved up from the chamber pots. She and Morganne would have to hike up their dresses and walk across it for hours, until the weave was tightened, and the cloth slightly shrunk. After that it would have to be stretched out on a wooden tenter, and its surface brushed with teasles from the garden.

Once dry, Morganne would use long flat shears to smooth off the nap—once for common cloth, and several times for fine cloth. If it was to be sold to a merchant, the cloth was then brushed, pressed, folded, and stored away until their mother was ready to cart it into the city. Cloth that was to be used for Morganne’s sewing was set aside for washing with soapwort, or sometimes for dyeing. Typically their mother wove linen over the winter months, preparing for summer demands for cooler cloth, and because linen did not need to be fulled. But whatever wool cloth she did make was saved up until the first warm weather, and then the dreaded trough would make its appearance. Elowyn’s legs and feet ached just thinking about it.

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