WOVEMBER WORDS #16
Fulling: this is the process of shrinking and thickening cloth after weaving. In the Middle Ages, this was done by placing a length of cloth in a stream and walking over it with bare feet. In the fourteenth century, water driven mills consisting of heavy hammers that beat up the cloth, became commonplace in many parts of Wales. These were the ‘Pandai’ (singular ‘Pandy), and the name Pandy in present day place names (e.g. Tonypandy) indicates the location of an early fulling mill. A fulling mill consists of a pair of heavy wooden mallets lifted with wooden tappet wheels so that the hammers descend with some force on the cloth placed in the trough underneath. In the traditional process, cloth was fulled three times – with human urine, fullers earth and soap. The cloth was then washed in clean water and stretched out in the open air for drying on the ‘tenter frames’. The cloth was attached to the frame by the sharp ‘tenter hooks’
– J. Geraint Jenkins – From Fleece to Fabric, The Technological History of the Welsh Woollen Industry, Gomer Press 1981, Llandysul, Dyfed
An illustration from the book, showing the fulling mechanism. The cloth goes under the hammer in the middle, shown in black.