Friday 21 May 2010

Wool Trade-off!

Most of the materials used in historical clothing are getting harder and harder to find. Decent wools and linens, can nowadays be more expensive than a good silk! How different from most periods in history when wool and linen were the staples of the garment trade.
The make-up of wool has also changed in the last 150 years. Before this time when wool was hand woven, the thread was usually a lot thinner and the thread count, per inch, was a lot greater.  Most coats and uniforms would be made 'raw edged' because this sort of material is far less likely to fray. I wonder what sort of demand there would be for this type of wool today - £150.00 per metre anyone?
That is not the only change in wool through the ages. One of the difficulties in making medieval 'hose' is due to the weave of the wool available. Medieval Hose are cut on the bias and wool today stretches at very different rates than that available in the past. This would mean making a new pattern for every type of wool used.  The original wool made with a mixture of 's' and 'z' ply (in other words, one of the threads was twisted the opposite way), this gave the material incredible stretch - almost as good as lycra! You will notice when you look at medieval paintings that most 'hose' look like they are 'painted on' and that's the reason. Nowadays wool is woven with 's' ply only giving significantly less stretch meaning that it is almost impossible to give a smooth fit that will not tear in movement. This is why Re-enactment is littered with baggy, saggy ill fitting hose.
So, we could have it made. The last time we asked, we worked it out it would cost an investment of £12,500 for a medieval colour palette, - too large an investment when you consider that these are just one of the garments out of the hundreds we produce!
Or we could use material that had a small percentage of lycra. There are two reasons that won't happen.
1. It is dangerous near fires.
2. We expect our clothing to last a decent period of time. Once the hose had been washed a few times the lycra would be washed out and you'd be back to the baggy, saggy, old cloth look again.
Ah well, back to the drawing board!
The picture shows  some decent melton wool!

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