Fulling Wool

Maybe I should Sample?

I found about four pounds of fine, RED wool in the bargain / used section of ETC. Of course I had to buy it. I envisioned a red capelet that I could wear while walking in the winter.

After hitting 500 ends in a 5 yard warp, I thought to myself, maybe I should make a sample so I know how wide to weave it and how much it's really going to shrink.

Although the yarn was of unknown origin, It's about the same grist as 2/18 superfine merino (from Jagger Bros) and I knew from a previous test that it also shrinks almost the same.

I wound a short, 200 end warp and wove five sample squares. One sett at 30 epi (the same as its wraps per inch), three sett at 25 epi (a good twill sett), and one sett at 20 epi (quite a loose sett). I did my best to weave an even ppi, but I'll admit that I got a bit carried away on the 30 epi sample and beat a bit harder. The structure was a simple 4-shaft broken twill, woven as diamonds (1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 4, 3, 2, 1, 4, 3).

Off the loom, the 25 epi fabric seemed nicest but that was pretty much expected. I hand fulled one sample from each sett and I machine fulled one of the 25 epi samples (just threw it in with a load of bath towels).

Based on feel alone, the 25 epi hand fulled sample is the nicest, followed closely by the 30 epi sample. The machine fulled 25 epi and 20 epi samples both have a rough and pilly texture. I think it's from the warp and weft looping out of the structure as their neighbors fulled. A sort of uneven fulling of different threads. In reading about historic fulling, there is mention of different techniques used to smooth the surface afterward. Certainly something I'll play around with on these samples.


The 30 epi sample shrunk the least only with about a half-inch difference (7%). I took the handwashed sample and tossed it in the washing machine with a load of laundry and it shrunk another half an inch (13% total).

The 20 epi sample and the machine washed 25 epi sample shrunk the most at around 30%.

The hand fulled 25 epi sample shrunk about 20%, and felt the nicest out of all the samples.

If I hand-full my final project, and sett it at 25 epi, I should expect a 45" width (1125 ends!) to come out to be about 36" wide. I have already started my warp, and the 4 yards of usable fabric will end up about 3 (and a bit) yards long when finished. This seems about right, so I'll go back to winding my warp!

Weight per inch

It's a bit complicated to determine the amount of yarn required to weave a specific sample, and only really works if I have a perfect beat (which is doubtful). Better, is to just weigh the samples when finished and see how much yarn I used. I'm curious which sample, after fulling, ends up using the least or most yarn per square inch. Math time!

After a little reading, I found that the textile industry has a standard that it uses to note the density of a fabric: the Grams per Square Meter (GSM). You can find the GSM with the following formula: GSM = Weight(g) * 10,000 / cm^2 or, the weight of the sample in grams, multiplied by 10,000 and divided by the area of the sample in centimeters.

You can check out the table for the results. The two machine fulled samples were the densest, and the un-fulled sample was the lightest (as it should be!!)

What this means for my project is that the hand fulled, 25 epi sample is more economical than either of the machine fulled samples or the 20 epi hand fulled sample. Economical isn't the only factor, however. I am planning on turning this project into a hooded cape to wear while walking in the rain, so it had better repel water if it's going to be useful.

Water Resistance

The other consideration between the different methods of finishing is how water/wind resistant they are. After reading about a couple different at-home water resistant tests, I went with the "put the fabric over a jar and pour water on it to see what gets through" method. It wasn't the most scientific test, but the results were pretty clear.

The hand fulled 30 epi sample started leaking first, in about one minute from when I added the water. I thought it might have been the way the fabric draped in the jar, so I tried it again on a dry spot, but it still leaked through in about a minute.

The next sample to start leaking was the 20 epi hand fulled sample which started at about the five minute mark. After about seven minutes I pulled the fabric out and felt the underside, it was noticeably damp and there was a wet spot about the size of a quarter.

The hand-fulled 25 epi sample was the next to leak. It took almost eight minutes before any water started to come though. After ten minutes, I pulled to fabric out and shook the excess water off and felt the underside, it was barely moist.

The last sample to start leaking was the 25 epi machine fulled sample, which clocked in at 15 minutes before it started leaking. At 20 minutes, I did the same and shook the excess water off and felt the underside, barely moist.

What does all this tell me? The machine fulled wool was thickest, and that thickness translated to more protection from the elements. I don't know if any of these samples are water resistant enough to keep me dry from an Oregon winter deluge but I know which gives me the greatest chance!

Weaving & Assembly

On the Loom

45" wide and over 1000 ends!


Cutting and prepping for basting


It worked! Now for the finishing touches ...

(Mis)Adventures in Dyeing

So ... I wanted to shift the color a little darker and was very good about proper dyeing techniques. However! I wasn't happy with the depth of shade and decided to add more dye. I SHOULD have let it all cool down, remove the cloak, add the dye, re-add the cloak and reheat the dye bath while keeping it all stirred. I didn't do that. I shoved the cloak to one side and poured the new dye in, thinking that I could stir it around. The dye struck almost instantly, and created a large dark splotch by the hood.

I've "fixed" it by adding more uneven splotches to the cloak, and I'll aim for a rustic look rather than something more refined. Live and learn. The best way to have avoided this would have been to dye the yarn before weaving (or pick a different yarn in the first place).


Thinking about clasps