Wednesday, 14 January 2009


Yesterday we sat admiring our gorgeous yarn shop, wondering how the recession will effect us, and thought it more interesting to speculate what our lives would have been like if we had a yarn shop 500 years ago.
The 13th century was a boom time for the wool trade. There were three sheep to every person, and wool was our biggest export.  Our wool cloth was of the highest quality, thanks to the Fullers.   Fullers, possibly had one of the worst jobs there is.  They had to stand knee deep in vats of stale urine and fullers earth,  trampling on the wool cloth. The ammonium salts in urine cleanses cloth to eliminate oils like lanolin, dirt and other impurities, and locking the fibres, making it thicker and softer.  Each length of cloth needed to be trampled for about two hours before it became soft. Hopefully after a while you would get used to the smell and stop wanting to throw up.
The collection of urine has worked it's way into our modern language. Urine was collected in the cities, and taken to the mills by canal. Number 1's, the self employed narrow boatmen, would sometimes boast at carrying barrels of wine, while their peers would mock them with "You're taking the piss!"