Fulling

Engraving of Scotswomen singing a waulking song while walking or fulling cloth, c. 1770.

Fulling, also known as tucking or walking (spelt waulking in Scotland), is a step in woollen clothmaking which involves the cleansing of cloth (particularly wool) to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities, and making it thicker. The worker who does the job is a fuller, tucker, or walker,[1] all of which have become common surnames. The Welsh word for a fulling mill is pandy, which appears in many place-names, for example Tonypandy ("fulling mill lea").

Process

Fulling involves two processes, scouring and milling (thickening). Originally, fulling was carried out by the pounding of the woollen cloth with a club, or the fuller's feet or hands. In Scottish Gaelic tradition, this process was accompanied by waulking songs, which women sang to set the pace. From the medieval period, however, fulling was often carried out in a water mill, followed by stretching the cloth on great frames known as tenters, to which it is attached by tenterhooks. It is from this process that the phrase being on tenterhooks is derived, as meaning to be held in suspense. The area where the tenters were erected was known as a tenterground.

Scouring

In Roman times, fulling was conducted by slaves working the cloth while ankle deep in tubs of human urine. Urine was so important to the fulling business that it was taxed. Stale urine, known as wash, was a source of ammonium salts and assisted in cleansing and whitening the cloth. By the medieval period, fuller's earth had been introduced for use in the process. This is a soft clay-like material occurring naturally as an impure hydrous aluminium silicate. It was used in conjunction with wash. More recently, soap has been used.

Thickening

The second function of fulling was to thicken cloth by matting the fibres together to give it strength and increase waterproofing (felting). This was vital in the case of woollens, made from carding wool, but not for worsted materials made from combing wool. After this stage, water was used to rinse out the foul-smelling liquor used during cleansing. Felting of wool occurs upon hammering or other mechanical agitation because the microscopic barbs on the surface of wool fibres hook together, somewhat like Velcro.

Other Languages
বাংলা: ধোপা
čeština: Valchování
Cymraeg: Pannu
dansk: Valkning
Deutsch: Walken
eesti: Vanutamine
español: Batán
íslenska: Þóf
italiano: Follatura
magyar: Kallózás
Nederlands: Volder
norsk: Toving
norsk nynorsk: Valking
polski: Folowanie
suomi: Huovutus
svenska: Valkning
Türkçe: Dinkleme