Historical trivia

Hand-woven blankets: how they were made?

Horizontal loom with started blanket

One of the biggest hits in our store turn out to be our hand-woven blankets, which are loved not only by historical reenactors, but also by fans of traditional bushcraft and all other lovers of warmth. What distinguishes our products from hundreds of others? They are produced as they were centuries ago. From obtaining the sheep’s fleece to the final touch of the brush.

Where does the wool for the hand-woven blankets come from?

If we want to get a hand-woven blanket, we need the right wool for it. The best is the one that comes from sheep grazing in open pastures. Then it has the least impurities. The wool used for our blankets, comes from such flocks. They are Carpathian long-haired sheep that graze in the charming surroundings of nature and the nearby mountains. If you look at our photos, you will notice that it is similar to the medieval Świniarka. Hence, we are sure that their wool will meet your expectations.

Shearing season comes twice a year. The sheep are herded into pens where they are stripped of their wool by skilled hands.

The entire process involves immobilizing the sheep and then trimming the wool with hand shears. The same as they have been done for centuries. Similar shears can be found in archaeological finds from the early and late Middle Ages. The fleece prepared in this way is ready for further processing.

How is the wool for a hand-woven blanket prepared?

There is still a long way to go before a hand-woven blanket is created. After harvesting the fleece, it needs to be prepared for further processing. Even though the sheep live in open pastures, something always gets tangled in this wool, and it is also covered with grease. It is a substance that contains, among others, lanolin, which additionally protects sheep.

We don’t want to completely get rid of the lanolin (which facilitates the spinning process), so the wool isn’t being washed, but only sorted. Then the combing and carding process takes place. In this way we get wool, which is arranged in parallel. And this is how worsted wool is created, which is ideal for further processing.

An overview of the hand spinning process

Now it’s time for one of the tedious tasks: spinning. The previously obtained combed wool is placed on a distaff  – a simple stick with a string, which is used to fix the bundle of wool.

When we want to weave thick blankets, we need two different types of yarn: a thin one for the warp and a thick one for the weft.

Therefore, the women who do it spin it on various types of spindles, and some use other spinning methods. This spectacle practically never ends. There are kilograms of wool to be processed, which, thanks to the spinner’s skillful fingers, turns into kilometers of yarn, which undergoes further processing until our dream blanket is created.

How to make a striped blanket?

The natural colour of wool is white, grey, brown or black. In the case of white and grey wool, we can dye it in any other colour you can imagine. This technique has been used for hundreds of years to create beautiful hand-spun blankets that were often given as gifts or used as trade goods. Previously, vegetable dyes were used for spinning, later on synthetic ones. Both give the wool intense colours that allow us to create patterns.

How is wool dyed? Still in a similar way. Dyes are mixed in large pots, which are heated over a fire, being careful not to boil the mixture in which the yarn is immersed.

Warm, soft blankets that we want to get need soft and fluffy yarn, boiling it could spoil this effect.

After dyeing, the yarn is dried in hanks in the open air, thanks to which it additionally retains its softness. Our blankets come in different colours: you can choose an undyed blanket in white, grey or black, or a blanket decorated with dyed stripes in red, green, pink or many other colours.

How a hand-woven blanket is made: time for the loom

After drying, the wool is ready. The most important process can begin: weaving. It all starts with setting up a horizontal loom. On horizontal looms, the warp is stretched over a frame and each weft thread passes back and forth through all the warp threads. The weave pattern is created by moving the warp threads up or down relative to each other to create different spaces between them. This type of loom has been used for centuries and still exists today.

It is on such looms that the thick blankets that you have fallen in love with are made. Exactly the same as ages ago. Each blanket has a unique pattern,
precisely because it is created by hand.

Sometimes a given colour of yarn runs out and a change of concept is made during the project. One thing is certain: these looms produce symmetrical strips of fabric 70 to 75 cm wide and 2 to 2.2 meters long. Why so? You’ll hear about it soon.

How is a fringed blanket made?

When the blanket is woven, it’s time to sew it into a finished product, because the looms allow us to weave a strip of fabric 70-75 cm wide. It is necessary to create two identical strips of fabric so that they can connect into one blanket.

Both strips are sewn by hand along the length to create a 140-150 cm wide blanket.

It consists in simple sewing with a needle and thread. The stitches are uniform, so that each blanket has a consistent look – regardless of who sews and how. And how is a fringed blanket made? It is made by itself: each fringe is made of warp threads. They are secured with a simple and tight knot that makes sure that the blanket is held firmly.

How to wash such large blankets?

After sewing and adding fringes, we have a practically finished product. Large blankets with sizes from 140 to 150 cm wide and 200 to 220 cm long. How to wash such blankets? We have to remember ourselves that the wool has not been washed so far, but only combed. They are moved to one very important place.

A mountain stream flows near the place where they are created. It is from this that a special channel was dug, through which water is transported to… “the washing machine”.

And more seriously, to the mechanism that resembles a washing machine. It is a structure made of staves, a shape that forces the rotation of the water supplied in an even stream. It is into this tub that ready-made blankets are thrown and remain there for the whole day. In this way, each of them gets rid of the remaining lanolin on the wool, thanks to which it becomes even more pleasant to touch, and after combing it becomes fluffier. Unfortunately, this is also the moment when a twig or other leaf will fall into the water and get stuck in the finished blanket, so don’t be surprised if something like this ends up in the finished product – just pluck it out. This is not a mistake that comes from poorly prepared wool, but from the washing process.

Warm blankets not only for the winter

After spending several hours in a water bath, the blankets are pulled out and brought back to the farm where they were created. There they are hung over fences, branches and wherever they have sufficient support to dry without excessive stretching. This slow drying process prevents the fibers from shrinking and felting.

After drying, the last step remains: combing one side. The blankets are laid out flat, and then one of the sides is combed with a special brush.

Thanks to this, they are not only warm blankets for the winter, but above all ideal blankets for reconstruction, because they work great in all conditions. Regardless of whether you want to sit on it by the fire, use it as a sleeping bag, or maybe it will serve you as a coat? Doesn’t matter! We are only happy to offer you the best thick and historically correct blankets. After all, the WoolSome online store is quality in itself!