One of the most powerful aspects of working with wool is how deeply connected the tradition is with our Ancestors. Learning the traditional ways that our Ancestors worked with wool is a powerful way to connect with the fabric in our lives. Reading about the history of waulking songs is one of those opportunities…
Waulking has a rich history of, at times, unbelievable truths. Waulking is another word for fulling, a step in woolen clothmaking that refers to the practice of cleansing the cloth to eliminate oils, dirt, and other impurities. Fulling involves two processes, scouring and thickening, and is one of the steps in creating melton cloth.
Originally, fulling was carried out by pounding the woolen cloth with the fuller’s feet, or hands, or a club. In the Scottish Gaelic tradition this process was accompanied by Waulking Songs, Scottish folk songs which were sung to set the pace.
One person lead the group by singing well-known verses or making up new lines. The rest would then come in on the chorus while the leader took a breath. A fulling session usually began with slow-paced songs. The tempo only increased as the cloth softened. As the fullers sang they gradually shifted the cloth to the left so as to work it thoroughly.
In this tradition moving the cloth counterclockwise is unlucky. It is also bad luck to repeat a song during a fulling session, which explains the large number of songs and verses.
Our washable mattress protectors are made out of our pure melton wool textile and our mattresses are encased in this historical material as well. Can you hear the echoes of the Waulking Songs when you lay down to dream?
More historical stories about fulling to come…