Welcome to the Roman Baths Blog!

This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Tuesday Time Table - Roman Textiles

The variety of cloth in the Roman period was not as diverse as today. The Romans only had cloth made from both animal and vegetable fibre, i.e. wool, silk, flax and cotton. Their availability determined their value, for example, as silk cocoons were difficult to find silky cloth was very expensive.

Now for a little bit on how the people of the past created thread and how they made cloth. The Romans used mainly five or six different sources of material to make thread. The most common was wool, which is made from a sheep’s fleece, carded using combs and then spun using a drop spindle.

Mulberry Moth

Silk is also an animal fibre, is spun by an insect called the mulberry moth. When it is a caterpillar it eats the leaves of the mulberry tree and weaves a cocoon of silk thread around itself. Man releases this thread by boiling the cocoons.

Combing Flax

Obtaining thread from flax and hemp is a more labour intensive process. Fibres are taken from the stems of these two plants by submerging them in water and then by beating the dried stems. These two phases soften the hard outer stem which can then be removed more easily. They are then combed and spun into a thread. While hemp was a fibre of low value more suitable for ropes and linen, the cloth made from flax fibre was a luxurious fabric often worn by priests.

Cotton Flower

Cotton comes from the cotton plant. As it ripens woollen seed balls form and they are then picked by hand. This fibre, like wool, is then carded and spun to obtain a thread. Cotton was a rare and luxurious fabric in the Roman period and it was imported from India and southern Egypt.

Roman Loom
Using a loom, a number of threads are then woven together to make cloth. The loom is the frame that supports the threads as they are being woven together. Looms come in different shapes and sizes and they can look different as they eveolved through the centuries to suit the nature and size of the cloth being produced.

Woven Cloth
[For more on spinning see http://www.bathsbloggers.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/spinning-yarn.html ]

No comments:

Post a comment