Historical wool cleanliness

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Sorrel
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Historical wool cleanliness

Post by Sorrel »

I recently picked up a large, thick, wool blanket for my kit. I was considering dying it - probably with walnuts, as my first natural dyeing project, since I managed to get guitar a few this year, but I do love that báinín (that undyed cream-wool sort of tone) colour.

But *how on earth* would you keep such a coloured garment looking even remotely clean in the field? Obviously things can be brushed off or spot-cleaned, but even so, i can't imagine it not getting worked-in stains of mud and ash rather quickly, and they probably wouldn't show on brown or green but they would definitely show on cream. And yet it seems at least a good number of these were not dyed by the end-user, even by people clearly working outdoors often, like the blanket-coats the Métis made from HBC blankets. I've had similar thoughts before - about how hard to clean (and dry!) wool can be (especially without say, cotton towels) and keeping yourself clean in the bush in light of historical peoples managing to do that just fine, but this seemed an especially pointed example
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Elleth
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Re: Historical wool cleanliness

Post by Elleth »

Well - they do get dirty. :)

A nice tight weave brushes clean of most things fairly easily though. The only thing (I think) you really need to worry about is grease: that you'll want to spot-clean with soap when it happens. Mostly though, you just brush outer woolens clean.

Also, that blanket is going get super heavy and want to stretch out of shape when you dye it, so you'll want to be careful pulling it from the dye bath.

Good luck!

edit: re woolen *garments* - they actually don't get cleaned as much as you'd think either. The idea is that your linen undergarments protect them from all your body ook - then your linens get the regular heavy washings.
... which is why (ideally) we wear period undergarments with period outerwear. They were made to work together.
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Iodo
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Re: Historical wool cleanliness

Post by Iodo »

Elleth wrote: Wed Dec 08, 2021 12:30 am edit: re woolen *garments* - they actually don't get cleaned as much as you'd think either. The idea is that your linen undergarments protect them from all your body ook - then your linens get the regular heavy washings
I actually have to agree with this, I have a wool tunic that I use as a jumper with ordinary clothing and have worn almost every day through the winter for two years and never washed, so long as I wear it with a clean long sleeved shirt it doesn't seem to get smelly/dirty
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Sorrel
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Re: Historical wool cleanliness

Post by Sorrel »

Yeah, the only wool clothing I have ever had get stinky is a merino base layer or the like (and even then, nothing like poly or cotton do). I've also found 'fuzzier' wools more susceptible to staining (especially if pale) - my arán jumper is a lot more susceptible than my check wool shirt, for instance. My main thing with something like a blanket is that sooner or later some mud or ash would get accidentally trodden or pressed into it or food spilled in a way that's hard to brush out and have not be noticable on undyed wool. Maybe part the historical solution for undyed trade blankets and the like is just 'be careful and don't get that sort of thing on them in the first place,' idk.

(Seperately, I admit I'm leery of wearing linen in the boreal winter, and the practicality of washing and drying them regularly in say, a hot tent or lavvu-type shelter seems awkward, as much as I love the stuff for summer wear or when I'm in and out of the house and it's easy to get dry or change clothes. Silk - I have quite a bit of the raw stuff - might seem a better substitute at least thermally, and - like wool - is also historical for undergarments, though ofc that brings back the downside of being a pita to wash...)
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Iodo
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Re: Historical wool cleanliness

Post by Iodo »

Sorrel wrote: Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:22 pm Silk - I have quite a bit of the raw stuff - might seem a better substitute at least thermally, and - like wool - is also historical for undergarments, though ofc that brings back the downside of being a pita to wash...)
linen actually doesn't do too badly thermally when used as a base layer, it's far better than cotton, however raw silk is a little better again than linen
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Eofor
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Re: Historical wool cleanliness

Post by Eofor »

Sorrel wrote: Wed Dec 08, 2021 7:22 pm Maybe part the historical solution for undyed trade blankets and the like is just 'be careful and don't get that sort of thing on them in the first place,' idk.
I think it's pretty much this. I don't find I get very dirty at all, I completed a 24km hike recently in a very expensive piece of historical garb and it was completely unscathed and to add to that I have been using the same handful of raw linen tunics for years now and none of them have stains.
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Re: Historical wool cleanliness

Post by ForgeCorvus »

I'd avoid antiperspirants as these basically apply a layer of 'stuff' to your skin, this is what stains the garments.

Linen can (should) be boiled and hung in the sun to dry (and bleach*) one of the reasons why under-shirts and braes are left undyed is because this kind of treatment tends to fade Period dyes.




* One of the signs of a slovenly housekeeper was a yellow or grey apron, as it hadn't been washed enough to whiten it.
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