A little math for a textile historians

It’s a difficult thing to get across to students who have been raised in our society that textiles used to be one of the most valuable items in a pre-industrial world.  So how much time dose it take to weave cloth?  To help understand this problem I have been adding to the samples collection for my class: The History of Costume & Textiles.  With some help from Murienn I’ve been able to collect samples of roving and hand spun (drop spindle) fibers for Icelandic wool, silk noil, cultivated silk, linen and hemp.  Some still need to be spun but it has helped already.

So if we consider the time it takes to process the fiber, then the time to spin it, and weave it—- well lets just look at it like this (in very general terms): 1 oz of silk = 30 yards of 2 ply thread in 4 hours x 60 epi/30 yard warp by 24” weft = (1440 threads * 4 hours each) 5760 hours for JUST the spinning by drop spindle.  No dye, no weaving, no processing, no sericulture…..and 1440 oz of silk for a 30 yard warp.  That math with a sample in hand helps to put everything in to perspective for them.

I love my job in part because this blows their minds and in part because this blows mine.

This entry was posted in Living History, Medieval, Textiles, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A little math for a textile historians

  1. mari says:

    Wow. I think you have the best job in the world. And I think I need to ask you about that path that got you there.

  2. I suppose it should also be noted that Muirenn is a talented spinner who actually timed 1 oz of silk spinning to get these numbers. Her work is quite fine even after plying the thread. And it is thread like, not yarn-like, in consistency. So my gauge of 60 ends per inch is based on the actual thread she spun as well (I am estimating a little on this 😉 ) I did measure the thread on a knitting knotty too.
    Thanks, Muirenn. BTW!

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