Weaving and dyeing

Most of the time cloth-making is a domestic activity using sheep’s wool or plant fibers such as flax, hemp, nettle, mauve, which are extracted after several preparation stages. Women weave every day using a spindle. To produce the quantity of thread necessary to start weaving, more than one year of spinning is necessary.

There are several types of looms, the one we know the best thanks to the most archaeological traces is the warp-weighted vertical loom. The vertical loom with one beam is known since the Neolithic and allows to weave cloth (plain-coloured, stripes or tartan). The vertical loom with four beams appeared in the Iron Age and allows to create fabrics with structures that are more complex and sturdier, like twill (lozenges, herring-bone-patterns).

The Gauls are renowned for their chequered or striped bright-coloured fabrics. The men wore a pair or trousers, the women a dress, the top garment was the tunic. During cold weather was added a cape, the sagum or a woolen coat fastened with a fibula. The costume could be enhanced with decorative braids made using weaving tablets. By using perforated tablets, this technique allowed them to make narrow fabric strips, very solid and trimmed with patterns.

The dyeing occured before weaving to allow the use of threads of different colours. Three techniques are distinguished : cold, hot or fermentation. The two first ones generally require mordant dyeing, that is to say the fibers are prepared in a solution of alum or metal salts. This operation enables the colour to fix. The fibers are then heated in a decoction of dye plants (madder, woad, bark …). Some colours can only be obtained by fermentation, for example blue given by the pastel (woad) sheets. The dye is applied cold after several days or several months of maceration.


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