Towards Twilight

Just a Teazle

This is a teazle (teazel, teasel). Relatively common in the UK, on roadside verges or unkempt patches of ground. It isn't particularly pretty. It's the sort of plant small boys swing a stick at.

But it contributed hugely to the success of Britain's wool and cloth industries.
A Teazle
This is a handle. It's a wooden frame holding a tight array of teazles. To be precise, these are Dipsacus sativus - Fuller's Teazle, not the common variety pictured above.

Fuller's teazles were cultivated, precisely for the purpose of making handles - a cleverly-engineered combination of natural products.
A Handle
This is a teazle jig. The handles are arrayed around a roller. A bolt of cloth is guided by wooden rollers, above and below, so that the teazles 'scratch' at the nap of the cloth.

The sharp and stiff prickles of the teazle raise the nap of the cloth. But it's important that the prickles aren't too sharp or stiff. If they encounter too much resistance from the cloth - if they encounter a stray thread of the cloth - the teazle prickles will give way, and the cloth remain undamaged. Clever, huh?

So, why raise the nap of the cloth? Well, when the nap is raised, it can be sheared off, leaving behind a finer (and more expensive) bolt of cloth. For the finest cloth, it might be passed through the jig a second time.
A Teazle Jig
This is Handle House, Trowbridge.

One of the problems with teazles was that they didn't really work if they got damp. So clothiers went to great effort to keep them dry. In the absence of fans or dehumidifiers, the way to do this was to build a house with lots of holes in the walls, so the passing breeze could keep the teazles dry

OK. It all looks a bit crude and cobbled-together - but it worked, for centuries. It was only in the 20th century that flexible metal combs were developed, to replace the natural qualities of the teazle. Indeed, some artisanal weavers still prefer to use natural teazles
Handle House
So, the next time you see a teazle, don't swipe a stick at it.
For more Trowbridge photos, see Trowbridge Pictures
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