The cold nipped Almanzo’s eyelids and numbed his nose, but inside his good woolen clothes he was warm. They were all made from the wool of his father’s sheep. His underwear was creamy white, but Mother had dyed the wool for his outside clothes.
Butternut hulls had dyed the thread for his coat and his long trousers. Then Mother had woven it, and she had soaked and shrunk the cloth into heavy, thick fullcloth. Not wind nor cold nor even a drenching rain could go through the good fullcloth that Mother made.
Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
This passage is on the second page in Farmer Boy, and it’s a book I’ve read many times. I’ve always marveled at the resourcefulness of Almanzo’s mother; Angelina Day Wilder. She knitted, sewed, tatted, crocheted, and did all the household tasks common to a farmers wife during that period. Truth be told, I was more fascinated by her than Laura Ingalls own mom; Caroline. Interesting, since besides Farmer Boy, Almanzo’s mom is only mentioned in one other book in the Little House series… Laura’s mom is mentioned in every single book in that series. With the exception of The First Four Years, where she’s not mentioned much at all… but that’s understandable since in the First Four Years Laura is a newlywed who’s starting a new life with her husband, Almanzo in their own home.
Yesterday, I experimented with making my own ‘fullcoth’, I don’t see too much reference for fullcloth online… I’m guessing, fullcloth was discovered by accident and what a delightful accident that was! Washing wool items in hot water naturally made it shrink, which produced a dense fabric. However the process that Laura Ingalls Wilder describes in the above passage, is what’s done when felting wool also.
In order to felt wool, you need to use wool that will shrink, since I have plenty of wool yarn that isn’t superwash yarn (wool fiber that’s been treated so it won’t shrink) I was ready for my first felting project.
Above you see a before and after felting picture. I was impressed with how much the wool had shrunk, and how dense the fabric became. It’s extremely thick, soft, and most importantly warm. I can see why Almanzo’s mom and numerous others made fullcloth. It would do an excellent job of keeping out the cold.
For my felting experiment, I knitted slippers, and I used Patons Classic Wool. I’ve been looking for an excellent slipper pattern for months now, and Thursday, I stumbled upon a pair that I absolutely adore; Hopsalot! Hopsalot is one of many designs created by Tiny Owl Knits/Stephanie Dosen. Aren’t those bunny slippers sweet? In the first picture, you can tell that my felted slipper doesn’t look anything like a bunny, since I didn’t knit the ears, or add the eyes or mouth, but I’ll do that some time this weekend.
I didn’t follow the pattern religiously, I used worsted weight yarn, instead of DK. Also, I used my size 8/5.0mm Hiya Hiya sharp needles instead of the recommended size 11/8.0mm needle. And, I didn’t hand felt the wool. The slipper was tossed into the washer (hot water) and dryer.
This knitting goes by fairly quickly, I was completed one slipper in about two hours. I must say I’m pleased with this pattern. If you’re a new knitter the only techniques you need to know are knit, purl, slip 1(S1), and make 1(M1). A simple pattern, that produces some lovely slippers.
Photo Source: Tiny Owl Kits