The 1916 Felt Experience

We had a wonderful day in Merrion Square in Dublin today taking part in RTÉ ‘Reflecting The Rising’ craft village. We met lots of people who helped us felt our 1916 – 2016 banner – thanks to all the women, men and children who rolled up their sleeves and made the banner with us. As soon as the banner is dry we will post a photograph here.

We have been researching how wool was felted or ‘fulled’ one hundred years ago in Ireland. One of our committee members, Clodagh Mac Donagh told us a story  from her late father from Connemara:

There wasn’t felting as we know it,  but there was fulling.   As a child, my father recalled that  the family would receive their homespun fabric from the local weaver, and it would be soaked in  urine   in a tin bath in the outhouse,  and two men would then sit on chairs  opposite each other and would kick the fabric to each other, the fabric, all the while was being shrunk (felted) rendering it windproof, waterproof, and much warmer and tougher.

The Irish (Gaelic) word for urine is called fual, so  my theory is  that this is where the Americans get the term fulling.
In Newfoundland  (where lots of Irish emigrated) there was a very strong culture of treating  woven cloth by beating it (roughly the same idea) and they used to sing fabulous songs (to the rhythm of  the  beating) called waulking songs in the background of any  felting type activity.
Here is a video from Scotland with a group of women fulling together and singing a waulking song:


Thanks to Norma O’Connor and the crew from RTÉ for their warm welcome and for arranging the sunshine!

Here are some pictures from today:


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