Basic Materials

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Textiles and textile production

The fabrics originally used to make clothing were those available locally, and all the construction was done by hand. Women wove wool, flax and silk, and embroidered chemises and shirts in the home. Vegetable dyes were used, the most common colours being red and black. Since 1920s materials such as velvet, mercerised cotton, metallic thread, beads and sequins have been purchased from abroad. More recently, in some areas, factory made fabrics and machine embroidery have been used for making certain items of costume.

Basic Materials

Wool - Lână

Wool was readily available in Romania from the earliest times. The Romanian people were a pastoral people whose main activity was intensive sheep breeding. This took place both north & south of the Danube. Transhumance was practised, flocks were taken up to mountains around 23 April (St George’s Day), and returned to the lowlands around 26 October (St Demetrius Day). The sheep were sheared and wool washed to remove the dirt, natural grease and other impurities, and then carded by hand, using two hand held boards originally set with teasels, replaced later by metal teeth. The wool was then spun using a carved wooden distaff and spindle. Older women living in villages can still be seen sitting outside their houses spinning on a spring or summer afternoon in certain areas.

Flax & hemp - In şi Cânepă

Flax and hemp were grown in villages in most areas of Romania from the earliest times. After harvesting the bundles of flax and hemp were soaked in rivers or small ponds to allow the woody stems to rot. The plants were then dried and beaten with wooden scutchers (meIiţăs) to separate the fibres from the woody parts, and were then carded using a large comb with iron teeth (raghilă) to make fibres ready for spinning. The fibres were then twisted together to make threads and spun using a wooden distaff. Threads to be used for the warp were then boiled in lye (a caustic solution obtained from wood ash). After drying they were dyed and were ready for weaving.

Silk - Borangic, Mătase

Cocoon silk obtained by breeding silk worms in large mulberry plantations was introduced into the south of Romania from 18th century. Once the silk worms had spun their cocoons, these were placed in hot water to melt the serum or gum, which allowed the silk threads to be smoothly unwound from each cocoon. These threads were gathered together in groups containing 3-20 cocoon threads to make a thread of manageable thickness and were wound onto reels. This process was called reeling . The gum then hardened again round the thicker thread, which was known as raw silk. The process of turning raw silk into silk thread was called throwing. This involved winding, cleaning, spinning and doubling the threads. Winding frames made of wood, with pegs were used for the winding. The silk thread was then washed to remove the gum and other impurities. The silk thread was then combed and cut into lengths of 6-7 inches, which were pulled and twisted into a continuous thread.

Doubling involved twisting 2-4 threads together on a hand operated wheel. Threads for use as sewing silks and warp threads were given a firmer twist, whereas weft threads required a much lower twist The doubled threads to be used as warp thread were twisted again in opposite direction (called throwing). The threads formed were strong and elastic and were called organzine.

Cotton - Bumbac

Cotton was imported into Romania from second half of 19th century, and first appeared in local markets in eastern Romania. It was grown in Dobrogea before the beginning of the 20thC and subsequently spread to other areas of southern Romania. After picking the raw cotton was beaten with sticks to separate the fibres from the seeds and then carded to prepare the fibres for spinning by hand. The quality of the cotton was determined by the length of the fibres.


© Eliznik2005, First issue 5/4/2003, Last updated Aug-05