If you cross the footbridge over the Knockando Burn, you will see Fuller’s teasel, Dipsacus fullonum stativus. This is a biennial plant from the Mediterranean. And is just coming into flower in North east Scotland! The seed heads, which appear in the second year, are covered with stiff but flexible spines. These have been used to raise the nap on woollen and other fabrics since Roman times. Hand raising using teasels, which was the only method available until the nineteenth century, was expensive and only used on the best cloth. Wire combs were often used to finish cheaper cloth, despite the damage which could be done.
Teasels were grown all over England where wool conversion took place but latterly, only in South Yorkshire, Essex and Somerset. The last teasel growers (in Somerset) seem to have ceased trading in the late 1980s. Teasels are now sourced from Spain, France and Italy.
The Woolmill used the Teasel Gig (in the Old Mill) to raise the nap on blankets after they had been washed and stretched on the tenter frames. Teasels have now been largely replaced by wire or synthetics and are only used on fine, high quality fabrics such as those made from cashmere or mohair, or speciality cloths such as billiard and tennis ball cloths. For some other cloths such as cashmere, the teasels are wet and the fabric sprayed with a fine mist of water during raising.