Ancient Roman Cloth Production Source of Wool • Most Roman garments were made of wool. Wool, of course, comes from sheep. Shepherds tended flocks of sheep on the mountains of Italy, assisted by sheep dogs, just as happens in modern times. Shearing • In the spring, before the sheep were taken to the summer pastures, there occurred the annual sheep shearing. Shears used for sheep shearing have remained unchanged over the centuries. Carding • After the wool has been shorn from the sheep, it is thoroughly washed. Then begins the process of “carding”, which separates the fibers of the wool, so that it can be turned into thread. Spinning • To make thread, the raw wool must be spun. In ancient times this was done by hand, using a wooden spindle. The bottom of the spindle is weighted with a stone called a whorl. Many ancient whorls have been discovered. The Fates • All Roman women and girls knew how to spin wool. In Roman mythology, there are three women, called the Fates, who spin the thread of a person’s life. One plies the spindle, another measures the length of the thread, and the third cuts the thread. Dying • Often the wool thread is dyed a certain color. In ancient times, various plants and flowers were used to supply the colored dye. The wool was soaked in hot tubs of water that contained the dye, and was then hung on racks in the sun to dry. The Loom • Roman women wove the wool thread into cloth upon a very simple loom. The loom consisted of a wooden frame, from which the vertical strands of thread would be hung. These threads were weighted by stones to make them hang straight. The vertical strands are called the warp, and the stones are warp-stones. Weaving • Wool thread was then attached to a long needle that would serve as a shuttle, The thread would be woven under and then over the alternate threads of the warp. By using different colors of thread, a pattern could be woven into the cloth. Women would memorize songs to help them remember how many strands of each color would be needed to make the pattern. Finishing the Weaving • The thread attached to the shuttle that goes over and under the warp is called the woof. In order to make the threads of the woof fit very tightly together, a special comb is used to push the woof upward. The tighter the threads are pushed together, the better the quality of the cloth. Minerva • The goddess Minerva was the patron of household arts, and Roman women would give thanks to her for any skill at weaving which they possessed.