Where Do They Get Their Clothes? Part One
  • Where Do They Get Their Clothes? Part One

    Imagine contemporary life without clothing. No socks to prevent feet from blistering, no pockets for keys, change or the omnipresent smartphone. It is true that naturists do get by fairly well with purses or fanny packs, but such individuals tend to be concentrated in areas with balmier climes for obvious and pertinent reasons such as frostbite in sensitive places.

    Clothing is made from leather or fabric, and fabric is made from strands of thread twisted from fibers.

    There are three main kinds of fibers. Plant fibers include hemp, linen, cotton and nettles. Animal fibers can wool shorn from sheep (and other creatures) or silk, which is extruded. Synthetic fibers are made by chemical processes using different feedstock, such as polyester or acetate.

    The process for turning a handful of fiber into thread is complex. First the fiber has to be prepared. If it is a plant fiber it is processed to remove unwanted material. Fleeces are cleaned, and silk is unraveled from cocoons. The material is them combed or reeled, and then twisted into a continuous strand with a drop spindle or a spinning wheel.

    Much fibercraft is overlooked as "women's work," but there are ways to spice it up. The Norse believed that a woman could spin love-charms or other spells into her work. She could engrave the spell she wanted to cast on the weight of her drop spindle, and then start spinning thread. Each turn of the spindle would reinforce the magic, like a prayer wheel.

    This process can continue into the weaving of the thread, as well. Norse women wove with warp-weighted looms, and used flat, beveled beaters to pack the warp thread securely. Wooden beaters have been found with engraved runes reading out spells of love or hate.

    The process of spinning and weaving can be used as color, or to drive a plot. Penelope misleads her suitors in the Odyssey by refusing their courtship until she finishes weaving a shroud for Laertes, her husband’s father. For three years she wove at her loom, unraveling her work by torchlight in secret so the shroud would never be completed. Messages can be woven into fabrics: Philomena, abducted, raped and rendered mute by her sister Procne’s husband, wove her sad tale into a tapestry and had it delivered to Procne. A contemporary way of hiding messages in fabric can consist of patterning stripes after Morse code dashes and dots. Weaving helped put men on the Moon. Teams of women wove copper wire into core rope memory. A cubic foot of core rope stored 72 kilobytes of memory, compared to magnetic core RAM’s 4.

    The origins of fiber can be a trigger for adventures as well. The Chinese empire guarded the secret of silk jealously. In the 6th century a pair of Nestorian monks traveled two years to acquire and smuggle silkworms out to the Byzantine Empire. That heist broke the Chinese and Persian monopolies on silk and became the foundation of the Byzantine economy for the next 650 years.

    Contributed by M.W. Simmes
    Comments 2 Comments
    1. MNblockhead's Avatar
      MNblockhead -
      Love this series! I love to think of all the non-combat aspects of life that can be woven into stories, lead to adventure, and create unusual challenges.
    1. Connorsrpg's Avatar
      Connorsrpg -
      Hahaha. You said "woven". You funny.
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