It occurred to me to wonder, after the post about thread as a process, how the Hellenes prepared their wool. They couldn’t have had modern-style cards, those require stiff fine steel wire, which simply didn’t exist. I’d never seen mention of the kinds of combs used in Northern Europe in the medieval era (I have a set of those; they are deadly).

It turns out that what they used was an epinetron, a wood or ceramic piece that fitted over the knee and thigh, like a saddle on a donkey (and they were sometimes called onoi or donkeys). The surface was textured or crosshatched and rough. Raw wool was draw across it, much as modern spinners draw wool across a card, to comb out dirt, trash and short fibers, and to order and align the long staple fibers wanted for spinning. The short fibers, once washed, might be used as stuffing or for felting, or throw out.

Since the ceramic ones were often richly decorated (see that link, omg, it’s gorgeous), given as wedding presents, and found in graves, those may have been largely symbolic or ceremonial, and wooden ones used for everyday, but I suspect that at least some ceramic ones saw regular use.

Oddly, while looking these up, I found the bizarre assertion on Wikipedia that they were used during weaving to protect the clothes from grease, but this is laughable. Their clothing was made from wool anyway, which had been greasy itself once (and might be still) and wouldn’t be harmed by it the way cotton is. Besides, it wouldn’t cover much, and an apron is far more practical.

There’s a potter in England who’s making them now, but when I can afford to buy things again, I’m planning to ask my friend Sherry Kirk of Sidhefire Arts, who’s made a number of ritual items for me. I’m also hoping that when I eventually get a warp-weighted loom built, she’ll make my weights. Someday.

But now I know how they carded wool.