West Riding Centre of the Teasel Trade


Woven cloth needs fulling to raise a nap and Teasels were and still are used in this process. The peak consumption was in the 1830’s but Teasels are still used to create a pile on some products including tennis balls, stockings and billiard tables.

Teasels in History

  • Greeks helped provide the original name ‘Dipsacus‘ meaning ‘to thirst’. This is believed to refer to the way rainwater collects at the base of leaves where the leaf and the stem together form a little bowl.
  • Romans called it ‘Venus’s basin’ and early Christians in Ireland called it Mary’s basin’.
  • In the 12th century good traditional cloth relied on teasels from York, Beverley, Selby and Wakefield.
  • Leeds became a centre for dye and tenterers in the 14th century and Teasel growers and dealers were common in the area.
  • Between 1727 and 1820 the demand for broadcloth grew 11 fold and so did the need for teasels.
  • In 1812 Luddites attacked John Wood, Cropper and Oatland mill owner as he sought to mechanise fulling.

Teasel names and Equipment

  • Teasels are botanically called Dipsacus fullonum
  • The second part of its botanical name ‘fullonum‘ is derived from the term ‘a fuller’. Fuller is the old name for someone who used teasel to comb out wool.
  • In some places teasel is also known by the name ‘brush and comb’.
  • The Irish name Lus an Fhucadora translates as ‘Fuller’s Herb’.
  • Teasels are also called ‘Johnny-prick-the-finger’ because of the sharp spikes.
  • A ‘Stav’ is a 2’9″ cylindrical pack of teasels available for sale. A ‘Gleaning is 10 teasel stems and 30 make a stav and there are 45 stavs in a pack
  • A ‘Preem’ was a spiked tool and a ‘Spitter’ is a tool used to cut the tap root whilst ‘Spudding’ is weeding with a hoe.
  • ‘Ellum’ was a hut use for drying


Watsonia teasel teazel or teazle
Gardeners Tips

Photo by Jim Champion on flickr under creative commons license

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