ADAMS COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Teasels line the sides of a two-lane road in Adams County.
Teasels got their name because of their use in weaving. Part of the process of completing a weave, particularly with fabrics like fine wools, was “napping”, the creating of a finished surface on a textile. Raising a nap involved brushing, or “teasing” the fabric to bring loose fibers to the surface. This would make the “teased wool” feel softer. The small spines on the teasel seed heads were ideal for the purpose.
But the flip side of being easy on the fabrics is that teasel seed heads are fragile, and need to be frequently replaced. In modern factories where mass-produced fabrics, metal combs, or cards, have replaced the teasels. The cards are more uniform than the teasels and last much longer.
Still, some weavers still prefer to use teasels to do their teasing. For one thing, they believe the teasels give a better-looking finished product. Also, teasels have more give-if they hit a seriously rough spot in the cloth, the teasels will just bend, shed spines or break. A metal comb, on the other hand, might just rip the fabric.
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About fifteen species of Teasels are found in Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. They are biennial plants. During its first year of life it grows a “basal rosette”, a circular arrangement of leaves that stays close to the ground. It grows a flower stem measuring two to eight feet high in its second year. The seed head will produce 250 to 1500 small, densely packed flowers.
Given their use in weaving, it’s not surprising early settlers brought them to America. With no native teasels to compete with them, they quickly spread, and are now found in most of the United States, and in large areas in Canada. In many locations, it’s considered an invasive species, because it can spread aggressively enough to crowd out native species and create a monoculture.
Total eradication of teasels doesn’t look like it’s happening any time in the near (or distant) future, so as with many introduced species, we must learn to live with them. So, what can you do with teasels if you’re not weaving with them? Sometimes they get used in flower arrangements, where the dried brown seed heads provide a contrast to brightly colored flowers. And some people use teasels in craft projects-teasel hedgehogs seem to be especially popular.
To watch a time lapse of a teasel blooming, click here.
To learn how to make a teasel hedgehog, click here.