Hand woven woollen cloth for winter trousers and coats was beaten in a fulling mill (piuă) or soaked in a “whirlpool” (vâltoare) to make a thicker impervious cloth. Fabric treated in the fulling mill was beaten by hammers worked by a wooden camshaft turned by a water wheel, and hot water poured on it for around twenty-four hours. The fabric was then rinsed and left to dry. Fabric treated in the vâltoare was roughened by moving it round a cylinder called a coş de tras. These processes were carried out by men rather than women as they require greater physical strength. In areas such as Dobrogea where there was not sufficient water for operating a fulling mill, woollen cloth was beaten using an old method called bătutul suman cu coatele on a thicket of twigs called gratie (willow – wattle).
The resulting woollen fabric was usually white or sometimes natural greyish brown or dyed black or blue. It was called by various names, which denoted different qualities or degrees of thickness. Thicker cloth or frieze (a heavy woollen cloth with a long nap used for coats etc.) was called pănură, dimie, aba, postav, suman, or cioareci (the cloth and garment often have the same name). Suman brumăriu was a name given to cloth made of natural coloured (greyish) sheep’s wool. The thickest peasant cloth was worn in north – Maramureș, Oaș, Bistrița-Năsăud, Bucovina, and in Apuseni mountains. Thinner cloth was used in Banat, Oltenia and Muntenia, and widely throughout the Balkans. This was called dimie (frieze or rough homespun), siac, or aba and was usually white or natural coloured material. Women’s coats, and sleeveless waistcoats and men’s trousers were made of aba. A fine cloth used for coats worn on festival days was know as Suman de noaten or siac. This was made of lambs wool “which has two haircuts”! Fine cloth made of lambs wool was called de mițe.
Pressed Felt was a non woven material used for hat-making which was made by soaking a rolled layer of wool with hot water, then beating it with a cudgel in order to make it matted and compact.
Mixed woollen fabrics
Natural white woollen cloth was of medium thickness and considerable density and compactness. Adding goats’ hair gave a high degree of impermeability to fabric. In certain areas a hempen warp and woollen weft was used (seen in zadii from Maramureș, and Oltenian vâlnic). The Bulgarian name for this method of weaving, where the weft was woven so closely that the warp threads were not visible, was izryavane technique. This combination of woollen weft with a warp of vegetable origin made a compact and durable fabric.
Hemp and Linen cloth – cânepă, in
Hempen fabric was originally used for entire chemises, and men’s summer and winter trousers but was replaced by linen in most areas by mid 19th century firstly for festive chemises and then for everyday wear. In one area of northwest Bulgaria hempen fabric was still used for entire chemises, or the parts that the outer garments covered, and for men’s trousers, as late as the early 20th century. Hemp continued to be used in mixed fabrics especially as warp threads.
Woven linen was bleached by placing the fabric in rivers. The weight of linen cloth varied between regions. Thicker linen was produced in Transylvania and finer linen in the south. Linen was also used together with hemp and later with cotton to make woven fabrics.
Rolls of home woven hempen or linen cloth were sold at fairs in Arad, Deva, Oradea, Beiuș, Câmpulung Muscel, Rădăuți, and Târgu-Jiu.
Cotton – bumbac
Cotton cloth produced in Romania was either smooth, pânză limpede, or pânză chirache which had stripes made of thicker cotton introduced into the warp. This slightly pleated, rustic cotton, was often used for shirts in Dobrogea and south Muntenia in the 19th-20th century. Mixed fabrics using a cotton weft with linen warp, or a cotton warp with cotton mixed with a weft of woollen factory-spun yarn were also woven.
In the late 19th and early 20th century in Oltenia and Muntenia blouses were often made from various types of silk and cotton crepes or organza fabrics. These fabrics were very delicate and often had a fine ridged or crinkled surface. Crêpe Bennett, a fine cotton linen was a speciality of the Breaza co-operative, which was embroidered using silk thread.
Silk – borangic
Silk was woven into fabric which was used to make certain costume items such as maramă especially in southern Romania. The weavers from Lerești-Mușcel were well known for the fineness of their silk marame. Silk thread (mătase) was also used to decorate costume pieces.
Braid – găitan
Braids made of cotton, silk or wool were used to decorate coats, waistcoats and trousers in many areas. Găitan was made in many different colours, and was either made at home (as in the south west of Romania) or by coats makers (sumanări) in specialist centre such as Sărbești, Bihor, or bought from traders coming from south of the Danube. The home made braid was thicker and made of wool, whereas factory produced braids were finer and made of cotton or silk. Braid used in Dobrogea was made in two colours, black and white. Homemade braid from Moldavia was called sarad and was made of a mixture of wool and hair, and was dyed and spun and plaited. 200m to 300m of braid was used to decorate one winter coat (suman).
Goat’s hair was also used, in a special technique, to weave costume accessories such as bags and wallets in villages throughout Romania.
Velvet – catifea
Velvet is a factory made woven material made of cotton or silk with a cut warp-pile with the cut ends forming the surface. It was used for folk costume from the 19th century, originally for ribbons used to edge catrinţa, vâlnic, or jackets and later for making waistcoats (ilic) or aprons (catrința or vâlnic).
Cashmere – cașmir
Cashmere was an imported factory made material made using fine wool. This was used in folk costume from the 19th century for shawls or scarves, and in the 20th century for skirts, aprons and blouses in the zones of Maramureș, Ţara Oașului, Bihor, Banat and Făgăraș.