Humanity on Earth: Fiber, Fur, Fullers and Weavers

There are three books on the theme of Humanity on Earth. All three books employ a “hands-on” experiential approach with many activities supporting the content. We could reduce the overall conception of these three books to the basic necessities of living: food, shelter, and clothing.

The first book on shelters and dwellings, provides the third-grade student with a picture of some of the varied cultures of humanity across the earth from the point of view of the dwellings they build, and how the people draw upon the materials available from the local environment. The intent is to give the student an imaginative picture of the varied geographical terrains of the earth, the cultures that arise and the dwellings that are created. It also explores animal houses and grand dwellings: temple, pyramid and ziggurat. In this way, it is a cultural sociological geographical study as well as integrating the science of materials and the physics of construction.

Similarly, the second book on farming and humanity’s foods also takes the wide view of soils of the earth and how the human being has integrated into varied environments across the globe as a tiller of the earth rather than a hunter/gatherer. However, since the literary theme of the year are the stories from Hebrew and Mesopotamian sources, the book begins with foods and practices and the very simple diets that characterize the cultures that began in the Fertile Crescent. Yet it is also a science study of soils and the symbiotic relationship between man and animal.

This third book focuses on the natural materials from which the varied cultures of the earth have created the first clothing. Thus, it is also a science of materials from both plant and animal sources.


The picture shows a group of Scottish women fulling wool, a necessary step in processing to ready it for either spinning into yarn, or pounding it into felt.

It is a process of cleansing the wool to remove dirt, sand, oils and other impurities. After fulling (also known as tucking) and drying, the wool becomes fluffy and thicker which not only makes it easier to work, but also increases its insulating properties.

Notice how the women are using their feet to scrub the wool on a large washing board. They also sing a “fulling song” so that their feet move together in the same rhythm. In other cultures, fulling is done by pounding the fiber with a club. In the process of fulling, the woolen fibers become matted and the beginnings of felted wool is created.

On a tarp, the strands of carded wool with the fibers aligned in the same direction are spread out into large thin rectangular pieces of approximately the same size. The end product determines the size although it can always be cut. We can consider this to be a small blanket or a felt rug.

Notice in the illustration that each successive layer is placed at right angles to the previous layer. This process will result in the fibers adhering to one another. Six layers are enough. Press hot soapy water into the mass of wool, and once it is saturated, press and pat the soapy water into the wool. This process becomes a more vigorous rubbing and blending of the fibers for about 10–15 minutes, while alternating soaking with hot soapy water then cold water. The change of temperature causes the fibers to contract and expand which joins them together. Flip over, and work it from the other side and change direction of the rubbing. Finally, dry in the sun for a few hours

One can use the felted product as either a rug or blanket, or one might cut the material in such a way that it can be sewn into a hat or a bag.

  • Lessons for 3 to 4 Weeks
  • Introduction

Section I: Fibers, Leather, & Clothing

  • Silk
  • Wool
  • Flax and Linen
  • Cotton
  • Animal Hides and Fur
  • The Origin of the Buffalo Dance (Blackfoot)
  • The Preparation of the Hide
  • Further Ideas for Lesson Presentations

Section II: Practical Activities

  • Leather Work
  • Felting
  • Spinning and Weaving with Wool
  • Tapestry
  • Getting Started on the First Weaving Project
  • Spinning Wool