Reminiscent of little pin cushions, teasels are a curious looking but useful plant. Used by wool weavers and loved by wildlife, we think the teasel (or Dipsacus Fullonum if you want to be fancy) is a part of our British landscape that we wouldn’t want to be without. In fact, we love them so much, we made a print inspired by them.
Teasels can be recognised by their oval-shaped spiky heads, and can be spotted in all kinds of places, from mountainsides to marshes and grasslands to gardens. The plant itself often reaches the height of a person, with thorns all along the stem. In summer, its prickles burst with tiny purple flowers in rings around the seed head. When the seeds are spent and the flowers have died in Autumn, the head turns brown and dried – they are often collected at this stage to make flower arrangements and decorations.
Thanks to their characteristic prickles, teasels have historically been used by the textile industry as a comb to clean, align and raise the nap of wool – ‘nap’ is the fuzzy or fluffy surface you get on natural fabrics. About 3000 teasels would be loaded into a machine called a ‘teasel gig’, which brushes the spikes over the woollen cloth to give it a soft, even finish. Nowadays, teasels have been replaced with metal combs — although some experts believe that teasels provide a better result, because if a comb tooth gets caught on a fibre, a teasel will just break without damaging the fabric, but a metal tooth will tear through the wool.
Teasels are a favourite on the menu for lots of winged creatures, but nobody loves a teasel seed quite like the goldfinch. These distinctive birds with red heads and a flash of yellow on the wing have particularly long beaks, and can dexterously pluck the tasty seeds from the spiky clutches of the teasel head. If you’d like to attract these birds to your garden, planting teasels is a great way to do so.
Hedgehog Photography Credit: Craft Invaders
When they’re all finished providing food for our feathered friends, you can collect dried teasels and easily turn them into a sweet little ornament, inspired by one of our favourite woodland creatures. As this is a prickly project, it might be best to wear gardening gloves and an adult should always be supervising. Simply take your teasel and snip off the stalk, leaving a little stub for a snout. Trim the long bits coming from the stalk away to create a face. You can also trim one side of the spikes on the head so that your hedgehog sits flat. Colour in three round-headed pins (carefully) with a black permanent marker and (carefully again) push these into the snout to create two little eyes and a nose.
If we haven’t convinced you why teasels are terrific yet, our new teasel print certainly will. Ideal for your new autumn wardrobe, this eye-catching and beautifully British design was hand-crafted by our designers to evoke the feeling of a countryside walk, with golden leaves underfoot.