Another inventory, another new term – what is a ‘Millpuff bed’? One worthy Bristol merchant appeared to have several of them in his house.
A millpuff bed is a mattress stuffed with ‘millpuff’, which is a coarse type of wool ‘flock’.
It would seem that 18th century mill owners suffered from theft by their employees of scraps of yarn and waste fibres, and occasionally some better quality yarn, which were smuggled out of the mills and sold to ‘flockers’ who used these scraps to stuff flock beds. In many mill towns shops close to the mills would ‘swap’ with child mill workers, offering an apple for scraps of fibre.
One of the sources of this waste fibre was the ‘millpuff’ created by the gigmill. A gigmill was a mechanised carding machine that would raise the cloth to produce a nap. It was a development that took the place of hand carding done originally with teasel seed heads and later with metal combs, and consisted of a main roller with several others gathered around it. The mill would tease out the ends of the fibres to produce a nap, which would then be sheared or cut to the required height. Originally only wool was raised, but now flannelette and cotton are raised, giving us the soft and comfortable brushed cotton of sheets, quilts and nightwear.