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Mop sellers, red chalk on paper, Paul Sandy, 1759. Museum of London 65.59/5#sthash.EaUTT9dg.dpuf

Mop sellers, red chalk on paper, Paul Sandy, 1759. Museum of London 65.59/5

They’re pretty consistent: mops appear to be made of fibers attached to a handle. These look like they’re simple string mops. A stick and string? A stick and rags strips? Something along those lines. But what kind of string? What kind of fiber? How was it attached?

I’ll confess that I have been too lazy to search collection for extant mops– no, seriously, if someone offered me an 18th century mop my first reaction after “Absolutely!” would be, “Wait a second…how can there be anything left of an 18th century mop? My own mops don’t last all that long….” so I assumed no such critter exists in captivity (feel free to prove me wrong, I could use an assist here). Instead, I went ahead with the daft notion of replicating what I saw in images.

Sandby helpfully supplies us with mop sellers who carry fuzziness on a stick. Most likely wool, since sheep were plentiful and cotton expensive in this period. But maybe not. In any case, a simple business.

Supplies assembled

Supplies assembled

After work on Saturday, I went mop-top-shopping. It was not one stop. An internal rant developed about how companies can call anything “wool” that is less than 100% wool, but I managed to contain myself and with enough hunting turned up hero cord, 100% wool yarn and 100% cotton yarn as well as dowels. Sadly, I could not find wool roving in any color but grey. So, making a mop from craft and hardware store supplies is a pretty easy thing, especially when you don’t have many tools to complicate the business.


This is not my first rodeo where string is concerned, so I wrapped the yarn around a cutting board just the way you’d make a pom pom. How else will you get it all the same length (more or less)? The result: a somewhat sad hank in search of purpose, tied off in the more-or-less middle of the strands.

Secured temporarily with a rubber band, I tied the hank to the dowel with hemp cord. Then I turned the wool (and later cotton) back over itself, and tied it off again. I pulled as tight as I could manage, much to the chagrin of my now-blistered pinky finger. Small price to pay, though, for two new entrants in the experimental archaeology of cleaning. As I looked at the images in Sandby’s drawing and in the prints, I was pretty confident the mops are not tied off again in this second way, but one band didn’t seem secure enough. So, yet another compromise, but one that I hope will result in less hilarity from losing mop heads in the midst of washing floors.

Now, if I would but turn my attention to the lint, string, and yarn scattered about my floor at home…