Every evening, on my way home from the studio I cycle through an old tenter ground in E1 - just north east of Tower bridge. My route takes me between East and West Tenter Street, across South and then North Tenter street through the centre of the ground.
Tenter grounds were open areas where washed or 'fulled' newly woven cloth was stretched out on racks to dry ensuring an even flat cloth. In this "View of Wallbridge" c 1790 you can see the famous military red-cloth of Stroud pinned out on tenter frames in the fields above the town.
Outdoor tenter frames remained in use until the early Twentieth Century - in the images below you can see the tenter frames of the famous Whitney blanket mill with teams of 'tuckers' carrying a 'stockfull' of fabric (lengths which would yield about 24 blankets) .
Now tentering is all done indoors in the finishing works. After washing or 'scouring' the cloth is stretched on a series of hooks as it runs through the industrial dryers. Like so much in weaving however, although the technology may be more advanced and efficient the principle is just the same - in this case stretching out the cloth in order to achieve a flat even surface.
In the image below you can just see the tiny pin prick marks left by the tenter hooks on our Straw Yellow Ground.
As you have probably guessed, the phrase 'on tenter hooks' comes from this origin - literally feeling taught and tensed.
Museum in the Park - Stroud
The Whitney BlanKet Story