Saturday, December 11, 2010

The fylfot/swastika in tablet weaving

I think anyone reading this blog is likely to be aware that the fylfot is a very common motif in Iron Age and Medieval geometric patterns. It is present in some of the brocaded Viking patterns I wove last year, such as the Mammen band and Birka 6. Before I started work on these bands, I asked my friends what they thought about including this motif in my weaving. People seemed to fall into two camps:
  1. It would offend me, not because I think you are aligning yourself with Nazi philosophies, but because you are showing insensitivity to the fact that I may be offended. Don't do it.
  2. It wouldn't offend me, but I still wouldn't do it if I were you because it would offend other people.
I am quite annoyed that the Nazis have gone and ruined such a perfectly good motif (I mean, obviously, in terms of Bad Thing The Nazis Did, this doesn't really rate, but you know what I mean). I also find the self-perpetuating nature of camp 1 to be somewhat frustrating. I don't mean to dismiss these people's feelings, in fact, merely finding out that some of my friends feel this way is enough to make me feel a little the same way myself (before asking this question I was guessing everyone would fall into camp 2).

For in the Birka designs showing fylfots, I amended my patterns to exclude this section. In the Mammen band, I replace the fylfot section with a different motif. However, in the Snartemo V band, which features no fewer than 6 fylfots (or in my case, 7, because I repeated part of the pattern), I left the pattern intact. This is because while the Viking bands were intended for wearing, the Snartemo V and is more of a "demonstration" piece (I will probably stick it in the A&S display at Canterbury Faire). I hope this compromise does not offend too many people.

Some answers on medieval Finnish bands from Silja Penna-Haverinen

I have become interested recently in the medieval Finnish bands such as the Kaukola and Humikkala bands that appear in Hansen and the Kirkkomäki band described by Silja Penna-Haverinen in NESAT X. Imagine my delight when Silja herself commented on my previous post on the subject and said she would be willing to answer some questions I had. I thought I would share some information from her answers that might be of interest to people.

1. I feel a bit better about not being able to work out how the technique of altering the places of two adjacent tablets at the intersection of two diaonal lines works, because Silja says this research is out of date. Actually what was thought to be the two central tablets is only a single tablet (the pattern has an odd number).

2. Apparently there is no good source of photos of the Finnish bands from earlier than the 20th century (not even in Finnish publications), which is quite sad. There are some random published photos, but not any kind of compilation

3. Silja says that Hansen's 2 reconstructions of Finnish bands (Humikkala and Kaukola) were not based on a personal examination of the bands in question. He looked at some Finnish articles, and had help from a Finnish woman who might have seen the items in question in the National Museum through the showcase glass, but neither one of them have made any proper examination. Consequently they are very speculative and as someone who has seen the bands in person she can attest to the fact that they are not accurate. However, Silja knows someone who is working on a reconstruction of the Humikkala band, who has been able to study the original. I think I'll put my plans to create this band on hold until that comes out!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Snartemo V

Warp: Red, yellow, green and blue wool (fibreholics)
Weft: green wool
Pattern: Phiala's Snartemo V pattern (6th century Norwegian)
Cards: 44
Width: 3.5cm
Length: 50cm

OK, so I said I'd do Snartemo V and here it is. It is from Phiala's pattern, with a few tweaks, and also a few points where I lost track of where I was up to and did the motifs in the wrong order!

This is one of the few bands I have done where there is actually a decent pciture of the original (click through to a larger version). You can see that my own version is a lot more stretched out than the original which is if anything about shorter than square. I found it impossible to get the weft density up using sticky wool.

This is a popular band to try and it always looks great. Here are some other examples:One nice this about this band is that because the eyes are drawn to the regions with long floats, the band looks quite good on the back as well as the front, with very clear motifs with yellow and red switched.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wooden Tablets

A local, Aelfric Branwelather, offered to make me some wooden tablets at Canterbury Faire this year, and I've finally had a chance to try them out this month. The tablets are about 5cm square and 1.5mm thick. I had to finish sanding them myself, but they are working very well.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kirkkomäki-Inspired Motifs

Warp: Dark green and white wool (fibreholics)
Weft: same as above (varying colour)
Pattern: I made it up
Cards: 15
Width: 8mm
Length: ~60cm

I had a band all strung up on my Oseberg loom that I had been using at String Day to demonstrate doubleface techniques. Most of it was still unused at the end of the day so I needed to find something to use it for.

I'd recently been reading Silja Penna-Haverinen's article in NESAT X: Patterned Tablet-Woven Band - In Search of the 11th Century Textile Professional, in which she hypothesises that bands from medieval Finland employed 180-degree turns. Her article focuses on a band found in the Kirkkomäki burial ground in Turku, but she mentions that the Masku Humikkala band uses the same techniques, and I think that the Kaukola band in Hansen falls into the same category.

According to the article, 180-degree turns occur in pairs on either side of a reversal, giving the appearance of a tighter corner. There is also mention of a 180-degree turn in conjunction with two cards actually swapping position, but for the life of me I can't work out how to execute that without making a mess.

Penna-Haverinen also mentions another technique found on the Kirkkomäki band: a tubular selvedge. My sample band had a border 2 tablets wide which isn't really sufficient to form a tube, but it was sufficient to hide the white weft I was using on the reverse of the band, so that was something. The tubular selvedge meant I had to pull the weft very tight which made for a higher warp density than my bands usually have. I don't think the half-turns would have worked nearly as well if it were looser.

The motifs I chose we not copied straight from the band since I had far fewer cards. They were designed to show off the half-turns to best effect. Penna-Haverinen specifically mentions its use in zigzag motifs where quarter-turns would mean the card at the centre of the zigzag just shows a straight line, rather than incorportating the corners.

You can see this to the left. On top is the band woven without half-turns. Beneath is the band executed with half-turns. You can see the more angular turns in the zigzag on the left half of the band. The tooth motif at right also looks a bit squarer.

I never know how to finish bands. I tried something a bit different with this one: I divided the warp threads into three groups and formed each one into a tube. It worked pretty nicely. No evidence that this is period though.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Warp Spreaders Revisited

Lowrens has made me another warp spreader. The first one he made was in the style of Teffania's - a rod with hole drilled through it. This gels with what can be seen in the few manuscript pictures which show warp spreaders. There are about 7 manuscripts listed in EPAC (including the errata) which contain warp spreaders, out of a total of 33, so I suppose if there's one thing which can be concluded it is that use of the warp spreader is optional (possibly dependent on how prone the warp fibres are to tangling). Of those seven, I have managed to lay eyes on 4:
  • Book of Hours Duke John of Bedford, ca 1420-1430. Vienna, Österreichisches NationalBibliothek, ms. 1855, fol 25 (at right)
  • Book of Hours, ca. 1407. Oxford, Bedleian Library, ms. Douce 144, fol 19
  • Book of Hours, Paris, ca. 1400-1410, Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek KB 76 Fol 21
  • French tapestry in Rheims Cathedral, France, ca. 1507-1530 (below)
There are apparently another couple in Des Cleres et Noble Femmes but the picture of Arachne doesn't look like tablet weaving to me, and I can't even find the one of Penelope.

So anyway, these pictures all look consistent with a rod with holes bored in it. But it's been pointed out to me that with the perspective used in these pictures, another plausible interpretation would be a small wooden frame with sturdy thread wound tightly around it, creating slits for the warp threads to pass through. I'm not really sure I buy into this but it doesn't seem completely implausible. There are a few advantages to this setup compared to the rod:
  1. The warp is well balanced (the rod is prone to leaning into vertical position... on the other hand, that's exactly what we see in the manuscript pictures)
  2. Hypothetically (I haven't tried this) you could wind thread on spreader after warp is strung up. You certainly can't do that with the rod.
  3. The twist builds up on far side of warp spreader because the warps do not need to converge in front of the spreader. This means you can go for longer without reversing turn direction or straightening out the threads.
Lowrens is happy to produce more such spreaders (and probably other things) if anyone is interested in purchasing them. If you need his email address, you can leave a comment to this post.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

String Day

OK, so it was almost a month ago, but I said I would mention String Day, so here we go. 4 weeks ago my flatmate Thordis and I hosted a fibrecraft-themed collegium type thingy at our house. There was weaving, tablet weaving, inkle weaving, bobbin lace, knitting, naalbinding, spinning and dyeing, all going on in an ad hoc manner. We got a great turnout, including a couple of people who flew down from Ildhafn to attend, and because it was hosted at our house, the event was free. I recommend the format.

Mistress Katharina, one of the Ildhafners, took quite a few photos, which can be seen here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

An Updated Kaukola Pattern

Someone asked earlier today on the SCA-Card-Weaving list whether anyone had a pattern for the Kaukola band in Hansen. This prompted me to re-visit my pattern and check it against Hansen, since I've recently found instructions on how to read his mysterious patterns. It turns out the pattern I reconstructed by looking at his band was slightly off, so I've re-jigged my pattern to reflect that. The difference to the appearance of the finished band is pretty trivial. There are just a few extra reversals in column 4. They don't change what colour is up at any point, just the direction of twist.

I did have this pattern marked up for half-turns but I've been informed this is incorrect so I've removed them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Snartemo - Phiala's demo pattern

Warp: Red, yellow, green and blue wool (fibreholics)
Weft: same as above (varying colour)
Pattern: Phiala's demo Snartemo pattern
Cards: 18
Width: 1.6cm
Length: 60cm

The name "Snartemo" is given to a technique where each hole in a tablet is threaded with a different colour, and tablets are offset a quarter turn from each other so that turning them as a pack produces diagonal lines. Sometimes a card is turned repreatedly backward and forward, forming "floats" where a single colour appears on the top for several passes of the weft. The canonical Snartemo band is Snartemo V, from 7th century Snartemo, Norway. Hansen lists three other bands in a similar technique.

This is the band I warped up while demonstrating how to do a Continuous Warp. It is the demonstration pattern (Excel format) Phiala gives showing how to construct a Snartemo pattern, with the green and blue warps swapped because that's how I absentmindedly warped it up. I've also marked the reversals on the pattern because I find that helpful. I made a mistake swapping the blue and the green in the pattern and spent several repeats of the pattern wondering why I kept making the same mistake every time.

Due to the aforementioned absentmindedness, I failed to start weaving at the same point in the warp as where I tied the ends of the warps together, and therefore had to deal with knots in my warp partway through the process. I found that if you just cheerfully keep weaving, it's easy to make sure the tails of the knot end up on the back of the band rather than the front. It helps if the tails are long enough to grab hold of, but not long enough to tangle around adjacent warp threads. 1-2cm is good.

I don't really know what I'm going to do with this band. It has quite a few mistakes in it in the section I did first. I don't know if it's known what the Snartemo V fragments or any of the related finds were used for. If anyone out there can convince me that they're making 7th century Norwegian Viking garb, you can have it.

I will have a go at Snartemo V soon.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Continuous Warp

At String Day one of the things I wanted to demonstrate was a continuous warp. If you haven't seen Linda Hedrickson's video on making a continuous warp, you should really go watch it now. She explains the concept beautifully. I will take issue with one thing she says:

It doesn't really matter which colours go in which holes

I'm sure this was accurate within the wider context of her DVD and this is probably obvious to most of you, but it can matter. If you're doing a doubleface pattern, the two warps of the same colour need to be in adjacent holes. If you're doing a snartemo pattern red-green-blue-yellow, you can't thread the cards up red-blue-green-yellow.

I demonstrated the continuous warp on an inkle loom. Instead of the clamp arrangement in Linda Hendrickson's video (which works equally well warping directly onto an oseberg-style loom) where the warps pass from clamp A to clamp B and then back to clamp A, and you drop a card on each side, my warp took a loop route and cards were dropped only once per circuit. This works just as well. You tie the start of the warp to one of the dowels on the inkle loom, and when you have dropped off all the cards you untie it, and tie the end of the warp to the start. That way you can rotate the whole warp so the area you are working on is always in the same place.

There are a few situations in which a continuous warp is not appropriate:
  1. All four of your warps need to be on their own spools so if this is impractical you're out of luck
  2. If you are using rectangular tablets (eg playing cards) and your pattern is formed by offsetting each card by a quarter turn from the one before it, and the cards turn as a pack or in blocks, this is not the technique for you. Adjacent cards will end up a quarter turn off from each other making them impossible to turn together
  3. If you're doing a pattern where not all cards are threaded with the same colours, this method isn't going to work. You can get around this though, by warping up however many cards use threading pattern A, then cutting off the warp threads, and tying to the end of each one a new warp thread of the appropriate colour for threading pattern B etc. When all the cards are warped up you can reorder them into the right places if necessary.
  4. You can't use a warp spreader with this technique, unless it's one you can fit onto your warp after it's all set up.
  5. If you're warping directly onto your loom, you can't untie your warp and comb out the twist in it, so a band where twist builds up in is no good, unless you have enough warp that you don't need to worry about the twist. If you're using a warping frame and then cutting the ends of the warp before fitting it to the loom, this isn't a problem. There can also be an exception if you're warping directly onto an Oseberg-style loom - if the twist builds up symmetrically, eg a chevron pattern, and you make sure that the cards build up from inside to outside (so on an 8-card pattern you drop them so they end up in the order 75312468), then pairs will untwist each other (eg the S twist on card one is undone by the Z twist on card two) and you can keep going in the same direction right along the warp. I hope that made sense!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Warp Twine Direction vs Ply Direction

While I was weaving the "satin" band, I considered that the poor result might be due to the warp twining going in the same direction as the ply of the silk, so I tried reversing the direction to improve things. Unfortunately it turned out the warp twining was already going in the reverse direction to the ply, so this did nothing to help things! Later on once I'd given up on the card idling I also tried weaving in both directions.Above is a picture of the four different combinations:
  1. Warp twining opposite to ply twining, card idling
  2. Warp twining same as ply twining, card idling
  3. Warp twining opposite to ply twining, no card idling
  4. Warp twining same as ply twining, no card idling
In retrospect the other one does look best, I think, and the last one definitely the worst.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Band spiral

I've known since early on that a twill band will tend to spiral on itself when not under tension, and that the way to counteract this is to have a few cards going in the other direction. EPAC mentions it (p. 68), saying:
Generally, at least two tablets at each edge are threaded in the opposite direction, or alternating S and S, to compensate for the twisting of the band which is inherent in this type of weave.
I'm sure I read elsewhere that alternating at one end of the band only was sufficient but I can't find a reference for that now. That's what I did for the "scrolling vine" band which was my first foray into twill bands. I didn't have any problem with spiralling so it seemed that doing a SSSSSSSSSSSSZ weave was sufficient to avoid any problems in that area.

However, the plain (no brocade) band I've just finished, which was threaded ZSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSZ, had quite an extreme twist on it. It turns out that the "reverse the edges" plan is really only sufficient for brocaded bands, which have a lot of stiffness due to the stiff metal brocade weft (not sure how well one with a fibre brocade weft would hold up, somewhere in between I guess).

So, now I know, a non-brocaded band really needs to be a near-50% mix of S and Z threading. I won't make that mistake again (This doesn't apply to bands that are twill threaded but the cards turn backwards as well as forwards, as in 3/1 broken twill, of course) .

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Card idling "satin" ribbon

Warp: Green silk (colourmart)
Weft: Green silk (colourmart)
Pattern: card idling monochrome twill
Cards: 17
Width: ~1cm
Length: ~1m

I decided a while ago that I wanted to have a go at the "simulated satin effect" band from Þóra Sharptooth's Three Tablet Weaving Recipes page. So I did- but it seems I did every imaginable thing wrong in the process! Here's a list:
  • No loom: because I was taking this band travelling with me, I did it backstap style. This is the only band I have woven without two fixed tension points (whether it be 2 chairs, my Oseberg loom, or an inkle loom), excluding the tubular cord I did around Christmas. The tension of this band was all over the place
  • Using a new type of silk: This was the first outing of the silk I got from colourmart. The silk from colourmart is great value and the customer service is very friendly, but this silk turned out to be a lot stickier than what I was used to (closer to how wool behaves) which didn't help anything
  • Failure to read the instructions: Well actually, I did read the instructions just fine, several months before I started on the band. Then, 10 cm in, when I was unimpressed with the result, I managed to confuse the "satin effect" band with the "monochrome twill effect" one directly above it", and decided the reason it wasn't working so well was because it was supposed to be twill. I switched to twill and continued that way for the rest of the band.
  • Overestimating how satiny the result would be: see above. I think my expectations of this band were too high which led to me getting pretty frustrated with it.
  • Warp density too low: My flatmate Sonya tells me the band would have looked better if it had been narrower
  • Band spiral: I will cover this in another post but in summary: yeah, once I switched to the twill, the band took on a pronounced spiral. I didn't notice until I had finished because I was winding the band around my belt as I wove it.
The end result of all this is that I tired of the band very quickly and ended up giving up on the card idling just so I could get the damn thing finished. Because I was so bored with it I didn't take much care when weaving it and the whole thing is very ugly and uneven (the backstrap weaving will have contributed to this. I have used the finished band as garters on a new pair of hose, where nobody will see them.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Victoria and Albert Museum "membership"

I don't know if this is common knowledge and I'm just out of the loop, but a friend recently pointed out to me that it was possible to get wonderfully high-resolution (specifically, 2500 pixels on the wider axis) photos of items from the V&A if you become a "member". It goes like this:
  1. Go to
  2. Click the "Log in" button at top right.
  3. Fill out the "Or Register" form on the right-hand side of the page. You are now a member.
  4. Search for the item in the collection you fancy and click on the thumbnail of the one you like.
  5. At the right of the page, below the summary information, there is an "Order this image" button. Click it.
  6. You'll be taken to the "Manage your orders" which is kinda like your shopping cart. You can add up to 30 images to a single order.
  7. When you're done choosing the images you want, click the the "Place order now" button. The first time you do this you'll be asked to fill out some more details like your address and your reason for wanting the images.
  8. You are taken to a page that says that in 15 minutes your order will be ready. If you wait that long and then refresh, you will be given a zip file you can download.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Brocaded Collar

Warp: White silk
Weft: Really thin white silk
Brocade weft: #5 Kreinik jap
Pattern: brocade
Cards: 42
Width: 2.3cm
Length: 44cm

This band is for my friend Kotek. He wanted a band that looked something like the one in the pictured below, which is from Leonhart Fuchs's De Historia Stirpium There's no particular reason to think this band was tabletwoven; it could well have been embroidered. But there were tabletwoven bands around at the time.

I designed a pattern that looked like it would be at home in Anna Neuper's Modelbuch. It didn't really turn out with as much brocade showing as I wanted because I failed to take into account the way that alternating under-over-under with the brocade just looks like it's under all the time (I guess it would have looked better if my pickups had been under one strand only). But it still looks very pretty.

I wove the whole thing at the Lindisfarne encampment held by Ordo Cygni over Queen's Birthday weekend (5-7 June). I had to weave like a mad thing to get it done in time but I made it!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Brocade Ergonomics

Ok, so remember how I said that although the illuminations show weavers sitting facing their band looms directly, I had to sit sideways to my Oseberg loom when I was weaving, because the crossbeam was at knee-height? That was true, but it wasn't the whole truth.

At Canterbury Faire I was weaving the Baltic S-motif, which is not a brocaded pattern. When I got home and set up my loom there, I realised I could turn my chest seat on its side, which would make it low enough for my knees to fit under the bar. I set up the loom so I was weaving from left to right, and I wove the rest of the band doing a passable job of sitting face-on (no pictures, sorry).

However, when I tried to do the same thing with a brocaded pattern, it just didn't work. When the band went from left to right, so the tiedowns were picked up to the left of the cards, I couldn't work out an efficient way to hold my hands. And when the band went from right to left, I just found myself gravitating to the old side-on posture. The turning the cards, passing the weft and beating were all fine face-on, but picking up the tiedowns was awkward any other way.

I'm not at all sure whether the way I'm weaving is optimal, or whether it just seems that way now from force of habit. I'd really like to hear from other people doing brocaded tablet weaving, whether they position their hands the same way I do, or whether I'm doing something freakish. You can't tell from any of the illuminations I've seen whether the weaving is brocaded (although the picture in the Hours of Catherine of Cleves seems to show two bobbins worth of weft) so there are no clues there.

It's a bit hard to explain exactly what my hands are doing so instead I've taken a short video of a couple of picks. This isn't meant to be an instructional video- there are some of those out there on YouTube though, well worth checking out- I was weaving at full speed to make my movements as natural as possible. But I'd really like to hear from any other brocaded tablet weavers out there, how my technique differs from their own.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Oseberg Loom

Here's the long-promised post about the Oseberg loom made for me by Iarnulf. Here's a link to Plate 13 from Osebergfunnet Vol. 2 with line drawings of the loom. Iarnulf has copied the dimensions closely. The wood is spruce and macrocarpa while the original was beech. The loom stands about a metre tall and is just under 2m in length. Here's a photo, taken before it was oiled.

It feels great to be weaving on a documentable loom. Because it breaks down into pieces it's also very convenient for taking to camping events. The goodly length means you can go for a long time without having to reverse your twine direction (As I've mentioned before, it does make it very inconvenient for setting up in the living room!).

If I had one complaint it would be that the crossbar is right where my knees want to be when sitting on my chest seat which means I can't have my lap directly below where I'm weaving so the bobbins can drop there when not in use. This could easily be fixed with a lower or higher seat of course (the chest seat does OK when turned on its side). It does show the upside of the overhead crossbar as seen in many 14th and 15th century illuminations such as the picture at right from a festal missal of Savoy, ca. 1460 (The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB 128 D 30).

I'll end with a picture of me using the loom; as you can see, in contrast to the ladies sitting at their looms in illuminations who are facing more or less perpendicular to the loom, I am sitting at an oblique angle due to the knee-high crossbeam. There seems to be no consensus in illumnations as to whether the weaving progresses from right to left as in this photo, or from left to right. I'll touch on this topic more in a later post.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Knotwork belt

Warp: Red silk
Weft: Really thin red silk
Brocade weft: 3x Anchor lame gold
Pattern: Knotwork brocade, based on 11th century Swiss pattern
Cards: 67
Width: 3.5cm
Length: 2m

This band is a belt for Sinech, a local SCAdian who does beautiful embroidery. Her persona is 8th century Irish but lacking documentation for tablet weaving going on around there we decided on a knotwork pattern based on a band from 11th century Riggisberg, Switzerland. It's on page 170 of EPAC. The original had 146 tablets but I created a dumbed down version with only 67.

I wove this band on the inkle loom, like the last one. Here's a picture of it in progress. Brocade weft coverage is not great but the pattern is still quite striking. Since this is a belt I put slits in the blank areas of the pattern in the middle section of the band. This worked a lot better than it did on the "Anglo-Saxon" belt from last year- the slits are pretty much invisible. This is more an artefact of the weaving technique and materials (much denser warp) than any improvement in my weaving I think.

It occurred to me recently that since we have a scanner I should really be scanning my bands with that rather than bugging my flatmate with the fancy camera to photograph them all the time. So here's a scan of this band. Obviously the downside of this plan is you can only see 30cm of it. You can get it in quite high resolution if you click on it though.

Hopefully I'll eventually get a picture of the finished belt- I'm leaving the sorting out of the buckle (and belt tip if she wants one) in Sinech's hands.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hello my Polish friends

I turned on Google Analytics recently and have discovered that Poland is right up there with New Zealand (where I live) and the US in terms of number of visits to this blog, over 3x more than Australia and Denmark which are tying for 4th place. Additionally, Poland makes up over 40% of my worldwide direct traffic! Not that it isn't great to have you around but I am curious as to what led you here. Would anyone like to offer an explanation in the comments?

A bonus fun fact is that over 80% of all my visitors are on Windows but only 12% are using Internet Explorer :-)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wooden Bobbins

Here are the different types of wooden bobbin I have been using recently. All three are made by local artisans. The top one is made by Ronan Mac Brian and is inspired by the reel in The Medieval Household- the same one pictured in this post in Haandkraft. This bobbin wasn't designed for tablet weaving and the wide section is just a little top wide for passing through the shed. It works very nicely for reeling thread onto, which is handy for when you want to do a continuous warp and need to have the same colour on more than one reel.

The second one is one of three is by Lowrans Wilyamson and along with the warp spreader he made me was payment for the bands I made for his Lady earlier this year. He made them after a discussion we had about the bobbins in the Hours of Catherine of Cleves although as you can see they aren't that similar. Lowrans wasn't at all sold on the bifurcation- partly because I couldn't think of a good reason for it, and partly because it would have been a pain to turn on his lathe.

These bobbins are a bit painstaking to reel because of the narrow stem so Lowrans has made me some more of the third type above. These ones were inspired by finds detailed in Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: Wood and Woodworking in Anglo- Scandinavian and Medieval York" by Carole A. Morris (right). The point makes it easier to find the shed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Evebo Animal Frieze

I recently noticed that I am the #1 hit on Google for 'evebo pattern' (and second for 'evebo "tablet weaving') which has made me feel a little guilty since there's no such pattern to be found here.

However, there is a pattern to be found on the web- you need to join the SCA-Card-Weaving yahoo group to access it, but the group has all sorts of interesting discussions and if you're keen enough on tablet weaving to be into 3/1 broken twill, you'll probably enjoy being on it anyway. If not, you can set the group to not send you any emails, or join it just long enough to get the file. The pattern is in the Files section, in a file called "Evebo". It is in GTT format. You can download GTT from here.

Hopefully that will alleviate my guilt!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"Middle Eastern" band

Warp: Dark green and yellow silk
Pattern: Egyptian diagonals, based on middle-eastern emboridery
Cards: 56
Width: 4.5cm
Length: 65cm

Lacking any actual tabletwoven bands to base the pattern I was weaving for my friend Maheshti on, we ended up deciding on a pattern from a medieval middle-eastern embroidery sampler. Unfortunately I forgot to note down the name of the book or any more specific information- I will ask Maheshti and see if she remembers!

The pattern is very diagonal-centric, so I decided to use Egyptian diagonals for it. As mentioned in my previous post, this is even less documentable than other techniques such as doubleface and brocade, but it fits the pattern well, Maheshti didn't seem bothered, and I'll be honest, it's not like I have much excuse to make Egyptian diagonal bands for my own uses so I may as well take what chances I get.

This is the first band where I have created the pattern myself. Luckily it's pretty easy to do with this technique.

I decided to weave this band on my flatemate's inkle loom. Although I love my Oseberg loom (which I will blog about soon, promise!) a six foot loom isn't really practical for using in front of the TV in the living room, which is where I like to do most of my weaving. The inkle loom is not period, but it is very portable and doesn't dominate the room.

The reversals in this pattern are not too frequent so the weaving went quite quickly. As with the Finnish S-motif band I did earlier in the year, I flipped the cards rather than dividing them into forward- and backward-turning packs. And as with that band, this was really hard on the cards! As the band progressed, the cards began to fall apart (mostly by having the holes rip out) and I kept having to sellotape them back together. By the end, almost all the corners (except for the border cards, which were never flipped) were taped up, and the tape was catching on things, and the whole thing was a bit of a nightmare. You might think this was an argument against using playing cards with this technique, but I think actually it would have been a lot harder to flip more rigid cards. I think if I was doing it again I would stop halfway through and re-thread with a new set of cards.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

(Flimsy) Evidence for Tablet Weaving in the Medieval Middle East

Happy AS 45, everone.

A friend of mine recently asked me to do some Middle Eastern tablet weaving for her. I set to work, looking to see what I could document. Result? Nothing. I don't know whether they weren't doing tablet weaving in period, they were but the evidence doesn't survive or isn't widely available in English, or if I'm just looking in the wrong places. My friend wasn't going to let that get in the way of some pretty trim, so I changed my focus from "What tablet weaving did they do in the Middle East?" to "What is the least implausible technique to use for tablet weaving in the Middle East?" The answer I came up with was brocaded or doubleface. Please note that I am NOT suggesting that I have evidence that these techniques were practised in the Middle East in period. All the examples I could come up with were a) created either outside the Middle East or out of period and b) made by Christians (My friend's persona is Arab). It's just the best guess I could make with the information I have.

There are 2 brocaded bands from Israel mentioned in EPAC: a piece of 7th century trim from Coptic Egypt, and a medieval fragment from a Crusader church. A doubleface band from Coptic Egypt (10th century) features on p. 172 of Collingwood. There are also the Jerusalem Garters, which date from the mid-17th century onward, pictured on p. 169 of Collingwood.

If anyone out there knows of any tabletwoven bands from the Medieval Middle East, I would love to heard about them. Meanwhile, what technique did I use for my friend's band? Egyptian diagonals. Well, the pattern she wanted was just crying out for them, and it's not as though I'll have much opportunity to make Egyptian diagonal bands documentable to my own persona. The writeup of that band will follow shortly.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Period bands in Collingwood

Peter Collingwood's The Techniques of Tablet Weaving is probably the most comprehensive book out there on tablet weaving in general. It also contains a lot of information on (SCA) period bands. However since the book is organised by technique and not by time or place, it can be hard to track these details down. Below for my own reference and that of other people is a list of items from the SCA period that I have found from skimming the 2002 book. If you notice something I've missed (and I'm bound to have missed something!) please let me know.
  • p108, 208, plate 167 Maniple of St Ulrich, diagonals and brocading
  • p109 Egyptian diagonals including medieval Finnish bands
  • p114, 217 12th century Sicilian Orphrey, diagonals and brocading
  • p117 12th century belt of Philip of Swabia, checkerboard effect with warp twining
  • p119 9th-10th century Germanic (Augsburg and Speyer) bands, lettering with warp twining
  • p122 "Anglo-Saxon" belt with card idling- more recent research suggests this belt is probably from the medieval period
  • p132 hunting horn belt of Herzon Julius van Braunschweig 1580-90, six-hole three-thread pattern
  • p137 Snartemo V
  • p 148 Danish bronze age hopsack
  • p149 9th-10th century Speyer, hopsack with warp floats
  • p152 late medival Icelandic antependium, hopsack with floats and warp twining
  • p155 early medieval St Maurice Switzerland plain weave and warp floats
  • p165 Iron age Dätgen, Germany, 2/1 twill
  • p196 12th century English/Scottish seal tags, doubleface
  • p199 Girdle from Iron age Dätgen, Germany, half turns between picks
  • p208 Viking (Evebo, Snartemo, Setrang) and other sources double faced 3/1 broken twill (Evebo pattern is on p221)
  • p212 picture of 12th centry stole from Arlon, Belgium, 3/1 broken twill
  • p219 12th century German "Aardvark pushing a lion mask" 3/1 broken twill + brocade
  • p233-235 Mammen, Denmark 3/1 broken twill
  • p239 Section on brocade begins, loads of period stuff
  • p258 Evebo tapestry
  • p278 12th century Durham, transposed warp

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Finnish band- Egyptian Diagonals

Note: This pattern doesn't match exactly what's in Hansen; you can see an updated version here

White and light green silk
Pattern: Kaukola 'S' motif
Cards: 15
Width: 1cm
Length: 1.1m

I wanted to try a non-brocaded pattern at Canterbury Faire and this seemed like a pretty gentle introduction. This is the band from Kaukola mentioned on page 109 of Collingwood. It is from 11th-13th century Finland. It is covered in Hansen, pattern included. This is the first time I've tried to follow a non-brocade pattern out of Hansen. People had warned me that Hansen's patterns are not the clearest but this was my first personal encounter with them (It didn't help that I was working from the Danish version of the book). In the end I abandoned the pattern and just worked it out from the picture of the reconstruction. The pattern is only 7 tablets wide so it wasn't too hard to work out and would have been trivial if I'd done any patterns with Egyptian diagonals before. Here is my diagram of the pattern, a la Phiala's Snartemo patterns. The red and blue horizontal lines indicate flipping the cards, or changing the direction in which they turn, if that's your preference- but I think flipping them is much easier to keep track of with this sort of pattern.

Once I'd worked out what I was doing the band went quickly at about 20cm per hour. I didn't know what I was going to do with it at the time.

Near the end of the event, I was wearing my blue T-tunic. It's the oldest piece of garb I still possess (so old it's machine sewn!) and it also happens to feature my very first piece of tablet weaving. It was an 8-card chevron pattern just like I was teaching at Canterbury Faire this year, and I didn't have a clue what I was doing, and consequently screwed it up quite regularly (I don't think I even had it threaded properly now I look at it). When I came to sew it on to the tunic I didn't quite have enough where the pattern wasn't a complete disaster so at the back of the neck I tried to piece the shorter better-looking pieces together. Here's a picture of the shameful result. I always do my best to cover up the back with my veil or headrail, but a comment from a certain gentle at Canterbury Faire about how she "liked the way" I had hidden the dodgy areas finally alerted me to the fact that this wasn't working very well.

The tunic is still doing fine so it now bears this new band. In terms of authenticity I'm not really sure whether a band in a technique only documented to the Baltic region is an improvement on the chevron that was there before, but it looks much prettier.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Name Change

Well, I think the time has come- the next two bands I will be writing about are not brocaded. So I've changed the name of the blog to "Adventures in Historical Tabletweaving". There will be more brocaded bands, but they probably won't be in the majority any more.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

More Tablet woven bands in Sakrale Gewänder des Mittelalters

Here are the details on the further tablet woven bands I found when going through Sakrale Gewänder des Mittelalters. In addition there were a few that mentioned tablet woven bands without giving any details on their composition, and many more that mentioned "gold bands" which I assume were probably tablet woven.

5. Two fragments of a cingulum (Augsburg, Diocesan Museum, late 9th century)

a) Red tablet-woven silk band with narrow, yellow-green edges. Inscription, created through different directions of the warp strands: IN NOMINE DOMINI AILBECUND VE ... VXPI (Christ) IHEV (Jesus) NOSTRI IN NOMINE DOME (Domini). The end of the band is bound with gold bands. In the middle of the band are sewn on little silver frames (5x4cm), in which under glass one finds a piece of silk (probably little bits of the sewn-on stripes from b). On the back side of the silver frame, seal impressions. Length 123.5cm, width 3.8cm. Materially and technically belonging together with Queen Hemma's girdle. German, late in the 9th century. Originally formed together with b) a cingulum or a stole. Mounting from the 16th century.

b) Silk band like a). Inscription: .OMINE DOMINI NO(stri). On this band is sewn on a narrow, tablet-woven band of red, blue, white and green warp strands with mythical animals in rectangular fields. One fragment of this stripe is bound in a silver application from a). At the end of the silk band a silver closure of the 14th century - length 35.5cm, width 3.8cm

South German, late in the 9th century. Originally formed together with a) a cingulum or a stole. Sewn-on stripes from the same time or a bit later, possibly Islamic. Mounting from the 14th century

7. Maniple of St Ulrich (Andechs, Pilgrimage church, treasury, 10th century)

Band of linen and silk, white with brown edges. Pattern: Two crosses repeat beside one another, alternatingly filled with a lion and a bird. In between leaf tendrils. In the border stripes yellow zigzag lines with axes (?). At both ends diagonal stripes of lilac silk and with knotted on silk fringe in dark violet, pink, white and brown. - Length 124cm, width 4.5cm. In a statement of the Andechser Heiltüm of 1457 a "Hand fan" of St Ulrich is included. The maniple may actually date from the 10th century. Pattern and material show similarities with a stole in St Ulrich and Afra in Augsburg, that is likewise connected with the name of St Ulrich.

This is NOT the Maniple of St Ulrich with the Hand of God on it (That's the one at St Ulrich and Afra) but I assume it is tablet woven despite the description not saying so.

It's a pity there is no picture of either of these!

Catalogue of Sakrale Gewänder des Mittelalters

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, here's a list of the contents of Sakrale Gewänder des Mittelalters, in case it's of use to anyone. If anyone happens to be interested in one of the items here let me know and I'll provide the text and/or picture(s) of the item in question. It's a bit long so it's after the jump. Sorry for any oddities in the translation. Items in italics come with pictures.

While writing this up I found a few more mentions of tablet weaving, which I'll write up separately.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Viking Bobbins

As mentioned in the previous post, theses bobbins were part of the payment for the Birka 6 bands I'm making for Bjorn. They are based on an item in the Swedish Historical Museum (pictured below). In addition, they look a little like the bobbin in the picture at the end of this post, which a scene of the annunciation from a Festal Missal of Savoy (Den Haag, KB 128 D 30, fol. 37r, c. 1460).

The bobbins work well for tablet weaving, having a wide neck making them quick to wind thread onto, but a narrow profile making them easy to pass through the shed. However, lacking any notches or other way to stop them from unravelling, they do tend to unwind when in use which can be a bit annoying.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Birka 6

Warp: Dark green silk
Brocade: Spun sterling silver (Devere)
Pattern: Birka 6
Cards: 21
Width: 1.2cm
Length: 2m

This band is for Bjorn, in return for the replica Viking beater in the previous post, as well as a bone pickup stick and some antler bobbins which I will blog about shortly. It is very similar to the other Birka patterns I have done.

Bjorn supplied me with some 28 gauge sterling silver wire to use for the brocade, but I couldn't make it turn corners sharply enough. You can see my attempt to use it at left in the picture below. When that failed I turned to Devere's sterling silver metalic thread around a cotton core. It is very nice to work with, my favourite brocade thread so far. I used it double stranded.

Bjorn liked the band, originally intended for cuffs around his tunic, enough to commission more of the same- this time to go around the neck- in return for a chest, so I'm about to start on a second metre of it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


To the right are the items I have been using as a beater. The ruler is provided not for scale, but because I used it as a beater for all my projects last year. It works very well.

Above it is a bone folder. I'm told it can be bought at any craft store and is used for things like bookbinding and paper crafts (it was a gift). It also works very well, and looks unobtrusive doing it.

The top item is based on an object found at Visby which is thought to be a beater. It is pictured below and you can read about it at ArkeoDok, although apparently since that page was written the item has been more firmly identified as a tablet weaving beater.

All these items look somewhat similar, but they are quite different from the tablet weaving warp beaters depicted in 14th/15th century manuscripts. These are of wood and resemble swords or knives (or sometimes, seem more like baseball bats or popsicles- see the lineup I have assembled below). Eventually I will get myself one of these.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tablet woven bands in Sakrale Gewänder des Mittelalters

Every now and then I get a little excited about some book just because it has some passing reference to something I'm currently researching. Sakrale Gewänder des Mittelalters (Hirmer Verlag Muenchen, 1955) piqued my curiosity a few months ago due to being cited by a few people in relation to the Girdle of Witgarius. It happened to be on offer cheap second hand on Amazon at the time and I couldn't help myself. So, what does this book say about the Girdle (my translation from the German)?

Red, tablet woven silk band with narrow, yellow-green edges, in the middle cut into two pieces and sewn together. At both ends trapezoidal end pieces sewn on. Brocade in gold thread forms the field for the inscription in red relief: "WITGARIO TRIBVTI SACRO SPIRAMINE PLENVM x HANC ZONAM REGINA NITENS SANCTISSIMA HEMMA x. On the end pieces, in red and white, the warp creates the pattern: Eagle white on red, correspondingly on the back side red on white, in which on both sides the white is covered in gold thread. The warp is collected at the ends in ten bundles, bound tightly with white silk and finished in each case with a bead. Above and beneath the eagle are diagonal stripes, which were originally studded with pearls. Only 15 such pearls remain. - Length 138cm, width 3.8cm, end pieces 5cm.

It then goes on to talk about similar bands found elsewhere. Not a lot of detail, but still some stuff of interest, so I thought I'd post it here in case anyone else is researching this item. There is also a picture of the side where the lettering is red, but it is no better than the one in Collingwood. Information on this item can also be found on p.237 of EPAC which dates it to between 860 and 876.

There is another tablet woven "belt" pictured in this book so I will include the translation for that as well. It is the Girdle of St Kunigunde:

Tablet woven band of red and blue silk with gold. Probably woven as a stole. Neck piece with checkerboard pattern in blue and red. Both end pieces with doubled brocade of gold thread, patterned with angular tendrils and sparse leaves. At the ends square applications of gilded silver with engraved representations of the evangelists' symbols. 14th century. -Length 142 cm. Cut at the ends. Width 3.8cm.

There is a picture, but all that can really be made out are the "evangelists' symbols" which appear to be an eagle on one end and a winged goat? on the other. This band is on p.238 of EPAC but the information there is just based on the above passage.

In addition to these two tablet woven articles, this book contains many lovely pictures of woven and embroidered ecclesiastical garments from medieval Germany. In retrospect it was a great purchase! In particular it has a picture of the buskins of Pope Clement II, clearly showing they have a separate sole piece, which is a question I was wanting the answer to a while back.

Although not really relevant to this blog, I think I may soon write out a list of the contents in a separate post, which may be of interest to people who a) are thinking of buying the book or b) are madly googling some item that happens to be in it in the hopes of finding a source of information.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chalton Shuttle

There is a line drawing of a shuttle on page 36 of Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England. AD 450-700 by Walton Rogers described as "a bone band-weaver's shuttle, around which the weft would have been wound, from a 7th century settlement at Charlton, Hampshire".

There was some effort a few years ago on the SCA-Card-Weaving list to track down the original object, but details surrounding the 1970s dig seem to be lost to the mists of time.

At Canterbury Faire earlier this month, I had a discussion with a gentle I hadn't met before about this picture. He was a woodworker and spent quite a bit of time over the event working in our encampment, where we had various crafty things going on. Near the end of the event, I came back from somewhere or other to find the below item beside my loom. I didn't see him again to thank him! It's things like this that make Canterbury Faire really special.

This shuttle is wood rather than bone. It is about 10cm long. The flat edge can double as a beater (although the item does not have a lot of heft to it). I have not had a chance to use it yet.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Finished Items

I finally got some photos of a couple of items I finished long after the tablet weaving for them was complete, and thought I'd share. They are the Kentish band on metal strips on purple silk, which has been turned into the neck and bicep trim in my new day bliaut, and the "Dogs and Flowers" cingulum.

The cingulum lay unfinished for a long time because I couldn't work out how to finish it. I wanted it to look like the one below, which is one of the figures from Chartres cathedral. The dangly bits are tied loosely in a reef knot and the length of them seems to have many horizontal lines. I haven't managed to find any theories on how exactly this was achieved. Obviously the resulting dangly bits must be quite heavy for the knot to stay open like that.

In the end I just bound the length of the ends in (cheap, synthetic) piping. Obviously the materials are way off, but the look is pretty good I think. The knot stays in place no problem, and the weight also means that the centre of the belt stays nice and high around my waist, which I understand is something some people have problems with.

The bliaut is made of purple wool (looks much bluer in these photos than in reality). It has triangluar sleeves, although you can't see them here.

The lacing method is new to me- it is an attempt to recreate the lacing seen on one of the statues on Angers cathedral, where a spiral laced cord passes through gaps in a cord binding at the side opening. The cord binding is made of lucet cord which has itself been luceted. I don't recommend this; it takes forever.

I intended to make the sides narrow enough that the sides would gape as on the statue, but apparently I am squishier than I thought because the gaps closed completely.