Monday, November 16, 2015

A Laurel Band in 3/1 Twill

I've made a few versions of this band in the past - one for Mistress Amata, one for Mistress Oksana, and one that I gave to Mistress Willoc. It was entered in Kingdom A&S in 2012.

The link to the PDF pattern is here: PDF Pattern

Note: What is below is my documentation packet, pulled from MS Word. The photos I used didn't pull over (but the captions did) - and at this point, I'm not going to try and find those photos again to put in. If you would like to see the photos used, please let me know. Approximately 1/2 are from books (citation given) and 1/2 are my photos (labeled Author).  I often use the same 'Technique of Tablet Weaving' section in multiple documentation packets, so you may also find the photos in other things I've written.

Laurel Wreath Hair Filet made from Tablet-Woven Silk

This is a hair filet to be worn as a Laurel Wreath. It is made from silk, and features a repeating laurel pattern in 3/1 broken twill tablet weaving.

Material: recycled spun 3-ply silk
Tools: leather tablets, Oseberg style loom, shuttle
Pattern: original design, based on historical examples

Technique of Tablet Weaving

Figure 1: Technique of Tablet Weaving (Collingwood 22)

Tablet weaving is a type of twined-warp weaving in which tablets (also called cards) form the sheds with holes (usually 2 or 4) through which the warp ends are threaded. If the tablets are rotated, either in groups or singly, sheds are created for the passage of the weft. (Crowfoot et al. 213)  Different patterns (including double-faced) can be created by how the tablets are threaded and which direction they are turned. Simple patterns rely on moving blocks of tablets in the same direction (4 forward, 4 backwards, for example) while in the most complex weaving, each tablet is individually manipulated, as in 3/1 broken twill patterning like this piece.

The Materials

Silk, wool, and linen were traditional materials used for weaving in Medieval Europe. (Crowfoot et. al 15-19; 130) Silk was imported from the East, and was considered a luxury item, while wool and linen were locally produced. Materials were often combined in the same piece of weaving, often with wool forming the ‘ground weave’, with silk brocaded over the top in complex designs. All silk and all wool bands have also been found, as well as all linen, and some that are missing elements of the weave, presumably plant fiber (linen), which has disappeared. (Collingwood 17)

Historically, the silk used in tablet weaving was usually plied and then doubled or tripled. (Crowfoot, et al. 130) Silk filament is naturally off-white, and easily takes dyes, and very bright, vibrant colors are possible. Red dyestuffs include kermes and madder, while green was produced by overdyeing weld (yellow) with woad (blue). (Crowfoot et. al 19-20)  Examples of embroidery on shoes indicate the 3 colors were used at the same time, as well. (Grew and de Neergaard 77)

Recycling silk from one piece of fabric to another is known from ancient times, when silk and metal threads were so valuable that old items were recycled into new items, either as whole pieces, or unwoven so it could be re-made as something new. (Lardner 16, Spies 13-15)  I used 3-ply silk from recycling sweaters labeled “100% silk” from thrift stores. All of the silk is the original color from the 3 individual sweaters, to ensure a constant dye-lot. See Appendix I for details on recycling silk sweaters for weaving projects.


The Tablets
Figure 2: Leather cards (Author)

Examples of tablets for weaving have been found in wood, bone, antler, and leather. (Collingwood 25; Crowfoot et. al 24) It is possible that metal was also used, although such tablets could wear through the warp threads during weaving. Tablets need to be thin and fairly consistent in order to create the best weaving. The historical tablets are in the 1-2” (25-40mm) range, much smaller than most modern examples. (Crowfoot et. al 24) Small, thin tablets are an advantage when working with a wide warp, in order to keep it all in line.

I made the leather tablets used for weaving the filet. There has been one example found in Bryggen in Bergen, Norway, (Øye 78) dated to the medieval period, and the supposition is that other leather cards have just not survived in the archaeological record. These cards were handmade, using 3-4 oz leather (3/64-1/32” thick). Each tablet was individually cut using a cutting die in a press for consistency. Uneven and inconsistent tablets seem to be more common than our modern examples show, based on the examples from the Oseberg ship burial.

Leather tablets have 2 distinct sides - the smooth ‘grain’ side, and the fuzzier ‘flesh’ side. I use leather with very smooth flesh sides, because the fuzz can tangle in the threads while turning the tablets. Using vegetable tanned leather for the tablets allows decoration, as well. Stamping, carving, and painting are all medieval leather decoration techniques, and work well to customize the cards.

The Loom
Historically, tablet weaving was done on backstrap looms and the ‘Oseberg’ style band loom, based on manuscript illuminations. (Collingwood 17; Figures 3, 4, and 5)  These looms all help control the unwoven section of the warp, while keeping the tablets under tension.

Figure 3: Backstrap method of tablet weaving (Collingwood 34)
The backstrap loom is the simplest and oldest. The warp is connected to a stationary point (a hook on the wall, for example) and then the fell (woven area) is attached to the weaver, usually at the belt. (Collingwood 31) This type of loom has been used for a variety of weaving techniques around the world, although it leaves no ‘physical’ trace in the archaeological record.

Figure 4: Example of tablet weaving on an Oseberg style band loom (KB 76 F 21, fol. 14r, c. 1400-1410)
The Oseberg band loom is an improvement on the backstrap method of weaving. The tablet weaving is attached to 2 fixed poles, and the weaving occurs between them. Such weaving has even tension, and it can be left in place between weaving sessions. Examples in various manuscripts show similar looms, often with the Virgin Mary doing tablet weaving. It is so-named because of the noblewoman’s grave with a loom warped for tablet weaving. (Collingwood 17)

The Shuttle
Figure 5: Example of tablet weaving on an Oseberg style band loom (KB 128 D 30, fol. 37r, c. 1460)
I use simple wooden shuttles with a ‘knife edge’ for both passing the weft and beating the weaving tight. As can be seen in Figures 3 and 4, a ‘sword beater’ is often shown, which is a wood or metal piece, shaped like a small sword, with a blunt edge to beat down the weft. (see Figures 3 and 4) Using a separate beater can have some advantages, although using a knife edged shuttle means one less piece to carry around.

Creating the Pattern
This pattern is the first original design I developed after learning how to draft and create patterns in 3/1 twill. This pattern is designed to be continuous (See figure 10 below). While many 3/1 twill motifs are separate (small sections combined to form the ribbon) – the Hallstatt examples (c. 400BCE Austria) were done as repeating patterns, specifically for trimming the edge of garments. (Bichler, et al. 81-90)

The pattern was developed using Excel for easy manipulation (see color draft and weaving drafts pages 8-9 below). The pattern uses 21 tablets, with 2 solid colored selvedge on each side and 17 pattern tablets. Each pick of the weave involves turning each tablet in a specific way, forward or backwards. The pattern repeats over 32 picks.

Starting with a blank Excel grid, the laurel pattern was put in first, using the ‘rules’ and examples from Mistress Phiala’s article in TWIST (Goslee 8-9).  Then the background was filled in to create the twill patterning. Because the pattern repeats, it was necessary to double check the ‘join’ between rows 32 and 1 to be sure the twill continued correctly.  Part of designing in 3/1 broken twill is deciding where the ‘floats’ (sections of abnormal weave, where the card will ‘idle’ in order to be in the correct position for the consecutive pick) will appear. All of the floats are just before a pattern change, following historical examples.

Figure 6: Detail from the stole from the Church of St. Donat, Arlon, Belgium (Collingwood Plate 173)

The pattern for the laurel vine is inspired by a small motif from the stole kept at the church of St. Donat, said to belong to St. Bernard, who died in 1153. (Collingwood 208; 212-213, plate 173) The stole was woven in 3/1 broken twill, using different colored silks for the motifs and background. 3/1 broken twill was the more common weave set-up for tablet weaving designs in Europe, based on the surviving examples, which date from as early as 400BCE. (Collingwood 208, Bichler, et. al 81-90) Many pieces show similar design elements – a striped background, with the pattern usually in the lighter color. The weaving technique allows for very clean diagonal lines, but not horizontal or vertical color breaks. This lends itself to ‘vining’ motifs, like the Laurel pattern.

I chose to reverse the color choice from the historical examples, in order to make the leaves green. I chose red and white for the background based on the color preferences of the recipient and for good contrast.

Warping and Weaving the Piece
Figure 7: Warped tablets. (Author)
The tablets were warped using the ‘continuous warp’ method. The cards in the center (warped green and red) were done first, and then the outer cards (white and green). The selvedge was done last (all red) and then all the cards were moved into the correct position, based on the pattern (page 8 below).

Figure 8The warped loom. (Author)

The pattern was woven using the ‘plain’ pattern (page 9 below), with just the ‘+’ and ‘-‘. The color pattern (page 8) was used only when a mistake in the weaving was found, in order to correct for the next pick.

Figure 9The progression of weaving. (Author)

To help control tension and keep it even, the angle of the warp (see Figures 8 and 9) was shifted as needed. Because the selvedge always turns forward, twist build up increases dramatically, compared to the rest of the weaving. Therefore the selvedge cards were ‘flipped’ on their axes (from S to Z and vice versa) after every pattern repeat. This helped ‘untwist’ the build up.  As the weaving progressed (Figure 9) the unwoven end was untied and all of the twists were worked out before being retied.

Figure 10Close up of weaving.. (Author)

3/1 broken twill is one of the most complex tablet weaving methods because of the ‘offset’ nature of the cards. Each card moves in the traditional ‘Forward-Forward-Back-Back’ system – but it will never be in the same position as the ones on either side.  If a card gets turned incorrectly, it can be difficult to ‘see’ that it isn’t right, unlike in double-face double-weave, where all of the cards are in sync. It is also easy to create extra-long ‘floats’, where the threads aren’t twining correctly. Mistakes are also hard to correct, because 3/1 twill is harder to ‘unweave’ than double-face double weave.

Hair Filets
Figure 11 Extant example of a hair filet attached to false hair. (Crowfoot et al. 132)

Hair filets were commonly in many parts of Europe by women of various ranks in the 14th  and 15th centuries, based on manuscript pictures and historical examples. (Crowfoot et al. 132, Figure 9)  Tablet weaving was used to create decorative filets, with either woven-in patterns (like this one) or using gold wire brocaded over the ground weave.  Brocading was the later technique, and was often used in conjunction with 3/1 twill patterning on the most ornate pieces. (Collingwood 208)

Works Consulted

Bichler, Peter, et al. Hallstatt Textiles: Technical Analysis, Scientific Investigation and Experiment on Iron Age Textiles. Oxford: Archaeopress, 2005.

Collingwood, Peter. The Techniques of Tablet Weaving. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1982. New Edition: McMinnville, Oregon:  Robin and Russ Handweavers, 2002.

Crowfoot, Elisabeth, Frances Pritchard and Kay Staniland. Textiles and Clothing c.1150 -- c.1450 (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 4). London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1992. New addition - Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2001, 2002.

Goslee, Sarah (SKA Mistress Phiala O'Ceallaigh). "Understanding Tablet Weaving part 3: Patterned Bands." TWIST - Tablet Weavers' International Studies and Techniques. Summer 2009: 8-9.

Grew, Francis and Margrethe de Neergaard. Shoes and Pattens (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London: 2). London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1988. New addition – Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2001.

Hald, Margrethe. Ancient Danish textiles from bogs and burials: a comparative study of costume and Iron Age textiles. Denmark: National Museum of Denmark, 1980.

Lardner, Dionysius. A Treatise on the Origin, Progressive Improvement, and Present State of the Silk Manufacture. Philadelphia: Carey & Lea, 1832.

Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Mary weaving in the Temple. 1410. Illuminated Book of Hours. Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands. Web. 18 Jan 2012. <>.

 -- Annunciation. 1460. Festal Missal. Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Netherlands. Web. 18 Jan 2012. <>.

Øye, Ingvild. Textile Equipments and Its Working Environment. Oslo, Norway: Universitetforlaget AS (Norwegian University Press), 1988.

Spies, Nancy. Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance. Jarretsville: Arelate Studio, 2000.

Band in red white, and green.
Band in gold, white, and red.

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