Samite

What, how, and dear gods why?!

Lets start out with what samite is. Samite is a compound twill, using two warp structures, to create a patterned fabric. At it’s heart that’s all it is. It is also one of the most luxurious, sought after, and valuable fabrics in history. Why? Because it’s a pain in the ass to weave and is generally done with silk and precious metal threads. It was also strictly controlled as a trade good. You couldn’t just go buy samite from anywhere, limited places were producing it (Assyria, Byzantium, and places owned by them were biggest producers) and that drove up costs.

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Figured samite showing common motifs

Traditionally samite involves a twill binding warp, and a core pattern warp (which ends up being completely covered by the motif being woven, much like a tapestry warp). The binding warp shows on the pattern as little dots, making it look over all like twill. Each color added to the over all design involves yet a more complicated pick up and treadling pattern. This would involve a loom that has multiple, almost an insane amount, of harnesses. I do not have that. I have an open 4 harness table loom. Which means being a wee bit nontraditional. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

All of the magic of samite happens inside the binding warp shed. Once that’s open you’re basically making tapestry on the pattern warp *inside* the shed of the twill. It’s super cool.

How this works (in an ideal world when you have enough shafts to not have to pick out your pattern):
-Open your twill shed.
-Open your first pattern shed, IE raise every thread that is NOT the color you are currently using as a weft.
-Throw weft 1 through the open pattern shed NOT between your pattern warp and twill warp.
-Close your first pattern pick NOT YOUR TWILL SHED.
-Open second pattern shed (if you’re using only 2 colors in your design this will be the inverse of your first pattern pick).
-Throw weft color 2 through the shed in your pattern warp.
-Close your second pattern shed.
-Repeat pattern sheds as needed (if you’re using more than 2 colors) until all colors in your design have been thrown.
-Close your twill shed.
-Beat into place, then repeat from the top.

If this sounds time consuming? Congrats! You’re right! It is! I’m averaging about 8-12 rows an hour. Not inches, rows. At this rate it takes me roughly an hour and a half to hour and forty-five minutes to weave one inch. And this is only doing one pattern repeat. BUT DON’T LET THAT SCARE YOU OFF! Seriously. If you’ve ever done any sort of pick up pattern before, you can do Samite.

As this is my first attempt I opted for only doing a 1 – 1.5in wide band of the stuff. Rather than actual yardage. Just in case I hate it. I warped a 2/1 twill using the first three harnesses, and warped all of my pattern warp through harness 4. This meant I could raise the entire pattern harness, pick out the pattern with a weaving sword, throw the pattern weft, then drop the pattern warp, pick out the ground with the weaving sword, and throw the ground weft, all without disturbing the 2/1 twill shed. I alternated threading a pattern warp and a twill warp for a ratio of 1:1 binding warp to pattern warp. I should have done a 2:1 pattern to binding warp threading since my binding warp came out too dense and ended up obscuring the pattern. You could probably take it down to 3:1 and it’d look just fine.

So what does that look like in plain numbers? For what I did here is my threading, 1,2, and 3 being white binding warp, 4 being green pattern warp:

1, 4, 2, 4, 3, 4

For what I should have done:

1, 2, 4, 3, 1, 4, 2, 3, 4

Yet a third option with less binding warp pattern disruption:

1, 4, 4, 2, 4, 4, 3, 4, 4

Because I did a 1:1 ratio my twill line is Very Very visible. Observe:

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Those diagonal lines of white dots are where you see my twill binding warp. If I’d made it a bit less dense it’d be a bit less pronounced. If I’d made it the same color as my ground it’d be less pronounced, but I’d go utterly bonkers trying to pick the pattern out. So I’m left with this.

Because I’m doing this on a normal table loom, and doing it as a pick up pattern rather than loom driven, I am using a pattern designed for tablet weaving. You can do this with a cartoon (like tapestry) or a transparency if you’ve got one. I just work better from charts, so that’s what I’m using. It means I can count threads just like I would for knitting or cross stitch, and means I could, if I wanted to in the future, use any color work chart intended for knitting or cross stitch, in order to make samite.

Here is how I make samite happen, with pictures because otherwise this is useless.

  1. Lift appropriate twill harness AND harness 4 (pattern harness). Note how 1/3 of the white binding warp is now lifted and all of the pattern warp is up.
  2. Slide my weaving sword under any pattern warp meant to be ground color, and over any of the pattern warp meant to be the main design. Note that all of the twill binding warp remains in it’s original position of 1/3 over the weaving sword and 2/3 under it. You should never manually alter the twill shed, just create the pattern shed. kimg0525-1290272809.jpg
  3. Throw my design weft, in this case black, through the shed created by my weaving sword. This takes the weft under any threads that will be the background and over any threads that will be design. kimg0526-1683878052.jpg
  4. Remove my weaving sword and lower the pattern warp ONLY. I am leaving the twill shed open.
  5. Beat the design weft into place.
  6. Taking my weaving sword I am *lifting* any pattern threads (not twill threads) that are *under* my design weft from my last pick. Any pattern threads that go over the design weft will lay under my weaving sword. You’ll notice this is just the inverse of the pick we just did with the design weft. kimg0529247869476.jpg
  7. Throw my background weft through the new pattern shed created by the weaving sword. The pattern warp should now be completely covered by either a pattern weft or a background weft. kimg053075205318.jpg
  8. Remove my weaving sword, close the twill shed, and beat into place. kimg05331941769426.jpg

Then you start back at step 1.

A few things to keep in mind to make this easier on yourself:

  1. Pick different color pattern and binding warps. DO NOT attempt to use the same color for both. Your pattern warp color does not matter as your pattern warp is entirely covered by your design. Do yourself a favor and pick one with a high contrast to your binding warp.
  2. The higher your thread count the smoother your lines and more clear your design will be. The band I’m doing is 60/2 silk, and there’s roughly 50 pattern warp threads in that 1in-ish wide band. This falls in line with “coarse” and “low quality” samite found in Danish viking era graves. If you’re going to use coarser thread, like 20/2, go for a much wider band and get the thread count as dense as you can for your pattern warp so your weft has space to make clean lines. Otherwise you’ll end up with 8 bit samite. Which is cool if that’s what you’re going for! Not so much if it’s not.
  3. Samite makes thick and heavy fabric. Think about it. You’re using two warps, and at least two wefts. You’re going to end up with a fabric twice as thick as you would get normally. Make sure you select your yarn, and plan your project, with this in mind. If you want delicate trim for a neckline then you don’t want to use no. 10 crochet cotton, it’ll be too thick. Aim for quilting thread at most. If you want a samite belt because you’re just that fancy? Then 20/2 weaving yarn or no. 10 crochet thread is perfect.
  4. As with any color work choose colors with high contrast. Otherwise, as you see in my sample with the gold weft on the green and silver background, your design won’t show up as well. You’re weaving samite, leave subtle for somewhere else.

 

Weaving With Handspun

Dos, Don’ts, and dear gods why?

So lets say you’re a weaver. Looms are hungry beasts and this is an expensive hobby to have. Yeah it’s awesome, but looms aren’t cheap and neither is the yarn yardage required to make cloth happen. Especially if you’re trying to weave at a pre-modern thread count. Think about it, each inch wide piece of cloth for a one yard length at 50epi takes roughly 75 yards of thread for the warp alone. Add in the weft and that’s two spools of sewing thread for an inch of cloth. If you’re using something nicer than polyester quilting thread that adds up Super Fast.

Fleece, however, is dirt cheap compared to finished yarn. So you may start thinking of weaving with handspun yarn. You get a product that’s even MORE handmade, you can control the historical accuracy (or not) of your thread, and it just sounds super impressive. So lets take a look at getting started.

Do: Start with handspun weft and commercial warp.

Why? Weft is the more forgiving of the two. You don’t have to have as hard spun a yarn, or as perfectly spun, for it to produce a beautiful finished product. Weft isn’t under tension and isn’t being constantly abused by the reed, beater, and heddles.

Don’t: Start with handspun warp.

Why? Warp is constantly abused. It is extremely difficult to handspin a yarn that’ll stand up to that treatment without snapping. You can do it, most of human history did it, but it takes a skill set most modern spinners don’t quite have. Work up to this. Remember, even just a handspun weft increases your accuracy and the amount of the project you made yourself.

Do: Spin more than you think you need.

Unlike store bought yarn when you’re out of your handspun, you’re out. Yes you can spin more, but it’s difficult to get it to match exactly the longer you go between batches. Worst case if you spin too much? You have scrap yarn for making a scrap scarf, or naalbinding, or knitting with. You have options. Heck even just displaying handspun in a nice vase or bowl makes a lovely conversation piece.

Don’t: Forget to Process Your Yarn First.

There is nothing more frustrating than having a piece of cloth either be over energized (wrinkle and twist when you don’t want it to) or shrink way more than expected. You can cut down on this by prewashing your yarn and finishing it rather than just weaving with it right off the spindle.  I know it’s exciting and you want to get right to it, I’m guilty of this too. But it will make you happier in the end.

Do: Make Peace With Wonky Edges.

Your handspun is not going to be as perfectly even as machine spun yarn. You can get close! And the more you practice with spinning the closer you’ll get! But weaving shows every uneven point in your yarn. Accept it’ll happen, and either make peace with hemming, or embrace the wobble.

Don’t: Skimp on sizing.

Even if you don’t usually size your warp? Do it here. Handspun tends to be stickier and fuzzier than machine processed yarns, which means you’ll need help getting a clear shed. This is double true if you’ve decided to use a handspun warp. I use flax snot. Boil some flax seeds in water until it thickens up into disgusting feeling goop, strain the seeds out, and either soak your yarn or paint it on. It’ll give you a little bit of added protection to help your shed open cleanly AND help keep your warp from tangling and breaking so often.

Weaving with handspun is super rewarding if you ever get the bug to try it. If not? No worries! Keep on doing what you’re doing, hand weaving itself is beautiful! Spinning for its own sake and not to weave? Also awesome! I just hope this helped you out if you decide to combine the two.

Weaving the Sacred

Beloved guests, you don’t have to follow a particular religion in order to be respectful to it. And boy howdy if you’re going to make something associated with any particular religion you need to have a lot of respect for it. Today we’re going to break down the bare bones of what that looks like with a very specific project plan.

A friend of mine posted on a popular social media site that she was considering buying a Tallit. She posted a couple links of things she was looking at. She is someone I am rather fond of and so I offered to weave her one custom. As a gift. Because I believe sacred objects should be gifted not sold. I did agree to let her buy the silk for me to make it with because well, I’ve been dealing with a lot of Life lately and I’m broke and living on my own for the first time. So lets break down how to make this, shall we?

Step 1: Research.

Know what you want to make. Read up on it, ask people whom it is sacred to why it is sacred. What makes it holy? What are the parts? Are their parts that are more holy than others? Is there something that you just should NOT make/touch as someone who doesn’t follow the faith or cultural practice in question? Is there something that HAS to be there? Is there a specific thing that CAN NOT be there?

If the answer is “do not make this thing. Do not wear this thing. Do not do this thing in this way” honor that. Full stop, no buts, end of discussion, thanks for coming to my TED talk. It’s not yours, you’re not entitled to it because it looks cool.

In my case the questions I had were:

What is a Tallit? Short answer: A Jewish prayer shawl.

What should I not make as someone who is not Jewish? The tassels. Those are extra sacred and I’m not comfortable putting those on.

Is it still going to be sacred if I (a not Jewish person) make it? Yes if it’s blessed by a Rabbi after I make it, before it’s used.

Is there anything I CAN NOT do to make it? YES do not mix wool and linen. No mixing fibers. That’s bad. So pure silk it is. Just avoiding the possibility of wool/linen mixing or the question of if a cotton blend is ok. Silk is good.

Other than that the person it’s a gift for signed off on the colors and design. So we’re good there.

Step two: Is the faith practice you’re making or the culture you’re working from still alive and active?

If so then you really Really need to talk to people who actually practice and make sure you’re not stepping on toes. If not, look at why. If it suffered a violent death or was stomped out rather than just faded with time? Maybe skip this project.

In my case, yes this is still a very Very alive and active and vibrant faith. So I sought out a couple other folks who practice it aside from the friend this is for to check and make sure this was really alright.

Step three: Be brutally honest with yourself for why you want to make it. 

Are you looking to convert? Did you marry into this faith or cultural practice? Is it a gift for someone who follows it? Are you attempting to authentically reenact a specific place and time where this would have been ubiquitous? Are you looking to create something challenging and display it with the appropriate context and research?

Or.

Do you want something pretty without context? Did you see someone wearing it and decided you needed to have it for fashion sake? Is it Halloween and you think it’d be great to dress up as another faith/culture? These are all signs you should really skip this project. No matter how pretty it comes out, you’re skirting the edge if not diving headlong into, cultural appropriation here. And that’s just a poor life choice my darling dear. That being said, I can’t stop you. No one really can. I’m not your parent or legal guardian and you’re more than likely not a child. But still. If you persist that path you’re getting a hell of a lot of side eye.

For this Tallit I wanted to make something pretty to celebrate a friend finishing converting to the faith that makes her heart sing. I wouldn’t make it for myself, and (pretty as it’s going to be because SILK) I’ve got no temptation to keep it. I was told the tassels are the most sacred part so I’m not going to make those, I’m going to leave that bit for her or her Rabbi to do.

Out of steps but reflecting on my own actions like a halfway human critter

My persona in the SCA is a Christian woman. She’s a Saxon. She’d at the very least have been culturally Christian, whether she believed the dogma or not. I am, well suffice to say I am not a Christian, devout or otherwise. So where does that leave me? I cover my hair, and wear long sleeved dresses, just like a proper Saxon lady would. The bible speaks on covering hair and dressing modestly. Am I failing my own test here? Can I reasonably assess that, given my own bias towards assuming what I’m doing is ok?

Lets try to break it down and see what I can do differently.

How much do I wear that is actually religious? I veil myself, and wear long sleeves. I don’t wear anything with a cross, or a saint’s face, or an associated animal or symbol. At least not on purpose or knowingly. Veiling and long sleeves are not confined to Christianity, and it is almost, if not, impossible to break out the garb of my chosen era from veils and long sleeves. I can’t do Saxon and ditch them. Therefore I’m calling them cultural rather than sacred.

Is my chosen culture still alive? If not how did it die? No. It is not still an active culture. Fucking Normans and Vikings. I have to rely on books, engravings, and whatever we can dig out of the ground. I can’t actually ask if the veil is sacred or cultural. I just have to assume and er on the side of caution.

What can I do differently? Not much that I can see. I don’t invoke God, I don’t carry a bible or prayer book, and I don’t wear religious jewelry. I think I just need to stick with that and put more careful consideration into any pieces I add to my kit.

So I think I’m doing ok? If not, let me know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Iridescent Silk Apron Panel

Alright, so remember how last time I said lampas wasn’t happening and it was just going to be three way iridescent silk? I lied. We’re at plain iridescent silk.

Why?

Well you see, tension is a pain in the butt to get correct with silk. For some reason the three way iridescent silk was plagued with tension issues. The right most 3 inches (7ish cm for my metric folks) got progressively looser as I unwound more warp. This meant I was frustrated and taking super long to weave. I finally gave up, cut the three way iridescent off, and retied the warp to adjust the tension. This meant that I no longer had time to fiddle with two wefts.

Yes I have ordered the silk to do a more dramatic three way iridescent piece as my next project when I don’t have a tight deadline.

Let’s back up a bit and start with why I’m weaving iridescent fabric in the first place.

  1. It’s pretty.
  2. It is actually period, just not for me as near as I can tell.

How do we know it’s period? We have paintings implying iridescence in fabric, like this image from the Visconti Hours:

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See the woman on the right in pink and yellow? The way it was painted implies a color shift in the fabric itself, and yellow and pink will provide iridescence if woven together. I’ve yet to find a source for how to weave it in period, however something like this would more than likely have been a guild secret so I don’t have high hopes for finding documentation like that. I’m just going to continue to muddle through figuring it out.

So how do you weave something iridescent?

Iridescence is just playing with color theory and string. You need at least two colors, be smarter than me and plan on only two for your first project. You’re welcome. Your colors should be similar color saturation and from different points on the color wheel. If your colors are too different in saturation the lighter color will get lost and if they’re too close on the color wheel then they’ll just look muddy. All iridescent fabric involves two or more contrasting colors, not all fabric with two or more colors will create iridescence.

You want to use a looser sett so that the threads have room to move. If they’re stiff then you won’t get the pockets and folds that highlight one color over the other. So no taffeta or tightly packed twills here folks. Iridescence is all about drape.

You want smooth thread, the smoother the better. Silk is perfect, crochet cotton is lovely, wool is possible but tricky. Smooth and shiny thread helps create the shine we associate with iridescence, and helps keep the sharp lines between colors needed in order for the magic to work. Fuzzy yarn doesn’t allow that to happen.

You want fine thread. The finest you can stand to work with. The more threads you can pack into an inch or cm the smoother the transition between colors will be and the more impressive the effect. You can make something iridescent with heavy yarns, technically. If  you follow all the other rules you can weave something with a color shift, but it’ll be clumsy and read more like stripes than magic. Still technically iridescent! And a wonderful way to learn without the time investment (so.much.time) of itty bitty fiddly silk.

For this sample I used 60/2 silk in Red and Diva Blue from Webs. I could warp it as dense as 55epi (27.5epcm), but to get the drape I needed I kept it at a some what gauzy 40epi average. Final piece ended up being 14×33, which is perfect for me to have the shiniest most obnoxious viking apron panel ever. Which almost makes up for not having the veil I wanted.

Almost.

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A Peacock Project

Also an accountability post.

First off, what do I mean by ‘peacock project’? A peacock project is a project with no right to exist other than showing off. Much like a male peacock’s tail. There’s no reason for it to be that pretty or complex. It just is. And so here we are.

I’ve decided to weave myself (mundanely) a scarf and (SCA purposes) a veil.  I am weaving it entirely out of silk in three colors (red, blue, and silver). When I am done it is going to be iridescent in three directions depending on how you look at it. I am weaving it out of a complex looking point twill. On top of that I’m going to do lampas work.

I’m doing it in 2 months. I need to weave 1 yard per month of it to get it done. This is…not a small order. I’m starting the warp today.

The plan is to warp it in red. Then where the center patterning is add my silver warp for the lampas hedgehogs (my badge in the SCA and the animal most people associate with me). As I only have a 4 harness table loom I have to do the lampas as pick up work.

How this will need to get warped:

540 strands of red silk warp. 40 of the twill edging + floating tabby edge, followed by 460 strands in the regular diamond twill pattern, then another 40 of the twill edging plus floating tabby edge. In the middle of that nonsense there are 21 groups of 14 strands of silver for the lampas hedgehogs. Originally I’d wanted to do them in sterling, then looked at my reserves of sterling silver and realized I’d need to order more. That’s a no go, I’m not spending additional money for this. So silver silk it is.

How this is going to weave up (note the multiple steps per pick here):

  1. Lift heddles per twill pattern.
  2. Throw silver threads until running into the hedgehogs.
  3. Lower heddle.
  4. Pick out hedgehog pattern and that twill row center pattern using pick up sticks.
  5. Throw silver weft through shed created.
  6. Remove pick up stick
  7. Raise heddle for twill pattern
  8. Throw silver weft through remaining length of warp.
  9. Beat into place
  10. Throw blue weft through shed, careful not to cross the silver weft AND go over all the silver warp threads.
  11. Beat into place.

Yes. 11 individual motions per pick with the requirement that I do two different pick up patterns across 460 threads without fucking it up. For 2 yards. Admittedly there is about an inch in the beginning that is just “Lift shed, throw two wefts, beat” and an inch at the end of the same. And 4 picks per repeat of that. And the ground cloth under the hedgehogs will only be red/blue iridescent rather than red/blue/silver but this was the only way I could figure out to do it that wouldn’t require a 4th color of silk (which I do not have, again not buying things) or muddy the hedgehog by having the silver under it.

I have no reason to own a cloth like this. None. But fuck it I want something pretty. Super pretty. Stupidly complex and pretty. So I’m going to do it damnit.

too.

Birka Gown, The Making of and Documentation

Here it is! The moment you’ve all been waiting for! And by that I mean I’m actually writing down the last week and providing you my paperwork.

So 8 days prior to Birka I decided to do the fashion show. Why not? I had a woven silk table runner (it was supposed to be something else and epic failed) that I could wear as a front panel, and the simple plan I told you about before. So without further ado, my write up:

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Brief:

A hand stitched blue wool dress sewn with handspun wool and using a bone sewing needle. Dress is embellished at the seams with purple, gold, and blue silk and strapped purple and gold linen and blue hand spun trim adapted from an arguably 10th century Saxon belt find.

Long form documentation:

The dress itself is commercially available wool. The thread count matches the 10th century scraps found under the brooches of “The Lady In Blue” (Ketilsstathir Iceland, uncovered in 1938) of an almost balanced weave of 11 warp threads and 10 weft threads per CM. Chemical analysis of the dress found in the burial indicates a blue dye with a lighter tablet woven band around the top. To mimic such a starting band I have chosen to leave the contrasting color selvadge along the top edge of the gown. The wool selected also follows the Icelandic convention of weaving with unplyed yarn.

The creation of a checkered pattern by alternating different colored yarns in either the warp, weft, or both, is found in early textiles wherever we have existing examples. The commercial wool forming the basis of this project follows the same pattern by having an entirely white warp and alternating pale blue and antique gold weft.

It is unconfirmed whether the textiles in the find were from a blue dyed apron with linen under dress, full gown with linen under dress, or gown with a linen lining. There is also debate as to how the gown, if it was an over gown rather than apron, was constructed.  The three common interpretations of such a gown are:

  1. A pair of rectangles, stitched together at the sides, with side panels inserted for movement, suspended from straps at the shoulders
  2. A pair of rectangles, not stitched together, suspended from straps at the shoulders.
  3. A long tube suspended from straps at the shoulders

I have chosen to create the first option as I find it the most practical for everyday wear. A pair of rectangles, unattached, would flop open. This creates a fire hazard as well as exposing more of the linen under layer to cold air, rather than keeping the torso and body core protected by the warmer wool. A long tube without any gores would need to be baggy along the top edge in order to allow freedom of movement of the legs. This creates the same draft problem as well as making it more likely to bunch and become uncomfortable under the arms. A dress tight enough to avoid armpit bunching and drafts would bind up the legs, making walking and daily work difficult.

The over dress is hand stitched using a bone needle and handspun wool thread. The thread itself has been processed from a raw Icelandic top coat, using combs rather than hand cards in order to produce a hard woolen spun thread. This matches the extant 10th century finds of Icelandinc textiles for spin style (S-spun and used as a single rather than being plyed) as well as type of wool used. The spindle used is a bottom whorl soapstone spindle, with a weight roughly matching the weight of an extant 10th century stone spindle whorl I have in my possession. I have used a stitch length found in Dublin caps of 3-5 mm.

Over dress stitches and needle

Seam Treatments:

There is little evidence for seam embellishment on extant textiles, due in part to how rarely they are found. However I have chosen to add silk herringbone stitches to the seams of the over dress due to references in period texts of rich adornment. Herringbone, being a very simple embroidery stitch, is an excellent candidate for use in seam embellishment as it is unobtrusive to the modern eye. The small stitches on the underside of the fabric also allow it to double as a seam finishing technique as it can be done as part of the period finishing practice of flat felling. This is what I have chosen to do on this gown. The use of a bone needle, rather than a modern metal needle, is carried throughout the seam treatments, back stitched hem, and strap attachment.

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Seam treatment detail.

Tablet Weaving:

The straps of the dress was woven using the Cambridge Diamonds pattern. My recreation is a 17 card pattern using the Saxon technique of only turning every other card, every other pick. In other words every odd card was given a quarter turn forwards, the weft was packed, then every even card was turned in the same direction. This elongates the center diamond and creates a sturdy band that has the same pattern on the front and back, making it perfect for structural bands such as straps or belts. In order to ensure the edge was bound correctly to the piece the two edge cards were turned every pick, rather than every other.

The fragment itself was unearthed in 1931 as a double sided linen strip attached to the end of a belt fixture. There is some debate as to the age of the extent example, it is unknown whether it is 10th century Anglo-Saxon or a later medieval piece, but as diamond patterns in textiles are common to nearly every time period and region I am interpreting this pattern as reasonable to the 10th century.

The scrap unearthed shows what appears to be a diamond pattern done in three colors, a dark background color, a second diamond color, and a light color as a highlight and outline around the center diamond. The original find was woven in linen or another bast plant fiber, potentially nettle, and measured roughly 1cm wide.

My textile was created using purple and yellow linen, per the original find, with the addition of hand spun blue wool to create the diamonds. The blue wool was S-spun on the same soapstone spindle used to spin the internal sewing thread. My recreation is wider than the original at 1.5cm wide on average. I elected to use part of the band showing my attempts to reverse engineer the pattern as the back half of a strap in order to show my process in recreating the original.

Original fragment unearthed from St. John Crick’s Field, Cambridge (left) my recreation (right)

Front Panel:

This was woven using a starting band. Starting bands are strips of tablet weaving, from which an extra long “fringe” is suspended, creating the warp for the final textile. This allows the warp to be evenly spaced without the use of a reed, which is required for modern horizontal looms, and is the hallmark of warp weighted loom woven textiles. This piece was woven on a modern horizontal table loom, but with a vertical loom starting band, to mimic the look of 10th century Northern European textiles. The starting band features a common greek key pattern.

The front panel itself was woven as a balanced tabby weave of 30 ends per inch. Tabby was chosen, rather than the more appropriate diamond twill, in order to create stripes with mild iridescence. This is also the reason silk, rather than linen or wool, was chosen as the fiber. Due to contact, through sites such as Birka and trade routes through the Byzantine Empire, with China silk was known to 10th century Northern Europeans. The samples we have are small in size and point towards the thread being used to create trims that could be easily removed and added to new garments. It is unlikely, though not out of the realm of possibility, that a garment the size of this front panel would have been made of silk.

Front panel thread count and starting band

Citations:

  1. _Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin_. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy, 2003

Smith, Michèle Hayeur Excerpt of Bundled up in Blue, the re-investigation of a Viking grave, Publications of the National Museum of Iceland; pp.25-43. 2015. Located under: The Lady in Blue-Bláklædda Konan: the textiles. National Museum of Iceland. https://northernwomen.org/project-2/

Crowfoot, G.M. (1952). “Anglo-Saxon Tablet Weaving”. The Antiquaries Journal. 32 (3-4): 189–191.

Starting band pattern located at http://mimbles.com/tablet-weaving/pattern-library/

Østergård, Else. Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland. Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2004. Print.

Christensen, Arne Emil; Nockert, Margareta. Osebergfundet IV, Tekstilene. Universitetet i Oslo 2006.

Geijer, Agnes. Die Textilfunde aus den Gräbern. Birka: Untersuchungen und Studien III. Uppsala: Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akadamien, 1938.

Lehtosalo-Hilander, Pirkko-Liisa. Ancient Finnish Costumes. Vammala, 1984.

Barber, E. J. W. Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years : Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times. New York: Norton, 1994.
Barber, E J. W. Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages with Special Reference to the Aegean. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1991. Print.

Diamond twill

Guys? Diamond twill is straight up sexy. It’s also found all over the place in period. And it’s easy to see why. It’s just as easy to set up and weave as any other 2×2 twill, and it creates this beautiful all over diamond pattern.

I mean, look at it. That’s what I have on the loom right now. It’s a 35epi purple and gold silk in a very basic diamond twill pattern. This is based on a find in Greenland mentioned in Woven into the Earth, believed to be an imported sample cloth as the small fragment was more densely woven than other textiles being produced in Greenland at the time. It also has four regular edges, and shows the full pattern, implying it was cut off just for that purpose.

Diamond twill works for, as far as I know, almost any early period persona. It’s that simple to make and prolific. But it’s especially easy to find in Northern Europe, we’ve got it from Sweden, through Russia, England, Greenland, ect.

Downside? It’s fallen out of commercial popularity. So good luck finding it for a reasonable price if you don’t weave it yourself. But! If you do weave you can find free pattern drafts for diamond twill and it’s sister broken diamond twill all over the internet.

Sizing

So today I found myself in the novel situation of needing to size my warp. I’m working in silk. This shouldn’t be a thing I need, but the silk I have is loosly spun and fuzzy so it’s matting together. Sizing helps prevent this.

Right! Before I go further, sizing is some sort of coating on the warp threads to make them slip past each other easier without felting. Normally done on fibers like wool or alpaca, a good sizing should wash out fully once you finish the fabric.

Because a good sizing will fully wash out it makes it super hard to document. Things that could have been used include: wax, tallow, wheat goop, flax goop, oil? But it’s hard to tell if the residue on cloth is sizing or if someone spilled food on themselves.

I’d rubbed beeswax on my warp before when I was making the white belt and I was worried the cards were going to abrade my yarn. That is as close to sizing as I’ve gotten.

Before today.

Super fuzzy silk of irritating stickiness calls for sizing. So I decided to try my hand at making flax goop. Why? Flax seed is cheap where I live and the process​ seemed super simple. And it is! It’s also super gross and I am never making this again if I can help it. I will trade for my flax goop.

Method:

-boil 2 cups of water

-add 1/2 cup of whole flaxseed​s

-stir until a white foam appears (disturbingly quickly, just so ya know)

-reduce heat and simmer until the seeds appear suspended in a gel the consistency of egg whites

-cool so you don’t burn yourself

-strain through cheese cloth to separate the useful goop from useless seeds.

Guys? I am a tactile person. Handling gel that looks like seed speckled egg whites, and smells like half sour oatmeal, made me gag. More than once. Straining it got this stuff all over my hands, making them feel like I’d accidentally spilled hair gel all over. This was unpleasant. I got enough to fill a tiny jar, and maybe coat this warp.

You may not hate it so much. You may find it’s worth the hassle. I do not. Next time I’ll try wheat. Or, bribing someone else.

That… did not go as expected.

So my last post (way back in mid-April, remember?) I talked about weaving silk. I laid out all my glorious plan for how this was going to go and how beautiful the finished project was going to be, ect. Well…

Problems:

  1. I miswarped the first time. So I tried to solve this problem by tying on additional warp when I approached the end of my first one.
  2. That was an epic failure. I needed to pull it all off the loom and rewarp like a smart not-corner-cutting person.
  3. Pearls take a long time to knot onto silk thread.
  4. Silk thread is super fine and does not want to form knots wide enough to not slide back out of the pearls.
  5. Sewing through stiffened linen is super hard guys. I don’t like it. Sewing around wire is also less than pleasant.
  6. Pleats are hard yo.

That being said”

I made my apprentice sister a french hood. Because I love her very much and she needed a hat just as glorious as the fancy dress she recently acquired AND something worthy of sitting atop her awesomeness. I think I came close and I really hope she likes it.

Materials 1/2 yard x 12in 54epi silk for the shell on the crescent and paste. 20×21 35epi silk veil. 1in x 40in 60epi silk ribbon (red). Roughly 1/2 yard of (commercial) linen for the lining and to stiffen for the interior structural bits. 10 ft of wire, 45 inches of 1cm freshwater pearls.

Total cost: ~$200 not counting time.

Total hours: sweet merciful Loki. I averaged 1in an hour weaving time and spent about 30 hours total warping. So 88 hours weaving/warping total. Sewing took about 10 hours. Knotting and applying the pearls took about 6 hours all told. Patterning/cutting materials/stiffening the linen was about 4-5 hours actual work. Let’s say 5, I tend to under state my labor.

88+10+6+5= 111 hours. Give or take.

For a hat. A really awesome hat.

DOCUMENTATION TIME:
French Hood

Created by Lady Ǣthelflied Brewbane

The design for this piece taken from a portrait of Anne Boleyn showing a black French hood trimmed in pearls and edged with an orangey red pleated ribbon.  I have chosen to recreate this hood in handwoven black silk taffeta, red silk satin ribbon, and cultured pearls.

Original ^18698950_1529308743760396_786930571_o

My recreation ^

We’ve found cloth ranging from 15 to 100 epi per Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450. In an effort to recreate this I aimed for 50 epi when weaving the covering, lining, veil, and ribbon. I have woven the covering, lining, and veil in a simple tabby weave to produce taffeta per  “Anatomy of the Abuses in England” (1583) by Phillip Stubbes:

… on toppe of these stately turrets (I meane their goodly heads wherin is more vanitie than true Philosophie now and than) stand their other capitall ornaments, as french hood, hat, cappe, kercher, and suche like; wheof some be of veluet, some of taffatie, some (but few) of woll, some of this fashion, some of that, and some of this color, some of that, according to the variable fantasies of their serpentine minds. And to such escesse is it growen, as every artifices wife (almost) wil not stick to goe in her hat of Veluet everye day, every marchants wyfe and meane Gentlewomen in her french-hood, and everye poore Cottagers Daughter in her taffatie hat, or els of woll at least, wel lined with silk, veluet or taffatie. …

The silk taffeta on the shell of the paste and crescent came out to a finished thread density of 54epi. The ribbon is an average of 60epi,  and the veil was woven at 35-40epi to allow for a lighter fabric.

A simple weave, and coarser thread count, would keep costs down in creation of this piece as well as speed production. As today, fashion follows the rich, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that a gentlewoman would commission a hood in the style of one worn by the queen. Therefore it would behoove an enterprising merchant to be able to produce one quickly and comparably cheaply.

The stiffened paste and crescent that forms the center shape of the hood is composed of three layers of heavy linen canvas.  These layers are edged in 14 gauge jewelry wire to help maintain the shape of the hood and support the weight of the veil. Though we have no surviving extant French Hoods we have found wire shaping for English Gable Hoods, the direct predecessor of the French Hood, making it safe to assume French Hoods would have been constructed in a similar fashion.

Sources:

Textiles and Clothing 1150 -1450 Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard, and Kay Staniland.

Museum of London Publication, 1992. 2001 Reprint.ISBIN 9-781-84383-239-3

 

The French Hood: What it is and is not Lady Alliette Delecourt mka Irina Lubomirska

http://frenchrenaissancecostume.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/The-French-Hood-notes-for-GNW.pdf Accessed 3/25/2017.

 

Anatomy of the Abuses in England in Shakespeare’s Youth A.D 1583 Phillip Stubbes.

https://archive.org/stream/phillipstubbessa000990mbp/phillipstubbessa000990mbp_djvu.txt Accessed on 3/25/2017.

 

Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Elizabeth Wayland Barber.

Norton Press, 1994. ISBIN 0-393-31348-4.

 

 

Weaving Silk

I’ve been mostly quiet these last few weeks as I’ve been working on a project that’s ultimately going to be a gift. So details I can share are scarce. To that end I’m not going to say what the finished product is going to be, not until after it’s finished and given to the person it’s intended to surprise. But I’m excited for what I’m doing and need to share. That and I don’t want you all to think I’d either abandoned you or stopped making things.

 

I’m weaving silk. That in and of itself would be exciting, but (as you all know by now) I’ve gone a step or two beyond. I’m weaving with 60/2 silk, or roughly 50-54 epi in tabby. Also known as doubled sewing thread, embroidery floss, dear-gods-woman tiny. To be fair I’d initially wanted to weave the slightly less insane 30/2 silk, but it was more expensive and I am broke and this project also involves real pearls so… Insanity in the name of saving money: the true crafter way.

 

Without any further context, have a photo dump. This is 54 epi x 40 picks per inch 100% silk taffeta. It’s 12 inches wide and the goal is 80 inches long all told. Weaving in white, dying it black except for the 3/4 of an inch after the gap on the right which will be cut off and dyed red.

Left to right: 8 inches in, weave close up, cut off and dyed sample.