Monday, September 19, 2011

Brocade Pentahalon entry May 2009

Move over from LJ.  Eventually I need to edit this post to include the inital attempt with wire.  Unfortunately I did not find the reference to the doubling of wire weft until after I had moved on to spun silver.  And I should probably include a warning that the real silver spun thread is serrated, and will actually cut warp threads as it passes over them.

Fiber Arts: Journeyman Tablet or Card Weaving

This is a piece of brocaded tablet weaving.  It is intended for use on a 10th century Viking apron.  It will be placed at the top front between the fibulae (broaches) like the piece found in a grave at Kostrup, Denmark.   Due to the expense of the materials used, it would likely have belonged to a woman of wealth.

Weaving with the use of tablets has been done since at least 4 bc.  Warp threads are the threads that pass through a tablet and run the length of a piece.  Weft threads pass through these threads, and hold them in place.  In brocade, a supplemental weft is introduced.  It is only tied in place by some of the warp threads, and is not structurally integral to the band.  The patterns it forms float on top of the weaving.  Several examples of this technique have survived, the majority of them in Anglo-Saxon and Viking sites.  A variety of fibers were used, with the bands containing metal or silk surviving the best.

Inspiration for this piece came from the brocaded tablet woven pieces found in the 8th to 10th century burial grounds at Birka, Sweden.  The majority of the pieces were silk brocaded with metal threads.  The metal threads used included wire, flat metal strips, and “spun” thread (thin metal strips wrapped around a fiber core).  The silk threads were very fine, probably about the thickness of sewing thread.

Plate 92 d-g Bands from Birka (Geijer “A History of Textile Art”)

I was nervous about the durability of such fine thread, so I decided to try it first with a larger fiber.  I used 20/2 spun silk from Aurora Silk.  I requested that it be dyed using indigo, because indigotin was one of the chemical traces found in the silk at Birka.  I was warned that their dye pot was almost exhausted, and that the color would not be very dark.  Because indigotin is also found in Woad to a lesser extent, I asked them to go ahead.  Silk threads were imported, but woad might have been used on undyed threads.  Dye was also expensive, so it would be worthwhile to dye successively light and lighter colors until it was used up.  Thread of this color could have been dyed using Indigo or Woad.

For the supplemental weft thread, I used #5 Real Silver Passing Thread from Van Sciver Bobbin Lace.  This is silver foil wrapped around a silk core.  This thread did not make sharp turns.  Because of this it was not providing adequate coverage of the warp threads, so I doubled it.  No examples of doubling this type of metal thread exist at Birka, but the supplemental wire weft ones had been doubled.

Most of the brocaded pieces from this time period were warped by alternately threading “S” and “Z”.  This refers to the direction the thread passes through the card and determines the direction the stitch will be slanted.  My pattern had seventeen cards, with an additional two cards on each side to provide a selvedge edge.  Because I wanted my selvedge to be identical on each side, I skipped one “Z” threaded card in the middle of the pattern.  The silk in the Birka pieces was so fine that the bands were very thin.  Because I used thicker thread, I used about half as many cards as they did.

Geometric and “S” patterns were in common use by the Vikings.  Initially, I tried to chart a pattern from a photocopy picture of a band with only wire remaining.  Instead, I found a geometric “S” I liked in the middle of one of the 12th to 13th century patterns from Norway (Spies pg 148).  It looked very similar to the one in my copy of the picture, so I modified it for my use.

My pattern.

12th century pattern from Norway (Spies pg 148)

There are several different techniques used in brocading.  Because I used a thicker silk and wanted the silver to stand out as much as possible, I used a single thread tie-down.  This is a single thread that passes over the supplemental weft to hold it in place.  In this piece the tie downs denote the pattern.  The supplemental weft is not carried all the way to the ends.  Instead, it is usually dropped to the back a few cards from the edge.  I wanted as thin a selvedge edge as possible, so I only dropped to the back one card in from the edge.  On the second cards in from the edge, I did a double tie down to make the selvedge edge look the same.  When this technique is done on regular fiber the part that drops to the back is easily pulled into the warp, disappearing from view.  The metal thread is not good at turning corners, and I wound up with a scalloped effect up both sides of the back.  If you look at the first band in the Birka picture, it seems that they had much the same problem.


Collingwood, Peter “The Techniques of Tablet Weaving” Oregon: Robinson & Ross Handweavers, 1996.

Crowfoot, Elizabeth, Francis Pritchard, and Kay Staniland “Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450 “ Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2006 pp 130-138.

Geijer, Agnes “A History of Textile Art” London: Sotheby Parke Publications, 1979 pp 69, 219-221, 229, 242-246 plate 92 d-g.

Geijer, Agnes "The Textile Finds from Birka." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E.M. Carus-Wilson. Studies in Textile History 2. N.B. Harte and K.G. Ponting, eds. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983, pp. 80-99.

Gartz, Eckhard “A Practical Examination of Wefts used in Medieval Brocaded Tabletweaving”:

Hald, Margrethe “Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials: A Comparative Study of Costume and Iron Age Textiles”, trans. Jean Olsen. Archaeological-Historical Series Vol. XXI. Copenhagen: The National Museum of Denmark, 1980 pp 225-226.

Ingram, Elizabeth “Thread of Gold: The Embroideries and Textiles in York Minister” Singapore: Tien Wah Press, 1987 pp 11, 20-22.

Ingstad, Anne Stine “The Textiles in the Oseberg Ship”:

Jaacks, G., and Tidow, K., eds. “Archäologische Texilfunde--Archaeological Textiles: Textilsymposium Neumünster 4.-7.5. 1993. NESAT V” Neumünster: Textilmuseum Neumünster, 1994. Articles:  Peacock, Elizabeth “SEM-EDS Analysis of Metal Threads from Tronheim” pp 256-260.  Aud, Bergli and Inger Raknes Pedersen “The Textiles from the Ruins of Hamar Cathedral” pp 253-264.

Priest-Dorman, Carolyn “Metallic Trims for Some Early Period Personae”:

Regia Anglorum “Braid Weaving”:

Schweitzer, Robert “Brocaded Tablet Weaving”:

Spies, Nancy “Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance” Jarrettsville, Maryland: Arelate Studio, 2000. pp 1, 93-96.

No comments:

Post a Comment