Sunday, July 26, 2009

Mammen band

Warp: Lilac silk
Weft: Lilac linen
Brocade: Spun gold + silver (Kreinik jap)
Pattern: Wide Mammen band
Cards: 35
Width: 1.5cm
Length: 2 x 30cm
What's new: 2 different brocades, turning alternating cards

A couple of months ago I came across the Danish National Museum's page on the Mammen textile finds. It lets you zoom right in and look at the detail. The arm bands are gorgeous and I decided I wanted to give them a go. They differ in 2 major ways from any of the bands I've woven previously:

1. The cards aren't all turned at once. Peter Collingwood describes this band as having the cards threaded in 2 holes and turned as a pack but EPAC says they were threaded in 4 holes and the odd and even cards were turned in alternate picks (The edge cards are still turned every pick). I decided to go with EPAC's interpretation since I've already tried the 2-hole thing. Turning the cards half as often means you can get a higher weft density.

2. There are two brocading wefts: silver and gold. Thanks to the stave border, there is gold in every pick. Silver appears in most picks. You can't just pass both brocade wefts through the main shed because the brocade will bulk out the picks and lower the weft density. EPAC describes the method of using two brocade wefts on p. 112. The "background" weft (in this case the gold) passes from selvage to selvage, going through the main shed in areas showing the background colour, and then diving right to the back of the band in areas where the "foreground" (silver) brocade weft shows. The foreground weft does not go all the way to the selvage but only passes back and forth in the area where it shows on the top of the band. A consequence of this is that the background weft shows on the back (with no tiedowns) in the areas where the foreground weft shows on the front.I got the pattern for this band out of Egon Hansen's Tabletweaving. It's been tweaked slightly so that the silver diamonds show a cross motif rather than a fylfot.

I've had no luck contacting my silk supplier recently so I ended up dying some of my white silk with Rit dye. There was a brief period where I was very alarmed about the bright purple I ended up with, but enthusiastic rinsing got it down to a colour that could plausibly caused lilac!

I'm still using playing cards for my tablets. I threaded them up with alternating sides up so that (combined with the rectangular shape of the cards) it would be easy to spot when all odd cards were in one orientation and all even ones in another. This has probably saved me a lot of time.

Because of the hoopla going on with turning the cards, I couldn't really weave this band with the cards suspended in midair as I usually do. I know some people swear it's impossible to do brocaded tablet weaving without a board to rest the cards on but it hasn't been my experience- although it would probably have helped with the 2-hole band. But for this one, with the cards in different orientations, I really needed something to rest them on. I'm using a stack of boardgames and jigsaw puzzles, which is probably a bit sub-optimal, but works!

I tried separating the cards out into odd and even packs to make it quicker to turn the half packs, but it just made a huge mess. I've gone back to having them as one pack. I turn each card individually on picks 1 and 3. On pick 2 I turn the odd cards as a pack to catch up with the even cards (turning the edge cards by hand) and on pick 4 I turn the even cards backward as a pack and then rotate the whole pack forward (it's easier to move cards from a vertical to a horizontal orientation than vice versa).

The first four picks of this band went excruciatingly slowly. With the 2 brocade wefts you can't really use a pickup stick to raise the tiedowns. It's quicker to just pass the brocade weft under them individually. But I've got into the rhythm of it now and am managing to do about 2cm per hour. It's coming out at 14 picks/cm which is higher than usual but still only half as many as the original, even though the band is about the same width.

Bands with light-coloured grounds tend to looks less striking than ones with dark coloured ones, but I don't think this one is looking too bad (or too different from the original, my woeful weft density aside).

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