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.