21 February 2015

An Irregular Fustian Weave

© Carolyn Priest-Dorman, 2003

Sometimes interesting information comes along when you're researching something entirely different.  Take this unusual four-shaft weave, for example; I found it in an article on printed fustians. Even though the weave in and of itself isn't "complex," it formed the ground for two surprisingly elaborate late medieval printed textiles dated about 40 years apart.  Further, it represents the industrial use of a weave structure that I thought should be added to the knowledge pool of medieval four-shaft weaves.

Fustian is the English equivalent of "fustagnano," a medieval Italian term for a class of mixed-fiber products.  They were most typically woven on a linen warp with a cotton weft.  By the 12th century, the Italian cotton industry was cranking out a wide variety of these mixed-fiber textiles for the domestic market; for example, Perugian wares were commonly fustians.  Some types of fustians were brushed and napped, giving a texture like that of "brushed denim."  In the 15th and 16th centuries, fustians became popular all over Europe as linings for elaborate garments; many examples survive from the Elizabethan period as various types of domestic textile, e.g., hangings, bed linens, and the like.  They were also used by the middle classes as outerwear.

The two textiles printed over this unusual weave are pieces from the Victoria and Albert Museum:  V&A 1478-1899, a chasuble dating to around 1490, and V&A T280-1916, a fragment dating to around 1530.  Milton Sonday made the technical assessment and analyzed the weave structure of these two textiles.  The warp is Z-spun linen, the weft S-spun cotton, and the thread count is 24x24 threads/cm.  The structure is an irregular weft-faced twill with floats spanning two, three, and four warps.  No wales are evident.  Sonday likens the structure to that of satinette (Mitchell and Sonday, 109). 

I have re-drafted Sonday's analysis into something a little more familiar to handweavers while preserving the same interlacement.  See the draft for V&A 1478-1899 below.


Arnold, Janet.  Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women c1560-1620.  London:  Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1985.

Thornton, Peter.  The Italian Renaissance Interior.  New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991.

Endrei, Walter.  "Les Étoffes dites de Pérouse, leurs antécédents et leur descendance."  Bulletin du CIETA, no 65 (1987), pp. 61-68.

Mazzaoui, Maureen Fennell.  The Italian Cotton Industry in the Later Middle Ages 1100-1600.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Mitchell, David, and Sonday, Milton.  "Printed fustians: 1490-1600."  Bulletin du CIETA, vol. 77 (2000), pp. 99-118.

Starkey, David, ed.  The Inventory of King Henry VIII, vol. 1, The Transcript.  Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, No. 56.  London: Harvey Miller Publishers, The Society of Antiquaries of London, 1998.

Willan, Thomas Stuart.  A Tudor Book of Rates.  Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1962.

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This article was originally published in Issue 37 (September 2003) of Medieval Textiles, the newsletter of the medieval textiles study group of Complex Weavers.  The draft and drawdown I submitted were created using the freeware drafting program, WinWeave.  All my drafts were translated into better software for printing and publishing.   Using GIMP, I have re-edited my original draft into a graphic for inclusion here. 

20 February 2015

Some More Medieval Linen Weaves

© Carolyn Priest-Dorman, 2002

This article presents some multishaft self-patterned linen weaves that are a bit more complex than those of previous articles.  The interlacements can be woven on seven to 15 shafts.  All drafts were produced by the present author; with the exception of "Pavy 8," which is original, they were developed from drawdowns by the authors noted in the text.

Two basic classes of weave structure are represented by these more complex textiles.  Like some of the simpler self-patterned weaves, they share two basic principles.  First, they are self-patterned, with a single warp system and a single weft system.  Second, they display regularly repeating areas of different length floats in the same textile.

The first class has areas of twill floating in both systems on both faces.  Beyond "twill," this class of structure does not seem to have a specific name, although many of the weaves represented qualify as composite twills in CIETA terminology (Burnham, p. 29).  Many variants appear in Davison's chapter on "twill combinations," mostly based around the point repeat lozenge twill and the gebrochene, or "Ms and Ws," twill.

The point repeat lozenge twills covered in the previous article have some more complex cousins.  The Vatican's T-5, from the Museo Sacro collection, is a particularly attractive example (see draft).  This 13-shaft linen is of unknown medieval date (Volbach, pp. 16-17).  Its thread count is unavailable; however, Volbach's drawdown suggests the original proportions of the sett, four warps for every three wefts, yielding a lovely network of elongated twill lozenges filled with tabby.

 Another example is the "bloeddoek" (cup cover?) at Hoogstraten in Belgium, which dates to the last quarter of the 14th century (De Jonghe, p. 66).  Although De Jonghe analyzed it as a 16-shaft weave, if his drawdown is correct it can be woven on 15 shafts and 15 treadles (see draft).  The twill sections involve floats over three threads.  De Jonghe's drawdown notes a shedding anomaly in the original that results from one tie-up having been omitted; whether error or intention is unknown.  The draft below preserves the original error, but adding Shaft 5 to Treadle 9 in the draft will perfect the shedding.

The second type of weave structure to be considered here is one with twill floats of varying length in only one system per side of the textile.  Specifically, these textiles have only weft floats on the face of the textile, against a foundation of tabby.   The appropriate CIETA terminology to apply to these textiles is liseré weaves (Burnham, p. 86).  The effect is similar to a brocade, except that the floats do not derive from a supplemental weft.  Many medieval linen or silk liseré textiles are quite elaborate, woven on various types of drawlooms.  The one presented here, the linen chasuble from the Church of St. Godehard, is simple enough to be woven on a 16-shaft loom (see draft).

This 14th century liseré textile, preserved at Hildesheim in Germany, exhibits a marvelous pattern reminiscent of tiled floors.  As far back as 1682, this particular pattern was being called "pavy" (Six, p. 110),  no doubt from the French pavé, or paving stone; the term may be somewhat older.  Pavy patterning can also be woven as a class of gebrochene twill.  Patricia Hilts' section on gebrochene weaves from the introduction of her The Weavers Art Revealed devotes some discussion to the development and augmention of just such a pattern.  However, a liseré pavy weave lacks the floats in the warp system that are characteristic of gebrochene pavy weaves.

The St. Godehard linen is woven on14 shafts (De Jonghe, p. 66), and the twill areas involve floats over four warps.  It was woven at about 80 ends and picks per inch, with a weft thread slightly thicker than the warp thread (Flury-Lemberg, p. 500).  I have drafted it from Flury-Lemberg's drawdown using a standard gebrochene threading and treadling.

(drafted for rising shed)
 A similarly patterned pavy liseré exists at Maastricht in the Netherlands; its weft floats are over five warps.  The thread count is about 45 ends and picks per inch (Stauffer, no. 138, p. 214).  The tabby sections are large, and the twill floats are arranged in pairs separated by a single warp thread.  Accordingly, it appears to have been woven on 18 or 20 shafts.  Another fragment of a pavy liseré  (number 7c) is preserved among the relics at Tongeren in Belgium, also with five-thread floats.  Its thread count is about 48 ends and 45 picks per inch (De Jonghe, p. 138).

The pavy liseré weave evidently even crossed over from the linen industry into the German fustian industry.  One 10-shaft pavy liseré from the 15th or 16th century (Endrei, p. 61), Cologne Z 1020, has a linen warp and a cotton weft (von Stromer, p. 121).  For all we know currently, other examples of fustian in this weave may also exist.  There are certainly other known examples of pre-1600 pavy weaves; however, they are not as accessible or well published as the ones in this article.  It is therefore difficult to know whether they are liseré pavys or gebrochene pavys.

Using the basic design principles of the pavy pattern, I attempted to devise a pavy liseré draft for only eight shafts.  I did not succeed with any number of shafts fewer than eight.

(drafted for rising shed)

The eight-shaft draft presented here (Pavy 8) preserves the proportions of all its constituent lozenges as well as the symmetrical arrangement of all the pattern lines, which is not always easy with this pattern.  However, due to the comparatively small number of shafts involved, the floats are relatively short.  Accordingly, the contrast between long floats and areas of tabby is not as great as it would be on a textile woven with more shafts.  For best effect, pavy liseré needs to be woven on more than 8 shafts.


Burnham, Dorothy K.  Warp & Weft: A Dictionary of Textile Terms.  New York:  Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981.

Davison, Marguerite Porter.  A Handweaver's Pattern Book, Revised Edition.  Swarthmore, Pennsylvania:  Marguerite P. Davison, 1993 [1950]. 

De Jonghe, Daniël. "Technologische Beschouwingen," pp. 65-88, and "Relieken," p. 122-248 in Textiel van de vroege middeleeuwen tot het Concilie van Trente.  Tongeren Basiliek O.-L.-Vrouw Geboorte, vol. I.  Leuven:  Uitgeverij Peeters, 1988.

Endrei, Walter.  "Les étoffes dites de Pérouse, leurs antécédents et leurs descendance."  Bulletin de CIETA, no. 65 (1987), pp. 61-68.

Flury-Lemberg, Mechthild.  Textile Conservation and Research: A Documentation of the Textile Department on the Occasion of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Abegg Foundation. Schriften der Abegg-Stiftung, Volume VII. Bern:  Abegg-Stiftung, 1988.

Hilts, Patricia.  The Weavers Art Revealed.  Facsimile, Translation, and Study of the First Two Published Books on Weaving: Marx Zeigler's "Weber Kunst und Bild Buch" (1677) and Nathaniel Lumscher's "Neu eingerichtetes Weber Kunst und Bild Buch" (1708), Part I: Marx Ziegler's "Weber Kunst und Bild Buch".  Ars Textrina, vol. 13 (December 1990).

Six, J. "Kruiswerk, Lavendel, Pavy en Pellen," Het Huis, Oud & Nieuw, vol. 10 (1912), pp. 105-122.

Stauffer, Annemarie.  Die Mittelalterlichen Textilien von St. Servatius in Maastricht.  Schriften der Abegg-Stiftung Riggisberg, Band VIII.  Riggisberg:  Abegg-Stiftung Riggisberg, 1991.

Stromer, Wolfgang von.  Die Gründung der Baumwollindustrie in Mitteleuropa.  Monographien zur Geschichte des Mittelalters, Band 17.  Stuttgart:  Anton Hiersemann, 1978.

Volbach, W.F.  I Tessuti del Museo sacro vaticano.  Catalogo del Museo sacro della Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, Vol. 3.  Città del Vaticano:  Biblioteca apostolica vaticana, 1942.

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This article was originally published in Issue 31 (March 2002) of Medieval Textiles, the newsletter of the medieval textiles study group of Complex Weavers.  The draft and drawdown I submitted were created using the freeware drafting program, WinWeave.  All my drafts were translated into better software for printing and publishing.  During that process the draft I created for the "bloeddoek," which specifically preserved the original shedding error Daniël de Jonghe noted in the original, was changed by the editor to correct the error.  The draft for the Godehard textile was truncated down to a quarter of its original threading and treadling, turning it from a gebrochene into a much simpler hin und wieder (point repeat lozenge) structure.

Using GIMP, I have re-edited each of my original drafts into a graphic for inclusion here.  The draft for the "bloeddoek" that appears here is the draft I intended to be published with the article, not the corrected draft which was published.  The draft for the Godehard textile shows the complete gebrochene threading and treadling repeat; due to the size of the draft, the rising shed indicators in the tie-up have been changed to black squares in order to make them more visible.

19 February 2015

Yes, But What Does That Mean?: A Synoptic Tablet Weaving Lexicon for Beginners

© Carolyn Priest-Dorman 2002-2003

A number of excellent instructional books are available for beginning tablet weavers.  However, they don't all use the same words to mean the same things.  Teachers of tablet weaving don't all learn from the same sources, either, so you can't avoid this problem simply by learning from gurus instead of books.  It can be very frustrating to learn one set of technical vocabulary and then discover that another instructor or book uses a different set! 

Among the influential sources for vocabulary in English are the works of Mary Meigs Atwater, Peter Collingwood, Candace Crockett, Russell Groff, Egon Hansen, and Otfried Staudigel (see bibliography).  Most other sources derive from one of these five.  This article is designed to compare and contrast the beginner terminologies used in these sources (with occasional references to other sources) in order to help you translate vocabulary from one version to another and, in the process, figure out what it all means.  It's aimed at beginners, so only some vocabulary terms are included.  Yet the included terms should suffice to get you off and started on your first few projects.  If you have trouble wading through all the terminology, just remember that you're, in effect, reading a dictionary.  Look up what you need and ignore the rest until you need it, and you'll get along fine.

Atwater's book is the oldest of the group (1954), and Groff's and Crockett's the second-oldest (original publications 1969 and 1973).  Most of the plethora of books from the early 1970s that include tablet weaving use vocabulary like either Groff's or Crockett's.  Collingwood's terminology is generally the most rigorous from the perspective of structural analysis, although Hansen's analysis of a few of the early techniques has turned out to be the more insightful.  Also, Hansen's terms are frequently shorter and punchier, making them easier to drop into normal conversation.  However, while Collingwood wrote in his native English, Hansen's terms were translated from the original Danish.  Sometimes the translations resonate, sometimes they don't.  Staudigel's terminology, the youngest of the group, stands Collingwood's on its head, for reasons that will become clear below.

A Basic Assumption – Most works on tablet weaving assume that the weaver sits at or near one end of the warp, looking toward the far end of the warp, and that the weaving proceeds away from the weaver.  This is not the only way to tablet weave, by any means, but it is the most common.  Accordingly, most sources leave unsaid this basic assumption.  Thus you will need to keep it in mind as a spatial reference.  Once you've internalized it, it will become easy for you to adapt this frame of reference toward the less common weaving orientations.

Direction the Cards Face – Commercial weaving tablets are generally printed on one side with letters for each of the four holes.  Many authors take the sidedness of tablets into account when explaining their setups, and it is critical to the success of their patterns that you follow their expectations.  However, there is even less consistency on this point than elsewhere.  Beginners, don't be discouraged if this paragraph seems confusing; just look for the author you need to know about and ignore the rest for now.  Now then, climb aboard and hang on!  Atwater says that the tablets should face right, with Card 1 on the far right of the pack.  Hansen agrees with this, but only for right-handed people; he says left-handed people should read his patterns upside down and backwards!  The Snows and Staudigel say that the tablets should face right, with Card 1 on the far left of the pack.  Crockett says the say the same thing, only mirrored: the printed side of the tablets should face the weaver's left, with Card 1 on the far right of the pack.  Groff says the tablets should face left, with Card 1 on the far left of the pack.  But Collingwood transcends the entire question, expecting you to figure out everything based on his very informative graphs and threading instructions.  If your mind works like that, it's a very liberating approach; otherwise it's unbelievably confusing!

Threading Direction – If you want a tablet to be able to turn in the way that is common to tablet weaving, then there are only two (opposing) ways it can be positioned on its four warp threads. These two possibilities are called threading directions.  See the left half of each illustration below for the two possibilities.  You will note that the two tablets are labeled in their centers with an S and a Z.  These stand for "S-threaded" and "Z-threaded."  The S- and Z-threaded terminology is extrapolated from international conventions for describing textiles, and was first popularized for use in tablet weaving by Collingwood.  It describes an unambiguous visual clue you can find for yourself by assuming the Basic Assumption position and then looking down at the warp.   The slant made by the thread as it goes through the tablet, viewed from above the warp, goes in the same direction as the stroke in the middle of the letter:  \ for S-wise and / for Z-wise. See the right half of each illustration below for examples.  [Note:  weaving would take place from the left or down side of each photo, with the unwoven warp stretching away toward the right or upwards.]

S-threadedS-threaded from above
Z-threaded from above

Many tablet weaving instructional books, however, use different words to describe these two possible threadings.  Confusingly, Staudigel also uses the terms S- and Z-threading, but he uses them to mean the opposite of Collingwood!  That is, he uses the terms to describe the appearance of the tablet (again, when viewed from the Basic Assumption position) rather than the direction the thread takes through it.  However, other authors (e.g., Hendrickson and Spies) who use the terms S- and Z-threading follow Collingwood's usage.  Groff and the Snows use "threaded up" for S-threaded and "threaded down" for Z-threaded. Crockett, on the other hand, uses L for "left-threaded" and R for "right-threaded."  This system works if you look at the face of each tablet; the preponderance of visible thread (to the left of center, or to the right of center) tells you whether the card is left- or right-threaded.  Peter Collingwood's mnemonic for "translating" his understanding of Z- and S-threading (as opposed to Staudigel's–are you confused yet?) to R- and L-threading is "SaLaZaR," i.e., S=L and Z=R.  Accordingly, Crockett's or Hansen's "left" threaded equals Collingwood's S-threaded.  Crockett's or Hansen's "right" threaded equals Collingwood's Z-threaded.

So here's a table of equivalents.  Keep in mind that it's Collingwood's terminology I have illustrated above, and you should be able to work out what you need.

Collingwood S threaded Z threaded
Atwood threaded Down threaded Up
Crockett Left threaded Right threaded
Groff threaded Down threaded Up
Hansen from the Left from the Right
Hendrickson to the Left to the Right
Snows threaded Down threaded Up
Staudigel Z threaded S threaded
Table of Equivalents

Alternately threaded – Tablets alternating Z and S (or S and Z!) threading across the warp; accordingly, each tablet will be threaded in the opposite direction from its two next-door neighbors.  Hansen sometimes calls this "back to back"  In other European writings it's sometimes called "threaded left and right in pairs."

Home Position – The position the tablets take before weaving begins, specifically with reference to which holes go "up" when viewed from Basic Assumption position.  Not all sources use the term, but often the ones that do so rely on designs in threaded-in techniques, i.e., Atwater, Crockett, Groff, and the Snows. Atwater, Groff, and the Snows call for holes A and D to be uppermost, with the tablets facing the right.  Atwater calls this "beginning position," and Groff calls it "beginning position."  Crockett calls for holes A and D to be uppermost, while the printed side of the tablets faces left.  Hendrickson, in her instructions for double-faced weave, calls for holes B and C to be uppermost.  Any translations of one person's patterns into other arrangements should take this into account; otherwise they won't look at all like the pattern draft.

Turning Direction
– Usually expressed as "forward" or "backward," or even F and B for short. Crockett uses "away" for forward and "toward" for backward.  Atwater uses "clockwise" for forward, and "counter-clockwise" for backward.

"Plain weave" – This term can be confusing because some of the less structurally sophisticated sources (e.g., Atwater, Crocker, Groff) talk about the normal or standard way of weaving as four forward, four backward.  But the weave structure of four-strand warp twining, continuously turned in a single direction, is what sets tablet weaving apart from any other type of band weave.  Accordingly, from within the context of tablet weaving "plain weave" defines this basic weave structure.  Outside the context of tablet weaving, however, "warp twining" is the preferred term, so as not to confuse it with potholder weaving! Also called "ground weave" by Hansen and "plain tablet weave" by Staudigel.

Threaded-in patterning – Hansen calls this "patterns as per diagram set-up."  Collingwood calls them "threaded patterns." 

That's more than enough for one issue!  Stay tuned for another installment in an upcoming issue.

Instructional Works Cited

Atwater, Mary Meigs.  Byways in Hand-Weaving.  Coupeville, Wash.:  Shuttle-Craft Books, Inc., 1988 [1954].

Collingwood, Peter.  The Techniques of Tablet Weaving.  London: Watson-Guptill, 1982.

Crockett, Candace.  Card Weaving, rev. ed.  Loveland, Colorado: Interweave Press, 1991.

Groff, Russell E.  Card Weaving: Complete Instructions plus 53 Patterns for Card Weaving or Tablet Weaving.  McMinnville, Oregon: Robin and Russ Handweavers, 1969.

Hansen, Egon.  Tablet Weaving: History, Techniques, Colours, Patterns.  Højbjerg, Denmark: Hovedland Publishers, 1990.

Hendrickson, Linda.  Double-Faced Tablet Weaving: 50 Designs from Around the World.  Portland, Oregon: self-published, 1996..

Snow, Marjorie, and Snow, William.  Step by Step Tablet Weaving.  New York: Golden Press, 1973.

Spies, Nancy.  Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance: A Thousand Years of Brocaded Tabletwoven Bands.  Jarrettsville, Maryland: Arelate Studio, 2000.

Staudigel, Otfried, 1960-61. Der Zauber Des Brettchenwebens, or Tablet Weaving Magic:  Patterns from Oriental Countries and 25 Patterns in Plain Tablet Weave. Libri Books on Demand, 2001.

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This article was originally published in Issue 3 (August 2003)  of Knot Now, the newsletter of the Worshipful Company of Narrowworkers of the East Kingdom, SCA.  I have replaced the drawing in the original with photographs of a warped tablet, largely because neither my husband nor I could figure out whether one of us had drawn the original drawing.  I did not want to use someone else's work uncredited, hence the new illustrations.  

I don't have any notes on what the follow-up article was to contain; it never even reached the outline phase.

18 February 2015

Warp-Float Weaves with Deflected Wefts: Wabengewebe

© Carolyn Priest-Dorman, 2001

A small group of related weaves survive from the period between the seventh and tenth centuries (Tidow, 133).  The examples (there are, by all accounts, seven or perhaps eight) have been found in England, Sweden, and Germany, and they are believed to be Alamannic or perhaps Frankish in origin.  Hans-Jürgen Hundt, who first took an interest in them after he discovered one, named them Wabengewebe, or honeycomb.

Technical Details

Technical information is only available for six of the pieces.  Two are from Swedish warrior graves of the Vendel period, Valsgärde 8 (the earliest piece) and Valsgärde 13.  One is from an eighth- or ninth-century Slavonic grave at Osmarsleben in Sachsen-Anhalt.  Two are from eighth-century Alamannic warrior graves, Sievern Grave 66 in Lower Saxony and Alladorf Grave 60 in Bavaria.  The last, Jorvík 1336,  is from tenth-century Anglo-Scandinavian levels at York.  The other two known pieces, Vendel 11 and Vendel 12, come from Swedish graves at Vendel and have not been published.

Some pieces used the same grist in warp and weft, while others used a heavier weft than warp yarn.  All were woven using Z-spun singles in warp and weft.  Only one piece (Alladorf 60) has been identified as woven of wool; all the other pieces that were susceptible to fiber type analysis turned out to be linen.

Fig. 1:  Alladorf Grab 60 wabengewebe; 20Z x 16Z wool; 8thC Frankish

Four of the pieces are in the medium fine range, at 20 to 24 ends per cm, with weft counts of 12, 16, and 18 per cm.  One piece is slightly less fine, with 15 ends and picks per cm, and one piece is pretty coarse at 7 ends and 9 picks per cm.  Some pieces were woven with equal numbers of ends and picks per cm, while others were less even.  The largest disparity in thread count comes from the Valsgärde 8 piece, with its 24 ends and 12 picks per cm (Walton 1989, 356).  Although it's unclear what purpose these textiles served, I believe that most of them were used as domestic textiles, e.g., towels or table linens.


The early medieval Wabengewebe is a real puzzler: apparently, no two known examples are identical in structure.  The basic structure is a one-shuttle, two-block weave that resembles both a modern honeycomb weave and a huck weave.  It has groups of warp floats like huck, and it has deflected wefts outlining cells in the ground weave, like modern "honeycomb" weaves.  However, there the resemblances end.  Especially, there are no corresponding long weft floats on the backs of Wabengewebes.  Variations in cell interlacements (tabby or 1/2 twill), numbers of warp floats, and cell sizes make all the known examples different from one another. 

Published photos of textile fragments in this technique are rare, and often it is not possible to determine the weave structure from them.  Since the original fragments are often very small, it is possible to misread a 1/2 twill cell as a tabby cell, or to miscount the number of weft threads in a cell.  The deflected weft sometimes obscures as many as three other wefts, depending on structure, and counting the total number of wefts can therefore be very difficult.

Additionally, not many drawdowns are published, and some of the published drawdowns are incorrect.  The generalized Wabengewebe drawdown published in Bender Jørgensen (Figure 1P, which she labels "honeycomb,") is incorrect: it's for a modern waffle weave.  Penelope Walton twice published a Wabengewebe drawdown that was 90 degrees off true (Walton 1989, 350; Walton 1990, 66). 

Adding to the mystery, Hundt's published schematic for the Sievern 66 fragment is technically impossible: some of the short warp floats abut other long warp floats rather than showing longer continuous warp floats (Hundt 153 and Abb. 4).  During the course of his investigations into Wabengewebes, Hundt consulted a weaving instructor named Frau Kircher.  The sample she wove for Hundt does not match either the photo of the original or Hundt's drawdown for the textile in question (see Hundt 159, Abb. 8-5).  Accordingly, since any reconstruction would be conjectural and without benefit of having consulted the actual textile fragment, a draft for the Sievern piece is not included here.

Two definite examples exist of cell structures in 1/2 twill, those from York (see the draft for Jorvík 1336) and Grave 8 at Valsgärde.  Two shots of 1/2 twill are followed by a shot of tabby in the first block; in the second block the opposite two twill sheds and the opposite tabby shed are used instead.  The reverse of a textile in this technique shows a section of tabby interlacement behind the warps that float on the front; some weft floats are sandwiched between the two layers.

Fig. 2: Jorvik 1336 wabengewebe

According to Walton, the Valsgärde 8 piece has shorter weft floats and longer cells than the Jorvík 1336 piece (Walton 1989, 356).  However, when you consider that Walton believes the textile to have been woven 90 degrees off its true orientation, this means that Valsgärde 8 actually has a larger number of warp floats than Jorvík 1336, and that they are shorter.  This results in wider, flatter cells than Jorvík 1336.

Other examples, more mysterious and less well documented, have been identified by various specialists as consisting of tabby cell structure.  Among these is the Sievern piece, with its impossible drawdown.  Another piece, with small cells definitely woven in tabby, is also woven in a mixture of twill and tabby.  Shots of 2/1 twill alternate with shots of tabby, with the tabby shed changing to mark the change between the two blocks.  Pairs of warp floats on the front alternate with single warp floats on the reverse.  The deflected wefts are of course in twill.  (See the draft for Alladorf Grave 60.)  The Osmarsleben fragment is identified as having tabby cells (Bender Jørgensen 1991, 237, entry Germany V.40.l).  The accompanying photo (Bender Jørgensen 1991, 147, Fig. 181d) appears to have tabby cells; however, since the cells are small I suspect that some interlacement like the Alladorf one may have been used.

Photos and/or drafts are not available for the other three Swedish examples.  The eighth century fragments from Grave 13 at Valsgärde in Sweden were found on a shield boss.  A firm identification of the ground weave is impossible, but it was either "tabby or 2/1 twill" (Bender Jørgensen 1991, 262, entry Sweden IV.17:113).  No further information on the two Vendel fragments is available at the time of writing.


Black, Mary.  The Key to Weaving: A Textbook of Hand Weaving for the Beginning Weaver, Second Revised Edition.  New York:  MacMillan Publishing Company, 1980.

Bender Jørgensen, Lise. North European Textiles until AD 1000. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 1991.  Huge catalogue of extant early textiles, mostly fragments; exceedingly well documented.

-----.  "The Textiles of the Saxons, Anglo-Saxons and Franks."  Studien zur Sachsenforschung, vol. 7 (1991), pp. 11-23.  Good summary information on textile types particular to these cultures.

Davison, Marguerite Porter.  A Handweaver's Pattern Book, Revised Edition.  Swarthmore, Pennsylvania: Marguerite Porter Davison, 1951 [1944]. 

Hundt, H.-J.  "Textilreste aus dem frühgeschichtlichen Kriegergrab von Sievern, Kr. Wesermünde, 1954."  Studien zur Sachsenforschung, vol. 2 (1980), pp. 151-160.  Write-ups on Sievern 66 and Alladorf 60.
Tidow, Klaus.  "Kleingemusterte Woll- und Leinengewebe aus der Eisenzeit und dem Mittelalter--Herkunft, Herstellung und Verbreitung," pp. 131-137 in Textiles in European Archaeology: Report from the 6th NESAT Symposium, 7-11th May 1996 in Borås, ed. Lise Bender Jørgensen and Christina Rinaldo. GOTARC Series A, Vol. 1. Göteborg: Göteborg University Department of Archaeology, 1998.  Brief summary of information on several interesting early medieval weaves, including Wabengewebes.

Walton, Penelope. Textiles, Cordage and Raw Fibre from 16-22 Coppergate. The Archaeology of York, Volume 17, Fascicule 5. York: York Archaeological Trust and the Council for British Archaeology, 1989.  Write-up on Jorvík 1336 and an excellent comparative section on similar weaves.  [Now available from Pangur Press at this link.]

Walton, Penelope.  "Textile Production at Coppergate, York: Anglo-Saxon or Viking?," pp. 61-72 in Textiles in Northern Archaeology: NESAT III Textile Symposium in York 6-9 May 1987, ed. Penelope Walton and John P. Wild. London:  Archetype Publications, 1990.  Brief mention of Jorvík 1336 and similar weaves.

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This article was originally published in Issue 27 (March 2001) of Medieval Textiles, the newsletter of the medieval textiles study group of Complex Weavers.  The draft and drawdown I submitted were created using the freeware drafting program, WinWeave.  Using GIMP, I have turned the original draft into a graphic for republishing here.  I have also restored the annotations to the bibliography; they were omitted for space reasons during publication.

This is a kitchen towel in the Jorvík 1336 weave structure.  It was woven in unmercerized cotton as a present for me by Susan Nalley.  It's been in my normal kitchen towel rotation for maybe seven or eight years now and is holding up beautifully.


I have not pursued the Wabengewebe class of weave structures lately; it may be that other examples of it have turned up in the last 15 years.  If I find any more, I'll post about it with cross-links.

17 February 2015

2/2 Twills: Kreuzköper

© Carolyn Priest-Dorman, 2000

The "kreuzköper," or "cross twill," is often called a "broken twill" in English.  It is identical to Marguerite Porter Davison's "Halvorsen #5 Pebble Weave," treadling VII (Davison, p. 5).  In north Europe, during the centuries leading up to the Norman Conquest, such weaves were executed in singles wool threads at medium to coarse setts and served as blankets, cloaks, outer clothing, and the like.

16 February 2015

Some Medieval Linen Weaves

[This article was originally published in Issue 30 (December 2001) of Medieval Textiles, the newsletter of the medieval textiles study group of Complex Weavers.] 

© Carolyn Priest-Dorman, 2001

While the most common linen product in the Middle Ages was tabby-woven, weavers also produced many types of figured linens.  The rippenköper and Wabengewebe described in previous articles represent some early medieval examples.  This article expands the scope of medieval cultures and techniques producing simple figured linen weaves. 

Hello, world!

This blog is for sharing my studies of historic textiles and their techniques.  At first I'll be parking some of my older work here so it will be more accessible.  If older articles need updating (as many of them do), I'll try to do that too.  I also expect I'll be adding new entries as the mood strikes.