25 June 2015

Jorvík 1307: This Project Grew in the Planning

Or, "what I did with the rest of that handspun warp."

It all started when I realized I'd spun a good bit more warp than I needed for my yard of  Jorvík 1307.  I thought I should probably try some other weft with it so I'd have a sample for teaching aids.

I should say here that I have a good-sized collection of samples I use as visual aids when discussing various weaving concepts, structures, treatments, and colors.  They're mostly offcuts from larger projects.  Once in a while, though, I weave something specifically for use as a teaching sample.  Jorvík 1307 was turning out to be the occasion for doing that again.

I looked through my stash of handspun worsted yarn in appropriate fibers—Icelandic, Manx Laoghtan, Shetland.  I noticed I had a fairish quantity of Shetland singles yarn in the 0.6mm diameter range, some Z-spun and some S-spun.  The yarn size was in the zone for Jorvík textiles, although not dead-on accurate for any of them when combined with the pre-existing 0.4mm warp.  But the Z-Z versus Z-S textile divide has been on my mind since I first read Lise Bender Jørgensen's work on spin direction nearly 25 years ago.  Here by happenstance I had an opportunity to experiment with it at period-correct setts using period-correct yarns.  I decided I'd weave some of the warp off with each of the two types of yarns so I would have an example of two cloths sharing the same sett, with the same size and fiber type of weft yarn but differing in their direction of spin.

Partly as a relief from the attentive work I'd put into making the first part of the textile as correct as I could, I decided to beat this part of the textile by instinct, until it looked and felt "right."  Purely subjective!  The 17-18 picks per inch of Jorvík 1307 was too loose for this smaller weft.  I didn't count my picks, but I worked hard to beat evenly, especially when it came to matching the beat I'd used in the S section when it became time to weave the Z section.  Overall the weaving went speedily and without incident.  I did not notice anything to differentiate the ways the two yarns behaved as weft.

It was difficult to get a good representative photo of the section woven with S-spun weft.  This washed-out shot (taken on the loom) shows the texture more clearly than any of the others I took.  You can make out the lozenges, but they're indistinct.

S-spun weft

When I switched to the Z-spun weft, the structure was immediately more clear.  Here's a shot taken off-loom that shows mostly the Z-spun weft area.

Transition from S-spun weft (below) to Z-spun weft (above)

Here's a better shot of them both together.

Z-spun weft at top, S-spun weft at bottom

After finishing, the S-spun section of the cloth has about 27 picks per inch, while the Z-spun section has only 25 picks per inch.  I am at a loss to know whether this result stems from my having failed to beat precisely across different portions of the warp or from some property of the weft yarns themselves.

I have let some other string geeks (mostly spinners) play with the finished cloth to see what they thought.  Everyone agrees that the Z-Z textile shows the weave structure most clearly.  That could explain why so many broken lozenge twills are woven with Z yarns in both systems.  If you're going to go to the trouble of knitting heddles for and then weaving a broken lozenge, I should think you'd want your work to be noticed!

But if that's the case, then why would Z-S broken lozenge twills even exist?  The answer to that question may have something to do not with appearance, but with handling.

The Z-S textile, like the Jorvík 1307 one, gives a thick and cushy impression.  Everything about it seems like it's smooshed a little more together, from the pick count to its appearance and handling.  It's more limp, less dynamic than the Z-Z textile.  It reminds me of a tablet-woven band with alternating threading:  the twists cancel each other out, leaving the textile neutral.  The Z-Z textile responds more quickly to movement, which gives it a more lively hand.

Refreshing my memory about the numbers and distributions of Z-S broken lozenge twills will be a research pleasure.  Perhaps it will even lead to some practical conclusions, or at least a testable hypothesis.  But for production purposes I will probably stick as much as I can to Z-Z spun twills, since I enjoy the look and dynamism of them.  Also, my Z yarns are much better spun than my S yarns!


  1. Fascinating to learn that the direction of spin makes so much difference in how strongly the twill structure shows up. Thanks for posting this!

  2. This is really impressing! Thanks for sharing it with us. I'm also working on spin patterend textiles on the loom. I started to reproduce a textile from the salt mines in Hallstatt, where z- and s-spun yarn is used altenating both in warp an weft. The yarn I use was not handspun but done in a mini mill to my wishes. It is rahter close to handspun yarn.
    If you want to take a look at my blog: http://textileflaeche.blogspot.de/2015/06/nach-dem-farbemisserfolg-der-ersten.html
    sorry,it s only in german, but if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask.

    1. Thanks for the link! I can make out German roughly, especially when the subject is textiles. But there's always Google Translate which can help me fill in what I don't recognize. I look forward to reading it carefully, and to poking around the rest of your blog. :-)

      I love the subtlety of spin patterning. It is one of my favorite types of pre-medieval European textiles. But I'm not a production spinner, so I've never tried weaving spin patterned cloth. If I had access to a mill that could provide me S-spun singles I would love to experiment with weaving some.

  3. There is also a first part of the planning: http://textileflaeche.blogspot.de/