01 July 2015

2/1 Twills: Rippenköper

© Carolyn Priest-Dorman, 2000

The “rippenköper,” or “repp twill,” has no standard equivalent name in English. The weave was first identified, named, and explained in 1967 by Hans-Jürgen Hundt in an archaeological publication. Rippenköper is a catch-all term for those twills, usually 2/1, whose basic structure alternates bands of warp-faced twill with bands of weft-faced twill, “usually after every third pick” (Bender Jørgensen, p. 14). Although it is a very simple
weave, I haven’t found it yet in a modern book.

basic 2/1 rippenköper

Medieval European finds of rippenköper number 40 or more, and date to the 6th and 7th centuries (Tidow, p. 131). Almost all of them are woven in narrow bands of 1/2 and 2/1 twill. Many are flax, but wool examples also exist. All are of medium, good, or high quality, with Z-spun singles thread in both warp and weft. Setts range between 14 to 30 warps per centimeter and 14 to 22 wefts per centimeter. Many of the finds cluster in southern Germany–Baden-Württenberg in the southwest and Bavaria in the southeast (Bender Jørgensen, p. 78). Some later examples in Latvia date to the eleventh century (Zarina, p. 110, Abb. 13.3) and are thought to have been imported. They too are good quality, woven with Z-spun singles.

An unusual rippenköper textile from Elgg, in Switzerland, is a point twill entered with an irregular unit of six or nine threads. It alternates wide bands (nine picks) and narrow bands (three picks) of weft-faced twill between narrow bands of warp-faced twill (three picks). (Tidow, p. 131 and Abb. 2B) Another unusual textile that is almost rippenköper comes from an eighth century Alamannic warrior’s grave in northern Germany. It is a two-color flax weave in bands of 2/1 twill alternating with narrow bands of a very unusual extended tabby variant. The thread count is 14 Z-spun warps by 15 S-spun wefts per centimeter (Hundt, 1980, p. 152), which is unusual both for its mixed spinning and for being at the coarse end of the range for a rippenköper. The resulting texture looks as if the weaver was trying to weave bands of either plain tabby or louisine but couldn’t quite manage it with the tie-up.

Until recently rippenköper was believed to be of European origin. However, several related second-century examples from Roman sites in Egypt have recently come to light, three in 2/1 twill wool and twelve in 3/1 twill wool. At least one of the Egyptian examples occurs in a 3/1 twill following the basic rippenköper structure outlined above, whereas another 2/1 twill example is composed of five picks of warp-faced twill followed by four picks of weft-faced twill (Cardon, p. 21). It seems at least plausible that they originated there, since most of the Egyptian examples are S-spun in both warp and weft (Cardon, p. 19), a characteristic of Egyptian textiles at that time. Also, there are no known earlier examples of the weave.

By considering the Egyptian rippenköper weaves along with the damask diapers (block twill damasks) that are the specific focus of her article, textile archaeologist Dominique Cardon implies that the two weave structures developed together. This seems a logical assumption to make. Since the rippenköper structure relies for its effect on the contrast between warp-faced and weft-faced weaves, it really is half-way to the structure of a damask diaper. The only structural difference between the two is the regular reversal of warp entering order that occurs in a damask diaper.

There is no solid information on the color or colors of yarn that may have been used in the European finds. Hundt, who has analyzed and reported on several of them, suggests that the use of more than one color would highlight the weave structure appropriately (Hundt, 1978, p. 158). However, the Egyptian finds are monochrome, in either undyed or blue wool (Cardon, p. 19).

It’s not altogether clear from their contexts what purposes may have been served by rippenköper textiles in Europe. The Egyptian pieces may have been garment textiles like some other twill wool textiles from that period that were executed in related weaves. If Cardon’s implication about the relationship between rippenköper and damask twills is correct, then rippenköper may have been a luxury clothing textile. Similarly, Hundt speculates that rippenköper may have been “one of the better clothing textiles of its time” (Hundt, 1983, p. 209).

basic 3/1 rippenköper

Sadly, after its brief period of popularity in the early Middle Ages, rippenköper seems to have fallen into an undeserved oblivion. However, having recently completed a sample of linen rippenköper for the MTSG twill sample exchange, I am captivated by its highly textured monochrome effect. The 2/1 rippenköper can be woven on a basic four-shaft loom with six treadles, either as drafted or on a skeleton tie-up. The 3/1 rippenköper requires either eight treadles or a skeleton tie-up. Drafts for basic 2/1 and basic 3/1 rippenköper are included with this article.


Bender Jørgensen, Lise. 1991. North European Textiles until AD 1000. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press.  A goldmine of information on weave structures and their historical occurrences, with an immense bibliography.

Cardon, Dominique. 1999. “Les Damassés de Laine de Krokodilô (100-120 apr. J.-C.),” Bulletin du CIETA [Centre International d’Étude des Textiles Anciens], no. 76, pp. 6-21.  Report on several wool damask diapers from Roman outposts in eastern Egypt, dating to the early second century CE. The working hypothesis is that they are indigenous.

Hundt, Hans-Jürgen. 1978. “Die Textilreste,” pp. 149-163 in Peter Paulsen and Helga Schach-Dürges, Das alamannische Gräberfeld von Giengen an der Brenz. Forschungen und Berichte zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte in Baden-Württemberg, Band 10. Stuttgart: Verlag Müller & Gräff.  Alamannic graves examined, including an important warrior’s grave. Graves 12 and 26 held three examples of rippenköper. Includes a draft and drawdown.

-----. 1983. “Ein Textilfund aus Grab 8 von Dörverden, Kr. Verden (Aller),  Niedersachsen.” Studien zur Sachsenforschung, vol. 4, pp. 207-212.  Another Alamannic-period grave. Best explanation of rippenköper I’ve seen, by the man who identified and named it; includes a draft and drawdown.

-----. 1980. “Textilereste aus den frühgeschichtlichen Kriegergrab von Sievern, Kr. Wesermünde, 1954.” Studien zur Sachsenforschung, vol. 2, pp. 151-160.  Report on the textiles from an Alamannic warrior’s chamber grave in northern Saxony, including tools, linens, and an unusual weave related to rippenköper.

Tidow, Klaus. 1998. “Kleingemusterte Woll- und Leinengewebe aus der Eisenzeit und dem Mittelalter – Herkunft, Herstellung und Verbreitung,” in Lise Bender Jørgensen and Christina Rinaldo, Christina, eds., Textiles in European Archaeology: Report from the 6th NESAT Symposium, 7-11th May 1996 in Borås, pp. 131-137.  GOTARC Series A, Vol. 1. Göteborg: Göteborg University Department of Archaeology.  Summarizes information on the occurrence of several early pattern weaves including rippenköper. Best bibliography currently available.

Zarina, Anna. 1990. “Herstellungsmethoden der in Gräberfeldern des 3-13 Jh. im Gebiet Lettlands gefundenen Gewebe,” in Penelope Walton and John P. Wild, eds., Textiles in Northern Archaeology: NESAT III Textile Symposium in York 6-9 May 1987, pp. 107-112. London: Archetype Publications.  Brief note about five finds of rippenköper from three locations dating to the eleventh century.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

This article was originally published in Issue 25 (September 2000) of Medieval Textiles, the newsletter of the medieval textiles study group of Complex Weavers.  The weaving drafts that appeared in the article were created by the editor, and so I have not reproduced them here.  Instead, I have taken the original WinWeave drafts I provided for publication along with the original article and turned them into graphics using GIMP.

In modern American weaving parlance, rippenköper is a type of turned twill:  a twill weave structure where the interlacing mirrors its tie-downs (in this case 2/1 to 1/2 and back) by rows or, in more complex examples, by block.  Although I lacked that vocabulary at the time I wrote, making it hard to find parallel modern examples, I was soon schooled.  Not long after this article originally went to press, Alice Schlein published a series of articles in Handwoven (Jan-Feb and March-April 2001) on turned twills with color effects.  I now understand that turned twill, twill blocks, twill damask, and damask diaper are all in the same structure family as rippenköper even though they're not all based on a 2/1-1/2 interlacing.

NOTE:  The current background tile for this blog is taken from a scan of a rippenköper I wove in linen.

Additional Sources:

Banck-Burgess, Johanna.  "Aspekte der frühmittelalterlichen Webstuhltechnologie anhand von Geweben mit zusammengesetzter Bindung," pp. 98-101 in Archäologische Textilfunde [Archaeological Textiles], ed. Antoinette Rast-Eicher and Renata Windler.  NESAT IX.  Näfels, Switzerland:  Ragotti & Arioli Print GmbH, 2007.  Nice b/w photo (Abb. 5) of an Alamannic rippenköper find.

Peek, Christina.  "Dokumentation organischer Bodenfunde," pp. 37-44 in NESAT XI:  The North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles XI, ed Johanna Banck-Burgess and Carla Nübold (Rahden, Germany:  Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH, 2013).  A good photo of a mineralized fragment of rippenköper and a 3-D rendering of another rippenköper fragment.

Rast-Eicher, Antoinette.  "Early Medieval Costume in Switzerland," pp. 75-80 in Priceless Invention of Humanity—Textiles, ed. Jerzy Maik.  NESAT VIII.  Acta Archaeologia Lodsiensia Nr 50/1 (Łódź, 2004).  Notes some examples of  rippenköper among the clothing of men and women in the fifth to seventh centuries CE, which supports Hundt's theory about
rippenköper as a clothing textile.

Schlein, Alice. “Turned Twill Color Effects on Eight Shafts.” Handwoven, Issue 104 (March-April 2001), pp. 38–41; errata in Handwoven, Issue 105 (May-June 2001), p. 14.

-----. “Turned Twills and Color Effects.”  Handwoven, Issue 103 (January-February 2001), pp. 46–49.

Schrenk, Sabine.  "Newly discovered textiles from the early Middle Ages in Köln/Cologne," pp. 102-107 in Archäologische Textilfunde [Archaeological Textiles], ed. Antoinette Rast-Eicher and Renata Windler.  NESAT IX.  Näfels, Switzerland:  Ragotti & Arioli Print GmbH, 2007. Catalogue entry #1 in this article is a third- to fourth-century CE block damask silk based on a 2/1 twill which is unusual for block damask silks.  It may help to bridge the gap between 2/1 wool twills (including rippenköpers) and late Roman  3/1 block damask silks.


  1. Just stumbled over your blog! What a find! This is a highly interresting and so thorough article, it's fantastic! Have you woven this structure and if yes, will it result in a pleated looking effect?

  2. Thanks!

    I have woven samples of it. The background image of the blog is from a scan of one of those samples.