Weave Along with Elewys, Ep 15: Zaltys 10th century Lithuanian

Archaeologists have produced a few tablet weaving pieces in their searches, including this one that was found in the 10th century grave of a woman from Paragaudis.  In a book called North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles X (edited by Eva B. Andersson Strand, Margarita Gleba, Ulla Mannering, Cherine Munkholt) there is a mention of this textile fragment that was found in grave 59.  It’s a colorful wool band of red, grey and brown, although they are unsure what dye stuffs were used.  The pattern of the stylized S motif is known as the ‘serpent’ pattern, which is found frequently in western Baltic countries; known as a žaltys in Lithuanian mythology, it is a sacred animal of the sun goddess Saulė, the guardian of the home and a symbol of fertility. Killing žaltys was said to bring great misfortunes upon the household, so people would find them in the fields, give it milk to befriend the creatures and sometimes even bring it home to keep as a pet, as it promised good harvests and wealth.  Snakes in the house.  That’s a nope.

I came across this archaeological image a few years ago, but I couldn’t find a pattern with it, so I had to figure it out on my own based on experience…but I’m always up for a challenge!  Looking at the drawings, I guessed that it was probably a skip hole weave, based on the little dots on the edges between the S motifs.  It looks very similar to a couple other patterns I had seen, so I was pretty sure that’s what I was looking at.

Drawing these sorts of things on paper is not easy…and doing physical experiments would be time consuming and use up a lot of materials, so I needed a better option.  Luckily, I had just discovered the TDD!  If you haven’t checked out the Tablet Weaving Draft Designer site, you should do that!  It’s a very easy to use program, and Catherine and her husband James just did some updates recently, and Catherine made a YouTube video that walks you through how to use it. 

So after tinkering with the pattern a bit, I came up with this…and warped it up to see how it looked…and it was a match! 


Today’s Laurel Kingdom is the Kingdom of the Outlands! It was created in 1986 and encompasses New Mexico and Colorado, parts of Wyoming, the Nebraska panhandle, El Paso County and the Hudspeth County in Texas. Their colors are green and yellow.  My favorite part is their heraldic banner, which has the same deer on it as the Deer Xing signs.  Of course, the banners for An Tir has the Lowenbrau lion.

The original piece appears that it started with 16 picks of diagonal lines, but then follows with 56 picks to the sequence.  If you want to weave the diagonal stripes into your piece, you can do that, or you can use one of the other options that I’ve included:  a 56 pick pattern (without the diagonal stripes) or a 24 pick simplified pattern.  I’ve also included options to untwist the pattern by weaving S motifs instead of Z. Dealer’s choice!

56 Pick sequence, no diagonal lines
Simplified 24 pick sequence

In the video, I erroneously identified this as a twist-neutral pattern, but discovered after doing several repeats that the twist was, in fact, building up. I modified the pattern to create a twist-neutral version, which is below:

Twist Neutral Serpents, simplified (24 picks x 2)

For this pattern, you can weave as-is, or you can weave picks 1-24 until it’s over-twisted, then weave picks 25-48 until it’s over-twisted in the opposite direction.

If you want to do the long version, here are the two parts to make it twist neutral.

56 pick version, Part I
56 pick version, Part II (reverse)



Thoughts on Period Looms

I was thinking a bit tonight on period looms. We all want to go to a demo and use a period loom and wear our historic clothing and really look the part. Like we just stepped out of a medieval illustration.

In the SCA and in our modern lives, however, we often have to make concessions for budget, availability, accessibility, and ergonomics. I have usually done all my weaving on an inkle loom, which, to be frank, is a 19th century invention. However, I find it much more easy to work on, transport, maintain tension on my work, and most importantly, not hurt my back.


I have made a few other looms to weave on and have experimented with weaving on them with varying degrees of success.

The biggest one I made was this warp-weighted loom that I created using scraps from the garage. I based it on a number of drawings from books like Marta Hoffman’s “The Warp Weighted Loom” and several historic images.

Warp Weighted Loom, prototype

Overall, it worked well, although I did decide that it could be a little bit shorter to better accommodate my height (or lack thereof). The weights were just bags of gravel, the yarn was wool, and the selvedge edge (across the top) was a woven piece with long wefts that became the warps of the project. I was able to weave a little bit on it, but it required standing and a fair amount of wall space. As this was a prototype and an experiment, I ended up packing it away and it’s living in the garage at the moment. I didn’t do any tablet weaving on it, however, and it seemed like much more tool than necessary for a narrow band. I have read about people doing the fabric weaving and using tablet weaving as part of the side selvedges, but this wasn’t included in my experiment.

Many people LOVE backstrap weaving, but I have tried it several times with NO success. It is ergonomically challenging and always ends in back pain for me. I did see this option of using two fixed points to weave, but this is also difficult to do in a place like a hotel lobby…

Estonian woman weaving

Looking to make something more portable, and easy to manufacture in bulk to teach a class, my friend and I made a bunch of “surfboard” looms. It was 1 x 4 lumber, a couple small blocks and some long screws and nuts (although this prototype has hex nuts, we swapped them out for wing nuts as they were easier to tighten by hand). It worked…mostly… There were some tension issues, but overall it was a workable loom for a class…but still not very period.

This loom was hexed, but later had wingnuts

The next couple of experiments were rigid heddle and I didn’t do much with them as I was struggling with the tensioning systems…but then I tried making a 3D printed loom. Hubby has a printer and I thought it would be fun to try making it. After making several modifications from the original rigid heddle loom, I created this simple frame loom. In the end, very few parts were 3D printed–just the corner pieces and the ratchet and pawl assembly, which didn’t work quite as well as I needed–the pawl keeps popping out under tension. I did weave a couple pieces on it and it worked OK. It was a fun experiment, at least!

Boxy frame loom

This is similar (at least in method) to the box looms of the later Middle Ages, like this image: La Noble Pastorale from c 1500. It is rather hard to see what’s going on here (blurry), but it’s clearly meant for narrow band weaving. It is more box-like, not a frame.

La Noble Pastorale (tapestry) Loire region about 1500 Paris, Musee du Louvre Scan from Medieval Tapestry Dora Heinz Crown 1965 plate 14 (Detail)

The next collection of looms are based on this pile of sticks–the Oseberg loom.

Grave robbers took all the valuables, but they left the good stuff behind!

This remarkable find from the Oseberg farm in Norway dates to the 9th century which includes an unfinished piece of weaving with a whole bunch of cards. This is an upright loom that looks something like this:

From Machtdasglücklich Oderkanndasweg, found on Pinterest.

I love this modified loom design because it looks like it breaks down for easy transport! This is ideal for demo purposes and small vehicles.

Also, there are a number of medieval images of women using similar set ups for weaving, like this one:

The plans for this loom were found on Pinterest, also.

With a few modifications, it can be made into a break-down loom!

I took a class many years ago (in the 90s) from Master Fiacha, also a tablet weaver in An Tir, and he created these portable Oseberg-style table looms. It is a simple 2 x 4 and a couple dowels, and requires a clamp to hold it on the table, but it is a fairly usable tool.

It was rather LONG, however, so I thought I’d try to create a more portable size using the original loom as inspiration.

Osebert, the Oseberg table loom

With just a couple of pieces of dimensional lumber, a couple of dowels, and 4 screws, this little loom went together quickly. It stands just over a foot tall and about 18″ long. It fits easily into a carry on bag, ready to fly off to exotic locales for vacation weaving!

I loaded up a project on it and worked it for a while, getting used to the angle and the wobbly nature of the cards as I worked. It was different, but not unmanageable.

Osebert in Paradise

So for future demos, I will be bringing the little Oseberg table loom with me to work on projects. It’s small and portable and fun to work on!


Weave Along 27: Roger II of Sicily

Here’s the pattern for the 12th century tablet woven piece found on the coronation cloak of Roger II of Sicily.

The original was a brocaded piece, and this is an interpretation of that pattern in a threaded-in style.

I added two cards on each side to create a border, which I would recommend, but I forgot to add it to the turning sequence.

Pattern and turning sequence without the border cards

I borrowed heavily from the pattern created by Sylvia Dominguez, though her pattern has an additional motif which is not included in the cloak, as far as I can tell.

Materials for Getting Started

I recently got a question about what tools and materials you need to get started weaving. I thought I had done a video (I did…sort of) or a blog post (a long time ago), so I figured it was time for an update. I have learned a lot in the last couple of years and found some new tricks and materials, so let’s start at the beginning.

This is one of those hobbies that doesn’t require a great deal of expensive tools and machinery to get started. There are few things that you need, and depending on your budget, you can make some economical choices or go hog wild and get All The Things!

The two things that you definitely need are cards and thread.

The cards can be purchased from most spinning and weaving stores, or you can find them on Amazon. I have an Amazon storefront that will give me a small commission for referrals–this is the link, which is also in the video description. There are a few different brands of cards to choose from. I have Schacht cards, which I quite like, but there are some cheaper options, also. There may also be some made from wood, although I find that many of the wood cards are a bit thick for my taste–the cardboard and 3D printed ones that are between .5mm and 1mm are the best size.

You can also get 3D printed cards from sellers on Etsy. Rowanberry Jam had some 3D printed cards you could buy, but appears to not be selling on Etsy at this time. I will keep looking for where Lidiya may have wandered off to…. In the meantime, there are some 3D printing patterns available on Thingiverse–so if you or someone you know has a 3D printer, you can print your own. I have quite a few and I love them!

On the left, 2″ Rowanberry Jam cards; on the right, 2 1/2″ home printed cards

You can also make the cards from cardstock–something like cereal box thickness. If you have a penchant for crafting, have the time and patience, or some fancy scrapbooking tools to help speed up the process, you may enjoy making your own. Round the corners of those homemade cards so they turn easier and avoid snagging on the threads as you weave. I have made some from granola bar boxes, from file folders, and gift boxes. Many people recommend making them from playing cards! Square them off, round the corners, and punch holes for the yarn.

Next you will need yarn. I have a preference for cotton–in the Medieval period, it was much more common to see wool, linen, and silk (and combinations of these), but I tend to use what is easily accessible and affordable. If you are just starting out, you may want to get some inexpensive stuff to start with.

Crochet cotton is some of the most accessible, inexpensive, and colorful options out there. Every craft store carries it; Michael’s carries Aunt Lydia’s Classic 10 which is perfect for this kind of weaving. It’s a #0 lace weight yarn, comes in 350-400 yard balls (varies by color), and comes in around 45 different colors. The ad I just looked at listed them at $3.69 per ball, so for under $10, you can get yarn enough for a few projects to help you decide if this craft is right for you. Choose 2 or 3 colors, using a variety of light and dark colors. Maybe choose the colors of your favorite sports team, your alma mater, your heraldry, or the heraldry of your favorite nation’s flag.

Maurice Brassard

Another yarn option, which is a bit more expensive and more difficult to acquire, is either Maysville Carpet Warp, an 8/4 cotton; or Maurice Brassard 8/2 cotton. From the images, they look almost identical, but from this close-up of the yarn, side by side, you can see the Maysville is quite a bit thicker than the Maurice Brassard.

Maysville, being 8/4, has four threads twisted together. Maurice is 8/2, which has 2 threads twisted together.

I have recently made the switch to the 8/2, and find that I prefer the lighter yarn for weaving. Those are generally not available at the local craft stores, but might be found at a specialty weaving store, or you can find them online at WEBS (www.yarn.com) or The Woolery (www.woolery.com).

The 100 yard spools and the wide variety of colors available in the 20/2 silk. Just check out that shine!

If you really want to up your weaving game or looking for something very luxurious for a special occasion or gift, you can’t go wrong with SILK. Eowyn de Wever has been my go-to silk supplier, and she can be found at www.eowyndewever.com. The 60/2 is super fine…it’s like weaving with sewing thread, and unless you’re doing something with dozens of cards, this is probably not what you’re looking for. The 20/2 is more like a fine crochet cotton and is what I would recommend for most silk weaving. She has some available in cones or in 100 yard spools which is enough for a single project.

The only other thing you need is something to hold the work. There are looms, like the inkle looms I use (I own both a Beka loom and a Schacht loom, as well as an unmarked homemade loom that I bought second hand); a box loom; backstrap weaving, or warp weighted weaving. There are pros and cons to each of those, and you will have to do the research to determine what is right for you. I will cover those on the next blog post.

Stay cool, my friends…it’s a hot one out there! At least it has been here for the last week. 91 F (33 C). I know…it could be worse, but it’s just exhausting when you don’t have AC in the house. Definitely something we need to invest in.


Weave Along 26: Ladoga’s Easiest Pattern Ever

If you are new to tablet weaving and would like a very easy pattern to start with, this is a great one. It gives you the opportunity to work on your tension, your selvedge and beating between throws, and getting a nice overall finished product without getting lost in the turning sequences.

As always you will thread the cards labeled S from left to right, and Z from right to left.

All cards will turn forward, throwing your shuttle after every quarter-turn, until the threads are over-twisted, and then you simply reverse direction until the threads become twisted in the opposite direction. It’s as easy as that!

Weave Along 25: Double Face Tablet Weaving: Laurel Leaves

The pattern I used for the Laurel Leaves pattern

I found this pattern years ago from Carolyn Priest-Dorman. She has a number of great articles and research on Norse-related topics here: https://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/vikresource.html

I had wanted to try double face weaving again–it’s been years since I tried it–so I chose this pattern:

 Laurel sprig with thin stem

The pattern for this double face pattern can be found here: https://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/laurel.html

But not being used to this kind of pattern and having reservations about trying to accurately follow this unusual draft, I decided to translate it into the TDD software and came up with this pattern:

This should be pretty easy to follow, if you’re familiar with the TDD threading and turning notations.

Weave Along 24: Birka 2f

The last installment in the Laurel Kingdom series! Avacal!

I thought I would do one more Birka pattern to finish the set, this time choosing a design that I couldn’t find a pattern for. It gave me the opportunity to challenge myself to create a pattern from just a sketch. This is the sketch of Birka 2f that I found:

Birka 2f, found in Sweden, dated 8th-10th centuries

I used the Tabletweaving Draft Designer to create the patterns, which can be found at https://jamespbarrett.github.io/tabletweave/. A video to help you navigate the program and learn some of the features can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmPy61SSTP0&t=3s.

4-hole sample and pattern:

It really didn’t turn out how I imagined. It’s not terrible, but I wonder if it would look better using finer threads? That’s something I’ll have to try in the future.
Birka 2f: 4 hole pattern

Skip hole sample and pattern:

This turned out far better! Skip hole pattern. The border is the same but the middle cards create a much narrower piece with more defined designs.
Birka 2f: Skip hole pattern

Avacal is the newest Kingdom in the SCA, formed from Saskatchewan, Alberta and a tiny bit of BC; the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains.  Their colors are yellow, white and red.

So there you have it! The final installment of the Laurel Kingdom series! I hope you enjoyed it and will start weaving up your own pieces and creating patterns of your own to share with others. I’m not sure what my next projects will be–perhaps I will go through Tablets at Work and learn all the different types of techniques that have been found through history.

Yours, the warped and twisted,


Recommended Costume Books

I had started making a post and had a clever title…and then forgot to save the draft. Whoops.

I was asked a few days ago for costume book recommendations for those who are interested in pursuing costume making for fun (and maybe profit, but there’s never really much profit in art…sadly). Most of my recommendations are for Medieval, Tudor and Renaissance as that is the general time parameters that are set by the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, www.SCA.org). I don’t have any books on early period Roman and Norse stuff, as they are mostly rectangular construction and sources are plentiful online. I will list some sources for later period stuff as best as I can remember from other recommendations, but these are mostly not ones that I have in my library.

My list of good quality costume resources include, but are not limited to, and in no particular order (yet…I may edit it into chronological groups later):

Jean Hunnisett – Period Costume for Stage and Screen. There are three books that I can find on Amazon–one for Medieval to 1500, 1800-1909, and one for coats, spensers, hoods and bonnets–looks Regency period. Great for that 10 foot rule, but apparently includes some shortcuts to have the right *look* but not necessarily period processes. Also, the books are all listed at $99 each…check your second hand booksellers.

Janet Arnold – just about everything she’s ever published, but mostly including her Patterns of Fashion series. There are lots of great extant examples, detail photos, patterns that you can adapt to your size (this is mostly for experienced costumers). First book: Drama Publishers, 2005. ISBN 9780896760264. Second book: Drama Publishers, 2007. ISBN 0896760278. Patterns of Fashion: The cut and construction of clothes for men and women c.1560-1620. McMillan/Drama, 1985. ISBN 0333382846. Queen Elizabeth’s Wardrobe Unlock’d. Routledge, 2015. ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1909662537.

Mary Fernald & Eileen Shenton. Historic Costumes and How to Make Them. Dover, 2006. ISBN-13 ‏: ‎ 978-0486449067. Nice little paperback book…can’t find my copy just now, and I haven’t used it yet, so I can’t really give a STRONG recommendation… but it has Saxon to Victorian patterns, apparently.

Fransen, Norgaard and Ostergard. Medieval Garments Reconstructed: Norse Clothing Patterns. Aarhus Universit Press. 2011. This is another book intended for more experienced tailors with extant examples, re-created examples (all cut from the same bolt of cloth, apparently), and patterns that can be scaled to fit your measurements. ISBN 9788779342989

Mikhaila, Ninya and Jane Malcolm-Davies. The Tudor Tailor: Techniques and Patterns for Making Historically Accurate Period Clothing. Costume and Fashion Press. 2006. Great book with scalable patterns, step by step instructions, tips for doing the pieces as they were done in period from materials to embellishments. ISBN-13: 9780896762558

Juan de Alcega…Tailor’s Pattern Book 1589. This is an extant pattern book from Spain. This is a master’s level book (that is still well beyond my understanding and skills) that includes some of the very odd layout markings and requires a conversion chart that is in the front of the book. Most of it is written in Medieval Spanish, so….yeah. ISBN 0-89676-234-3

Mathew Gnagy. The Modern Maker, Vol 1: Men’s Doublets. This is the only book of his that I have in my collection at this time, but he does have other published works. It’s fantastic, walking you through step by step with lots of pictures. ISBN-13: 9780692264843.

Sarah Thursfield. The Medieval Tailor’s Assistant: Making Common Garments 1200-1500. Costume and Fashion Press, 2001. A good primer on making a pattern, fitting, seam finishes and embellishments for the average person in the high Middle Ages. ISBN 0-89676-239-4.

Kristina Harris. Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques. Dover, 1998. I just got a copy of this book for fun. I have grand plans to try to make one of these one day, but chances are it’ll just be something that I think about but never start. That’s OK. Dreaming is fine.

Abby Cox and Laruen Stowell. The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking. Page Street Publishing, 2017. ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1624144530

This is not a complete list, and I may add more to it from time to time, but this is the list off the top of my head and stuff that is on my bookshelf next to me at the moment. Peruse, research, learn and enjoy!

Best regards, Elewys

11th c. Finnish Masku Humikkala

This is a lovely 11th century piece with some half-turns included, which are indicated by the ovals inside the ovals.

· Humikkala is a little town about 20 minutes northwest of Turku, Finland. Built around 1490-1510, the Masku Church and surroundings represents one of the oldest parishes in Western Finland.  dedicated to John the Baptist and St. Ursula. Next to the church is the Masku Museum, founded in 1974, which has a collection of finds from the local area.  Near the church, researchers found an Iron Age burial ground. The Humikkala cemetery, called the “hill of corpses” is on a hillside next to the Masku church.  There were 49 inhumation graves found here, and this fragment came from grave 32. Like others, this find is dated to 1000-1100.

· A note about the identification of finds at these anthropological digs.  While I couldn’t find the specific item number for THIS piece, I did find one for another one in the neighboring grave.  This item was given the code KM 8656: H32:18 ; KM is Kansallismuseo = National Museum of Finland; the number 8656 identifies the dig site for the Humikkala findings, H means hauta = grave, 31 is the number of the grave, and 18 is the object number in that grave.  Having these identifying numbers helps a great deal when you are looking for more information from the museums that store these finds.  This piece was actually found in grave 32 (H32), so we know that the item code would start KM 8656: H32… I’m still looking for the item number on this guy…but having that much information narrows down the search tremendously.

Seija Sarkki researched it in the 1970´s publishing a book in 1979 called “Suomen ristiretkiaikaiset nauhat” or The Finnish Crusades.
Volume 18 of Helsingin Yliopiston arkeologian Laitos. Moniste
Moniste (Helsingin Yliopiston Arkeologian Laitos)
Volume 18 of Moniste / Helsingin yliopiston arkeologian laitos, ISSN 0355-1881 ISBN 9514516281, 9789514516283

Sarkki, S. (1979). Suomen Ristiretkiaikaiset Nauhat. Arkeologian Laitos. Helsinki, Helsingin Yliopisto.

Sarkki was not a weaver and had a unique way to translating the textiles by trying to figure out how they were woven, and Maikki Karisto, co author of Tablet-Woven Treasures and Applesies and Fox Noses, took her drawings and created patterns from them.  This proved to be challenging for Maikki and Mervi Pasanen; the pattern above is the result of that reconstruction.

I hope you enjoy weaving this piece as much as I did! It’s got a lovely texture to it and will be a gorgeous addition to your medieval kit!

Hallstatt 123

Super quick post with the pattern…it’s been a very busy few days helping a friend get ready for her daughter’s wedding. Hemming bridesmaids’ dresses, setting tables and cooking dinner while everyone is running wild around here….

The pattern–I ended up doing blue, red, blue for the borders due to a blue thread shortage, but you get the idea.
All 72 picks…it’s long, but you can blow it up and put them side by side on a sheet of paper.