My creative SCA journey on stuff I make and research I do…mostly in fibers (wool prep, spinning, weaving, tablet weaving) and glass beads, but could also include costumes, camping, cooking, and any other creative things that strike my fancy.
Every once in a while, you’ll present a woven bit with documentation and someone will say, “Uhhh…that’s not quite right.”
So that just happened.
Luckily, it was presented in a very respectful manner by an influential tablet weaver that I admire…so it’s all good! Thank you, Aisling!
The Ladoga bands appear to be *skip hole* woven, not 4 threads per card. Despite the archaeological sketches and patterns provided in the research, the pattern that was provided doesn’t match the findings. You can see in the text of the Academia.edu paper that it was woven on twelve 4-hole cards with 27 warp threads total. Yeah, 12 times 4 is not 27…. so clearly something was amiss from the beginning. However, unless you add a third thread to one of the cards, you’re not going to come up with an odd number… 12 x 2 is 24; the extra four threads are for border cards; each get 4 threads, which results in 28 warp threads. Perhaps the archaeologists miscounted, or there was some other error in transcription.
So I got back on the tablet weaving generator and worked up a pattern. I warped up my loom (while my German tablet weaving friend slept) and had the pattern and weaving underway by the time she was up and checking her email. She confirmed that I got the pattern right and I was delighted! (Although I later was dissatisfied with it and made a few more alterations…) The result is this new pattern:
The result is a very dainty band that measures just under 1 cm wide, even with this 8/4 cotton carpet warp.
Are you confused? Overwhelmed? Not ready for this pattern?
Don’t be cast down, dear weaver; the 4-threads-per-card pattern *works* and gets approximately the right design, but the technique is not period-correct. As a beginner, this is FINE…you get the same look while learning the ropes, but now you know that the period technique is slightly different…and more difficult, so don’t fret if you’re not ready for skip hole. You’ll get there…in this series, even!
The first episode of the YouTube video is in the final stages of editing (it was very long and complex for the Getting Started video–the next ones should come out much more quickly).
The Kingdom of the East held its first coronation event in June 1968 (when my husband was only a month old!) It comprises most of New England and five Eastern provinces of Canada; Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland. Each year, this Kingdom raises an army to battle at Pennsic War, held in Cooper’s Lake, PA. Sadly, it was cancelled for the summer of 2020 due to plague…I mean, the pandemic. Hopefully, it will be back on schedule for 2021! As a longtime member of the SCA (30 years!), the pilgrimage to this war is long overdue.
There is nothing sweeter for a new weaver than to find a period pattern that is attractive and easy to do! While there are several of these, one of my new favorites is the Ladoga narrow band, object #6.
There are a number of tablet weaving patterns that were created during the Norse or “Viking” era—roughly the late 8th to early 11th centuries—in a number of lands that they had contact with. This, of course, included Russia and various parts of Eastern Europe, which many researchers and re-enactors refer to as the “Viking-Rus”. These are descendants of the Swedes who raided and traded in the lands from the Baltic Sea coast to the Black Sea.
The savage and feared men of the North reigned supreme in Scandinavia and beyond—basically, anywhere they could get their boats to float, which only requires about three feet of water—that wide, shallow boat design was key. So while they were raiding and pillaging…I mean, spreading their cultural influence…they also picked up a number of customs, designs, and ornamentation which was brought back to their homes back in the north.
Straraja Ladoga is located about 70 miles east of St. Petersburg, just downriver from Lake Ladoga. Here is where we find the Ladoga Burial Mounds. It was discovered in 2010 and dating estimates are between the 10th to 12th centuries; spot on with Norse contact and influence. If you’ve developed a Norse persona for the SCA or other medieval re-creation group, LARP, or costume for Halloween or any other occasion, this is a great weave to add that perfect accent to your clothing.
The original piece has a blue design on a yellow background. The warp threads are red, yellow and blue wool, 0.8 mm thick, with twist S,2z. The weft threads are brown wool 0.6 mm thick with a double Z twist. This ribbon needed 12 tablets with 4 holes in each, producing a density of 27 warps and 8 weft threads per cm. (https://www.academia.edu/30371327/Kochkurkina_Orfinskaya.Archaeological_textiles_of_the_10th_to_the_12th_century_from_the_Gaigovo_barrow_group_Russia_Leningrad_oblast._Archaeological_Textiles_Review_No._58)
Let’s get started with the Ladoga weave! You will need 12 cards for this pattern, and can use two or three colors, depending on what color you want to use for the edges. My sample is going to use three colors, celebrating the Kingdom of the East! (*See below)
Remember to face your clockwise-labeled cards to the right (counter-clockwise to the left) and thread according to the S and Z on the chart below (S through the left side of the card; Z through the right side).
Start your cards with AD at the top and begin by turning your cards forwards–away from you–for 12 quarter-turns (three full revolutions). This is where the pattern goes a little sideways–reverse all the cards (turning backwards) for 13 quarter-turns to get a little dot on the side, under the “mountain”.
Then reverse again, turning forwards 13 quarter turns. Repeating this to the end of the warp.
Note about the border cards: If you are a new weaver and want to keep things simple, turn all the cards forwards 13 quarter-turns, then 13 quarter-turns backwards. However, each time you change direction on the border cards, you will create a funny bump, so if you want to avoid that, you can alternatively turn the four border cards on each side in one direction until the warp gets over-twisted, and then reverse direction as needed. The middle 4 cards (5-8) will need to go forwards 13 and back 13, according to the pattern. Dealer’s choice.
* I must note: this is a modification from the original, which is a skip-hole design, but this modification gives the beginner an easy pattern to follow and still have a similar result. See the next post for details about the skip-hole directions.
Let me know how yours turned out and let me know if there’s anything you think I need to add to these instructions.
I have created these blog posts as an addendum to the YouTube videos: Weave Along With Elewys. While some people learn very well from videos, others learn well from written directions and still images. This blog post will serve that need. I also need to have copies of the patterns that I use in the series available for weavers, and a central location to put them, so this blog will serve that need as well.
We haven’t been able to fully launch the project yet due to mundane demands (we expect it to be ready very soon). Despite the coronavirus Stay at Home orders, mundane work still gets in the way of filming and editing, especially the Intro to Tablet Weaving episode, which is going to be longer than the others as it covers all the materials and tools as well as techniques. I am struggling to do video taping while there are kids, a working husband, and birds in the house, so if you hear thumping, yelping, laughing, chirping, squawking, or another ambient noises, please forgive me. I’m doing the best I can with the resources at hand.
Note: one of the things that I will have to assume in this series is that the weavers are using an inkle loom. If you are using a backstrap, warp-weighted, or box loom, you may need to consult with other resources for directions on how to warp and anchor those.
The first episode is a pattern from the Oseberg dig, dating solidly in the Norse era, 834 AD. A large burial mound was discovered at the Oseberg farm near Tønsberg in Vestfold county, Norway. The ship and some of its contents are displayed at the Viking Ship Museum at Bygdøy, Oslo. Among its finds were a loom (commonly called the Oseberg loom), weaving tablets, and a work in progress (known as 34D), as well as this silk piece. The original measured only 5 mm wide–a diminutive little weave–but we’ll do ours in a larger cotton rug warp for this demonstration.
As we have just celebrated the SCA’s 55th birthday, I decided to couple this project with a celebration of the Kingdoms of the Known World in the SCA. I’ve decided to weave 20 pieces in this series in the colors of each of the Kingdoms. The first Kingdom formed was the Kingdom of the West, in 1966. It comprises Northern California, Nevada, Alaska, Japan, Korea and the Pacific Rim. This is where it all started–with a backyard party that turned into an international medieval history organization with tens of thousands of members in 20 kingdoms. All of the Kingdoms, origin dates and colors are, in order:
The West Kingdom was created when the Society originated in 1966. Colors: green and yellow.
The Kingdom of the East was created in 1968. Colors: yellow and purple.
The Middle Kingdom was created in 1969. Colors: red, white and green.
The Kingdom of Atenveldt was created in 1971. Colors: white, yellow and blue.
The Kingdom of Meridies was created in 1978. Colors: black and white.
The Kingdom of Caid was created in 1978. Colors: blue and white.
The Kingdom of Ansteorra was created in 1979. Colors: yellow, black and red.
The Kingdom of Atlantia was created in 1981. Colors: green, white and blue.
The Kingdom of An Tir was created in 1982. Colors: yellow, white and black.
The Kingdom of Calontir was created in 1984. Colors: purple and yellow.
The Kingdom of Trimaris was created in 1985. Colors: blue and white.
The Kingdom of the Outlands was created in 1986. Colors: green and yellow.
The Kingdom of Drachenwald was created in 1993. Colors: red, yellow and black.
The Kingdom of Artemisia was created in 1997. Colors: black and yellow.
The Kingdom of Æthelmearc was created in 1997. Colors: white, red and black.
The Kingdom of Ealdormere was created in 1998. Colors: white, red and green.
The Kingdom of Lochac was created in 2002. Colors: red, white and blue.
The Kingdom of Northshield was created in 2004. Colors: White, yellow and black.
The Kingdom of Gleann Abhann was created in 2005. Colors: red, white and black.
The Kingdom of Avacal was created in 2015. Colors: red, white and yellow.
So let’s get started by celebrating the Kingdom of the West!
Reading the pattern: squares with a white background are turned forward–away from the weaver. Squares with a grey background are turned backward–towards the weaver. I marked this pattern with the reverse after 10 and 12 turns so you can see what the reverses look like, but you don’t have to reverse so soon. In this particular pattern, the cards all turn the same direction until the warp is over-twisted, then all reversed until they not only become untwisted, but over-twisted in the opposite direction….then it’s back to forward turning again. Repeat this until you reach the end of your warp.
Warp your cards with the top of the card facing to the right–this is important if your cards are labeled clockwise. If they are labeled counterclockwise (anti-clockwise), face the tops of the cards to the left.
Get out your Lazy Kate (or whatever facsimile you create…mine is simply a Amazon Prime box with a couple of dowels stabbed through it) and load up your threads.
Thread your cards, making sure to keep your S and Z diagram handy to make sure you are going through the cards correctly.
It’s easiest to tie the four threads together for each card, using a surgeon’s knot. It’s similar to a square knot, but has a double throw for the first pass, rather than a single. This makes it easier to untie to adjust tension or to correct mistakes–and trust me, you will make mistakes…we all do.
Once all your cards are threaded, double check your work to make sure they are correctly S and Z threaded and that the colors are in the correct hole. Once you have given it the final inspection, ready your shuttle! I wrap a bunch of warp around the top of the shuttle, in a figure 8 pattern, to keep the thickness of the shuttle to a minimum.
I begin by setting all the cards with AD at the top and slip the tail through the shed so the shuttle is on the left and a 4″ tail is on the right. Turn the cards forward (away from you) and throw the shuttle and the tail in opposite directions, criss-crossing through the shed. This will help anchor the tail and prevent unraveling later. Turn the cards again, beating the weave, and throwing the shuttle, leaving a loop behind. On the next pass, turn the cards, snug up the weft, beat and pull the shuttle through. Don’t be over-zealous on the weft; gently pull the weft thread to pull the warp threads together. Do four turns total so that AD is back at the top again. The first few passes are going to look a hot mess…don’t panic. It’ll get better as you go, and your tension gets more consistent with practice.
Keep weaving along until the twist gets too tight, or every so often (maybe every 10 or 20 repeats, or whenever it moves you), then reverse direction to untwist. You will develop a funny little bump on the edge of the weave–don’t panic…it’s completely normal. The finer the threads you use, the less noticeable it is.
Every so often, you will need to release the tension on the loom, and shift it to continue your work. As you work, you will notice that the length of the weave is getting shorter and shorter…you will lose up to 20% of the warp length from start to finish.
When you get to the end of the warp, you will have 6″ or 8″ left between the end of the weave and the knots tied…remember you will also have the width of the cards and the shuttle between the beginning and end…so if you want to get a minimum length of weaving for a project, you will need to factor that into your warp length.
Some weavers carefully untie all their knots and tie up the ends in a variety of ways. I used to twist and knot the threads, but lately, I’ve decided that it’s far more effort than it’s worth, so I just leave a half inch of fringe and chop off the excess. If you plan on sewing it down as part of trim on a garment, it will likely have the ends tucked inside the seams. It hasn’t unraveled yet, at least using the carpet warp or wool, but finer threads like silk might be more trouble.
I hope this has been a helpful tutorial, and I hope you find the videos helpful as well. I look forward to hearing about my fellow weavers’ projects and anything that I have presented that you, and I’d love to see your completed projects!
I also wanted to give a shout out and direct you all to a tablet weaving generator that I use a lot, created by a British woman named Catherine. It is both super useful and periodically updated (other generators like GTT haven’t been updated in more than a decade). It can be found at: https://jamesba.github.io/tabletweave/.
Many of us around the world are on a shelter-in-place order from their local bureaucrats. Those of us in the Seattle area have been on some kind of social distancing program since about mid-February, and we have been working from home and online learning for the last 3 weeks. This is going to get old really fast…
But it’s giving me an opportunity to catch up on some projects and branch out into some new territory…for me.
I’m getting the finishing touches put on a Norse coat, and plan to make a few tunics and apron dresses to wear this summer…if we ever get out of this…
I’ve also been working on a costume project for Their Majesties of An Tir with a group of talented costumers. I’m so honored to be part of the team! I only hope that May Crown will not be cancelled and we can see our Royals in Their new clothes!
Coming soon: I’ll be doing an online tutorial for tablet weaving. Introducing the tools & materials, warping my loom and showing viewers how to read and follow a pattern. We’ve done most of the filming and it is now in the hands of my very capable producer/director.
Last weekend, I taught at Collegium for the second time, with my co-teacher HL Aenor de Pessac. It was a great time! Sadly, I didn’t get any photos from the weekend–and we were only there on Sunday.
I had originally planned on going to the event for the full weekend, taking classes on Friday and/or Saturday, but after reviewing the schedule of classes, there were a few that were really intriguing. One was the woodworking bentwood boxes class, from the guy who made my Monster Loom (which I named Mike Wazowski). I’m not a big woodworker, though I’ve done a little (middle school shop class) and I’ve been interested in learning more.
Then there were a couple that were being taught by people who are literally five miles or less from my house. I thought, ‘Ya know, I bet I could just *walk* to Lori’s house and ask her how to make the partlet.’
Then I considered taking the lampworking class, but I thought they might be more geared towards beginners–which I am not anymore. Solid intermediate here. I belong to the Lampworkers Guild (as you know) and I needed to make beads that are due before Thanksgiving, and they said Collegium would be a perfect place to hand them over so they wouldn’t have to be mailed. I had completely forgotten about that deadline until just a day or two before, so I thought maybe I could work on making them AT Collegium…but that seemed like a lot of hassle dragging all my stuff down there, and if the class space is really limited, they’d likely want to save it for students, not just someone wanting to play. And then they’d need to be cleaned and I might not have time enough to finish them all…maybe this isn’t a good idea after all. Then I found out the classes were all full anyway. Ah, well.
In the end, I felt time might be better spent making the beads I need to finish for the guild at home on Saturday and bringing them with me on Sunday. I volunteered to make two strings at a dozen or so beads each, so I needed to make 25-30 beads done. I was able to get 18 or so finished before I started making some mistakes and clearly showing signs of flame fatigue. It was getting late and I also needed to finish packing the truck for the event, so I turned off the gas and let the beads cool down. I didn’t have time to clean them after all, so I’ll have to finish them up and mail them anyway.
This year was Collegium IV. I taught Survey of Tablet Woven Bands at Collegium II, which was a slide show of period pieces and patterns. It was a packed room–AMAZING! Apparently, my Laurel sent in a secret expert to sit in and review my information and she said that I did a good job! YEY!! I did my research! Then I skipped teaching for a year; I went to the event and took several classes, which was a lot of fun. This year, I was asked to teach something again and after discussing it with others, including my dear friend (and co-teacher), Aenor, we came up with an idea: Beginning Tablet Weaving: The Astonishingly Easy-to-Recreate 9th Century Oseberg Band!
The class included a very quick Power Point presentation that covered some basics of history, overview of materials and terms, some tips and tricks to keep in mind, and then some hands-on. To save a lot of time and stress, I pre-warped the looms with the yarn and cards, so all they had to do was start turning cards and throwing shuttles. A few of the looms even had a bit of weaving started.
I somehow screwed up one of the looms and warped up something wrong…the threads were making squares instead of zig-zags. Not sure what happened there. Now I think about it, the weaver may have had the cards in the wrong starting point…but it was a pattern and it looked cool, so….win!
Aenor was wonderful at helping get half the students started, and then I went around and checked on their work. In the last half-hour or so, she continued the slide presentation with a lot of great pictures of the archaeological dig and information about what they found. She’s a trained archaeologist and was completely in her wheelhouse there.
The students seemed to have a great time and they all walked away with a tablet woven bookmark they made….and hopefully an interest to learn more later.
It turned out to be (in my opinion) barely enough time. I wish I had been able to have a 4 hour block instead of just 2 so the students would have a lot of time to play, and have materials enough to take home with them, including a set of cards. Or include an hour of warping the loom (which is almost a class in itself because of all the time it takes to learn how to do just that), an hour of history and two hours of weaving. But all the materials needed would drive the price up to about $20 a student (minimum) and require some kind of loom.
Another brilliant event put on by Master Charles and Mistress Kerij-e! There were over 50 artisans displaying their works, talking with Laurels and other artisans, sharing their passions, their research, their creations, and their positive energy. The place was just alive with joy! It was really palpable.
This event was new last year, but it had a lot of similarities to an event that had gone on for 3 or 4 years prior that was hosted by a Laurel in the Kent/Renton area called Arts Unframed. It had a similar structure to have artisans display their works and have Laurels attend and give them the opportunity to view the stuff. It was a little less structured in that the Laurels were not required to sign up to visit with artisans and have conversations with them about their chosen passions, and the artisans were not guaranteed to have anyone stop by to talk. I did Arts Unframed twice and had only spoken with a couple of Laurels who were curious about what I was doing. I had a lot of stuff on my assigned table, so there were lots of different kinds of art to interest a wide variety of Laurels. I had weaving, spinning, costume bits, sock knitting, the warp-weighted loom, dye stuff, blackwork, lampwork, and part of a Roman doll that I was making.
Last year at Athenaeum, like at Arts Unframed, I had my breadth of knowledge with All The Things on display…
…this year was depth of knowledge display on historic tablet weaving. Because I was only showing one thing, I requested a teeny tiny table. It was just barely enough room, but it worked.
I had so many visitors and each one of them was a joy to talk to. I was able to share where I started with this rather rough-looking skip hole weave, which was made in the THIRD class I took on tablet weaving…I was determined to learn this craft. This was my “ah ha!” moment.
Then I began learning from others through published patterns. I created quite a number of pieces from books and GTT patterns on Pinterest–there are a lot of patterns available there!
Then I felt I really advanced with this piece where I was able to look at the extant piece (photo) and the archaeological drawing and figure out how it was made…
…and then re-create it.
And finally, taking a very detailed pattern and use very fine silk threads to create a breathtaking woven piece…if I may say so myself.
A question I was asked by a Laurel who stopped by was how big was the original and how close is mine to that measurement? I didn’t know the answer to at the time–the extant image didn’t have a ruler next to it, sadly–but have since (in the last 24 hours) discovered the answers and found out even more about this piece and the companion piece found in the tomb. The original measured 18 mm wide and was made of silk (not wool, as was originally published in another source that I found). Mine, also made of silk, is 15 mm wide. The original motifs are much more square than mine and other reproductions I’ve seen, which makes me curious to find out why…
“So what’s up next?” was a question I heard several times. There are three things I want to do. First, work in wool. I have only worked in cotton and a little in silk, but I have a project in the queue for a gent in Denmark who got in touch with me a few days ago. The item that he’s requesting is a 6 yard piece in wool using an Icelandic pattern. I just ordered some materials and am looking forward to receiving them soon…maybe this week. The specific pattern he wants is a brocade tablet weaving piece, although brocaded weaving is something I have done very little of. The last time I tried, several years ago, the process frustrated me, likely due to the materials I was using, and the difficulty of the piece that I chose. However, now that I have much more experience and confidence, I am ready to try it again–so that’s #2.
The third thing I am looking forward to trying is weaving with metal. Many of the brocade pieces used gold and silver in its creation, and the Danish gent that I’ve been communicating with has some to trade for the woven piece he is asking for.
At 12:30, we had a break for lunch. I lunched in the courtyard with my bestie, Aenor, who was also displaying, as well as their Excellencies of Wyewood and a couple other gentlemen. Although the Madrone Culinary Guild provided a lovely spread of food, allergens prevented me from imbibing, so we packed a lunch of chicken salad, croissants, cheese, fruit, and Millionaire’s Shortbread.
It was a long day, exhausting, but in a good way. I had to leave right after the displaying was over at 4 pm to meet up with hubby and friends at the Pride Day Sounders game. Sadly, this meant missing court and the elevation of Mistress Helewisa, and the awarding of the Lion’s Strength to my Mistress, Isolde.
At the end of the day, I had over 14,000 steps logged on my Fitbit. I forgot to change into my comfy tennies, but kept wearing my new, not-yet-broken-in SCA loafers…by the time I got home, my feet were very sore! I need to find a way to stretch the leather over the instep.
I’m looking forward to doing this again next year. But maybe with more comfortable shoes.
The last few weeks have been a flurry of research for teaching a class at An Tir Collegium on A Brief Survey of Tablet Woven Bands, being an overview of extant tablet weaving pieces and patterns to reproduce them. It was a few weeks of preparation prior to the class, but I was able to put together a 50+ slide PowerPoint presentation. It had pieces from 500 BC Austria to 14th century Germany, and from countries all over Europe from Scandinavia to France. I arrived in the classroom a few minutes early, but spent several more struggling to get the computer to work properly. Once we made the magic of technology cooperate with me, I looked up and realized that the classroom was not just well-attended, but standing-room-only! I thought I’d have a small handful of students and it was more than 25. No worries. I’ll just panic a little. AAAAAHHHHHHH!
After we finally got the computer working, it went well! Most of the students were either novice or beginning weavers; only a couple were intermediate or advanced. The feedback I got was mostly excellent, which was very encouraging. I even was pulled aside by a couple of students later and told that they really enjoyed the class and that a few things that I mentioned were particularly helpful. 😀
A few days later, I sent a copy of the slide show to a prominent tablet weaver in Germany who gave me some really good feedback–just a couple of minor corrections and marking some images that I had missed–but she said, “It is one of the best summaries I’ve read.” That is high praise from such an esteemed source! (Giddiness ensued!)
My goal for teaching the class was to have as many pieces done in my own hand as possible. The more slides I added, the fewer examples I had…so I needed to get some work done. In preparation for this class, I made a few woven pieces to pass around. They are:
14th Century German piece. Original was brocade (of course), but this is a very close facsimile in a threaded-in version. This one was still on the loom, which was great for students to see all set up with all the cards needed for it…all 28 cards.
Dublin Dragons. Original was also brocaded. I think this is even prettier than the original. It’s great fun to weave, too!
Hallstat 3, Austria, 500 BCE. This was found in a salt mine with several other woven pieces. The colors were remarkably well preserved due to the salt. This one was fast and lovely to work, and I find it so remarkable how complex the pattern is, and this in 500 BCE…the technique was already very advanced at this time. In Mistress Madrun’s class, she mentioned how much our weaving skills have declined in the last few centuries compared to what it was back then.
Right now I’m working on a piece that has a repeating motif from the Merovingian Queen Bathilde in Chelles, France (above). I’m not as impressed with this selection of colors (below), but I wanted to choose something from my badge/arms. I think the blue and green are too similar in tone, or maybe there is too much contrast with the green and white. I’m not entirely sure, but I have a taker for it when I finish the other 3 yards of it. It’s kind of slow going and the twist is building up on it rather quickly. This would work much better in a warp-weighted version, if I had something set up to work on.
I have a list of about 20 other pieces in a binder, ready to go, that I’m looking forward to making, and a few patterns that I plan to make more than one length of, in various colors.
While I was getting ready to teach, I also had a commitment to make beads for the Lampworkers Guild. These are for Aethelmarc, Northshield and Avacal. Each grouping has one bead for An Tir’s sitting Queen and the others are gifts to the Queens of other Kingdoms, which I believe are sent to them at events in February and August.