Anglo Saxon outfits, part 2

If I’m honest, I haven’t done much work for the last few days, as I went to London.

The new medieval galleries at the Vand A are fab tho – it’s my first time down since the re fit and I was well impressed, theres far more stuff on display and it better displayed, especially the silver and jewelery – and the British Museum’s treasures of Heaven exhibition is worth a look too, as long as you don’t mind bits of dead saint.

Before I left though, I had made progress on the Anglo-saxon outfits. Well, I made progress on John’s at least, since this bit of tablet weave is for his warrior coat.

I’ve never done brocaded tablet weave on wool before – this is the same veg dyed stuff as the rest of the tablet weave for this project – which led to a minor change in technique. The actual weaving is no problem at all, I’m quite enjoying it, in fact, but the gold thread I had in store seemed a little too thin to stand up to the wool. The gold I’m using is an antique french metal thread, very nice, but as it’s so fine I decided to use two strands at once in order to give sufficiant coverage. I think the coverage is fine, but be warned if you’re ever considering a duoble gold thread, as it is more fiddly – you have to pause and untwist at almost every pass. Because of the double thread I didn’t try to do anything fancy with the edges.

I’m still undecided as to where to go from here with this piece of weaving. It looks ok, but I may yet flatten the gold out some more, specially as the gold thread in most saxon brocading seems to be flat strip. I have done this before, but I no longer have the easy option to hand, which is to wrap the band in thin paper and pass it through  jeweller’s rolling mill. The other option is to wrap it in paper again, but gently and very very carefully work over the whole thing with a planishing hammer. The second option is not only boring but slightly dodgy, as its all too easy to smack it a bit too hard and sever a thread. I’m also not sure how the wool will react (When I’ve done this before it was with silk and gold) so I think I may weave a half inch test piece and experiment with that before I wade in on this.

I’m actually never sure if I’m doing it “right” when it come to gold brocaded tablet, although I’ve never believed there is an absolute right and wrong for textile techniques, so perhaps right is the wrong term, maybe orthodox would be more accurate? The thing is that when I first did gold brocading, it was long before my internet days, and none of the weavers I knew personally were advanced enough to do it. Me being me, I just got on with it, making it up as I went along because I never could understand instructions – besides which, this was also in the days before Collingwood was re-printed, so I’d heard of it but never seen a copy. I did have a recently published copy of Hansen, but that books gibberish if you ask me, despite the pretty pictures.

Therefore, for those of you nerdy enough to take an interest, this is how I work. Feel free to tell me I’m doing it “wrong” if you belieive in such things, but do so in the full knowledge that I shall sneer and ignore you, since I am old and rather set in my ways.

 Firstly, even if I have a pattern in a book, I like to re-draft it so that it makes sense to me. This is one of the wide bands from Taplow, taken from a drawing of the find rather than from a pattern book. Sorry, I should have scanned it, but I’m lazy and taking a photo was easier. As you can see, I like to break the pattern down into blocks of four. I’m not brilliant at following charts, so I find that this helps me to keep track of where I am. I have one edge of my cards painted to that I know one complete rotation corresponds with one block of the pattern, in addition to which I tend to place my ruler over the drawing and move it along so I know which block I’m up too. Obviously, once you’ve done a few repeats its easier to keep track of where you’re up too, but I find it best not to underestimate the concentration disrupting power of a ringing phone, say, or a cat who wants pettins.

 See – evil!

  I use a normal stick shuttle for the wool or silk weft, but I prefer a tapestry bobbin for the gold. This avoids kinks in the metal, and is also easier to pass through the warps.

Sorry, that table cloths a bit grubby, isn’t it. I should shove that in the wash.

 My usual method is to pass the thread weft on the quarter turns and the metal weft on a 1/8 turn – this means you only have to count through one thread, whereas if you take the metal through on the quarters with the normal weft, you have to count through two wefts. I use an old and rather blunt kitchen knife to  beat and to separate the warps I want to count. The tip of the knife is fine enough that I can count the thread off the end of it as I move it through.

I also prefer to weave this techinque stretched across the kitchen table, rather than streching it on a proper tablet weaving frame. On the table I can set my knife handle down and it will stay in the weaving, keeping my place for me if the phone rings and I have to wander off in the midst of a pass, and the frame would just let the knife slide out, loosing my place for me.

  Other than the indecision about whether or not to flatten it, I like this – the red looks scrumptious with the gold and the band looks well against the fabric.

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~ by opusanglicanum on August 16, 2011.

27 Responses to “Anglo Saxon outfits, part 2”

  1. Looks lovely. What I do when brocading, to avoid counting (and getting it wrong) is use a 2 deck method.Front deck are the tie downs, back deck are the threads I will be brocading over. Then the turning sequence runs as follows:

    Turn both decks in the same direction. Put the weft through the combined shed. Then either put the brocade under the front upper shed or turn the front decks 1/8 turn back to get a wider single thread shed. Then move cards between decks to go on to the next row.

    It know it sounds fiddly, but I find it easier to count cards rather than threads.

  2. oooh – i think that would make me grumpy! two packs is fine, counting is fine, but both at once would be more than my squishy little brain could cope with

    • But that’s the whole point. It’s like double face 2 pack weaving, except you’re isolating the tie downs rather than the front colour.

      I find it makes it easy for me to find my place by looking at the cards (which are usually number) rather than trying to decide based on the weaving where I am. (I get interrupted a lot. Interruptions often take days or weeks. The ruler gets misplaced … or et, by the puppy. I’m paranoid about recovering structure from the cards.)

  3. “Making it up as you go along” is probably how our ancestors did it, at least until the various trades and guilds began to organise techniques, skills, and training. It seems a perfectly valid technique to me!

    • oh, I agree, which is why I switched from right to orthodox

      btw, i treid to reply to your email earlier, but yahoo keeps jamming on me – i think i have been to that site beofre, it certainly looks familiar. she hasn’t updated ina while, has she?

  4. And who could fail to be distracted by that gorgeous pussycat, all soft and fluffy, I think I’d drop everything to pet her too…

    • branston is now mortally offended that you mistook him for his sister – but then no one butme could tell them apart as kittens (the breeder certainly couldn’t) I think branny has a boy face cos he’s got such a chunky muzzle

  5. Wow! How pretty and very inspiring as I have two cats! Love the pattern and the notes!! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  6. Very, VERY pretty!

    Card weaving makes my brain hurt. I’m working on it (and will probably learn much faster when school has started and I get actual ALONE time) because I flatly refuse to be bested by some cards and string, but I thoroughly admire people who can do it so beautifully!

    • card weaving is easier if you can get someone to show you how – the books make my brian hurt too, and I’m hardly a beginner. whoever thought it up must have ahd a very twisted mind.

      are you just trying to so a simple patterned band, a warp manipulated band(where you move the cards in two different directions) or a brocaded one like this?

  7. If you really want to flatten it, have you considered either a nice solid acrylic brayer or one of the acrylic rods they use in working polymer clay, on a nice hard surface? It’s not a metal mill, but it wouldn’t involve the same sort of surface friction that planishing might.

    (I’ve probably spelled everything wrong, but I am pretty sure it still makes sense…)

    theresa

    • I’m not familiar with poly mer clay (its too modern and scary for me) so i’m not familiar with the equipment, and to be honest I’d be a bit leary of investing money in something that might not work – I know I dont have the strenght in my hands to flatten it with the back of a metal spoon, the thread tends to be more resilient than it looks. then again, I treid the spoon on the old thread I had, not on this new stuff, so maybe I should go back and try again – it doesn’t need much flattening, so thanks for reminding me(my first instinct is always to hit things, I think its the silversmithing)

  8. Hi, 🙂
    Didn’t understand a word of your entry, but I can tell you that Gina http://gina-b.blogspot.com/ is a professional that makes it, and Michael Cook of Wormspit blog also does a lot. Tho it looks like you’ve got a lot of knowledgeable people already commenting.
    They are both really really lovely people – it’s worth just looking at their work. Gina is the one that works with metal thread a lot (and she has a shop, accessible from her blog site) – Michael grows his own silk worms and spins the threads and uses that in his tablet weaving. He’s done Gothic writing incorporated into a braid!
    Going to the V&A is a perfect and reasonable excuse for not getting much embroidery done. Just take me too, next time!

    • I also do tablet weave to sell, so I do know gina as one of my uk competitors if nothing else! I did see ginas article on advice for beginner the other week, and disagreed heartily with it – she said learn without colour, which i think leads beginner to frustration and boredom, and learn without using wool, which i think is sillly, as I learned with wool, and have taught with it too, since if you are studying the pre conquest period most tablet weave was wool

      and as for gothic writing – pfft! -I’ve done a whole lords prayer in it, its actually quite a simple technique.

      one of the problems with tablet weave tho is that its easy to do, but very hard to understand the written instructions – at least it is for me – I can do most of the advanced stuff, like this and writing, but cant understand a beginners book.

      sorry I didn’t reply to your mail yesterday, for some reason yahoo wouldn’t let me

      • Oh well, sometimes ‘helpful advice’ isn’t all that helpful. But I contributed what I could! The piece is really lovely 🙂 🙂

      • I just treid to reply to your post wiht the pelican, but blogger isn’t speaking to me today and wont let me comment – what date is the pelican embroidery

  9. You might want to take a look at this book: Ecclesiastical Pomp Aristocratic Circumstance, A Thousand Years of Brocaded Tabletwoven Bands; by Nancy Spies with forward by Peter Collingwood; 2000; Arelate Studio, 1725 Trotting Court, Jarrettsville, Maryland 21084 USA; ISBN 410-692-2076. The method that you use is the method that she explains but it also has history! (o.k. I like history) and pictures of actual size samples and some patterns. The book is divided into four parts: history, method, bibliography and patterns. Well worth the coin.

    • yes, i have that – it has some yummy patterns – i must admit tho that I\ tend not to read the technique bits much as I always have trouble understanding instructions

  10. I didn’t much like this pattern when I saw it in “Early Anglo-Saxon Gold Braids” but it looks much more attractive here! Inspired to try it myself now!

    • I must admit I was in two minds at the drawing stage, but it actually comes out quite pretty once its done – but then I think that red is so yummy it would improve any pattern

  11. To avoid the twist you have to work out each time with the gold you may try 2 seperate bobbins of gold. This way you pass one through, then the other and they lay very nicely together, when you turn to go the other way you pass the one that was passed last, first this time. That way there is no twist on the edges to work out either. Beautiful work!!

    • I did think of using two bobbins, but decided it would be mre fafff than untwisting – I like simple, and I would get two bobbins twisted round each other anyway, i know what I’m like (which is extremely uncoordinated, btw)

  12. Hi there.

    I’m wondering if you might advise me regarding the best gold metal-thread to use for brocading a silk band please?

    I want to produce a Taplow band for my warrior coat and have sourced a tablet weaver to make the band for me. She is experimenting with various test threads – supplied by Berlin Embroidery – all of which have a cotton core. This seems to be creating problems like ‘lumpiness’ of weave and messy, uneven edges.

    It looks from your picture above that your thread is nice and flat, and the overall weaving is very neat. Wouldn’t this be the better type of metal thread to use rather than a cored type? And, if so, where would I source it from?

    I hope you have time to answer my queries and look forward to hearing from you.

    Best regards,

    David Taylor
    Perth, Western Australia
    skylark20@gmail.com.au

    • the flat stuff I used for this does have a cotton core as well, its just a sort of flat oval profile, it does work well but I don’t know where you’d get it from as mine is vintage.

      I’m afraid lumpiness as the edges is primarily an issue of skill and practice(the saxon threads weren’t flat metal, they also had a core, either of silk or horsehair), although different thread do behanve in different ways. I find it helps to use a blunt metal blade to beat in each pass of the metal, and then you can adjust the edges if you need too. some “metal” threads for embroidery are plastic, and they dont behave at all like the real thing, so its worth paying the extra for real metal – it has to stay bent when you bend it

      you could try a london firm called benton and johnson for various alternative threads, they specilise in gold for embroidery, but I’m afraid I can’t advise on australian suppliers

    • the flat stuff I used for this does have a cotton core as well, its just a sort of flat oval profile, it does work well but I don’t know where you’d get it from as mine is vintage.

      I’m afraid lumpiness as the edges is primarily an issue of skill and practice(the saxon threads weren’t flat metal, they also had a core, either of silk or horsehair), although different thread do behanve in different ways. I find it helps to use a blunt metal blade to beat in each pass of the metal, and then you can adjust the edges if you need too. some “metal” threads for embroidery are plastic, and they dont behave at all like the real thing, so its worth paying the extra for real metal – it has to stay bent when you bend it

      you could try a london firm called benton and johnson for various alternative threads, they specilise in gold for embroidery, but I’m afraid I can’t advise on australian suppliers

      • Many thanks for your suggestions, that’s very helpful – I will pass on to my weaver.
        Cheers – Dave.

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