Photos by Katrin Kania, 2018

Aspects of Weaving and Braiding - tools, techniques, processes, finishes. Mayen, November 5 - November 11 2018.

Woven cloth is the basis for most clothes and furnishings, and woven fabrics come in an incredible amount of variations. From the simplest plain weave done on a few sticks with strings to the most complex patterned fabrics with several warps and wefts done on an elaborate loom, weaving itself and the tools and processes used is also a wide and complex topic. Braiding, just like weaving, can take on different forms and range from very simple over-one-under-one structures to complex patterned and multi-person braids; braiding tools can be just the hands or massive braiding stands. On some occasions, weaving and braiding can even be combined, such as in tablet weaves when tablets swap places, or in twined weaves.

At the 2018 Forum, we discussed weaving, braiding, and their many aspects in a very varied programme.

Conference Papers and Abstracts:

Tests on speed and efficiency of loop-braiding versus open-end braiding techniques
Many braids can be made either by open-end braiding or by loop manipulation, resulting in absolutely identical structures. What are the pros and cons for open-end braiding and loop-braiding? How significant are the differences in speed when working these two techniques? How easily can mistakes be made, or unmade? In an open practical exploration, we would like to look at these questions, run some tests and collect individual answers that may be helpful when evaluating possible technique choices made in historical times. 
Test runs will be ongoing through the rest of the week.

Ronja Lau: Studies on rigid heddle ribbons.
An experimental attempt to create medival ribbons from the Baltic states. The presentation deals with the difficult topic of the rigid heddle ribbons in archaeological source material. Few textile remains can be identified from Great Britain, over North Europe, the Baltic, Russia and South Germany. The presentation will show some of the finds and discuss their evolution through prehistoric and historic times. Not only textile fragments are important for this, but the rigid heddle itself will be be shown and the difficulties of the few finds, too. Especially in German textile archaeology, the topic is not well published and there are difficulties in the correct use of technical terms. The practical part is going to be an introduction with a small workshop about the so-called "Auleja" technic based in the Baltic and Scandinavian lands.

Beatrix Nutz: What Holds the World Together. Braided and Woven Laces in Tyrol
Laces are multifunctional. They were used extensively on garments to close gown fronts, backs and sleeves at various periods of time and by men to attach hose. Laces were used as drawstrings on bags or pouches, and generally to tie anything to something else or tie something together. Laces were sewn as decorative trims to (or between) fabric edges - which could also serve a practical function – or be mere decorations. Not only are laces multifunctional, there is also more than one way to make them. Several "Strickgabeln" (lucets) of bone or antler with two metal prongs excavated in Tyrol (dated to Late Antiquity by some archaeologists and to the 12th to 13th centuries by others) point to laces made by lucet braiding. Loop braided laces found at Lengberg Castle, East Tyrol, date to the 15th century. A contemporary manuscript from southern Germany provides instructions for these laces as well as for laces braided with open ends (strands), a technique sometimes referred to as whip cording. Narrow tablet-woven laces from a miner´s house in East Tyrol that date to Early Modern Times (16th to 17th centuries) present yet another method of making laces. With some of these methods and patterns the end result looks (almost) identical. E.g. a lace made with a lucet looks like a round braid with 5 loops or a round lace with 8 strands. Therefore it is not always easy to determine the method that was applied in the production of an extant find. This talk will present all these methods, discuss the pros and cons and show extant finds and their use. In the following workshop the participants of the conference can have a try at the four methods and use the replica that has been made of one of the lucets found in Tyrol.

Katrin Kania: Patterns in Tablet-Weaving - how might they have been achieved?
This paper continues the exploration of patterning methods for tablet weaving that allow complex patterns to be worked on a twill background. The medieval tablet-woven bands from Arlon as well as traditional Scandinavian techniques for pattern building and pattern variation serve as the basis for a method to aid free-hand patterning even for complex patterns. 

Alexandra Makin: Bound Edges: how needlework was used to bind and decorate hems and edges
Once fabrics have been woven and taken off the loom they can be reworked into a variety of objects such as clothing, soft furnishings, bags and wrappings, and sails. Although some of these objects do not need the fabric to be manipulated and cut, many do. Cutting textiles can lead to their edges fraying and in order to stop this action taking place, they need to be bound in some way. Techniques for securing edges and hems are numerous but the most utilized form is stitching. Often this technique is utilitarian and hidden from public view but there are examples of edges and hems secured with stitching that has been purposefully left visible. There are also extant examples of edges and hems being stitched with embroidery that was used as a form of functional decoration. This paper will examine extant examples of stitching and embroidery from the early medieval period. The paper will be two-fold. The first part will discuss examples of bound edges and hems from early medieval England, Scotland and Ireland, the focus of the speaker’s research to date. The second part will begin to explore early medieval examples from other geographical areas, as part of a preliminary discussion that the speaker hopes to expand into future research. The practical session will take the form of a dip-in session alongside the ongoing discussion. The speaker is a professional embroiderer and she will be able to demonstrate a number of the stitches discussed in the paper, and according to what conference participants would like to explore. Participants will then be given an opportunity to practice the stitches and experiment with them while continuing the previous discussion.

Mieke Albers: A functional stitch with a decorative result.
This paper will focus on a doublet dated 1653-1672 which is part of the costume collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. The plain weave doublet shows a cut with shoulders broadened by ’bragoenen’ or shoulder-flaps and the waist and skirt are cut from one piece. For the two inserted panels of the flared skirt an intricate embroidery method is used to connect these along the seams. This makes the stitch not only functional but decorative as well. Together with the embroidered ‘bragoenen’ and the row of buttons and buttonholes at the front, it is the only decorative element of the doublet. This type of embroidery falls within the category of an "insertion stitch”, namely the interlaced herringbone insertion stitch. There are many variations of this type of stitch. Although the stitch was used in the past for different purposes and is known since the middle ages, not many examples could be found for the tailoring of 17th and 18th century doublets or other men’s clothing. It is well known for white work, the fabrication of corsets and underwear in the 17th and 18th century. At the moment the textile conservation department of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam is doing technical research on 17th century textile objects in the costume collection. 

Ruth MacGregor: Pick-up pattern weaving with rigid heddles
Heddles with special features that make it fast and easy to weave pick-up patterns in bands have a history that goes back at least to the 18th century (possibly the late 17th century), and they were used fairly widely in northern Europe. This presentation introduces the various ways of creating pick-up patterns with heddles, including how the weaving works and the differences in underlying structure, followed by a practical session with the opportunity to try different weaving patterns.

Orit Shamir, Ofer Bar-Yosef, Alisa Baginski: Linen Textiles Production, Nahal Hemar Cave – Fabrics, Basketry, Cordage and Threads from Pre Pottery Neolithic Period (Seventh Millenium BCE)
Nahal Hemar Cave (8 x 4 m) is located at the southern limit of the Judean Desert in modern Israel. It was used as a storage of a Pre-Pottery Neolithic Ceremonial Center. The finds include modeled skulls, a stone mask, many lithic and bone artifacts, wooden beads and figurines. Five hundred linen fabrics, basketry, cordage and threads were discovered. The most important items are the linen fabrics which were preserved only at the cave deposits of Nahal Hemar and the only item precede them is 10,000 BC linen threads attached to a comb from Murabba’at caves. They were not woven, but made in a variety of techniques such as twining, looping and knotted netting; that is, without the use of a loom. These techniques – looping and knotted netting – disappear in the southern Levant by the Chalcolithic period.
Flax (Linum usitatissimum) was a principal oil and fibre source in the ancient world and probably the earliest domesticated plant used for textiles and is often mentioned in the context of the Near Eastern Neolithic ‘founder crops’ assemblage. The Neolithic domestication of flax was an essential prerequisite for Chalcolithic textiles as experimental fibre extraction of wild flax in Israel proved that these plants had surfaces which were too heavily textured to allow for the creation of threads suitable for textiles. Although domesticated sheep appear already in the Neolithic Period, flax remains the sole material for the manufacture of textiles during the Neolithic period and until the Middle Bronze Age, when wool textiles appeared in the Southern Levant. 
The project investigates the emergence and development of textile technologies and the use of textile fibres in the Neolithic Period in the Southern Levant. The excellent preservation of these organic artifacts makes them unique worldwide.

Micky Schoelzke: A new look at the Snartemo V band
Snartemo V is a well-known tablet-woven find from the Migration period (early 6th century, Norway), so unique that it gave its name to a 4 color tablet-weaving technique with floats. An interpretation of the band has been around for many years, but after examining the archeological piece, Mrs Randi Stoltz has recently published a new pattern, that seem much closer to the original. I will present my own weaving of the "new" version of Snartemo V and also discuss the changes the differences between the old and the new interpretation of the band. 

Heather Hopkins & Chris Hopkins Pepper: Influence of Metal Kettles on Dyeing Outcome
While one of the requirements for an archaeological experiment is its repeatability, there are next to no instances of experiments actually being re-run. With the dyeing experiment that was first run in 2012, enhanced with an addendum in 2013 and re-run in its completeness in 2016, it became evident that a repetition of an experiment is by no means a waste of time and resources, as the many uncontrollable variables due to natural materials can influence the outcome significantly.
To further explore this point, the experiment will be run again this year, investigating the influence of the metals iron, copper, lead with an oxide layer and clean lead on the dyeing results when present in the mordanting bath, the dyeing bath, or both. The yarns and dye liquids will then be tested on metal residues by an analytical chemist, with the possibility of burial tests under lab conditions as well.
The experiment will have a total runtime of about 20 hrs and will thus continue over the next days.

Celia Elliott-Minty: A braided bracelet/armband found in a Bronze Age cist on Dartmoor, UK: exploring its structure and how it might it have been made.
The incomplete remains of a braided band made of cow hair adorned with metallic studs were found alongside other artefacts during the excavation of an Early Bronze Age cremation burial cist on Dartmoor, Devon. It was about 165 mm long and between 3 and 4.5 mm wide: one end appeared to be complete whereas the other end was frayed. It was considered by the archaeologists involved to have been a bracelet or armband.
This study started by closely examining digital photographs to determine the structure of the braid and what that might reveal about its creation. Then the possible methods by which the braid could have been produced were explored because a given structure can often be achieved in more than one way. In this case, the most likely technology available to the Bronze Age braider had to be considered, as did the behaviour of the cow hair during manipulation. Both free-end and loop braiding could have been used during prehistory, so these were chosen as likely methods.
The initial experiments were carried out with horse tail hair which was readily available. However, the use of cow hair was completely new to me. What were cows like in the Bronze Age and how long were their tails? This led to another mini-project which resulted in obtaining samples from two different breeds of cattle to try.
This talk will present the results and discuss what they say about how the braid might have been made. The participants will then have the opportunity to try out free-end and loop braiding with horsehair for themselves.
This experimental archaeology project was carried out in association with Susanna Harris, University of Glasgow.

Frances Pritchard: A bourrelet from Qau el-Kebir, Middle Egypt
High-status women wore a type of headband, which are called bourrelets, as part of their funerary dress in some parts of Egypt around the 6th and early 7th centuries AD. They were worn encircling the face, sometimes with a veil or shawl attached. Examples recovered from Antinoupolis were made in a variety of techniques including plaiting and tablet weaving. However a different method was used for a bourrelet recovered from a grave in Qau el-Kebir, which appears to involve weft-wrapping and ply-splitting. This will be discussed and experiments in how to make it will be conducted.