Preliminary Programme:

Our Forum programme for "Aspects of Weaving and Braiding" is not finalised yet, but here you can get an overview of what will be our paper, presentation and workshop topics:

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.

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.

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.

Anna Depalmas, Luca Doro, Noemi Fadda: Impressions from the past: basketry in Bronze Age Sardinia (Italy).

The close relationship between man and nature has led him to be able to manipulate and modify the raw material for the manufacture of objects. Investigating the plants used for crafts activities is important to understand the environment of the past and the social dynamics involved in the creation and use of plants objects. The bind technique necessarily involves knowledge of the physical properties of the plants used (flexibility, strength, elasticity) and of their life cycle .

It is difficult to find baskets remains in archaeological excavation because the material is perishable, but we can identify some indirect evidence in Bronze Age pottery from Sardinia (Italy). Often we found impressions of basketry on pots' bases, because the basket was used to rest wet pots during the manifacture process. We know that the baskets were manufactured by an armature formed by a bundle of fibers wound in a spiral and stitched with a ribbon of grass. This method allows to produce containers of various sizes.

The aim of this study is to reconstruct the stages of work, from extraction of the plant to the creation of the basket, with an ethnographic and experimental approach. The study will be supported by archaeological data, with the observation under a stereomicroscope of samples of pots bases with impressions of braided baskets from the Bronze Age sites of Sa Mandra Manna (Tula) and Nuraghe Ola (Nuoro).

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. 

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.

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. This will be a mostly practical session.


Opportunity for 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.


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