Very few textiles have been recovered
in the Anglo Saxon period particularly in settlement area's. Those
that have been recovered are usually small pieces that are attached
to metal objects as part of the finds in a cemetery (Walton Rogers,
P. 2007:49). Textiles that are recovered are mostly from graves where
a person is buried rather than from where a person may have been
cremated Walton (Rogers, P. 2007:50-58). The presence of metal also
increases the likelihood that textile finds will be recovered in a
grave, due to the preservation of textiles on the back of the goods.
All of this means that that there is a bias towards the sort of
textiles that evidence is likely to be found for towards those of the
wealthy women, because they wear jewellery and those who practise
inhumation rather than cremation as a burial rite.
While textile find themselves can be
quite rare the difficulty then becomes one of distinguishing between
different types of fibres. While both protein/ animal based fibres
and plant/ cellulose fibres have distinct differences under a
microscope it is often difficult to tell between the different types
of fibre because of degradation of the find (Walton Rogers, P.
2007:60). In addition once the fibre has been identified as either a
plant or animal based fibre to then distinguish between the types of
plant or animal fibre that has been found poses extra difficulties.
Types of fibres that have been found in
Migration Period Anglo Saxon burials include;
According to Walton Rogers, P.
(2007:60) the number of wool and linen textiles found in grave sites
is roughly equal. Out of 693 preserved textiles associated with
metals 365 were of wool and 328 were of linen. This is not the sum
total of all textiles finds from Anglo Saxon Britain but it does give
an idea of spread of cloth. From this it can be understood that
clothing made from either wool or from linen would be common in the
Anglo Saxon migration period.
My Hordweard project is made from wool
because of the ease of finding cloth of this type ready made and for
the coat because of the availability of quantities of sheep wool that
is available for spinning and weaving. To prepare flax for spinning
into linen and to obtain enough quantity was not within the scope of
my project at this stage.
Grading of Cloth
Textiles in the Migration Anglo Saxon
period were less coarse than is often portrayed. Thread counts
indicate that cloth of the style known as tabby had thread counts
between 12 threads per cm and for 2/2 twill cloth had thread counts
of between 8-14 threads per centimetre. Most commonly these thread
counts were the same for both warp (the long threads set up on a loom
going from one end of the cloth to another) and weft (the thread
going across the loom and filling the gaps between the warp threads).
Occasionally the warp threads had a slightly higher thread count than
the weft threads (Walton Rogers, P. 2007:76).
My Anglo Saxon coat is woven in a tabby
with a warp count of 4 and a weft count of 6 threads per centimetre.
This is due to my ability, as this is my first large scale woven
project and also to due to the capabilities of my loom.
The cloth that I will be using for the
undergarments is a commercial cloth with thread counts of 12-16x12-16
Types of Weave
Anglo Saxon weaves are broken down into
two different types of weaves tabby and twill and variations of each
(Walton Rogers, P. 2007:67-77).
A tabby weave also known as a plain
weave, is very strong especially when close set, this is because its
over-one under-one structure produces the maximum internal friction
in the cloth (Alderman, S. 2004:3).
(Moller-Wiering, S. 2011:XV)
Twill is a fabric where either a warp
end or a weft thread (pick) passes over or under two or more
consecutive threads in a cloth creating what is known as a float.
Where these floats sit creates the characteristic features of twill
cloth (Alderman, S. 2004:25).
The cloth I am using for the my
undergarments will be of wool in a tabby weave. The under-dress will
be of a naturally pigmented wool in an off white colour. The
over-dress will be of a wool dyed blue a colour that was starting to
become more popular for fine fabrics towards the 6th and
7th centuries. Blue wool was found in a fine fabric with a
10-14 x 10 ZZ tabby in a sixth century Anglo Saxon grave (Walton
Rogers, P. 2007:68).
(Moller-Wiering, S. 2011:XV)
While my woven coat is of tabby a coat
that I am making for the Hordweard as proof of concept will be of
chevron twill with a 9x11 warp and weft.
I have mentioned this before but just
for clarification the threads in an Anglo Saxon Migration period
weave are not plied this makes it easier to weave a finer cloth but
makes the threads, known as singles, harder to handle while weaving
as the strength of a non-plied yarn, especially in wool, is much less
than the strength of a plied yarn.
According to Walton Rogers, P.
(2007:70) the single most common cloth found in Anglo Saxon graves
was of twill with the threads spun with a Z twist for both the warp
and the weft. Most of these examples are from the Migration period.
Their thread counts range from 6x5 to 20x18 threads per centimetre.
The majority of these fabrics are of wools that are naturally
pigmented with either brown or black with dye found on only five of
over 900 examples of twill cloth. This indicates that dyed fabrics
were extremely rare and that large area's of cloth during the
Migration period were almost certainly coloured based upon the
natural pigmentation of the fibres available.
While pigmentation was rare it was
slightly more common, although not extremely common to use a variety
of different pigmented fibres to create stripes and patterns in the
fabric (Walton Rogers, P. 2007:70-75).
The coat that I will be making as proof
of concept uses natural pigments in dark brown and mid brown to
create texture and some patterning in the fabric.
Finish of the Fabric
Fulling of fabric is the process of
cleaning the fabric and felting it slightly so that it holds together
and so that it becomes more weather proof (Barber, W. J. W.
1990:220-221). While it is difficult to tell if Migration Period
Anglo Saxon cloth has been fulled the evidence seems to suggest that
if fulling did occur that it was minimal.
Having said that the evidence for the
knowledge of fulling prior to the Anglo Saxon period is extensive and
it is difficult to see why knowledge of this skill, one that would
help to weather proof clothing during cold wet winters in England
would have entirely disappeared.
During the earlier Roman period fulling
was a large scale industrial activity undertaken in workshops. The
process was began with individuals standing in large tub's treading
cloth underfoot to loosen dirt and to allow the cleansing agents to
penetrate the fabric. The cheapest cleansing agent was stale urine
which was often collected from passers by in the streets. Once the
woollen cloth was
cleansed it was hung out to dry. From
there the nap could be raised using teasel or by hand (Wild, J. P.
1970:82-85). While there may be limited knowledge of fulling during
the Anglo Saxon period at least five of the ZZ twill fabrics from the
Anglo Saxon Migration period show evidence of a finish that includes
raising of the nap. This tends to indicate that fulling of some sort
was occasionally undertaken during this period (Walton Rogers, P.
Other evidence for possible fulling in
the Anglo Saxon period is the use of the Anglo-Saxon word wealcan
meaning to roll or toss about coming from the process of fulling wool
(Barber, W. J. W. 1990:216). The work walk descends from this
origin. While this suggests that fulling was used at some stage
during the Anglo Saxon period it does not necessarily mean that
fulling was undertaken during the Migration period.
While our knowledge of how much cloth
may or may not have been fulled during the Migration period is
limited it is reasonable to suppose that at least a minimal degree of
fulling was done. I will be slightly fulling my coat once the weaving
process is finished purely so that the cloth holds together.
Handwoven fabric can unravel substantially once cut. To prevent the
disintegration of my handwoven fabric I intend to slightly full it
before cutting. This will also add to the weather proofing of my coat
and help to minimise shrinkage. I will be fulling at an amount that
would happen naturally due to wear and tear of cloth being used as a
coat for day to day purposes. The twill I will be using for my proof
of concept coat is also fulled to a similar amount, all threads can
be seen individually but the fibres interlock slightly due to the
Alderman, S. 2004 'Mastering Weave
Structures: Transforming Ideas into Great Cloth'. Interweave Press
LLC, Loveland, Colorado, USA.
Barber, W. J. W. 1990. 'Prehistoric
Textiles' Princeton University Press, West Sussex, UK.
S. 2011. 'War and Worship: Textiles from 3rd to 4th
century AD Weapon Deposits in Denmark and Northern Germany'. Oxbow
Books, Oxford, UK.
Walton Rogers, P. 2007. 'Cloth and
Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England: AD 450-700'. Council for
British Archaeology, York, UK.
Wild, J. P. 1970 'Textile Manufacture
in the Northern Roman Provinces' Cambridge University Press,
Labels: Anglo Saxon, flax, fulling, hemp, linen, preparation, research, silk, tabby, tablet weaving, textiles, thread count, twill, wool