Wednesday, February 15, 2012


During the Early Anglo Saxon period the main form of large cloth weaving was the Warp Weighted Loom (Walton Rogers, 2007:28-29). This type of loom was thought to have first been used about the 14th Century BC when it is first depicted upon rock art at Naquane, in the Camonica Valley in northern Italy (Barber. 1992:91-93). By the mid 3rd millennium BC we have direct archaeological evidence for warp weighted looms in the form of weights and post holes (Barber. 1992:91-93).

A warp weighted loom is set up in such a way that the warp is held in place by what is known as as shed bar and heddle bars. The Shed is a bar about two thirds of the way down the loom that holds some threads out at an angle compared to the other threads that are left to drop straight towards the ground. Because of the lean on the loom this creates what is known as a shed, a gap between two sets of yarn.

Lower on the loom are heddle bars. These have strings tied to them and can sit into the heddle supports or can be held by the hand while the shuttle is passed through the shed. The heddles are the strings tied around the heddle bars. These are then looped around the lower yarn that is not held forward by the shed bar. When the heddle bars are pulled forward the heddles pull the lower yarn through and the shed is changed.

For good examples of how to build a warp weighted loom and the different sort of weaves that can be done on a warp weighted loom go

For a video on on construction and use of a warp weighted loom.

Once a loom was warped up weaving during the Anglo Saxon period comprised of passing the shuttle between the warp threads by using the sheds created by movement of the heddles and heddle bars. This movement would be alternated so that a weaving pattern could be achieved. Different patterns could be achieved based upon the number of heddle bars tied onto the warp threads and how the heddle bars were set up.

Once the shuttle with the thread wound around it was passed through the shed it was then beaten up by a weaving baton. These were in the shape of a sword and were used to beat the weft into place. (Walton Rogers and Riddle. 2006:3-4).

This form of weaving could be done on both a wide loom and on a thin loom. However if using a wide loom there are restrictions as it is very hard to pass the shuttle through from one side to another unless the loom is restricted to about 65-75 cm in width. It is therefore likely that any cloth woven on a loom wider than this would need at least two people to participate in the weaving. This is certainly backed up by diagrams showing one person on each side of a larger loom (Barber. 1992:106).

For reasons of speed, convenience and access my weaving has not been done on a warp weighted loom. Instead it has been done on an upright loom. While this has a similar way of constructing the cloth, by using an upright loom, the details of how this are done are different. My loom beats the weft threads down on the loom instead of up. This plus the weight of the reed on my upright loom changes the rations of the warp to weft threads resulting in a slightly different cloth. Details of the types of cloth available during the Migration Anglo Saxon period are for another post. However to view my loom and weaving watch the embedded video.

Barber. E, 1992. Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, USA.
Walton Rogers, P. 2007. 'Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England: AD 450-700'. council for British Archaeology, York, UK.
Walton Rogers, P. and Riddler, I. 2006. Early Anglo-Saxon textile manufacturing implements
from Saltwood Tunnel, Kent. CTRL Specialist Report Series. Channel Tunnel Rail Link London and Continental Railways Oxford Wessex Archaeology Joint Venture. London and Continental Railways, UK.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Preparing the Fibre for Spinning

Although I have been continuing my Hordewearde research my blogging is way behind where my research is up to. My production is ahead of my blogging but also well behind my research. Currently my production includes; 30+ balls of yarn, I lost count somewhere. 6 drop spindles worth of white yarn to be dyed for the tablet woven boarders and two bobbins worth of silk for the headband if I decide to do it and actually get that far. I have also woven almost a meter of cloth.

So my yarn is being done with both a drop spindle and a spinning wheel depending upon what part of my garment I am spinning. But aside from explaining my reasoning for what I am spinning and why I have not actually spoken much about the construction of yarn and what decisions I have made as far as constructing my yarn goes.

The notation for spun yarn is usually given in the terms Z or S. Z twist is when the spindle or wheel on a spinning wheel has been rotated in a clockwise direction. S is when the spindle or wheel on the spinning wheel has been rotated in the anticlockwise direction. (Walton Rogers. 2007:66-67).

There are a number of different ways to prepare wool for spinning. During the Early Anglo Saxon period combs were used to comb out the fibre so that it could be spun. Very few early Anglo Saxon combs have been found but they were probably very similar to the Roman combs that are found on many Roman sites where textiles are manufactured. Using this is a guide it was probable that wool was prepared during the Early Anglo Saxon period in the same way that it was prepared during the Roman period where a handful of fibre was pulled through the teeth of a short toothed comb of the type displayed here (Walton Rogers. 2007: 15).

There are two main types of spun yarn that are produced depending upon the type of carding and spinning that are done. These are worsted and woollen yarn. Worsted is a smooth and strong yarn that is durable and long wearing. Woollen yarn is a softer yarn and does not last as long (Robson and Ekarius 2009:19). The type of yarn that is produced depends very much on the way that the fibre is prepared in the combing or carding stage. Combing helps to align the fibres so that they are parallel to each other. This produces a worsted style of fibre (Robson and Ekarius 2009:24)

During this project to save time I have used pre-carded wool. Pre-carded wool aligns all of the fibres together and produces a worsted wool similar to the process of combing during the Anglo Saxon period.

When weaving the most common sort of cloth found in Early Anglo Saxon burials is what is known as a ZZ tabby. Tabby is a very simple weave structure where the weft passes under and over individual warp threads one at at time. This is the type of weaving that most people will have seen or done in Primary School.

A ZZ tabby is one where both the warp and the weft are spun with a Z twist and the yarn is not plied. Plying is the process of spinning two yarns together usually using the opposite twist so the way the singles (single yarns) were spun. For example if I had two Z spun singles I would ply them together using an S twist.

Next blog I will discuss more about weaving in particular the type of weaving that I am doing and why I have made the choices to use the tools that I have chosen to use.

Robson, D and Ekarius, C 2009. The Fleece and Fibre Sourcebook: More than 200 Fibres from Animals to Spun Yarn. Storey Publishing, North Adams, MA. USA
Walton Rogers, P. 1997. Textile Production at 16-22 Coppergate. The Archaeology of York The Small Finds. Volume 17: The Small Finds. General Editor: P.V. Addyman. (accessed 15/02/2012)
Walton Rogers, P. 2007. Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England. AD 450-700. Council for British Archaeology, UK.

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