Warp with tablet woven header

The following project was embarked upon at the request of my laurel, Mistress Rogned. Rogned has organized the Raltheheimr Althing the past 2 years. The event was inspired by the site, which has both a long house and a round house built out on the water! The site begs for a warp weighted loom and the large variety of viking activities that take place at the event each year! This year, Mistress Rogned, asked if I would wind the warp for th warp weighted loom. As a 7th C Persian persona, this was my first time winding a traditional warp weighted loom warp. I have seen a friend wind a warp  using this method once before and read about the table woven headers in my research, but had not done it myself. It was a very active warp winding experience and really fun!


We know from various norse/viking textiles finds that a tablet woven border is a common feature of norse textiles.  A warp beam and shed rod were found in the Farm Beneath the Sand excavation, Umiiviarsuk (Ostergard, 2004). This find suggests that cloth up to 47" wide could have been woven on the loom in question. When discussing requirements for this warp, my laurel, Mistress Rogned, asked me to wind a warp 40" wide sett between 10 and 12 epi.

Rogned also asked me to decide what structure we should use when weaving thie actual cloth at the event. I suggested either 2/2 straight twill, herringbone, or point twill based on the following research. Ostergard and Jorgensen agree that a variety of weaves were used by the Vikings. These weaves vary from simple tabby weave to complicated twill weaves, and of course herringbone. Contrary to what one might assume the simple tabby weave is not very common, as Viking weavers were very accomplished, and generally only used for linen fabric (Jorgenson, 2002). Jorgensen (2002) states that the 2/2 twill was most common during the Migration Period (400-600 AD). According to Jorgensen (2002) wool 2/2 twills predominate the Migration Era’s finds. The diamond twill comes into extant finds beginning in the 7th Century (Jorgensen, 2002). Jorgensen distinguishes between the Z/S diamond twill, which is only found two to three times in Scandinavia and the more prominent Z/Z diamond twill, where Z-spun yarn is used as both the warp and weft threads.

Ostergard (2004) states that lozenge/diamond twills are amoung those used by the Vikings. Ostergard (2004) writes that one 2/1 (Z/Z) diamond twill fragment was found in Norse Greenland and that many of such fabrics have been found throughout the Viking Era. Ostergard (2004) notes that the coarsest fabric found in Norse Greenland is set at 10 ends per inch (epi) and the finer setts around 25 epi. The handspun weft yarn Rogned had for this project was best suited for a sett of 10-12 epi, which is what the threads need to achieve a nice twill effect and puts this cloth at the lower end of the extant pieces, which is in keeping with it mainly being used as a teaching piece.
Oestergard (2004) noted that most Norse twills are mainly 2/2 twills, though as previously stated 2/1 twills were also utilized. The Cambridge History of Western Textiles noted that two thirds of Scandinavian textiles finds are comprised of 2/2 twill, which is why I have suggested a 2/2 twill for this cloth. Oestergard notes 82.5% of the Herjolfsnaesis twills are 2/2 twills. Diamond twills are also found in Norse textiles. The so called Herjolfsnaes hose are made of 2/2 diamond twill in which the pattern is squared and offset (Oestergard, 2004). However, as this cloth is to be used for teaching, I have suggested either a straight twill or a point/herrinbone twill, so the new weavers can keep a simple rotation going and not have to worry about when to reverse the pattern. These decisions were all best made up front, but do not necessarilly actuall effect the warp winding process, which is a bit of weaving in and of itself. :)
Warping Process

The process for setting up a warp with a tablet woven header is actually quite simple and extremely enjoyable! First you must prepare your tablet weaving warp. In this case I chose to make the header using the Egyptian Diagonals pattern, because it is a simple, yet effective, pattern and would reduce the amount of time in preparing the table woven warp. I wound the two colors at once on my wall mounted warping board. I like to wind my tablet warps on this warping board, because my band loom is the style withe square for winding on the warp. Once the warp is wound on the warping board, I simply tie one end on the square and wind it off the warping board onto the square (which can be seen below. 









In this case, I clamped the square to a table and clamped a peg on the other end of the table, which happened to be just long enough to accomadate the width of warp we needed. I then threaded the tablets, using the cross I included when winding the tablet warp, below.







Once all the cards were threaded (2 colors per card in adjacent holes), I made sure all the threads were pulled taunt and tied a knot at the end of the warp. I also clamped the peg at the spot where the warp was well tensioned and set up the cards for basic Egyptian diagnols. The tablets were S threaded, so I turned them to be in positions 2, 1, 4, and 3 (using Collingwood's double weave position annotation) and repeated this across the entire tablet warp.





Then I wove a small header on the tablet weaving. Next I would large center pull balls of the main warp and used this for the tablet weft. I woven one main warp end per tablet weaving pick. I passed the main wapr through the tablet shed, beat it in, turned the cards and put the main warp through the shed again. 






When the weft was on the right hand side of the tablet weaving warp, I wound the warp thread on my table top warping board to achieve the 80" warp length requested.

Every 3", I tied 2 choke ties and the ties to keep the cross and chained the warp. I also changed the direction I was turning the tablets, which changes the diagnol of the tablet weaving. I did this until I had 40" in main warp width, measured under relaxed tension. I put the warp chains in the travel box as I went and at the end, wove off a bit of tablet woven header on the other side and put the entire tablet woven header on top of the warp chains for transport.


I look forward to attending the event and helping new weavers discover the joys of weaving on a warp weighted loom! I write a new post with some photos of the weaving in progress after the event!

Happy weaving!


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Geijer, A. (1979). A History of Textile Art. Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications.

Harris, J. ed. (1995). 5000 Years of Textiles. British Museum Press.

Jorgensen, L.B. (2002). Scandinavia, AD 400-1000. Jenkins, D. ed.The Cambridge History of Western Textiles. Cambridge University Press.

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Ostergard, El (2004) Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland. Aarhus University Press. Denmark.

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