Medieval Loom Research

Vikings used warped weighted vertical looms. Whereas I have used 2 heddle on a rigid heddle loom. Rigid heddles have been discovered in much earlier Roman graves, therefore they were in use prior to the 11th C. However the extant rigid heddles have been either found only in fragments or in narrower widths. As I do not have a warp weighted loom, nor the space to build one, I chose to use my rigid heddle loom as this is a more reasonable loom to fit in my house. Rigid heddle weaving is also a style that would have been used by my persona (7th C Persian). This method also simulates weaving on a simple drawloom, or an early horizontal loom. A variety of looms were used throughout the Middle Ages. The Vikings are famous for their use of warp weighted looms, perhaps the most widely known Medieval loom. The warp weighted loom is comprised of a set of uprights and one beam, which holds the woven cloth. The warp is hung from the upper beam and weighted with stones or ceramic weights. This loom would have been used to produce the fabric used for hoods, tunics, accessories and the like. However a variety of other looms were used in other regions. The Egyptians developed both a horizontal loom and a vertical loom. The horizontal loom is developed first, as early as the Middle Kingdom period (Harris, 1995; Jenkins, 2002; Weibel, 1952). This loom is made by staking out two beams and using a fixed heddle, which may have been wide rigid heddles (Harris, 1995; Jenkins, 2002; Weibel, 1952). The rigid heddle loom is a modern version of this loom, the main difference being the revolving beams and the make of the heddle, which is why I chose this method for weaving this fabric. Other looms used throughout the Middle Ages include the two beam vertical loom, developed by the Egyptians in 1500 BC (Harris, 1995; Jenkins, 2002). This loom is made using two vertical uprights with two horizontal beams, which hold the warp. This loom includes one or two rods with leashes that are used to manipulate the warp and thus create the weave. It is very similar to the tapestry loom used by Egyptians as early as the 6th C to weave tapestry decorations for clothing and later by Europeans to weave large wall hangings. Finally the treadle loom, which is a foot manipulated horizontal loom, and the drawloom. The treadle loom was developed by the Chinese two to three centuries before the Christian Era (Harris, 1995). This technology arrived in Europe by the 13th C and would not have been in use in Europe at the time of this hood (Harris, 1995). The development of the drawloom enabled incredibly complex fabrics to be woven. The drawloom was either developed in China or Syria (Harris, 1995; Weibel, 1952). The complexity of fabrics woven in China and Sasanid Persia provdie the evidence that the drawloom was developed in this area of the wold in or before the 7th C (Harris, 1995; Weibel, 1952). The drawloom is a fantastic device, which allows the warp threads to be freely raised in regular complex patterns (Harris, 1995: Weibel, 1952). The drawloom was used by a weaver with the asistance of untrained children or slaves (Weibel, 1952). Drawings of drawlooms provide evidence on how these looms were operated (Harris, 1995; Weibel, 1952). A drawloom is not very practical for use in a modern life, as it is very time consuming to warp and use by one person.

References: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. Løvlid, D. H. (2009) Nye tanker om Skjoldehamnfunnet. Dissertation (Figure Notes have English translations). Universitetet i Bergen. Ostergard, El (2004) Woven into the Earth: Textiles from Norse Greenland. Aarhus University Press. Denmark. Weibel, A.C. (1952) Two Thousand Years of Textiles: The Figured Textiles of Europe and the Near East. The Detroit Institute of Arts. New York.