I’ve been asked to do a small weaving project for our Queen for her step-down. I haven’t been asked to do any projects for royalty before, and it’s an exciting prospect.
This project is a front panel for an apron dress, appropriate for a 9th century Norsewoman in England.
Doing some digging, I found a draft from excavations in London dating to the late 9th/early 10th century for a wool broken lozenge twill with narrow reversals in the warp, and longer reversals in the weft. The original was undyed white sheep with 11 threads/cm in the warp, and 10 threads/cm. in the weft. I tried to find a yarn that would give me close to these results, but I’ve chosen to do it in ‘brown sheep’ and ‘white sheep’ to make the pattern stand out. This is woven out of some 2/8 Jaggerspun Heather I had set aside (edelweiss and brindle). While uncommon, textiles with contrasting warp/weft yarns have been found in Scandinavian (or Scandinavian-occupied) sited during this era. The extant textile had a reversal every 10 warp threads and every 41/33 weft picks. My weaving does the same.
||2/2 broken lozenge twill
||975 yds (7 oz)
||500.5 yds (3.6 oz)
Once completed, I added a tabletwoven border using the warp as weft to one end to mimic the starting band on a warp weighted loom.
The selvedges didn’t turn out well on this piece. I had been futzing with a tubular selvedge that didn’t work, and the wool was very grabby. To reinforce the edges I did a small rolled hem along the selvedge instead, and then hemmed the bottom.
And here it is all finished.
After finishing, I ended up with a thread count of 10 threads/cm. in the warp, and 9 threads/cm. in the weft. So, pretty close to the original.
Detail showing tabletwoven top and brooch loops.
So, the Norse garb went over well. I forgot to take a picture, so I’ll have to get one later. But for those who are interested, here’s a link to my documentation.
The aprondress is finished!
I know I haven’t posted in quite a while, but I have been busily sewing. And now, the linen underdress is finished!
This gives me just under two weeks to finish the aprondress, coif, and fine tune my documentation. Good grief!
I realized that I haven’t updated about my Norse garb in a while.
I was almost out of my usual linen sewing thread. Rather than wait for more I’ve decided to sew the dress in the same linen thread I used to weave it, waxed with beeswax. The neck opening is finished, the sleeves are ready to go on, and I am in the process of adding the gores. So far, so good.
A friend has offered to pick up brooches to go with the dress while at Pennsic, so that’s taken care of. I’m debating buying some beads to hang off the front as well as well but I’m not sure if that’s necessary.
I’m still trying to decide what to sew the apron dress with. I read somewhere that for Norse, linen should be sewn with linen and wool with wool. I don’t have any wool sewing thread, and I don’t want to use knitting yarn. I have some perfect yellow linen sewing thread. Another option is to buy silk thread – but would silk thread have been used on wool, or would the linen be okay.
Back to the books!
The underdress fabric is cut and ready to sew. It softened up a bit more with my poor attempt at mangling.
I’ll be sewing the dress with the same linen thread I used to weave it, waxed with beeswax.
The linen is off the loom and finished. Final measurements, 9 yards at 25 inches wide.
After finishing (but not ironed)
This project is the first time I had done any weaving with linen. For those of you that warned me it would be a different experience, boy were you right!
- Sizing really helps. I haven’t had the fraying issues I expected. In fact, so far my only broken warp threads have been caused by teeth (see photo below).
- Linen is inelastic. Once stretched it will not go back to its original shape. This made keeping tension difficult, especially due to my unusual, but not unexpected, stretching issues. I found that leaving the lease sticks in helped even out the tension. If I do another long linen yardage, I will order a second set of lease sticks and use all four instead of just the two I have. I also ended up dangling weights on individual threads that stretched.
No matter how hard you plan, something unexpected will occur.
The linen is warped!
So far, I’ve found the sizing made a tremendous difference. The string was much more manageable that it was unsized.
I have high hopes.
Because of the troubles I had with the wool fraying more than expected I am very sure that I am going to have problems with the linen, which is notorious for it. To help combat this, I am sizing the warp to increase it’s strength.
I haven’t been able to find any hard evidence of what sizing would have been used in period, I’ve opted to go with linseed. My assumption is that if they had access to the flax fibre, they would probably also have access to the seeds.
After searching around on the internet it seems a common formula is eight parts water to one part seeds, heated until the mixture has a consistency between coffee cream and egg white. After 30 minutes, I had what was closer to a very runny hair gel, and stopped there.
The sizing mixture. The dark colour is from the brown flaxseeds in the bottom.
After straining I dipped my warp chains in the mixture. Boy oh boy what a goopy mess! I wrung them out as best I could and hung them up to dry.
The warp chains hanging to dry.
Once dry I will warp up the loom as usual, and weave using a temple to help even out the draw in.
After mostly winding my linen warp, I’m rethinking my plans to do a 2/2 twill. I’m thinking this yarn might look better as plain weave. Also, with the twill overdress, another twill might be a bit much.
I wound a smaller sample warp, and have been weaving up new samples to test the look of the tabby.
This sample uses the same #10 Belgian linen yarn at 25 epi. I also did a sample at 30 epi, but it was too heavy – more like canvas
I really do prefer it, so my plans have changed again.