An Otter’s head cabossed

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I had been designing a lot of doubleface patterns a few months ago, using other people’s heraldic devices for inspiration, as well as extant armorials.  As another member of my shire uses an otter’s head in her device, it piqued my interest as a potential tablet weaving pattern.

It occurred to me when looking at various photos and sketches, that an otter’s head is roughly oval, with a huge nose and some fuzzy bits round the edges of the face. This may seem to ignore important features  like eyes or ears. However, getting the detail right for the nose, oval and fur defines the number of cards necessary for a band.  In this context, eyes ears etc can become incidental.

Check out a few of my inspirations for this design:

“Cabossed” is a heraldic term referring to what part of an animal’s head you see in a picture.  Broadly speaking, it means you’ll be looking at the full face from the front but you won’t see the neck.

Creating the pattern

I began with the nose & mouth, sketching directly in GTT on a 50 card wide canvas. Once I was happy with the shape, I managed to reduce it in size to about 40 cards width, without compromising much on detail. I opted for a solid color nose, rather than an outlined version, because it can take less space to depict it effectively.

I then added a large(ish) slightly flattened oval surrounding the initial shape, tweaking the aspect ratio until proportions looked right.  Turning to the question of fur, I sketched in little straight lines round the oval, flaring them to join the main figure. I noticed in various images, that an otters head seems to have a small dimple on top of the head and a slightly larger indent underneath the mouth, where the fur is drawn as parting. I added these into the design, as slight ‘suggestions’ of shape change. In an image from OSCAR the otter’s eyes are depicted as dark with a slight highlight. I chose to replicate this in the design. At this point, I compared my efforts with various images…

Ears – I really had forgotten these! They look so tiny. Luckily a quick change of about 6 cards, and a pair of small rounded ears peeked out from the fur, roughly level with the eyes.  Line drawings tend to depict otter’s ears  slightly lower than the eyes, but I was happy with the positioning I had used.  Go look at 50 to 100 images of otters – in several of those you will see ears higher than the eyes, because of the angle from which the photograph was taken.

Whiskers, or hints thereof – try as I might, I couldn’t add these without compromising the rest of the design. Had I at least doubled the number of cards, I may have been able to include them. But I’m not ready to try making a band with 80+ cards, yet. This was the only omission.

The finalised pattern calls for 42 pattern cards, plus 3 border cards on either side. The first project to use it was worked in Lizbeth Cordonnet #80, colors 611 and 647. The finished band was about 24mm wide.

I was pleasantly surprised with how the design turned out.  When holding the band and looking at it from under an arms length away, there’s just the right hint of fur 🙂  When you’re viewing it from a longer distance, the head still looks quite otter-like.


If you weave this otter head, and you prefer the way it looks on the underside/reverse, flip the cards from S to Z and vice versa, before you begin.


“Cabossed” – as described on Wikipedia.

GTT – Guntram’s Tablet Weaving Thingy

“Head, animals” – Mistholme describing animal heads & faces in heraldry, and the usage of “Cabossed”.

Oscar – Online System for Commentary and Response for heraldry and name submissions in the SCA, including description of devices or badges for:

Rebound of the sea otter” (Alaska Magazine)

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