A squire’s belt for a viking

Valda asked me to make a tablet woven squire belt that was appropriate to her viking persona’s best outfit.   I asked whether she was aiming for authenticity, or if she’d like a piece that ‘looked the part’. It turned out that  something ‘viking-ish’ would be fine, and that the threads used should be guaranteed colourfast.

Taking into account the single-colour constraint, I suggested the possibility of a self-patterned belt with a pattern inspired by motifs from Nordic bands. Valda liked this idea, so I designed and worked a sample in colourfast cotton, and shared pictures. We were both quite pleased with how the idea had turned out, so I went ahead and wove the belt. I used Hakelgarn 100 crochet thread (size 10) for the warp and  DMC Cebelia (size 30) for the weft, both of which can be machine-washed at 60°C.

The finished piece is about 3m long excluding fringes and 45-47mm wide.

The chosen motif can be considered to be: 

  • a depiction of alternating s and z, inspired by the mirrored S-patterns in figure e (B22) on page 83 of “Birka III. Die Textilfunde aus den gräbern” by Agnes Geijer.
  • an interpretation of the Finnish Iron Age s-z pattern on a band from Kaukola. See Shelagh Lewins’ interpretation of the pattern: ‘Finnish SZ motif‘ (pdf).

About self-patterned (twist-patterned) tablet weaving

  • All four holes of each card are threaded in one colour.
  • It is easier if the cards are oriented in the same direction at the start of more complex patterns.
  • Motifs are created by turning the pattern cards in the opposite direction to the ‘background’ cards, thus altering the twining direction of each cord.
  • There are examples of self-patterned bands from Germany, in the 9th/10th centuries, like Collingwood p157/plate 77.  Even though I used it for Valda’s belt, I have not seen this style of self-patterning used in tablet weaving from the Nordic or Baltic regions.

But what about the Gotland band?

  • Ok, yes, that’s self-patterned too.
  • Only two holes in each card are threaded in the same colour; the other holes are empty.
  • The cards are not necessarily oriented in the same direction at the start of a pattern repeat. See pattern by Lise Ræder Knudsen (pdf).
  • Motifs are created by flipping specific cards over their threads, from right to left and vice versa, on particular rows only, while turning the rest of the cards in one direction. Rasmus Twisttmann Jørgensen shared a video in the Historic Tablet Weaving group on facebook demonstrating the technique.

When I tried this method of self-patterning, I couldn’t get it to work, so I need a lot more practice before considering designing in it.

What I may do differently next time

On Valda’s belt, it looks like there are thicker and thinner diagonals, even though they are all produced with the same number of turns. This is because some parts of each ‘S’ or ‘Z’ are raised (the thicker-looking lines), and other parts are inset (the thinner-looking lines). I may attempt to compensate for this by redesigning the pattern, or I may try a slightly different turning technique.




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