Laurel leaves

Ancient Greek pottery is a wonderful source of inspiration for tablet weaving. Simple decorative bands are often interspersed with larger more complex panels. Within the complex panels, some of the clothing depicted has decorative borders. Perfect if you’re making outfits from the pot’s time period, and you want to decorate them!

I looked at several pieces, examining the designs on the surface. For example, in the one-handled drinking cup below, a simple ‘key’ pattern encircles the stem near the base of the cup. Above that, a vine of acanthus leaves also winds it way round the stem. Then the outside of the cup’s body is decorated with a scene of nine men carousing at a symposium (party).

Terracotta one-handled kantharos (drinking cup)
ca. 500 B.C. (Accession Number: 63.11.4, Met Museum)

I’ve seen that type of Greek key pattern done many times in double-face tablet weaving, and it would be relatively simple to also reproduce as a monochrome (twist-patterned) design. The acanthus leaves are possible to reproduce, but with 12 ‘leaflets’ in each leaf , it would take a lot of cards to reproduce the detail effectively, either in double-face or twist-patterns. It isn’t possible to reproduce the main scene with any great detail, in under 100 cards. So, this cup is filed for when I want to tackle acanthus leaves, or work with over 200 cards, whichever comes first.

I looked at more cups and jars, and not just whole pieces but fragments too. While browsing, I found countless items with laurel leaves on them: some with lines down the centre of each leaf; some where the leaves where interspersed with fruit; and the shape of the leaves was also quite different depending on when and where they were made.

The bowl fragment from 440 B.C. (below left) shows pairs of long laurel leaves running almost parallel to the central stem, and attached to it with short leaf stalks. The detail from a 3rd century B.C. water jar (right) shows shorter rounder laurel levels. The leaves either side of the stem are slightly offset from eachother, so I don’t think of them as pairs, and their leaf stalks are longer. The leaves also alternate with fruit. Either of these are reasonable options for recreating as a monochrome twist pattern, with the 440 B.C. version being simpler.

Terracotta fragment of a bell-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) 440 B.C. Accession Number: 2011.604.2.835 (Met Museum)
Terracotta Hadra hydria (water jar) 3rd century B.C. Accession Number: 90.9.24 (Met Museum)

It took a while to get a first draft I was happy with. When I wove a sample (below left), I found that the central section where leaves changed direction was a bit more crowded than I expected. Also, the transition from foreground to background was marked by a distinct ridge, which happens when you change the direction in which you turn the cards (detail below right). I wasn’t happy with that.

So, back to the drawing board, and a second sample later, a better result. Below left, is the central section of a longer band of laurel leaves. I think the leaves are spaced better, and more distinct. When you look closely, the transition from foreground to background is marked by a slight ditch (detail, below right). In addition to redrafting the pattern, whenever a card first moved from turning forward to turning backward (or vice versa), I turned it twice on that row. I very much prefer this result.

If you’d like to weave a monochrome pattern – give this a try:)
It’s 40 cards wide, and if you use number 30 crochet cotton (or equivalent), you’ll get a band that is about 30mm (1.375in) wide.

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