A scholars braid

Download handout

At Raglan 2017, Viscountess Lena the Red asked me if I would make her a band that was reminiscent of the braid for a free scholar in the Drachenwald Academy of Defence, and which reflected her preferred viking persona. At roughly the same time, Lady Catlin le Mareschale asked me to show her how to do tablet weaving, so that she could look at making fencing braids for early viking or similar personas.

After a little thought, and a chat at a shire meeting, I suggested a variation of the threaded-in version of Birka B22, first popularised by Carolyn Priest-Dorman.  B22 was originally a brocaded band; the sketch for it appears as figure b, on page 83 of Agnes Geijer’s “Birka III”.

Lena’s band

Lena expressed a preference for a dark background and low contrast, so I worked a test piece in black and darkish brown. Traditionally a fencing braid is worn on one arm. As the braid was destined for fighting kit, I suggested no 10 crochet cotton for the warp, which would still produce a relatively flexible band that could be tied round the arm or attached. I made enough for two cuffs, so that Lena could choose how to use it.

Bands for other ranks in the Academy of Defence

Having made Lena’s band, it occurred to me that all the different academy ranks could be represented using the same pattern. I started playing around with different colored threadings, and found a few possible variations for each rank above scholar. I didn’t weave each one, but I checked them all in GTT.

The handout

I wanted to create a document that I could give to Catlin after showing her the basics of tablet weaving. It should be able to help her start another project by herself, so it needed to go beyond just the basic pattern chart.  I thought back to when I was re-learning tablet weaving, and the things I found myself doing to help understand what was going on.   After some consideration, as well as the chart, I included these features:

  • Threading diagrams for each row: I drew these as little rows of tablets, rather than the usual vertical line of squares or lozenges. When I was learning, I found that this depiction helped me visualise things far more easily.
  • A row by row set of images:  I’d said to friends on a  number of occasions how useful it would be to see exactly how threads are supposed to sit after working each row. I included a set of images that concentrated on displaying how the threads sit where the unwoven warp meets the woven band.
  • Reversing instructions: when working this type of pattern before, I noticed that reversing after particular rows gave more pleasing results, so I included some suggestions.
  • Alternate threading suggestions: to demonstrate how different a band can look, depending on your color choices.  They’re also the suggestions for the various Academy of Defence ranks.

I hope Catlin and anyone else who uses this handout finds it helpful.


Birka III: Die Textilfunde aus den Gräbern, by Agnes Geijer (225MB pdf on Historiska Museet site).

Drachenwald Academy of Defence 
including Academy Charters & Bylaws (pdf).

Guntram’s tablet weaving thingy (GTT)

Viking-Style Tablet Weaving: Birka Strapwork Motif by Carolyn Priest-Dorman.

Just a few of the bands…

I looked up from the weaving and *how many* months had gone by??!! Two very large projects have taken most of my time over this last year. To take a break from those patterns, I worked on several shorter pieces.

Samples from Applesies & Fox Noses:

Trying out silk warps for the first time:

Playing with 2-hole designs:

Snartemo-style band: initial threading was Snartemo II, but then I started experimenting.
Snartemo-style band: initial threading was Snartemo II, but then I started experimenting.

And adding the finishing touches to a garment:

Decorating the seams and hems of an apron dress.
Decorating the seams and hems of an apron dress.

I’m in the middle of making diagrams and writing up. With any luck, there may a pattern or two in the near future 🙂


I tried tablet weaving  years ago, making a couple of  belts and many yards of trim. But I never really “got” how things worked, which led to me wandering away and trying other crafts instead.

Last December, I found 2 patterns for the “Birka strapwork” design on the Lautanauhat FaceBook page.  I hadn’t seen patterns written in this way before. The diagrams included the position of the cards rather than the threading direction. That small detail helped me understand how card position relates to card threading and the pattern produced by the turning sequence.

Since that “Eureka!” moment I have made a few samples from the Applesies & Fox Noses book, successfully drafted a pattern from a photograph and learned more about weft tension than I thought was possible.

A big thankyou to Mervi Pasanen & Maikki Karisto for the inspiration to revisit tablet weaving!