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One of my favourite textile reads of the past year has been the thesis, Textile Finds from Medieval Cesspits in Tartu: Technology, Trade and Consumption, by Riina Rammo (Rammo, 2015). Dr. Rammo discusses thousands of fragments of medieval cloth (14th and 15th centuries) from the town of Tartu, Estonia. She described the types of yarns used in textile construction (i.e., coarseness, mixed fibres, dyes, twist, diameter, etc.) and also the weave of the fragments.  The vast majority of textiles (>99%) were made from 100% wool. Dr. Rammo found that 58% of the textile fragments were plain 1/1 weave, and 32% were 2/1 twill weave. Less than 10% of the fragments were 2/2 twill.

Then, in October I attended Dyes in History and Archaeology 35, where I gave a talk on a new method of natural dye analysis and heard many excellent presentations. One interesting talk presented by David Kohout, was applicable to the topic of medieval woven cloth, entitled, "Textiles from Medieval Waste Layers in New Town Prague - Identification of Organic Dyes" (Kohout et al., 2016). The research team found that the majority of the textile fragments that were uncovered in New Town, from a time contemporaneous to the Tartu finds, were plain weave and 2/1 twill fabrics (see photograph below). It's tremendously interesting and although the weave of cloth during this period has quite a bit to do with the production of felted, fulled, teasled and shorn wool broadcloth, as you can see from from Kohout's slide, not all the fabrics that they found were felted - in fact, far from it. In New Town, only approximately twice as much fabric was felted as was determined to be unfelted.

Slide from presentation by Kohout et al. at DHA35. Threads per cm and colours for the most common types of weaves found at New Town, Prague: plain and 2/1 twill.

As an owner and operator of a small rigid heddle loom, I couldn't be more pleased. You can prepare metres of plain and 2/1 weave using a simple loom!

And so, I have been labouring slowly away for months on a new project: enough plain weave cloth to construct a closer fitting gown to wear under my loose Herjolfsnes 42 gown (2/1 twill). I am using finer wool than my previous Herjolfsnes project. The warp yarn is approximately 800 m/100g (while the Herjolfsnes 42 dress yarns were 380 m/100g), it's 3-ply natural white wool with very little stretch. The green weft wool is only slightly thicker and loftier, and a single ply, with less twist and less strength. In the plain weave set up, using two heddles at 8 threads per cm, I can weave about 10  to 15 cm every hour. I've warped up 9.3 m on my little loom at 43 cm in width and will be able to get about 9 m of cloth from it, and after gently washing I should have about  8.5 m x 40 cm. This means about 60 to 90 hours of weaving. When I find my modern self growing impatient at my rate of textile production I try to focus on the goal of slow medieval fashion. The completed garment isn't the target, the whole process is the target. And, taking a year to make a gown is much more in line with medieval household productions and it gives me a more accurate feel for the importance of each line of weft and stitch.

I thought that today would be a great time to make a post because I am halfway through! Here's how it looks on the loom. And, a close up of the loom state cloth. I'm really happy with it, and looking forward to washing, cutting and sewing.

So, that's it for now and the next little while. When I'm closer to being done I'll have to make a decision on which dress I will make. I prefer constructions with full-length side gores, as we see in the Herjolfsnes garments, so that's the direction in which I am leaning.


David Kohout, Helena Brezinova, Josef Chudoba and Ivan Viden , "Textiles from Medieval Waste Layers in New Town Prague - Identification of Organic Dyes," presented at Dyes in History and Archaeology 35, PIsa, Italy, October 5-8, 2016.

Riina Rammo, Textile Finds from Medieval Cesspits in Tartu: Technology, Trade and Consumption, (Tartu: Tartu Ulikool Kirjastus, 2015).


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Apr. 17th, 2017 02:23 am (UTC)
Thats really beautiful. I love the stripy effect.
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