Origins of most popular tablet weaving patterns.
|13 min read
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Published: August 28, 2013
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Update 21.01.2016

This article is not entirely correct. Please read comments below. Also keep in mind that as "pattern" I mean visual design not weaving technique - how it looks and how it was done are two completely different matters and require individual research.

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With the increasing popularity of historical re-enactment and fantasy-themed events came an accompanying curiosity about ancient crafts. Many now are thinking of how to make things as they were done ages ago. Thankfully the technique of tablet weaving was revived!


Basing on Viking period excavations, archaeologists developed a theory around the use of pierced bone and wooden squares that was confirmed in the Oseberg ship burial and also ethnological research into modern handiwork. It became obvious that the selfsame craft had been preserved in isolated regions of the Caucasus, Algeria, Burma, Slovakia, The Yemen and Anatolia and is exactly the same as had been practiced by Vikings ages ago.  

With this knowledge we can now reproduce even the most elaborate pieces of weaving, however one must remain aware that tablet woven artifacts have been dated back to the 6th century B.C. and have been found as far away as Norway, China, Egypt and Anatolia, and only a portion of them were made by the Vikings, in the Viking period. Therefore, attributing all tablet weavings to them is utterly wrong. 

All this obviously doesn't affect you..., if you are simply enjoying the craft. For those, however who want to create (and use) knowledgeably and authentically, I have made this short guide.

  Single color

Single colored tapes are the most common as they were mostly made as starting (or side) borders of larger pieces. Tablet weaving was also a common technique to finish the edges of otherwise completed garments by "fusing" ie forming the weaving along the edge of the garment whilst simultaneously feeding the yarn through the garment to create a seamless "welded Appearence". Separate tablet woven belts are dated to Iron Age. A questionable example of such a belt may be the so-called "Egtwed Girl`s belt".  Later tablet-woven bands often bear a structure made by a different tablet threading method. They are also the basis for a more elaborate technique called "brocading".

It has it's weight by Nigdziekolwiek  
Cloth starting edge 

Golden headband by Nigdziekolwiek 
Single color band

Double shine by Nigdziekolwiek 
Single color band as a background for brocading

Plain brown by Nigdziekolwiek 
Single color belts based on Egtwed findings

Historical evidence:
Egtwed 1370 B.C.

 Horizontal stripes

Stripes of colors appears on bands from Iron Age, but this "pattern" is more common in other weaving techniques including rigid heddle weaving as in  Skjoldehamn findings.
Striped headband


 Historical evidence:
Varangstrup 300-500 AD

 Diagonals and Chevrons

Collingwod lists diagonal raised "Welts" as pattern appearing in Iron Age German findings and Danish band that, judging from description, may be chevrons-patterned. Unfortunately there aren't many evidences of more complex diagonal-based patterns until 6th century A.D. (Snartemo grave II) but parallel bands of this period shows far more elaborated patterning  (Snartemo grave V). Gap between those last two band is so great it can`t be overlooked. 

Snartemo II band reconstruction.

Simple diagonal pattern
Historical evidence:
Throrjsberg 2nd-3rd century A.D.
Vestrum 5th century A.D.
Snartemo II about 500 AD   

 Diamonds

The Diamond pattern is a natural evolution from the chevron pattern. The earliest evidence comes from the Vestrum findings. Those first diamonds were elaborated using a 2-hole technique and used two colors. Other approaches appear on bands from  Cambrige and Masku Humikkala as both show signs of using three colors and have clearly marked borders.
Mixing diamonds and chevrons can be seen on Kaupang trim and modified diamonds in Hallstatt bands. 

Another type of chevron is also called "arrowhead" (full trangle). Collingwood mentions an Egyptian (Coptic) belt with this pattern dating from the 4th-5th century A.D. ...it is also present on modern Turkish and Pakistan folk belts
Plain diamonds

Different Diamond based bands.

Hallstatt based trim by ~Strojehistoryczne

Arrowhead based pattern.

Historical evidence:
Hallstatt 800-400 B.C.
Vestrum 400 A.D.
Cambrige 5th-6th century A.D.
Kaupang 800-900 A.D.
Masku Humikkala 8658:H17 12th-13 century A.D
  

 So called Egyptian Diagonals 

This pattern gets its name from the Egyptian statuary ornamented with zigzag and chevron patterns. Unfortunately there is not enough evidence to prove that the Egyptians knew tablet weaving very long before the Coptic period... In the 4th to 5th centuries A.D, 25 wooden tablets were found at the Antoine excavations. Nonetheless, the technique of "bending" two-strand diagonals is common in Finnish bands and has it's reflection in Icelandic two-face weaving but also in the rigid heddle-weaving pick-up technique that is characteristic in Slavonic culture

The most popular - horizontal S - motif Can be found on Swedish and Finnish bands as well as modern Old Believers' Belts 

Egyptian diagonals + "two-face" weaving

"Icelandic-style" weaving by ~erzebeth-rouge

"S" motif 

Historical evidense:
Kirkkomaki Turku grave 27 11th century A.D.
Birka 9th century A.D
Kekkomaki Kaukola 1200 A.D.

 Kivrim and Ram's Horns

The Ram's Horns pattern popularized by Crockett's "Card Weaving" book comes from 20th century Anatolian (Turkish) belts and it has no equivalent in archaeological finds. The same thing applies to the Running Dog pattern that is, in fact, half of the Ram's Horms pattern.

Kivrim style, based on three "bent" color stripes (to which Collingwood also includes two previous patterns) appears on some Coptic period bands, but also as a framing motif on the Sicilian orphey form of the 12th century, and Anatolian belts.  

Also a Vine pattern that looks like shifted Ram's horns and is non-European. It is a traditional motif from  Sulavesi, Indonesia. 

Kivrim sample by ~Strojehistoryczne

Sample of Ram's Horns pattern
Running Dog by ~Svetodara

Vine pattern by ~Svetodara

 Birka Braid

Very popular in the Viking period, bands with this motif were made using both "brocade" and "3/1 broken twill" techniques as well as the usual 4 hole tablet weaving

Simple braid
Green belt by Nigdziekolwiek Braids and Hammers by Nigdziekolwiek
Braid with other motifs (my own design)

Historical evidence:
Birka B2  9th century A.D.
Mammen 970 A.D.
Elisenhof 10th century A.D.

 Birka Strapwork

This pattern is known from a unique band that came from Birka and is made using the "brocade" technique. The existence of other such bands made using other weaving techniques is debatable, yes, but not entirely out of the question...

 Birka strapwork by ~erzebeth-rouge

Historical evidence:
Birka B22 9th century A.D.

 Jerusalem Cross

The Pattern is known from a pair of souvenir garters that were made in Jerusalem in the 17th century. The specific one bearing this motif is dated: 1649. 

Belt with Jerusalem Cross pattern
Historical evidence:
Algeria 1649

As you have seen: weaving "historical" objects can be tricky. But now you have a starting point: So search!, create! and ENJOY. 

That's what Artisan Crafts are all about anyway!

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Bibliography:

Books:
Collingwood, Peter. The Techniqes of Tablet Weaving. Robin & Rus Handweavers, Inc. McMiniville 2002
Crockett, Candace. Card Weaving. Interweave Press LLC Loveland 1991
Selbot, Cynthia  Hallstatt tablet Weving  online :www.academia.edu/1488597/Halls…

Websites:
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Comments (20)
aislingde's avatar
Interesting article but not quite correct
diagonals and Chevrons - the mentioned vestrum isn't woven as diagonal and it is woven only with 2 threads per tablet see aisling.biz/index.php/galerie/…
Snartemo is also woven with 2 threads per tablet.

I would also like to find more information of Throrjsberg 2nd-3rd century A.D. - I have quite a lot literature but neither Hundt nor Schlabow mention a tablet woven band with diagonales


Diamonds:
Hallstatt has been woven with 2 threads per tablets.
Vestrum - sorry pattern is still different


Birka Braid:
sorry I don't know of any pattern in the usual 4-hole tablet weaving. Only the one band from Oseberg but it isn't woven in the 4v4b style but only in one directionl
Sorry there is no evidence.

Birka B2 had been brocaded
Mammen 970 is 3/1 broken twill or brocading
and Elisenhof is either 3/1 broken twill if you follow Egon Hansen but if you follow Hund it may have been woven with 2 threads per tablet.
But I can't see the modern weaving you mention.
Reply  ·  
Nigdziekolwiek's avatar
Nigdziekolwiek|Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
You are very right.
I posted this quite long ago, and I learned much since then.

I was thinking about general image of a pattern not the technique details, so as you said most of them are woven as two hole or brocade. 

This whole text needs rewriting, so thank you for motivation and spending time on commenting.
Reply  ·  
szczurek2725's avatar
szczurek2725|Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
super :D właśnie chciałam cię spytać skąd bierzesz wzory ;)
Reply  ·  
Brainmurk's avatar
Brainmurk|Professional Traditional Artist
This is a really great article - thank you so much for taking the time to put it together.  
Reply  ·  
Leathurkatt-TFTiggy's avatar
Leathurkatt-TFTiggy|Hobbyist General Artist
I'm wondering if this type of weaving was ever used by the Celts, specifically Irish (possibly imported by the "Viking" people?).  I know "everyone" uses Tablet Weaving and Lucet Cord Braiding in Medieval re-creationist groups, but I would like to know how historically plausible both would be in Ireland in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Reply  ·  
Nigdziekolwiek's avatar
Nigdziekolwiek|Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Celts knew tablet weaving, or at least had acces to it - see finds form Hochdorf and Hallstatt (and it's dated B.C.) 
There are weaving tablets found in Dublin after 8th c A.D., but I can't remember any specific patterns dated 11th/12th c. I'll let you know if I find any
Reply  ·  
Leathurkatt-TFTiggy's avatar
Leathurkatt-TFTiggy|Hobbyist General Artist
Okay, thank you very much.
Reply  ·  
Aranyakanya's avatar
In mainland Europe, tablets have been found as early as the bronze age. And indeed, bands with very complicated patterns are found in Hochdorf and Hallstatt, which were important spots of celtic culture. Even if the technique reached the islands a bit later, that's still much earlier than 11th/12th BC. I think in the first place you should research which kind of tablet weaving was done. By the 11th/12th century in Europe, for example, it was mainly brocade and not threaded-in patterns.
Reply  ·  
Wordsmithcrafts's avatar
Wordsmithcrafts|Professional Artist
Thanks for posting this. It is great to have references and a start to go and search for more.

This book www.amazon.com/Medieval-Garmen… has a section on possibly  using tablets to create a re-enforcing edge for clothing.
Reply  ·  
Nigdziekolwiek's avatar
Nigdziekolwiek|Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thank you
I know that book, but I wanted to focus on separated tablet weaving :) 
Reply  ·  
Wordsmithcrafts's avatar
Wordsmithcrafts|Professional Artist
Cool.
Reply  ·  
TeffEngel's avatar
♥♥♥♥ Thanks for all information =D
Reply  ·  
TrilliumLady's avatar
oh, wow!  I want this as a printable document!  This *rocks*
Reply  ·  
Nigdziekolwiek's avatar
Nigdziekolwiek|Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Added to 'to-do's :) Thanks.
Reply  ·  
staticwing's avatar
staticwing|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks so much for the information! I am just in the beginning stages of learning tablet weaving and need to become more educated on the topic. Now I have more leads!
Reply  ·  
crocach's avatar
Love the information on tablet weaving, thank you!
Reply  ·  
Starhorse's avatar
Starhorse|Professional General Artist
Very cool post. I enjoyed reading it! 
Reply  ·  
Peter-The-Knotter's avatar
Peter-The-Knotter|Student Artisan Crafter
brilliant!... did you get my message re title?... I'm asking because a couple of my messages went:  "missing in the post" recently and it caused a real problem.... bye for now, Peter.
Reply  ·  
Nigdziekolwiek's avatar
Nigdziekolwiek|Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I did... but I forgot all about it ;P 
Reply  ·  
Peter-The-Knotter's avatar
Peter-The-Knotter|Student Artisan Crafter
That's perfectly ok! so long as you're happy!, good helpful article btw...... you know I've really! read it...:) Peter.
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