Tablet weaving – Birka vs 15thC South Germany

I was asked to make 2 ten cm long pieces of the band from Birka grave 965 (pattern B 6 by Agnes Geijer) and the band from XVth century South Germany or Austria (patern 26 by Nancy Spies).

The Birka band brocading was made using a drawn silver wire. The band was 11 mm wide. I tried to make this as accurate as possible, but my wire didn’t bend that nicely, most probably I used a wire that was too thick (0.3 mm).


Spies added an interesting observation: because in most of the bands from Birka the brocading weft turns 1 tablet (cord, 4 threads) before the edge of the band, in many instances the most outward cord is eventually cut of by the brocading thread. This seems very probable.

I don’t have a picture of the back of this band, so I made it using the information I could gather from the pictures of the front of it, in Geijer and It’s clearly visible that at least one tablet was Z-warpped (in the opposite direction then the rest). It’s the tablet that marks the edge of the pattern on one side. Because I was working upwards and from the right, this “opposite” tablet served as “delimitation”. One “opposite” tablet was not eough to keep the band from twisting once it was taken down from the loom, but then again – the twisting is not that bad that it would make any difference once the band would be sewn onto fabric.


Because I was not happy with the wire not bending to my will, I made another B6, but using a silver-wrapped silk thread. It is historically appropriate, just not in this particular band. The coverage is better, there’s no difference in termsof width, just slithly different behaviour of the brocading weft, as it is more strongly pulled down by the tie-down warp threads.


The XV-th century band differs a lot from the Birka bands. First of all, it was made entirely out of linen (using 21 tablets, alternating S Z) and was 3 cm wide. Even the brocading weft was a linen thread wrapped in gold foil (I used a faux thread beause i needed it to be thick).

I could not locate the picture of this band and there’s only the pattern in Spies’ book, so I based the reconstruction on her (very good) description.


There’s one more information I would like to have had – the thickness of the threads. It’s very challenging to achieve both 3 cm width with 21 tablets AND 8-9 wefts per 1 cm.I could barely make 8, and I had to spread the warps so much that it came out more grid like and see-through.


Another difference between the bands is the tie-down – it’s two threads in Birka bands, but it’s just one thread in the XVthC band (like in early medieval bands from Denmark – Hørning, Hvilehøj and Mammen).


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