In the Osebergfunnet IV Tekstilene book, on pages 207 and 208, you will find mention of “slyngvev” and “soumak”. There’s A LOT of confusion regarding this topic.
On the pages of forest.gen.nz we can find the following information:
“There are also indications that the Oseberg queen wore a linen veil on her head. It is imprinted, as we have seen in the illustration 205, on a flake of down and is soumakh woven, to make it an open weave. I have earlier mentioned how this veil rested on something which might have been a pillow case in pattern weave. Since it is made of linen, there is reason to believe it was worn by the nobler of the two women. There was also a similar veil, made of wool. (Fig. 209). This probably belonged to the other woman.”
[regarding the tapestries:]“The outlines of each figure was marked by a thread of a different colour than the background, and it’s wound around each warp thread – so called slyngesmett.”
[regarding functional textiles:] “Two-shed and four-shed fabrics of wool. This group consists of 914 fragments. Some of them are in very bad condition and are now forming stiff cakes, often layered on top of each other. Others can be surprisingly well preserved. The material consists of remains of fabrics in tabby, several variations of twill or four-shed, slyngvev and soumakh, so-called slyngsmett.”
“Slyngvev is the name of a weave where two or more warpthreads wind themselves around each other and are adjusted in the shed. In the Oseberg material there are some few wool fragments of this type. The fabric was probably originally white, but is now grey/beige. The type is related to the so-called ‘Carelian lace’ but I have not been able to find any good similes to our example. See Ill on the next page.”
“Soumakh or ‘Slyngesmett’ is a technique that is relatively little known in the Nordic area. The weaving is done through winding a weft thread around each warpthread in a way similar to stockingstitch. They are then adjusted through the next row. A fabric produced in this way is similar to a tabby with a ribbed effect. It’s known as Oriental Soumakh. In our material there are some rather small fragments of this technique. AS the warp threads in this case were of wool, it was possible to analyse the piece. In other instances the warp threads must have been made of a vegetable fibre, since there are now only remains of threadspirals left. People from the Caucasus and nearby areas used the technique in more recent times for fabrics that were subject to heavy wear and tear, such as saddle gear. This might mean that our fragment comes from an imported fabric, possibly a belt?”
“Fabrics of vegetable fibres. In the Oseberg find this type of fabric is now completely destroyed, but it is clear that they must once have comprised a large part of it. A few fabrics have been associated with down and has left black marks on feathers, for example one from a slyngvev, the mate of the one in wool discussed previously.”
Lets look at the photos of the aforementioned finds:
The same photos are in the book Osebergfunnet IV Tekstilene. Now, when we look for “sprang” in Google, this is what we find:
And many more:
Clearly, the sprang technique existed before and after the Viking age, but it seems to differ from the Oseberg finds – there’s no weft.
What about the location of the Oseberg find(s?) – near the head?
Osebergfunnet IV, page 207 – 208:
Gruppe S omfatter 9 fragmenter i slyngvev (Fig. 6-39/40) [this is a typo in the book, it should read “Fig. 5-39/40”]. De er utsortert fra tekstiler under katalognummer 35 A av gruppe L, som de heftet ved. Tøyet er meget åpent i vevningen idet tre og tre verptråder slynger seg avvekslende om hverandre slik at hver varptråd går over to og under en innslagstråd. Opprinnelig må det ha vært lett og luftig.Det er fremstillet i ull, som nå er meget skjør og brister for den minste berøring. Trådene er Z-spunnet i begge trådsystemene, men veften er betydelig tykkere og løsere spunnet enn varpen. Et av fragmentene har en jare av den enkle typen, hvor veften går helt ut i kanten og rett inn i neste skill. trådenes tykkelse i varp og veft er henholdsvis 0,4 og 1 mm.
Disse fragmentene satt som nevnt klistret fast til fragmenter av 35 A av gruppe L, og noen bitte små biter heftet til dunflak. Små fragmenter av mønstervev, nærmest som rusk å regne, fantes også i kontakt med dem. Fargen er nå beige, men det er sannsynlig at det engang har vært hvitt.
Geijer er av den oppfatning at denne spesielle teknikken – slyngvev eller gazbinding – har utviklet seg fra toskaft ved at visse varptråder flyttes slik at de krysser en eller flere varptråderø kryssningen fikseres av innslaget og deretter faller trådene tilbake i normalt leie igjen (geijer 1972).
Denne teknikken er meg bekjent ikke tidligere påtruffet i forhistoriske funn i Norden. Rudolf Ullemeyer og Klaus Tidow har avbildet et lite fragment i sin publikasjon av Feddersen-Wierde-funnene, som sterkt minner om fragmentene i denne gruppen, men det er vanskelig å avgjøre om teknikken er den samme uten å ha sett stykket (Ullemeyer og Tidow 1973). Foruten dette lille fragmentet fra Feddersen-Wierde kjenner jeg ikke til noe europeisk forhistorisk tøy som minner om disse. I alle tilfeller må slyngvev i forhistoriske funn i Norden betegnes som en sjeldenhet.
Denne teknikken har sin opprinnelse i kina hvor den ble benyttet i silkevevningene, og hvor den var kjent siden tidlige perioder av Han-dynastiet (Geijer 1972).”
Group S comprises 9 fragments in slyngvev (Fig. 6-39 / 40) [this is a typo in the book, it should read “Fig. 5-39 / 40″]. They are sorted from textiles under Catalog No. 35 A of Group L, to which they are attached. The fabric is very open in the weaving as three and three filaments twist alternately so that each warp yarn goes over two and below a weft thread. Originally it must have been light and airy. It is made of wool, which is now very fragile and lacks for the slightest touch. The threads are Z-spun in both wire systems, but the weft is significantly thicker and looser spun than the warp. One of the fragments has a year of the simple type where the weft goes all the way to the edge and straight into the next skill. The thickness of the threads in warp and weft is 0.4 and 1 mm, respectively.
As mentioned, these fragments were adhered to fragments of 35 A of group L, and some tiny bits of booklet to dunflak. Small fragments of pattern tissue, almost as debris to rain, were also in contact with them. The color is now beige, but it is likely that it once was white.
Geijer is of the opinion that this particular technique – slyngvev or gazbinding – has evolved from the toft by moving certain warp threads so that they cross one or more warp throat crosses the tick, and then the threads fall back into normal rent again (geijer 1972).
This technique is not known to me earlier in prehistoric discovery in the Nordic countries. Rudolf Ullemeyer and Klaus Tidow have depicted a small fragment in his publication of the Feddersen-Wierde findings, which reminiscent of the fragments in this group, but it is difficult to determine whether the technique is the same without having seen the play (Ullemeyer and Tidow 1973 ). Besides this little fragment from Feddersen-Wierde, I do not know any European prehistoric clothes that remind them. In all cases, windrows in prehistoric discovery in the Nordic region must be described as a rarity.
This technique originates in China, where it was used in silk weaves, and where it was known since early periods of the Han – dynasty (Geijer 1972).”
As for soumak, Osebergfunnet IV page 208:
“2-4 fragmenter foreligger i denne teknikken. Det dreier seg her om det Geijer betegner som <>, hvor hele tøyet er fremstillet i det (Geijer 1972). Varptrådene, som må ha vært av et vegetabilsk materiale, er nå forsvunnet og soumak-trådene ligger blottet. trådene har slynget seg over to og to varptråder slik at tøyet har hatt ripseffekt.
Det foreligger i gruppene M og T endel klumper og flak med tekstiler i flere lag, ofte av høyst forskjellig kvalitet. Disse vil bli omtalt nedenfor.”
“2-4 fragments are present in this technique. This is what Geijer refers to as << Oriental Soumak >>, where the whole fabric is made in it (Geijer 1972). The warp threads, which must have been of a vegetable material, have now disappeared and the soumak threads are devoid. The threads have slipped over two and two warp threads so that the fabric has had a ripping effect.
In the M and T groups there are clumps and flakes with textiles in several layers, often of a very different quality. These will be discussed below.”
In the English summary in the Osebergfunnet IV on page 391, it says:
“Gauze, group S. 9 fragments of an open weave, where 3 and 3 warp threads are twisted together, with each thread going under one and over two weft threads. The material is wool, and the warp threads are fine and hardspun, while the weft is thicker and more loosely spun. The fragments adhere to fragments of group L, some tiny fragments rest on down.
Soumak. A few small fragments in soumak, Group N. They are executed in what Geijer has named “oriental soumak”, the entire fragment being in this technique.”
Now, as for “soumak” – all my modern weaving books claim, that soumak looks like this:
Soumak is present in the Oseberg textiles, in several places (see the above link to Shelagh Lewins’ page in picture caption), but I think it these two terms: “sprang” and “soumak” are often confused in relation to the Oseberg finds. In fact, from now on I will be using the term “slyngvev” for the hypothetical hairnet material to differentiate from typical sprang, because of the weft present in the Oseberg find.
I didn’t find any mention about the slyngvev fragment being close to the head in Osebergfunnet so far (clearly, I don’t speak Norwegian), but this information comes from Anne Stine Ingstad, from the book Oseberg Dronningens grav – a reliable source. She claims that the linen sprang left an imprint on the down, that filled the pillow under the younger woman’s head.