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Tegle Recreation and Fiber Experiments - (In Progress)

        This is my collection of notes on my work to recreate one the Tegle tablet weaving finds, a simple Norwegian piece with a small fringe. Often when we as modern crafters create something we use modern or semi-modern materials to simulate medieval ones - such as buying wool yarn to use in tablet-woven recreations. But what changes does this create in the finished product? Commercially available yarn is almost always: plied, made from a modern sheep breed, dyed with modern dyes, the fleece was washed with modern soaps, and the fiber was prepared using industrial methods. The yarns used in the late Iron Age would be very different, using different fleece, different chemicals applied to wash and give color, and the fiber would be prepared in a very different way. This project is to compare a variety of modern and period materials and methods to examine how different steps from period can impact a finished recreation.

Initial Plan, 4/15/2017:

Take a period-similar fleece and a modern fleece, split and wash half in stale urine and half in a modern hot water soap bath, split again and comb and card all 4 groups. Then spin both combed and carded fibers into singles using a period spindle. Also spin on the same spindle from commercially prepared merino roving. Dye samples using modern and period methods (commercially available dye from major store and plant materials processed in a period manner), then weave samples all identically, but with both a plied and unplied weft for comparison, using appropriately sized cards. Ideally, this will create a wide array of woven samples and examples of individual comparisons at different stages of processing to create a visual guide of how changes in materials and processes can impact the completed weaving.


My initial hypotheses, 4/15/2017:

       1.    That a plied weft will make a substantial visible difference compared to a singles weft. - Updated 10/14, after initial test run this is confirmed, plied weft versus singles weft most likely makes the most dramatic visual difference and hugely impacts the look and feel of the finished piece.

       2.    That combed wool will create a substantial visible difference compared to carded wool, but that commercial roving will be slightly more similar to combed wool than to carded when drawn from the end and drafted to keep the fibers as parallel as possible. - Updated 9/28, while the difference between combing and carding is usually more dramatic, the period single-row combs seem to result in a sliver that is less visually distinctive compared to finer, multi-row combs, and may result in the difference being less dramatic. This makes sense with the hypothesis of Rodgers that as carders did not exist the early combs did not serve as distinct a function as later medieval combing compared to carding.

       3.    The commercial dyes will not make a substantial difference to the finished texture of the piece. While colors will be different, the wide array of colors available using period dyes means my goal is more to look at texture caused by the dyeing process rather than the color.

       4.    That souring the fleece with urine will result in a slightly softer fleece than with modern soap, but may not be substantially noticeable in the finished piece post-dyeing due to the chemical changes that occur during the dyeing process.

       5.    That the period breed will look and behave noticeably differently during processing but might not look substantially different in the finished piece. - Updated 5/15, after combing there is a substantial difference in texture and appearance, it may create a greater visual difference than initially expected.

   These hypotheses are based on my readings of the differences of fiber materials and processes used in period, the experimental archaeology projects created by several scholars, my own past experiments with fiber, and my observations of the work of Mistress Emengar la Fileresse and Lady Morwenna O Hurlihie.


The Tegle Finds:

       The piece that I am looking to recreate is described by Peter Collingwood in his Techniques of Tablet Weaving as "two meters long, made of three cords, with a looped fringe 2.5 cm long protruding from one side. The loops at the other side indicate that the fringe weft came from a single ball of yarn" (14). It is considered of "fine quality" and leftover threads on the edge of the band show that it was originally connected to a garment as trim (Halvorsen, "Norwegian Peat" 151). The find is especially interesting to me in that the fringe is self-plied (the weft is spun as a single and the extra twist makes the fringe ends ply themselves instead of hanging in loops). While higher-status examples of tablet weaving in some periods can be found to use plied threads for the warp, weaving with singles (un-plied yarns) was substantially more common in period than done in modern recreations and it is nearly impossible to purchase un-plied wool for weaving (Knudsen). As such, this seemed like an excellent project to experiment with how the substitution of different materials can impact the finished piece.


   The Tegle finds were originally dated in the early 1920s to 200-400AD and later to the Migration period (400-600AD), but recent 14C dating carried out by the laboratory for radiological dating at NTNU in Norway had a 14C date of 1560 +/- 25 years, resulting in an approximate date of 445-545 AD, placing it within the Iron Age in Norway (Halvorsen, "Dates and Dyes" 2). The tablet-woven band was also tested for dye by Vanden Berghe of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage and showed that the warp and weft held different dyes, with the warp showing alizarin (most likely from madder or a madder-like product) and intigotin (most likely indigo or woad) which presumably created a purple color originally, though now the whole piece is faded to brown, and the weft showing alizarin again but with traces of purpurin (a reddish/yellow dye also associated with madder, meaning originally most likely a red shade) (Berghe). While substantial work has been done to study the chemical make-up of this piece, less is known about how these chemicals were added to the wool to create these products. Throughout this project I looked at available research for late Iron Age Norwegian finds but supplemented with additional research using other finds from before and after that period in Northwestern Europe in Norse or Norse-influenced areas, looking also at Anglo-Saxon, German, and late period Roman-controlled area finds to best situate my research.


Sources discussing the Tegle finds:

Archaeological Museum, Stavanger, find no. 4850 (b)

Peter Collingwood, Techniques of Tablet Weaving

John Peter Wild and Penelope Walton Rogers, “Introduction” Cambridge History of Western

Textiles vol 1 (CHWT).

Sunniva Wilber Halvorsen, “Dates and Dyes - New test results for the finds from Tegle and

Hegeland, Norway” Archaeological Textiles Review (ATR)

---- “Norwegian Peat Bog Textiles, Tegle and Hegeland Revisited” North European Symposium

for Archaeological Textiles X

---- "Norway" Textiles and Textile Production in Europe From Prehistory to AD 400. Ed. Mannering, Ulla   Gleba, Margarita. Oxford, UK : Oxbow Books. 2012
Vanden Berghe, Margarita Gleba, and Ulla Mannering, “Towards the identification of dyestuffs

in Early Iron Age Scandinavian peat bog textiles” Journal of Archaeological Science 36.

Lise Raeder Knudsen, “Early Iron Age Tablet Weaving in Denmark” ATR


On Experimental Textile Archaeology

       Experimental textile archaeology is an expanding field, with more and more scholars testing theories of fiber, tool use, and construction to attempt to better understand how various textiles were created in period. By looking at how other researchers connected to museums and universities with labs and access to multiple experts are recreating textiles it gives the independent researcher an idea of how to engage in scholarly experimental archaeology.


Sources on Experimental Textile Archaeology:

Vajanto, Krista. "Textile standards in experimental archaeology." Focus on Archaeological Textiles: Multidisciplinary Approaches (2014): 62-75.

Hartl, Anna, et al. "Reproducing colourful woven bands from the Iron Age salt mine of Hallstatt in Austria: An interdisciplinary

approach to acquire knowledge of prehistoric dyeing technology." Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 2 (2015): 569-595.

Regina Hofmann-de Keijzer, Maarten R. van Bommel, et. all "Coloured Hallstatt Textiles: 3500 Year-old Textile and Dyeing Techniques and their Contemporary Application" NESAT XI. VML, Leidorf, 2013.

Regina Hofmann-de-Keijzer, Anton Kern, Barbara Putz-Plecko (Eds.): Colours of Hallstatt – Textiles connecting Science and Art, Magazine to the Exhibition "Colours of Hallstatt – Textiles connecting Science and Art", Natural History Museum Vienna, February 1, 2012 – January 6, 2013


Sheep and Wool the 5th-6th centuries AD

       There is a substantial difference between the texture of the fleeces most frequently seen today and those seen in period, created predominately by selective breeding for various traits. This is mostly seen in the thickness of the fibers, going from a thicker to finer fibers and from double coat to single coat wools (Ryder, "Genetics" 374). A recent analysis of Danish prehistoric textiles examining fibers of extant finds over a large time period did find in Iron Age textiles the mode micron thickness was smaller than expected and had a more uniform combination of fibers with fewer coarse fibers, but this is thought to be due to the selection of fibers from the fleece and the process of separating the longer and shorter fibers (Skals 10). The combing method that was employed in period and that I will be primarily applying was normally used for longer fibers, as such I selected breeds with a slightly longer staple length to allow for this process (Munro 183).

   For my take on a period fleece I selected a Shetland, a breed keeping the hairy and woolly fleece and short tail seen in the Iron Age in Europe (Ryder, "Medieval" 19). Additionally, the Shetland breed, while English, had "considerable Norse influence," again making it an appropriate option for following a period fleece (Ryder, "Medieval" 23).
Raw Shetland to the left, raw Polwarth to the right.

   For a contrast I choose a Polwarth fleece as it had a similar color to my Shetland but was genetically a mix of the more modern fine fleece Merino (3/4) and the improved lustrous Lincoln breed (1/4) developed in 1880, and known for their fine, soft wool ("Polwarth"). It has more grease (lanolin) in the fleece than the Shetland and the fibers are substantially thinner and with more crimping, even just from visual inspection.  

       I will also eventually be using commercially prepared roving as a comparison to the hand-prepared materials.


Sources on modern and period fleeces:

Irene Skals and Ulla Mannering, “Investigating Wool Fibres from Danish Prehistoric Textiles” (goes through 400AD) ATR

John Munro, “Medieval Woolens” CHWT

M. L. Ryder, “Medieval Sheep and Wool Types” The Agricultural History Review Vol. 32, No. 1

---- “Genetics of Wool Production” Encyclopedia of Genetics

"Polwarth: Origin and History, Bred from the Past for the Future." Sheep Breeds. New Zealand Sheep Breeders Association. N.d.

Vajanto, Krista. "Fibre analysis of Late Iron Age, Early Medieval and modern Finnish wools." Fennoscandia  Archaeologica (2013): 81-94.

Wild, J. P. "The Textile Industries of Roman Britain." Britannia 33 (2002): 1-42.


Washing the Fleece

       Sheep fleece has a natural coat of grease on it which is often removed prior to processing. This has been accomplished in numerous ways in different periods, but one of the most commonly seen methods across multiple cultures and times is the use of stale urine. It is frequently cited across Nordic, Roman, and Anglo-Saxon cultures (Scott 258, Munro 184, Rogers "Textile" 1720). The alkaline of the urine combines with the grease and salts present in the fleece to create effectively a soap, similar to mixing ash water and tallow.

   While dyeing was sometimes done at this stage (the washing and dyeing process share many steps and so can be accomplished at once), the wool could also be dyed after spinning (Rogers "Cloth" 15). I decided to dye post-spinning so that I could better compare the individual steps, as was done in the Hallstatt recreations. This allowed me to directly study how the application of stale urine affected the wool without interference of the temperature changes or chemicals present in the dye bath. For my methods and results see Washing Fleece with Urine


Sources on washing fleece:

Penelope Walton Rogers, Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450-700

----    “Textile production at 16-22 Coppergate” The Archaeology of York 17: The Small Finds

Fascicule 11.

G. Richard Scott and Ruth Burgett Jolie, "Tool-tooth Use and Yarn Production in Norse Greenland." Alaska Journal of Anthropology vol 6. (2008) 253-264.

Wild, J. P. "The Textile Industries of Roman Britain." Britannia 33 (2002): 1-42.

John Munro, “Medieval Woolens” CHWT


Preparing the Fibers for Spinning - Combing

       While spinning can be done from the lock (the arrangement of the fibers as it was on the sheep), the evidence points to substantial preparation techniques being employed, with wool combs being the primary method used to prepare the fleece. Wool combs existed in a variety of styles, ranging from a single plate with teeth cut out as seen more in Roman cultures to single row Norse combs to double row later period Anglo-Saxon finds (Rogers 1721). The different lengths of tines, spacing of the tines, and how many rows all will impact how the fibers are arranged in the combed fleece. Rogers, an expert in textiles of this period, states that "there is no clear evidence for how this was done in the 5th and 6th centuries" and posits that the Roman method may still have been used ("Cloth" 15).

       The combs in period were also different from what we think of as wool combs today. "One-row combs are recorded from Viking graves [from sites in Denmark and the Northern Isles]" which would perform differently than the later period multi-row and longer toothed combs. Later Viking wool combs from the Bergen museum show single row combs in use in the 10th century as well. As single rows of teeth are seen in Roman period (though made entirely of iron plate) and past to the 10th century in Norway, single row teeth seem to be the most appropriate option for an early Norwegian wool comb (Rogers "Cloth" 21). As such, I worked from slightly later period (7th century) Anglo Saxon research combined with examining Roman British wool combing to create a best estimate for the size and spacing of the tines on my combs.

       I created combs using 3.5 inch-long nails, roughly in keeping with the 90-110mm size seen in extant finds and placed in a single row (Rogers 1727). The 10th century finds are spaced much closer together than the earlier Anglo-Saxon combs, so I modeled the size and shape from the 7th-8th century Anglo-Saxon wool combs listed in Rogers's analysis of York textile-related find in hopes that the earlier styles would be a better match for the unknown 5th-6th century method (1721). For more details see Combing (under construction)

Sources on fiber preparation and combing:

G. Richard Scott and Ruth Burgett Jolie, "Tool-tooth Use and Yarn Production in Norse Greenland." Alaska Journal of Anthropology vol 6. (2008) 253-264.

Penelope Walton Rogers, “Textile production at 16-22 Coppergate” The Archaeology of York 17: The Small Finds

----   Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450-700 Fascicule 11.

Wild, J. P. "The Textile Industries of Roman Britain." Britannia 33 (2002): 1-42.

Øye, Ingvild “Production, Quality, and Social Status in Viking Age Dress: Three Cases from Western Norway.” Medieval Clothing and Textiles 11, edited by ROBIN NETHERTON and GALE R. OWEN-CROCKER, NED - New edition ed., Boydell and Brewer, 2015, pp. 1–28, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt12879fj.7.

John Munro, “Medieval Woolens” CHWT - 184 - longer staple wool needed less greasing


Spinning

       Spinning has been used for millennia to twist various fibers and . In Nordic cultures (like many others), women were predominately responsible for textile production, so I find it an exciting process to attempt to replicate the in-home production of spinning wool (Scott 257-258).  

       Spindles and distaffs were the main materials of this process (Scott 259). A spindle is usually composed of a stick and a weight (the whorl), the stick allows you to wind the thread onto it when spun and the weight helps the spindle spin faster and keep its momentum. While I have attempted to match the spindle in size, shape, and weight, a series of tests on the impact of spindle whorls and other variables on a finished fiber carried out showed that the techniques used by the spinner regarding drafting and twist applied also dramatically impact the finished piece, as such I have attempted to roughly match thickness and twist as seen visually in the extant example (Verhecken 5).

       Historically,whorls of c. 25-35g were commonly used to spin the wool from the Norwegian short-tailed sheep, and whorls in this weight group could in fact be used to produce a variety of thread gauges, depending on the skill of the spinner. Whorls of 50g or more were used for plying the yarn (Øye 25). (Add Rogers 1731+ information)

        I carved my spindle whorl from a soapstone incense burner, matching the shape seen in Rogers' Cloth and Clothing and making it in the middle range seen in extant finds, 30g (add pages + image).

       Distaffs used in Norway were "short and sturdy and would have been hand held" (Rogers 1735).

       S direction versus Z direction (Jorgensen 160 + museum description).


Sources on spinning:

Andre Verhecken, “Spinning with the Hand Spindle: An Analysis of the Mechanics and its

Implications on Yarn Quality” ATR

G. Richard Scott and Ruth Burgett Jolie, "Tool-tooth Use and Yarn Production in Norse Greenland." Alaska Journal of Anthropology vol 6. (2008) 253-264.

"Tools and Textile Production in the North Atlantic" Proceedings of the 17th Viking Congress (eds. V. Turner, O. Owen & D. Vaugh, 2016

Lise Bender Jorgensen “Scandinavia, AD 400-1000” CHWT

Penelope Walton Rogers, “Textile production at 16-22 Coppergate” The Archaeology of York 17: The Small Finds

----   Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD 450-700


Dyeing

         As discussed above, the extant piece was tested recently by Vanden Berghe of the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage. The results were intriguing in that they showed that the warp and weft held different dyes. The warp showing alizarin (most likely from madder or a madder-like product) and intigotin (most likely indigo or woad) and the weft showing alizarin again but with traces of purpurin (a reddish/yellow dye also associated with madder, meaning originally most likely a red shade) (Berghe, Halvorsen "Dates and Dyes" 3-4).

   I will attempt to recreate this using madder and indigo applied to the spun yarn (as done in the Hallstatt recreations). The chemical analysis cannot determine the exact plant species used, only that it shares properties with madder or indigo-like plants (Berghe 5). As such, I combined this information with the information from other Northwest European Iron Age finds to better examine the best options for a faithful recreation. While I initially hoped to work from raw madder roots and woad leaves, these were not available in time for this project, so powdered indigo and madder were used. Additionally, madder in many periods was often imported dried and many dyestuffs in this period are assumed to have been imported to Norway and not made locally, so the use of non-fresh materials is in keeping with the way the piece may have been created in period (Wild 7, Jorgensen 134).

   Rogers, 1767 - details on use of woad and madder in Anglo-Scandinavian areas, including allum as mordant, 1769 using dried and partially processed roots

   Jorgensen 130s


Sources on dyeing:

Sunniva Wilber Halvorsen, “Dates and Dyes - New test results for the finds from Tegle and

Hegeland, Norway” Archaeological Textiles Review (ATR)

---- “Norwegian Peat Bog Textiles, Tegle and Hegeland Revisited” North European Symposium

for Archaeological Textiles X

---- "Norway" Textiles and Textile Production in Europe From Prehistory to AD 400. Ed. Mannering, Ulla  Gleba, Margarita. Oxford, UK : Oxbow Books. 2012

Vanden Berghe, Margarita Gleba, and Ulla Mannering, “Towards the identification of dyestuffs

in Early Iron Age Scandinavian peat bog textiles” Journal of Archaeological Science 36.

Penelope Walton Rogers, “Textile production at 16-22 Coppergate” The Archaeology of York 17: The Small Finds  Fascicule 11.

Wild, J. P. "The Textile Industries of Roman Britain." Britannia 33 (2002): 1-42.

Lise Bender Jorgensen “Scandinavia, AD 400-1000” CHWT



Weaving

While much of the weaving of cloth and many extant tablet weaving finds show weaving made exclusively with spun singles (an unplied thread), higher-quality examples of tablet weaving often show a 2-ply warp (Kundsen 3).

Looms & tablets: Rogers 1787, tablets 1-1.5 inches wide


Sources on weaving:

Lise Raeder Knudsen, “Early Iron Age Tablet Weaving in Denmark” ATR

Peter Collingwood, Techniques of Tablet Weaving

John Peter Wild and Penelope Walton Rogers, “Introduction” Cambridge History of Western

Textiles vol 1 (CHWT).

Lise Bender Jorgensen  “Scandinavia, AD 400-1000” CHWT

Lena Hammarlund, Heini Kirjavainen, Katherine Vestergard Pedersen, and Marianne Vedeler,

“Visual Textiles: A Study of Appearance and Visual Impression in Archaeological

Textiles” Medieval Clothing and Textiles vol. 4.