September 14, 2013

Portrait of Anna Codde

I happened to pick up a book of a hundred paintings held by the Rijksmuseum and saw a portrait of Anna Codde by Maerten van Heemskerck.  It was done in 1529 and shows a woman spinning a fine light-coloured thread from a distaff on a double-drive wheel which she turns by hand.  She is not looking at her hands as she works, and she wears fine clothing.

September 12, 2013

Open Sesame

Some time ago now, I looked at Dagmar Drinkler's pdf "Die Rekonstruktion eng anliegender Bekleidung aus Antike und Renaissance,' online at

This summer I went looking for more primary evidence that would bear out her findings on form-fitting sprang pants and sleeves in the ancient world and medieval Europe.  It was like knowing that someone before me had said "open sesame" and seen a treasure trove, as it were, full of exciting information.  All I needed was to find the right place and the right keywords to search with.  I found some form-fitting pants shown in tapestries from around the 1500s.  I did a broad search of Attic pottery on the British museum website and saw hundreds of images of pots, mostly showing fillets that might have been made with the språng technique.

I saved my place and didn't get back to it for a while.  Then one day I picked up the search again and came across a reference to an Oriental, a rather dated way of saying someone from Asia.  The figure, on British museum number 1912,0709.1, wears pants and sleeves that correspond with Drinkler's research.

From there I searched with the that keyword and found more examples, then I searched for Persians and Amazons and found many more.  A couple were wearing form-fitting garments on their upper bodies that looked integral to the sleeves, for example numbers 1867,0508.941 and 1837,0609.59.  The patterns are a lot of fun to look at.  I've pinned as many as I could on Pinterest, hereång-leggings-and-garters/.

September 07, 2013

Paddington Knits

Was reading a old English children's book full of dry humour, Michael Bond's More about Paddington:
Paddington's convalescence had been a difficult time for the Browns.  While he had remained in bed it had been bad enough, because he kept getting grape-pips all over the sheets.  But if anything, matters had got worse once he was up and about.  He wasn't very good at "doing nothing" and it had become a full time occupation keeping him amused and out of trouble.  He had even had several goes at knitting something–no one ever quite knew what–but he'd got in such a tangle with the wool, and it had become so sticky with marmalade, that in the end they had to throw it away.   

September 03, 2013

Emulsion Woad Paint

I bought some Bleu de Lectoure woad powder from Maiwa.

Bleu de Lectoure also produces ready-made paint tinted with woad, beautifully-looking in the advertising photos.  Maiwa just carried the dyestuffs.

Knowing woad paint was possible made me want to try to make some for myself.  The powder didn't incorporate into the paint that well, though.  The dark blue smudge on the top of the wedge of wood is woad plus boiled linseed oil.  The greyish-blue sides are painted with woad in linseed oil with egg and water.

I wonder if it would mix in better and give a better result if added to regular, ready-made white paint.

September 02, 2013

one hundred, eighty-sixth and eighty-seventh skeins

I spun up the Gale's Art Blue Face Leicester wool in the colourway velvet Elvis.  That is, I spun up all that I could.  The bag got subjected to friction, the wool felted, and I had to leave an ounce or so undone.

That, I believe is that.  All that remains in my fibre stash is naturally-coloured and naturally-dyed, apart from an ounce or two of mohair.

July 16, 2013


Let's see, what have I been doing.  I saw some beautiful white Romney wool that had been put through a drum carder in small quantities, then rolled for woollen spinning. 

I acquired some madder, cochineal, and woad because I had the opportunity and I do mean to try dyeing with them sometime. 

I've set aside the white Targhee wool for a while and am spinning the last of my supply of synthetically-dyed wool, some Gales Art BFL in Velvet Elvis. 

I bought a hemp shower curtain meant to resist mould naturally by virtue of the fibre properties.  

I got around to taking out of the stash a certain sealed bucket of wool and re-checking for insect infestation in the sealed bags inside.  All was well.  But I won't be tying up the necks of cloth bags with wool yarn again.

July 08, 2013


A foreign word or phrase can mean all the difference to finding out information about fibre arts tools.

Take for example rukinlapa for distaff in Finnish and ручная прялка (ruchnaya pryalka) for distaff in Russian.  Run them through online image searches.  You'll get some unrelated results but mostly you'll see bat-shaped distaffs with carved designs.  Imagine a man carving one for his sweetie back in the day.

The search results are a lot more satisfying than results with the other Russian word I found last month for this sort of distaff, lopastka, which is more like the word blade, shoulder blade or trowel blade.

There's a china pattern called Rukinlapa by Raija Uosikkinen‏ based on these distaffs' shape and carving designs.

July 06, 2013

British Museum no. 1756,0101.485

In my delightful forays into online museum collections, I found a piece of classical Greek pottery decorated with a closeup of a woman's head clad in a cap.  It is British Museum no. 1756,0101.485.

The cap's structure looks similar in at least three ways to some styles of extant Coptic språng caps that were made a thousand years after the pot was painted.

A quick look at thumbnails for the same search results shows there are more pots like this.  It's exciting.  Most everything I've seen to date has shown figures head to toe not close up, and as often as not with the cap-clad head positioned at a spot on the pot that curves away and can't be seen easily.

It's exciting not so much because this information will help me make a cap.  It's more that I am starting from a premise that the Greeks used språng for headgear and I'm out to find primary evidence.  The premise comes from research-driven authorities on språng construction and ancient Greek culture, for example, Peter Collingwood in The Techniques of Sprang, Margrethe Hald in Old Danish Textiles, Elizabeth Siewertsz van Reesema in her works including the article "Old Egyptian Lace," and Marina Fischer in her thesis, "The Prostitute and Her Headdress: the Mitra, Sakkos and Kekryphalos in Attic Red-figure Vase-painting ca. 550-450 BCE."  I like to compare and contrast things to draw conclusions.  In this case, a Greek picture compared with a Coptic piece.  I'm following clues for something is a bit of a mystery.  It wouldn't be if we'd had an unbroken widespread tradition of språng.

If and when I do plan out the specs for a cap, I have dimensions for quite a few existing Coptic pieces and I think I can estimate the dimensions of the looms on a few pieces of Greek pottery.

July 05, 2013


I recently came across the word spinstokje, meaning a stick for spinning.  It is a spindle without a whorl, shaped slightly thicker in the middle.  I am not sure if it is spun in the hand, suspended, or rolled on the thigh.

The Dutch word stokje means stick, bar, or wand.

I've been told it is used as the word for double crochet, and that makes sense for the long slender shape of a double crochet stitch.

Elizabeth Siewertsz van Reesema's second edition of Egyptisch Vletchwerk includes the word stokje in a chart's key to indicate a similar thing in sprang, where two threads twist around each other multiple times creating a slit on either side.  An example can be seen in the Whitworth Art Gallery's Coptic cap T.9864.

July 04, 2013

How I Feel About It and What I'm Going to Do

After my recent post full of analysis and conclusions about my efficacy in my fibre arts projects, you might wonder, how do you feel and what will you do.

I feel okay.  It's better to know how work flows and to know what to change.  It's understandable why I have the WIPs I do.  It's a given that the opportunities that move me to action involve gathering, understanding, and giving out information.  But my motivation for learning to spin yarn was to re-skill, to learn to meet a basic need independent* of fossil fuel or as close as I can get.  My hope is that, by subordinating the scholarly WIPs to practical WIPs for handspun clothes, I will make what I learn into something tangible and visible, and the experience will make me better able to pass along knowledge about how handspun clothes are made.

I should say, my post only discussed prioritization and limiting WIPs but kanban has more improvement areas than that in Anderson's book, Kanban.

For now, these all look like places to start.  I have some doubts about being able to stick to them, but I will name them.

  • reduce the amount and the depth of fibre arts correspondence I initiate
  • reduce the time I spend searching for språng items in museum collections
  • maintain blog posting but cap the time spent preparing posts
  • set a minimum and maximum number of pages to read per day in whatever textile book I have going
  • spin yarn on a more regular and consistent basis, yarn intended to go into a finished item for me
  • look at the two WIPs that are at a standstill and get them going again somehow instead of starting new ones
  • either delay working on the fixed date WIP, since the deadline is far in the future, or work on it soon to get it off the kanban board, making sure it results in a wearable handspun item for me
  • look for opportunities to fix dates for tasks that relate to my goal of handspun clothes
  • stop fixing dates for tasks that fail to result in handspun clothes, with the exception of a weaving class project

*a good thing to remember today on the Fourth of July.  The thirteen colonies in British North America that had a revolution went for textile independence among other things.  So did colonial India under British rule.

July 03, 2013

Cost of Delay and Class of Service

I posted last month that I'd set up a kanban board for my fibre arts projects in anticipation of getting clarity on what I do and how, so that I could improve my efficacy.  Efficacy, producing the right thing at the right time, is something a person can't get enough of.  It's right up there with being healthy, wealthy, and wise.  I set up my board the way I'd been shown and was happy, putting my task cards in columns for backlog, to-do, doing, and done.

Then I read David J. Anderson's Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business.  Turns out kanban is more sophisticated and more capable of making workflow visible than I thought.

I was particularly struck by his use of cost of delay and classes of service to prioritize tasks.  Certainly we all know the four classes of service.  We are taught them as children and we are told to mind the cost of delay.  There are some tasks we must do on time, some we do roughly in a first-in-first-out manner but not on a deadline, some we do whenever we like, and some we expedite when the cost of delay is exceptionally high.

For me and my tasks–I make yarn, make things out of yarn, learn new yarn skills, and pass on what I learn–whatever the cost of delay, it will be arbitrary.  No one in my household will go cold if I fail to knit mittens before winter sets in.  No one will set herself down on my stoop and wail because she can't learn the obscure art of språng until I help.

I'd been posting for ages here that my goal is to make handspun clothing for me.  I'd been wanting to wear clothes made with my own handspun, preferably un-dyed and local, for a number of compelling reasons.  And I hadn't made any.  I'd hardly spun any yarn to the purpose.  I had to figure out why.

Across the three columns of to-do, doing, and done on my kanban board, I put four rows for the classes of service which Anderson names expedite, fixed date, standard, and intangibles.  Then I put my task cards in their places.

Of my works in progress (WIPs), I had one expedite, one fixed date with two pending, no standard, and six intangibles.  Two of the intangibles had red Xs on the cards to show the tasks were blocked by difficulties I hadn't resolved yet.  They'd been blocked for a long time.  The fixed date card had recently become unblocked, and hadn't been around that long.  The higher the row, the faster WIPs were progressing toward completion.

Also, the higher the row the more the WIP involved a third party and thus an extra cost of delay, loss of face.

I didn't see my goal of handspun clothes reflected in the expedited or fixed date tasks.  The standard class was empty.  I had an unrecorded expedited WIP, "search museum collections' databases for språng items."  That search might move me closer to my goal if I find an item I'd like to imitate or interpret, but the search has more to do with intellectual curiosity.

I had an unrecorded fixed date WIP: post daily one blog entry about fibre arts, with the exception of Sundays and days when I travel or fall ill and my capacity contracts.  It contributes a little to my goal because my blog is where I record my progress and think through what I do and learn.  But as they say, fine words butter no parsnips and time writing on the blog is time not spent spinning yarn.  I had an unrecorded standard WIP, correspondence about fibre arts.  It's a chance of coming across information that will aid me as I spin yarn and make clothes but it's more about my goal to pass on what I learn.

I looked in the intangibles class, trying to find a practical WIP like "spin wool for pullover."  However, even there I found all but one of the WIPs were tasks way off in the rhubarb like "read textile history book" or "knit small object with yarn I didn't spin and won't use myself but give to someone who can get along with store-bought."

There was one intangibles class WIP that related to my goal.  It had recently been a fixed date class WIP: I was going to make something in time to wear it to an event.  The event passed, so the cost of delay dropped to almost nothing.

Some productive friends were kind enough recently to talk to me about their fibre arts projects; I realized most projects were fixed date class while the rest were treated as standard class, given sustained attention.  Moreover, their projects were congruent with their goals.

As a side note, the Tour de Fleece on right now is an example of a fixed date commitment that handspinners make.  For Tour de Fleece, you spin yarn daily while the Tour de France race is on.  Miss a day too many times and the delay costs you something to show, making you ineligible for the prize drawings.

Many fibre artists arrange their year around fixed dates for project completion.  Examples include an agricultural fair needlework competition, guild challenge or competition, gift-giving holiday, conference, fibre festival, commission work, gallery show and sale, charity collection of knitted goods, knit-along or spin-along, and month-long or year-long cold sheep resolutions.  In a knit-along, people knit projects from the same pattern in a given period of time.  Cold sheep is like cold turkey except you avoid the yarn shop instead of the tobacconist's shop.

Intangibles class tasks have no deadline.  In the backlog I had more intangibles-class tasks than any other class by far.  Some related to my goal.  My capacity was allocated to expedite, fixed date, and standard class WIPs with no room for intangibles, so the good tasks weren't moving from backlog to priority queue.  All of those faster-moving WIPs, they bypassed the backlog.  I need to tell them what we used to say in school, no budging.

I've been saying that deadlines are good.  And research is good and so are projects done in the public eye.  But they're counterproductive if they move you toward a lower-priority goal.

July 02, 2013

Språng by Correspondence

I have been corresponding about språng with a number of people.  Sometimes it's a brief exchange and sometimes a sustained effort.  Last week I got to answer a puzzler about historical språng items partly by using a quote from Shakespeare's King Lear.

To pass skills and information back and forth, ideally people stand shoulder to shoulder and model things and talk about things in real time.  That is not always possible so I'm using a few different methods to deliver my content.  Am using email, online discussion boards, my YouTube how-to videos, and my Pinterest pins.  And now, I present, sprang by mail.

Specifically, I made a warp and sent it to someone by post.  In a small way, it's similar to chess by mail which I read about once in a novel, except I am supplying physical parts not just a charted or written move and I don't expect the warp to come back.  To change the game metaphor, it's like an assist in hockey.  The recipient has a goal, and I'm setting up the conditions for meeting the goal.

This is targeted at the skill of interlinking only.  There are a lot of skills to learn with sprang and it's the recipient's goal to eventually be able to do all the steps in sequence independently, to plan a project, select suitable yarn, calculate the warp specifications, warp a frame, interlink threads, and so on.

I put yarn on a frame in two colours.  I chose a flat sprang warp setup because I thought its best chance of arriving intact would come from having the yarn loop tightly around the sticks, and that means flat warp not circular.  I changed the arrangement of the colours from AABB to ABAB, so it will be clear to the recipient which threads go in the back and which in the front.  Then I tied up each cross with green yarn and tied the warp with blue yarn.  Here it is, ready to go in a padded envelope.

It cost less than two dollars to make and two dollars to mail, and it arrived quickly.

June 29, 2013

Another Old Believer Belt Tool Sighting

I spotted a photo of another weaver-tensioned cloth beam used by a weaver in an Old Believer community in Oregon to weave belts with tablets.  It looks cut and carved from a single piece of wood, and more irregular in shape than the ones I had made after the original I saw in the film Old Believers but otherwise very much the same.

June 28, 2013

Good-bye, Google Reader

Google is about to shut down Google Reader.  Thanks if you read my posts in your feed.

Have a new RSS reader and want to subscribe to this blog?  You can with the URL feed://

June 27, 2013

Why Beauty is Truth

I read Ian Stewart's Why Beauty is Truth: A History of Symmetry.

Triangular numbers (p. 21) look like they should be applicable to patterns of holes in sprang, which often run in triangular shapes.  That is, I think you could use them to predict how many holes you'd have per row after braiding so many rows on the loom and increasing the width of the triangle of holes as you go.  The series begins 0, 1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, 28.  You should be able to calculate outlines as well, not just solid triangles.

Galois' symmetries (p. 118-123) look like they should be applicable to tablet weaving, because they have to do with rotation.  The illustrations look much like those for triangular tablets.  I think you could use the symmetries and a series of transformations (turning the tablets) to plot out the final position of a tablet and thus which coloured strand rises to the surface of the woven strap.

June 26, 2013


Strømpelegg!  Part or all of this word translates from Norwegian as stocking leg, that is the leg portion of a stocking.  I'd been hoping to find online images of the Viking-age språng stocking found at Tegle and now I have, through the Norsk Folkmuseum using the search word Teglefunnet.  There's even a schematic diagram of the S and Z twist språng triangles.

ETA: I originally had strømpelgg from the catalogue description but I think that was a typo.

June 25, 2013

Språng Sashes and the American Civil War

I chanced on evidence that points to språng sashes in American Civil War uniforms, mostly in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.  It's not conclusive, not without seeing the pieces, but in the pictures they look very like.

Most are red, with a few in buff for the rank of general and in green for medical officers.  Most are silk; the wool sashes are for lower ranks and are in relatively poor condition, possibly from moth damage.

I feel rather pleased with myself, and fairly cross-eyed from sifting through online records.

June 22, 2013

Curation on Pinterest

You can now find me on Pinterest, curating images of språng.  You can see it without an account of your own.

In previous posts here on the blog, I've put links for språng images.  It's not the greatest venue, it requires a person to click through to see something they aren't sure they will like.  Pinterest's boards are a more efficient way to show many images of extant pieces or looms, to help people see at a glance what used to be made with the språng technique.  It's like finding images all over the web and pinning them to a bulletin board.  Copyright is maintained, which I like.

I thought I was out in front blazing the way by pinning språng images and then I discovered someone else's collection of pins.  It has much of what I have on the topic, plus more.

I just gave the facts in the captions, no breakdown or commentary on the structure and construction of the pieces.  I could add such comments since I do understand the structure and construction, but I'm doubt that would benefit those who see the pins.  One of my favourite books is Suzanne Martel's The City Underground, where the residents never map the nearby caves in order to give everyone a chance to experience the twists and turns for themselves.  Also, språng terms are not standardized and many of the pieces are sophisticated, so commentary might seem like abstruse code.  Moreover, there's no way to draw attention to a part of the picture to describe it.  Finally, it looks better when the words are at a minimum on Pinterest due to its intensely visual format.

I can look at an image of a språng piece in a museum and know the structure (or at least as much about it as I care to--complete understanding would mean reconstructing it) so I don't need to put the facts down as an aid to my own memory.

I may change my mind.  I want to see people make good språng objects and right now many people either don't know the braiding technique exists or they don't know the methods.  Many people like it when you break down components, draw connections to corresponding techniques, and lay out the steps.

June 21, 2013

Wild Color

Happy longest day of the year!  I am at the 37th parallel; I wasn't able to manage a trip home to the 49th parallel where the longest day really is long, but I like to mark the occasion.

I finished reading Jenny Dean's Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes.  Back at Christmas, around the shortest day of the year, I read three quarters of the way through a borrowed copy and then had return it.  So now I've finished up.

I hope to use Dean's instructions for madder and for woad sometime.

The book has good photographs of dye plants.  I should spend some time memorizing the names and corresponding leaves for hawthorn, blackthorn, buckthorn, sumac, dock, elderberry, rowan, and tansy.  Not that I want to dye with them.  I just never know when I'll be out for a walk with family members who are given to starting brisk games of "name that plant."  I can never remember if it's tansy or yarrow.

The book was originally published in the United Kingdom.*  With all the plants the author discusses, many are familiar to me because I'm from Vancouver Island, Canada, a place with a similar climate and a landscape shaped by English and Scottish settlers in the 19th and 20th centuries.

*I had to buy a version revised for the U.S. market so its title is missing the 'u' in colour.

June 20, 2013

"The Cost of Cheap" news report

"The Cost of Cheap," the National, CBC News, June 17, 2013,

"Susan Ormiston returns to the site of a collapsed garment factory in Bangladesh that killed over 1,100 people, to find out who really deserves the blame."  Video runs a little over 15 minutes.

June 19, 2013


I am done spinning my two ounces of Sweetgrass Targhee, finally.  Progress didn't just seem glacial, it was: it measured a month from start to finish with many days where the spindle sat untouched.  Some of that was understandable and some was sloth, for which I blame the expedient handknit dish cloths.

Now to ply and then make another two ounces of yarn after that.  That will finish off my supply of this wool.

I'd expected that this along with the existing four ounces of Targhee handspun would be enough to make a monochrome språng scarf.  It would have been too, except I diverted half the yarn on hand to another purpose.  A friend went to a dye workshop and kindly took my skein along for three dips in the indigo vat.

Isn't indigo attractive and restful looking?  I got to see some of the workshop results with woad on another skein and I think woad looks even better, but indigo is good.

The dye vat's warm water caused the yarn to expand in diameter because the crimp of the wool revived, much the way naturally curly hair gets curlier after washing.  If I eke this out with yet more Targhee handspun for a project, I will wash that yarn so it will be in the same state.

June 17, 2013

Thinking about Efficacy

I'm thinking about efficacy, choosing the right project for the right time.

Mind, I'm thinking about it.  Application hopefully will follow.

Usually there is a cost to not doing a project.  Therefore, you know the project is the right thing to do at a certain time when it will save you money or net you profit.  However, the warmth and budget of me and mine do not depend on knitting and other craft projects.

June 15, 2013

Vintage Burnt Orange

Wool is sometimes the wrong fibre choice because moths and carpet beetles like it too much.  I like to manage risk, not court ruin.  So, there's linen.  It would be ideal to spin by hand all the yarn I use, but I don't spin linen yarn yet.

A long-time weaver was selling her extras.  I got these two cones of vintage burnt orange on the off-chance that the yarn might suit a future project, a språng wall-hanging that someone in my family has requested I make.

June 14, 2013

Rosepath Twill Placemats, After Washing

You may be able to see in the top photo that I wove the last part of the second rosepath twill placemat correctly.  I concentrated on the treadle sequence, I checked my work frequently, I knew what errors to look for, and I didn't weave while tired.

In the bottom photo, you can see the Ms and Ws section, where the diamond is stretched with a line inside.  When I went through the process I had what, when I was a kid, we called a conniption but the product is attractive.

June 12, 2013

Little Blue Cotton Språng Bag

I made a little blue cotton språng bag for a gift.

This is the finished object I posted about that does not relate to my goals for fibre arts at all and therefore must serve as a fearsome reminder to me to choose projects that are more in alignment.  It's attractive and all but the bag is not for me, it's not wearable, and it doesn't reduce my stash of fibre or yarn supplies.

June 11, 2013

"Yes, We Kanban"

I've transferred my list of current and future fibre arts projects to a kanban board.

It was satisfying to move a task from the "in progress" column to the "done" column last evening.

I grouped projects together in categories and assigned their stages to colours.  This makes it easy to make sense of the situation at a glance.

I'm using an electronic system which automatically records the date I put a task on the board.  That means I can tell how much time passes between inception and completion.  Until now, that information has either been unrecorded or too much trouble to look up.  I think it could be good to know.

The board has allowed me to separate the overall goals from the tasks.  One goal is to "reduce inventory," to use up the wool I have on hand.  By keeping the goals in front of me, I have a better chance of picking relevant tasks to work on.  The one I just finished was pretty irrelevant to my goals.

Rearranging a to-do list isn't going to get things done, but it can give me more clarity.  Impetus often follows clarity.

June 10, 2013

Fibre Prep, Spinning, and Nalbinding Videos from Russia

I came across some videos from Russia about nalbinding.  Both sources refer to it as knitting with one needle.

"Вязание одной иглой," [trans. knitting with one needle]

"Marina Korshakova (Center for Traditional Crafts, Petrozavodsk) shows knitting on one needle technique,"

Both state that hunters and woodsmen would make their own mittens.  I got that in the printed description on the first webpage using an online translator and in the narration in the second webpage's video.  Also, both state that horsehair was incorporated for durability.  I've heard elsewhere that horsehair and sheep's kemp (guard hairs) were used in mittens like this because they did not soak up water like wool did.

On the Karelian Craft webpage, there is another video about combing wool and spinning with a spindle.  The presenter calls spinning clockwise (Z twist) as "along with the sun," and spinning counterclockwise (S twist) as "against it."

At the 7:30 mark, Korshakova refers to a rustic L-shaped style of distaff this way, "Of course you have seen old women in villages spinning.  This distaff," and she motions with her left hand from shoulder height downward to the hip and then in toward her body indicating the position, size, and shape of the distaff, "was made from a whole tree trunk from a root, to put it on a bench, sit on it, make it comfortable."

I wonder if they used this part of the tree because it was durable.  I like to know how things were done and why things were done.

I've heard about this sort of rustic design in one other source: The University of Innsbruck's article about spindle typology in the entry for Russia,  To quote, "A traditional Russian distaff is L-shaped and consists of two elements: the lopastka or blade, a vertical panel with wide flat top to which the bundle of flax or wool, called kudel is fixed, and the dontse, or base, a horizontal oar-shaped board on which the spinner sits and stabilizes the structure with the weight of her body. Sometimes the distaff is carved from a single piece of wood - a tree stump with a root protruding at a right angle.  In some areas of Russia the upper part of the blade has the shape of a comb, and the kudel was mounted on the teeth."  There are photographs and a detail from a piece of 19th century art, though not of the whole tree trunk style of disaff from what I can see.

Similarly, a Doukhobor spinning board forms a L-shape with its detachable interchangable pieces such as a forked distaff, post for paddle combs, and flax combs.  This setup is of Russian origin as well.  It's difficult to see in this photo taken at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre in Castlegar, B.C., but the flax comb held by the mannequin is toothed.

June 08, 2013

Made Errors in Treadling I Must Live With

When I help people start to spin yarn on a spindle, I advise them to keep their forward momentum.  They always want to stop to fiddle with mistakes trying to fix them.  I understand, the yarn gives you instant feedback in the form of lumps that demand to be addressed.  I think it's more important to get used to the motion, gaining control and skill through practice.

I should probably follow this advice with the placemat I'm weaving.  I finished the first placemat and am half-way into the second.  The first placemat contains many different treadling patterns, in two-inch sections.  Also, the warp and weft are almost the same colour.  Weft mistakes are difficult to see and I haven't gone looking.  

For the second placemat, the one in progress, I picked one treadling pattern and stuck with it.  As I wove I saw an occasional pick of weft that didn't pack down as tightly as the rest and I thought it peculiar.  When I stopped weaving, I discovered that those spots each had a pick of weft missing in the pattern which means my foot pressed the wrong treadle thereby raising a heddle with the wrong threads.  The twill diamonds look squashed.

I could unweave it and reweave applying more concentration and frequent quality control checks.  There are threading errors going vertically, though, so taking out the picks of weft would only partially improve the placemat.

In the first placemat, I had to treadle a section of Ms and Ws.  For the M you start treadling from the left and head right depressing each of the four treadles by turns.  Then you reverse partially, and reverse again, then go back all the way to the left.  It's similar to the directions a pen takes when writing the letter M, but done with treadles 1 2 3 4 3 2 3 4 3 2 1.  The W follows, 4 3 2 1 2 3 2 1 2 3 4.  I got quite lost, repeatedly.  I took it with ill grace, too.  I suppose ease might come with practice, like learning to drive a manual transmission car.  I chose an different pattern for the second placemat, one that was easier and to my eye looked better.  I suppose I relaxed my guard.  

Oh, for a nice quiet bit of plain weave.

The thing to do, I'm told, is to weave twill in two different colours both for looks and for the way mistakes show up more clearly than they do in monochrome.

June 07, 2013

Carol James on the Question, Why Do Språng

Not only did I get to attend Carol James' presentation on språng recently, I got to talk to her one-on-one.  Here she is answering my question, why do språng.

Carol has spent a lot of time doing språng, trying variations, looking at historical pieces, talking to experts, and teaching students.  Her answers, her reasons why språng is worth time and effort, are even more full and apt than I thought when I was recording and paying half a mind to the camera.

I hope you will watch the video but if you prefer to read the list of benefits in brief they are, if I may paraphrase: språng's enduring nature, elasticity, variety of possible patterns, variety in possible garment shaping (shawls, mittens, hats, socks), beauty, suitability for clothing, adaptability, and efficiency where you get two rows for every one you make.

Carol's book, Sprang Unsprung, is one of the few how-to books for språng that are in print, in English, readily obtainable, and affordable.  The book contains patterns, with directions for what yarn to use, and how long and wide to make the warp to get hats and things.  She has an article on språng in the Summer 2013 issue of Spin•Off magazine.

She refers in the video to the Braddock sash and the Tonto shirt.

June 06, 2013

Carol James' Replica Braddock Sash

I had the pleasure of meeting Carol James, språng artist, teacher, and author of Sprang Unsprung.  She gave a public talk and displayed many of her finished objects.

If you read the paper she presented to the Textile Society of America in September, 2012, "Re-creating Military Sashes: Reviving the Sprang Technique,", you will get some of the same content as the presentation I attended.  There is some information in the paper about how the yarn was traditionally spun, on spindles and not plied.

I got to see her replica of the Braddock sash.*  The full-scale replica is enormous and done in very fine silk.  Laid out, it took up the top of an entire banquet-style folding table.

I liked sitting at an angle opposite the window and seeing the way the light struck the surface of the sash because I could really see the difference between the cloth on one side of the meeting line compared to the other.  Even though the yarn was all dyed evenly in madder and over-dyed with cochineal, the difference in cloth structure caused one part to look darker than the other.  The sash was worked in one piece in a circular warp, so all of the interlinking on one side of the meeting line, that is, one half of the sash, had small twists of threads all over its surface twisted in the Z (clockwise) direction and the other was twisted in mirror image.  That's why the light struck them differently.

There were patterns of holes, including some in the shapes of identical men standing in a row and some in the shapes of small triangles.

You can read about the original sash here on the Mount Vernon site.  The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association now has Carol James' replica sash in their collection as well.

There was a fair amount of collaboration that went into the project.  She had friends (and I think I remember family as well) assist her with warping and they must have borne her a lot of good will, as she said it took five hours to complete that step.  She advocates seeking grant funding for fibre arts work.  It was interesting to hear her speak of the Association's position on copyright, the limited license they gave her, and the conditions under which she got access to the sash and by extension the information about thread size, pattern design and placement, dimensions, dye shade, and so on.  We were asked not to take photographs of the sash because the Association has copyright.  To hold something like that in a collection is certainly valuable, and so is access.

*The original sash had the distinction of being owned by George Washington, the first president of the United States.  I gather that one of the reasons people regarded Washington highly was his military leadership as commander of the Continental Army during the American revolution.  Before that, he was a member of the British forces in the French and Indian War, where General Braddock gave him the military sash and the command that went with it.

June 05, 2013

"We Need to Learn How to Make Things Again"

I listened to a radio interview, "Dov Charney shames the fashion industry," Q on CBC radio, June 3, 2013.  "The controversial CEO of American Apparel calls out other clothing companies for paying what he calls 'slave wages.'"  Audio runs 20 minutes.

Here's a quote on local production: "The infrastructure's not always there.  I'm very lucky that Los Angeles still has some infrastructure.  I own two dye houses which I purchased, I have my own knitting facilities.  I am one of the largest producers of textiles in the United States, I am the largest garment producer in North America, and I have the resources to do it.  But others will.  I was at a flea market here in Montreal on the weekend, and there was at least thirty stalls somewhere in the mile end where people were producing things and selling things themselves.  There's a movement to make things yourselves, to own their production, to know the face of your worker, to know how things are made.  And it's more efficient."

June 03, 2013

Recent Activities

I have been doing yarn-related things, most of them not worth a blog post in themselves.

I have watched more film adaptations of Shakespeare than is even usual for me: the old yet timeless Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet, a recent Stratford Festival production of The Tempest played for broad laughs with Christopher Plummer in a clever robe with electronics sewn in to simulate static sparks, an austerely staged King Lear with Ian Holm, a brutal modern British adaptation of Othello, and a live production of The Winter's Tale where the thief Autolycus stole the show as well as the wallets.

It's been quite enjoyable, and I will shush that part of me that regrets not spinning yarn while I watched.  I may have said before, Shakespeare is compatible with handspinning because understanding depends more on listening than watching.  I can watch my drafting and not the screen.

I've seen Coriolanus, Taming of the Shrew, Julius Caesar, the BBC Titus Andronicus, King John, Macbeth, Hamlet, Coriolanus again but with big actors and modern military uniforms, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard III, Henry VIII, Timon of Athens, another Macbeth, more than one version of Twelfth Night, Two Men of Verona, and the BBC Much Ado about Nothing.  The more I watch, the more I see themes and patterns in the work.  I would post about that, but we're here for yarn and cloth so I will restrict myself to talking about Desemona's handkerchief and the like.

With that list, you can begin to see why I've put the task off into the future and so compounded the work as the titles have piled up.  It's best to do things as they arise, certainly.

The larger, heavier fibre arts books on my reading list are languishing behind the smaller ones, with bookmarks fifteen percent of the way in and not budging.

I had a conversation with some weaver friends about how we put off the larger projects that take more planning and involve more steps.  Weaving gets edged out by knitting and dyeing projects, and simple small knitting projects edge out complicated ones.

Sometimes large complicated plans just fall off the to-do list.  I had a good look at the yarn that contributed to the tablet woven strap I started at a demo.  I asked myself whether I like the colours and the fibre content enough to warp more for the body of a small purse.  Or rather, the question was whether I was willing to overlook my dislike of earth-tone cotton and go to extra trouble for the sake of making a slightly more interesting finished product.  I found the answer was no.  Soon the cones of donated yarn will go back from whence they came and the floor of the wool room will get a smidgen more tidy.

I finally sewed hems on my handwoven linen bath towel and hand towel in Ms and Os.

I learned to hemstitch on the loom and loved doing it, better than sewing hems.

I read Anni Albers' On Weaving (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1965), and learned more about art and what it means for a textile to be weaverly.  Here is a small but representative quote: "our stamp is or should be immediate or implicit lucidity, a considered position, a reduction to the comprehensible by reason or intuition in whatever we touch." (p. 72)  There was one plate of a Coptic textile in the book that I am sure is språng.

I knit in public at an outdoor market, where a man came up to say his mother used to knit and he hadn't seen anyone knit in a long time.  He said she could knit and carry on a conversation without looking at her knitting.  I like that about knitting in public, people talk to you where they never would ordinarily and they tell you stories of family.

I got to see a old darning egg scarred by darning needles.  It was originally used, so the story went, by the mother of someone's grandmother or great-aunt.

A member of my extended family will have a child this year, so I have a reason to make small knitted things if I wish.

I listened to an online archived radio interview of the author of Overdressed about the consequences of fast fashion, including the recent collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh (called the "world's worst garment industry disaster" by the CBC), and ways people can effect change.

I have been keeping a reference list of interesting third-party events for the handspinning guild I belong to, and I recently switched from a text-based list to an electronic calendar.  It has some advantages.  Anyone can copy an event easily into his or her own calendar account and with a few clicks arrange to have an email arrive in their mailbox to remind them a day ahead or a week ahead.

It was a bit of a thrill to get the embedding code, and put it on the guild website and have the calendar go live.  I was also able to integrate calendar entries from two neighbouring guilds who also use the same electronic calendar system and were kind enough to share.

The new calendar suffers from the same problem as the old: guild members have to remember to go and check the website or check their subscription in their own electronic calendar.  There's no help for that, as far as I can see, except perhaps occasionally posting a digest of the latest additions on the electronic discussion board.  The calendar's there if people want it.  When I was a newcomer to the guild and to handspinning, I had to gather this valuable information gradually through conversation, learning what annual conferences there were, and what festivals were on, and what craft schools offered classes.  Now you can see at a glance.  Might take away the fun of discovery, but it accelerates access to opportunities and I like that.

I have woven half of my first placemat ever and it's waiting in the class studio for me to get back to it.  Or I'm waiting to get back to it, take your pick.  There are two places where my threading error is plainly obvious.  The other two errors recede from notice.  I regret not fixing the threading.

I did have the wit not to make the same error with the treadling.  The pattern is twill variations, and the spacial relationships in the treadling patterns looks a lot like those of the threading.  I overlapped the places that would have given me two picks in one shed if I'd depressed the treadles in sequence as written when I transitioned from one variation to another.

I cannot say that I care for many of the twill variations that are appearing in the cloth.  As expected the only one I like is the bird's eye.  I am particular in my taste and consistent.  If I was going to thread the warp again, I would thread it for only bird's eye.  It's one of those situations where you can plan and guess how you'll receive a finished object but it's only when you see the item in the concrete that you know for certain what you think of it.

I found my missing, well-loved linen jacket.  It was hanging in the clothes closet which is deep with two rods, one in front of the other.  I need more linen clothes and linen bed clothes.  I have had to be out in the sun and heat more days than I have changes of long-sleeved linen shirts and slacks.

My språng bog hood that went to a medieval re-enactment event for display was well received, if the accompanying kind tokens of approval and comments are anything to go by.  When I talked to someone who'd been to the event and who had stood near the display, I realized that in my documentation I'd neglected to include the basic information about how språng works.  I feel fortunate she was there to tell people who asked.

tokens of approval left with my språng hood

June 01, 2013

Shuttle-craft Book of American Hand-weaving

Finally, I have gotten around to reading through to the end of Mary Meigs Atwater's The Shuttle-craft Book of American Hand-weaving.

There is a lot in this classic little book.  Some of the details of the techniques are beyond me, and I expect to re-read this book at a later date.

Some techniques I don't expect to ever pursue because I dislike the products and suspect that the processes would irritate me as well, but it's good to have a passing familiarity with them.  Specifically, I do not share the author's enthusiasm for coverlets.  "A beginner's first weaving should, I think, be in four-harness overshot.  The thing is surprisingly simple and effective, and a first piece will be an exciting adventure, like seeing a little flower garden spring into blossom under one's fingers." (p. 125)  I do bow to her experience and am prepared to believe that she finds much of interest there.

The author throws out strong opinions and advice.  I appreciate that she backs these up with reasons, so that I can see what criteria she used to reach her conclusions.

As a beginning weaver I can say that it's good to read a book from someone intent on conveying a specific tradition.  She draws on her study of the craft, her experience, and her association with other weavers, and lays out what was done historically and what is worth pursuing.

The book is also helpful to me because it associates different yarns with the types of weaving most suitable for them.  This information is absent from the book of patterns I have.

May 25, 2013


My språng bog hood has gone to be displayed at a re-enactors' event.  The group likes to have documentation go along with a piece so people can understand the research, choices, methods, and tools that informed the piece.  Here's mine.

handspun språng bog cap
Kristen M. Hughes
finished January, 2013

Original artifacts
cap found at Bredmose Arden, Denmark (mose means bog)
cap or hairnet found in a bog at Skrydstrup, Denmark
Both made of wool singles yarn, worked in språng, dated to about 1400 B.C.E. and 1300 B.C.E.

photo of Bredmose cap from the National Museum, Denmark,
information about Skrydstrup cap and hairnet, National Museum, Denmark
instructions for Skrydstrup pattern in Peter Collingwood, The Techniques of Sprang
medieval looms for tablet weaving in Peter Collingwood, The Techniques of Tablet Weaving
photo of plain interlinked språng hood with tablet-woven edge in Candace Crockett, Card Weaving
photo of Bredmose cap in P.V. Glob, The Bog People
schematic drawings of Bredmose (Arden) and Skrydstrup patterns in Margrethe Hald, Ancient Danish Textiles
tablet-woven border in Marta Hoffmann, The Warp-weighted Loom
replica of low, wide Oseberg loom in Sofie Krafft’s Pictorial Weaving from the Viking Age
Elizabeth Wincott Heckett’s Viking Age Headcoverings from Dublin
Kathryn Alexander, Spinning Energized Yarns

Method of Fabrication
Using drop spindles, spun wool into fine, high-twist two ply yarn for the tablet weaving and medium gauge, medium twist two ply yarn for the supplementary weft.
Wove a strap by tablet weaving.  In the middle third of the strap (for a length of 20 inches), added supplementary weft which extended to one side in a fringe of loops twelve inches long.  The result looked like a string skirt.
Lashed the strap across the top of a picture frame, letting the fringe dangle.  Placed a long dowel rod through the loops of the fringe, and lashed the dowel to the bottom of the frame.  The fringe was now the språng warp.
Followed Collingwood's pattern for Skrydstrup, arriving at the meeting line in the middle after one and a half repeats.  Chained the meeting line.  Took the språng off the loom and cinched the bottom loops together to form the hood or bonnet shape.
I posted how-to videos for the woven fringe and the Skrydstrup pattern at

Used Bronze Age Nordic sources due to my inability to find specific information about the construction of språng hairnets or caps in the Middle Ages.  (General evidence found in Wincott Heckett.)
Used two ply, not singles yarn due to lack of skill at spinning singles yarn.  The two-ply yarn diminishes the look of the språng surface because the structure of the yarn interrupts the eye as it follows the lines of the cloth's structure (Alexander).  I would recommend that anyone making a cap use a balanced singles yarn instead of two-ply if he or she can.
Used wool from a modern breed of sheep, Perendale.  Wool from a primitive, unimproved breed would have been more authentic.
Used a weaver-tensioned setup for tablet-weaving, due to a lack of a period loom such the low, wide loom found in the Oseberg ship (Krafft) or those shown for tablet weaving in medieval manuscripts (Collingwood).
Used a picture frame to do språng, due to a lack of a period vertical two-beam loom such as the tall Oseberg loom (Hald, Hoffmann).
Used a chevron tablet-woven pattern for simplicity.
Chose a tablet-woven edge, found in a secondary source (Crockett) not a primary source, because it was an easy way to determine how many språng warp threads to use.  The tablet weaving acted like a reed to space the threads evenly, much as it does in borders on blankets in traditional warp-weighted weaving (Hoffmann).  There is no tablet-woven edge in Bredmose or Skrydstrup.  Crockett's hood is supposed to be based on a piece from Norway but no primary source is given in the book.
It would be a matter for further investigation, whether a cap might be more comfortable without the tablet-woven edge.  I think it would be more secure.  My bog cap relies on gravity and friction to keep it in place: the strap is too thick to tie under the chin.  A finer weaving yarn and a narrower strap would solve this.  A cap like Bredmose should stay securely in place because it has a long cord that runs over the head along the meeting line (Glob and National Museum, Denmark) and possibly a cord that runs along the bottom edges around the back.  Glob shows four cord ends but the museum only shows two ends and a line at the bottom edge that could be a cord.  The Skrydstrup hairnet, which is constructed in a different shape, has a cord running along the bottom edge so I think it's probable that one existed on Bredmose as well.
The fringe turned out to be a little too short.  There wasn't enough room to seam the hood a little way on the underside below the cinched part at the back, as with the Bredmose cap.  This detail is visible on the National Museum, Denmark website but not in Glob.
Followed Nordic sources and not Coptic because at the time I had not researched Coptic pieces as much and did not understand their patterns and construction as well as I did Nordic.  Also, I believed that Northern Europe's Bronze Age textiles would have had more to do with medieval Europe's than 4-6th century North Africa's.  However, after researching the patterns and construction of Coptic caps, noting their similarities to European pieces from the 1-19th centuries, and gaining a better understanding of the Coptic designs' roots in Europe (ancient Greece), I have changed my mind.

A språng cap is comfortable.
The dowel rod at the bottom of the frame prevented the twists from going all the way to the edge.  A taut string across the frame would have served better.  This would be a manner of working consistent with modern Nordic and Eastern European språng tradition.
Having used Collingwood's pattern for Skrydstrup and compared the resulting structure to Hald's schematic drawings, I find it closer to Hald's drawing of the Bredmose pattern.  Skrydstrup should have more rows of interlacing in succession than that, according to Hald.  There were two pieces of headgear found at Skrydstrup, one språng, one undetermined, and that could explain a mismatch between Collingwood and Hald.

May 24, 2013

Thoughts on Språng Loom Requirements

I've been giving some thought to historical språng looms and what I want in a språng loom, or looms.

I think I want a loom that is as versatile as possible, and portable.  To take spinning wheels, for example, the current trend in spinning wheels is away from specialization toward versatility.  Traditional wheels make one kind of yarn well.  A Canadian production wheel makes thin worsted, a great wheel makes woollen, a charkha only takes short fibres, a flax wheel's orifice only lets skinny linen yarn through.  Modern designs let you change ratios, swap out flyers for lace flyers or bulky flyers or spindle tips, put large-gauge yarn and lumpy yarn through the orifice, make minute adjustments to the tension for high twist or low twist yarn, and so on.

Or at least so the wheel spinners tell me.  I only use drop spindles.  Spindles on the market seem to have moved the other way toward specialization, probably because it's easier to afford and store a collection of specialized spindles and because people buy them as art objects.

But anyway, there are some historically accurate språng looms that I know of, and from what I can tell, each design lends itself to making a particular size and shape of språng goods.  I'd like to make items in different sizes and shapes.  An adjustable, versatile loom would let me do that.

The alternative is to have two or more specialized looms made.  That might be safer.  It's always a risk to order a custom, untested design because you don't know how it will turn out.  You don't know whether there will be a fatal flaw in the construction or the functionality.  Compared to historical forms, self-designed and modern models are often ill-proportioned with dull finishes and little ornamentation or detail.

May 23, 2013

One Thousand and One

That's a little Sweetgrass Targhee wool yarn there on my spindle.  I'm spinning a couple of ounces at about 30 wpi to match a four ounce braid's worth of two ply yarn that I spun awhile back, so that I'll have enough for a project.

As of now, I've posted on this blog one thousand and one times.  If you read this, thank you!

May 22, 2013

I Say The Book Told Me to Thread the Warp That Way

I spent hours threading a loom for twill, only to learn I had three errors in the cloth, places where two threads were in the same shed side by side.

After a couple more hours, I could say that I'd followed the draft in the book exactly.  Once I understood what had happened, I predicted that I'd find a fourth error.  It turned up exactly where I thought it would be, where one block followed another.  I formed a theory about what it would take to change the blocks to avoid the errors, by flipping the third block on the vertical axis.

My weaving teacher had previously taught me about the rules of twill but I didn't apply them to this draft.  I assumed that what you see is what you do.  The same day after I discovered the errors, I read about Summer and Winter patterns in Mary Meigs Atwater's American Hand-weaving.  It changed my understanding about what it would take to change the book's draft and avoid the error.  I now think it would have been a matter of overlapping the blocks in question.  I think the book with the pattern, Davison's A Handweaver's Pattern Book, assumes a certain level of experience and understanding.

While it's good I have been able to think through the problem and come up with a solution to present to my weaving teacher for review and critique, it would have been better to have perceived the need for a change sooner.

May 21, 2013

Old Spindle Whorls at Metropolitan Museum of Art

I looked at images of spindle whorls in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's online collections as a sideline a few weeks ago when I was researching språng items on the website.

I think some of the whorls are beautiful.  They're different from modern spindles, less wood, more pottery, glass, stone, and bone, smaller sizes, more centre-weighted shapes, and incised surface designs.

May 20, 2013

Språng Chart and Sample Inspired by a Coptic Turban

I charted a språng motif of holes taken from a Coptic turban and I made a small sample piece.  

I found that I didn't refer to the chart while making the piece.  I looked at the warp for cues for what to do next based on the positions of the holes in previous rows and the positions of the threads.  It reminded me of lace knitting.  It demands more attention than a pattern like Skrydstrup.

I've considered the idea of making a scarf or waistcoat with this motif.  The product would be good.  The process would probably remain tiresome to me even after enough practice.  I'm a product crafter, so I'll have to mull these questions over: how badly do I want such a thing, is the tediousness worth it, and is there is a more tolerable way to approach the process.

May 18, 2013

Språng Chart Inspired by the Lengberg Design

I took my chart based on a photo of the original Lengberg bra with sprang, and I drew a new chart inspired by it.  I don't know if I'll ever use it to make anything, but it was a good exercise.

I've been reading Moseley, Johnson, and Koenig's Crafts Design and you can see I've taken their point about the value of balance between positive and negative space.

May 17, 2013

What Goes Where in Interlaced Språng

I posted another video of interlaced språng.  It shows more repeats of the two rows and it uses only two colours in the warp this time.  Hopefully it is clear what goes where.

May 16, 2013

That Page in the Luttrell Psalter and a Few Others Like It

Go to the British Library's site for images online,, search for filename 071982, and you will see the page in the Luttrell Psalter that shows a woman spinning yarn with a spinning wheel.  The psalter is from the fourteenth century.

A black and white detail of this image is commonly included in books about handspinning to illustrate the earliest example of a spinning wheel in Europe.

The psalter is in colour; the yarn is red.  The wheel is turned by hand and the yarn spun off the tip of a spindle driven by the wheel, as with a modern great wheel.  The base is very level, more like wheels from Asia than great wheels now.

There is a detail that gives you a closer view, if you search for 003937.

You can find a similar fourteenth century spinning wheel and handspinner shown in the Smithfield Decretals, filename 023698 and another wheel at 065458.

You may recognize the picture from De claris mulieribus, 061928.  Handspinning books include it because it shows a distaff and spindle, hand cards, and wool combs in use in the fifteenth century.

If you like cats, filename stowe_ms_17_f034r from a fourteenth century Book of Hours is a lot of fun: the cat has caught a spindle in midair.  The free-standing distaff is worth seeing as well, it's quite tall and appears carved at the base.

In the Luttrell Psalter there is an illustration of a woman feeding a hen and chicks while holding her distaff and spindle under her arm.  In the database it is filename 071921 (full page) and 057655 (detail).

The same manuscript has an illustration of a woman holding a distaff over her head to strike the man at her feet.  You can find it under 071862.  On the page, the accompanying written verses* are from Psalm 31 in the Vulgate, and their content has nothing to do with the illustrations.

Sarah uses a distaff to beat Hagar over the head in the Egerton Genesis Picture Book, filename c13160-09.  In Smithfield Decretals a woman uses her distaff to beat Reynard the Fox, 024291.

The database has a number of other images for weaving, spinning, and dyeing from different time periods and places.  And, of general interest there are images of manuscripts, drawings, paintings, sculpture, carvings, pottery, mosaics, weaponry, coins, jewellery, silver, and textiles.  The images don't just originate with British collections, either, I saw some Iron Age objects marked as being from Museum Hallstatt.

*I find old manuscripts difficult to read so I took what I could decipher, ran it through an online translator, then went looking for something like it in an online concordance.  Here's what I found, verses 4 through most of 6.  Enjoy, if you like Latin.
Quoniam die ac nocte gravata est
super me manus tua conversus
sum in aerumna mea; dum configitur
mihi; spina [diapsalma]
Delictum meum cognitum tibi; feci
et iniustitiam meam non abscondi
Dixi confitebor adversus me
iniustitiam meam Domino et tu
remisisti impietatem peccati mei [diapsalma]
Pro hac orabit ad te omnis
sanctus in tempore oportuno
Verumtamen in diluvio aquarum
multarum ad [eum non adproximabunt]
There is a discrepancy between the numbering of the Psalms in the Vulgate, a Latin translation of the original, and in English translations such as the King James Version, so if you want to read the verses in English then look up Psalm 32.

May 14, 2013

Ways to Undo Mistakes in Språng

I posted a short video of ways to get rid of mistakes made in a piece of språng.  In knitting you pull on the end and rip out your work, and in weaving you reverse what you did.  With språng I have tried that, reversing what I've done twist by twist.  Usually I lose track of what row each twist belongs to.  To preserve that information and thereby save time and aggravation, I put in something to open the shed in a row above the mistake.  Then I take out all the twists to that point but no further.

May 13, 2013

Products of Demos

Here are the products of three public demonstrations of fibre arts: yarn spun in two hours at a farmers' market, yarn spun in four hours at a museum, and a strap woven for as long as I felt like it at a festival.  That turned out to be a short amount of time, maybe an hour at the most.  I was in a mood to sit down and talk but the weaver-tensioned setup prevented me from doing that.  I was standing up with my warp tied to a fixed object in an awkward spot away from people.

I expected that people would take photos of me weaving but they didn't.  Not sure why.  Maybe tablet weaving doesn't draw the eye like a drop spindle in motion.  And of course, I was in the awkward spot and I wasn't at official festival booth looking like a person worthy of notice.

May 11, 2013

Love it and Leave it

I went to two fibre festivals and a private destash sale.  I looked at books.  I admired some glossy white Border Leceister yarn, some natural black Jacob roving, some naturally dyed mohair yarn, an antler whorl spindle, and a maple spindle.  I saw some weaving yarn I'd heard about; this was a chance to get a literal feel for it.  While they are excellent products, I was not moved to buy.

I'm sure somewhere festival organizers are clutching their hair saying "no, no, wrong idea."  At some point I will buy.  Right now I am not using up much of my stashed fibre or yarn.  I have sufficient amounts on hand, and I am reluctant to add to the pile.

I should have checked the auction tent for a secondhand warping board but I forgot.  I am leery of that place.  It's cramped.  The last time I went in, I bumped a production wheel on a table.  Most distressing.

May 09, 2013

Those that Like That Sort of Thing

My YouTube how-to videos have accumulated a total of over 3 000 views.  When I started posting videos this past October, I expected maybe a hundred views, so they've done quite well.

I notice that the most popular video is the only one with a bright multi-coloured warp.  I guess that its dynamic eye-catching look is a factor in its popularity.  I must see how I can capitalize on this knowledge for future videos.  It won't be intuitive: I gravitate to structure, texture, and strong but serene colour combinations.  I didn't pick the colours of the peacock interlaced scarf in the video, I let the scarf's recipient pick.  What you see is at a tangent to my taste.

I have a warp on a språng frame right now that I love to hate.  I affectionately call "ketchup and mustard" because it's exactly those colours.  Terracotta red and goldenrod yellow.  The cotton yarn is left over from some dish cloths I knitted as a gift for someone whose taste is well-defined and consistent and on many points the opposite of mine.

I warped the frame with this yarn so someone could try språng and, having served its purpose, the thing is sitting on the floor near my desk.  It is objectionable to my mind, truly.  It's quite funny, I keep looking over and startling myself.

May 08, 2013


The warp for cotton placemats is on the loom at my weaving class and half the heddles are threaded for Rose Path Project 1 (sampler) in Marguerite Perter Davison's A Handweaver's Pattern Book.  This is the first time I've threaded heddles for twill.  The dots on the pattern draft are arranged like the graphics of old arcade games, which is amusing.

I should shortly have a small rented floor loom to work on at home as well.  I have on hand a good quantity of linen yarn to use, and simply need to choose between projects: more hand towels or a light-weight jacket.  There are more ways a jacket could go wrong.  Planning would take more thought and there's a risk I could incorrectly calculate the sett if I use a twill pattern.

I have more need of a jacket than towels.  I've had two identical store-bought linen jackets for over a decade and they are so well loved they have become quite shabby.  One recently went missing.

May 07, 2013

Stockings Shown in a Tapestry Could be Språng Construction

There is a tapestry, The Last Supper in the Robert Leman collection, shown in Christa C. Mayer Thurman's The Robert Leman Collection Vol 14 European Textiles (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2001), pages 16-21,

According to the publication, the tapestry probably dates to the late 15th or early 16th century.

I am mostly interested in the image "No. 4, detail" on page 20, and this sentence on page 18, "The only patterning in the scene is in the tablecloth, the two textile hangings to either side of the marble columns, and the stockings and cap of the host figure in the left foreground."

The stockings are tubular, running from just below the knee to just above the ankle.  They may be fringed at the edges, and are patterned in colour with a grid of diamond shapes in orange on a burgundy background.  

They remind me of stockings in the line drawing of the Assyrian hunter on pages 56 and 57 of M.G. Houston and F.S. Hornblower's Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian And Persian Costume and Decorations (London: A&C Black, 1920).  There the stocking was longer, it extended above the knee and under the tunic.  It was secured around the leg under the knee, possibly with a garter, and disappeared into a boot.  The stocking had a grid of diamond shapes.

Their shape resembles the written Tegle and York stocking descriptions in Peter Collingwood's The Techniques of Sprang, though the pattern is different.  Tegle is about 1st century B.C.E. or C.E.; York is around 9th century.

I wonder whether the stockings in the tapestry were based on contemporary costume; that is, European and something commonly worn at the time the tapestry was woven.  An alternative explanation is that the stockings are not, and rather the artist included the stockings because they signify a costume of the Near East and antiquity.

May 06, 2013

Språng Images on Brooklyn Museum Website

Some images of språng on the Brooklyn Museum website.

Brooklyn museum Accession 34.1592, collection 64.114.20 two sprang strings with tassels on skirt.  Camelid.  Peru, 0-100 C.E.

Brooklyn Museum Accession 37.1769E, fragment of cap, Coptic, linen, patterns of holes, 7x24 inches, woven meeting line?

The following are not labeled språng.  Some I'm more sure of than others.

Brooklyn acc 15.454 “netted weave” fragment, Coptic, wool

Brooklyn acc 37.1763E “knitted” wool, meeting line, pattern of holes like clovers only with multiple twists

Brooklyn, acc 37.1770E “knitted” linen fragment of cap, meeting line, possibly sprang, strange pattern, 

Brooklyn acc 37.1767E “knitted” yellow wool cap 10x20 inches, Coptic, patterns of holes in chevrons and diamonds, peculiar line at top (meeting line or sewing line?), cinched end, probably turban construction as opposed to bag-style cap construction

Brooklyn acc 37.1761E “knitted” maroon and yellow wool, 7x11, Coptic, pattern of twining diamonds on background, drawstring

Brooklyn acc 37.1762E “knitted” blue and yellow wool cap, Coptic, 10x16, pattern in double cloth?, cord at meeting line

Brooklyn acc 85.165.1 textile, Coptic, wool (maroon, green, yellow?), 8x13, complex pattern of holes and either twining or double cloth colourwork, side borders, spectacular control of positive and negative space

Brooklyn acc 85.165.2 textile, Coptic, wool, either twined or double cloth pattern of colour, 5x15

Brooklyn acc 64.114.243 

May 03, 2013

"I thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound"

I went to an exhibit on pre-Raphaelite art at the National Gallery of Art and saw two paintings done from scenes in Tennyson's "The Lady of Shalott."  I was already familiar with John William Waterhouse's painting of the lady in the boat looking rather doomed and tragic.  In this exhibit's paintings, the lady is weaving.  One of the looms has a round frame, a peculiar setup.  You can see it on page 43 of the exhibition booklet.  The booklet also shows a Morris & Co. tapestry on page 38.

I got an anthology of Tennyson out of the library and read the poem.  It is rather fantastical.  I can see a normal person staying up late to weave but not weaving night and day; it makes the point that the lady of Shalott is not a normal person in ordinary circumstances.  I noticed she is cut off from the population yet somehow never runs out of yarn.  Odd, that.  If you like fairy tales, there is a tower and a knight and a mirror.  The story comes from the Arthurian legends.

I also read The Princess and came across a couple of lines I recognized.  A Handbook to Literature gives them as an example in its definition of alliteration.  The Handbook cites the poem's author but no title.  When I read the definition I'd been curious and wanted to see the lines in context, but never looked them up.  I found the lines at the end of this segment:
Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height....
So waste not thou, but come; for all the vales
Await thee; azure pillars of the hearth
Arise to thee; the children call, and I
Thy shepherd pipe, and sweet is every sound,
Sweeter thy voice, but every sound is sweet;
Myriads of rivulets hurrying thro' the lawn,
The moan of doves in immemorial elms,
And murmuring of innumerable bees.
–Tennyson, The Princess, part seventh 

May 02, 2013


My presentation went off well.  And look, as part of the content, I even took a stab at charting the språng design for one of the fifteenth century bras from Lengberg castle.

I like how sprang designs so often preserve the overall balance of positive and negative space.  In the case of the Lengberg bra pattern, I like the way the clovers fill in the large diamond.

The blue line is meant to represent the limit of the photograph and everything outside it, an extrapolation.  I drew in the top line a little too low.

April 15, 2013

Patchy Blog Forecast Next Few Weeks

Just to let you know, I am going to give the blog a rest for the next few weeks.

Deadlines are brilliant.  I find deadlines good motivation for getting my thoughts together and making things with yarn instead of sitting around mulling about what has been and what could be.

I have a deadline coming up, one I'm looking forward to because when the day arrives, I get to make a presentation to interested people about a particular fibre art dear to my heart.  It's also the season for festivals and spinning in public at events, and I'll be participating in those sorts of activities too.  Normally I like to blog as I spin yarn, do research, go places, and make things.  However, I need to focus and confine my writing to the presentation.  There may or may not be blog posts for the next while.  Will pick up again in May.

April 13, 2013

Some Things Get Made, Some Don't

I finished weaving the hem of my linen Ms and Os bath towel, cut it off the loom, and showed it to someone.  As yet unwashed and unhemmed, it looks like a big glossy sheet of white with a raised pattern all over and long thrums dangling at the ends.  "Will you hang it on the wall?"  Right on the towel rod, I said.

I selected my next project.  It is partly dictated by the yarn available and partly by my need to gain some experience with more kinds of weaving.  I'll be doing cotton sampler placemats in variations on rosepath twill.

I started and abandoned the brim of a knitted hat in sock yarn because I could not get a sufficiently tight gauge with the needles I have.

I tried to learn pure intertwined språng and could not even figure out how to start.  That's dispiriting, I was hoping to show a sample to someone at the end of the month.

April 12, 2013

Twill-like Språng

A wee bag and a how-to video for interlaced språng with threads running over two, under two threads to give horizontal ribs. 

I quite like the result.