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.