Anglo-Saxon Cyrtel: Weaving

Fig. 6: Fabric Draft

The fabric was woven in broken lozenge twill (fig. 6). This is a pattern very common to the Anglo-Saxons and found in grave finds all over England. (Bender Jørgensen, 1992, 154-158 – Table of Anglo Saxon Textiles by Elizabeth Crowfoot published within this volume) The weaving was performed on a four-harness rising shed, jack loom (fig. 7 & 8), but would have been likely created on a warp-weighted loom during the period. (Henry, 1998, 157-166) The eleventh century was a transition period from weaving as a domestic craft to a profitable profession. During this time there is a decrease of loom weights found in archaeological sites which indicates a move to the larger, horizontal loom. The weaving width on the horizontal loom is much narrower than that of a warp-weighted or vertical loom which impacted how wide I could weave and how I would lay out the cyrtel on the fabric. I set the warp at 24 ends (threads) per inch which is the coarser end of the found Anglo-Saxon textiles – low range is 22 ends per inch reaching to over 80. (Bender-Jørgensen, 1992, 35 – Fig. 40 ). I sett the warp 30” wide in the reed for a total of 720 ends plus 4 ends at each side for a floating selvedge. Twill weaves tend leave gaps on the sides resulting in wear and abrasion on the side warps. I used a floating selvedge to counteract this effect. I threaded the heddles from front to back, padding the warp on the back beam with paper to prevent warps straying into the hills and valleys created by the other warp threads while winding on. I finished by tying the warp to the apron rod, adjusting the tension across the fabric and I was ready to weave!

Fig. 7 - Fabric on loom

I planned to weave the weft in at 18 picks per inch, but the fabric had other ideas. It wanted to be woven at 12 picks per inch. I suspect I had the warp stretched too tight to pack in well or the weft was too tightly spun. I was pleased by the low occurence of warp breakage on this project. I had been intimidated by the thought of using a singles warp, but I found it to be just as responsive as plied yarn. The warps that did tend to break (I had 12 warp breaks) were overspun in the areas the breaks occurred. I think the dyeing helped to set the twist and make the yarn more stable. In addition, I used Suave Styling Spritz as a sizing when the warp starting sticking together and getting fuzzy. I sprayed the warps behind the heddles before I would advance the warp.

Fig. 8 – Weaving in progress, with help

I washed the yardage merely to finish the fabric – to let the yarns relax and to shrink the fabric. I did not want to full the fabric as fulling and teasing the nap were later finishes and were seldom used in Anglo-Saxon textiles. (Walton-Rogers, 1771) Fulling, by virtue of swelling the fibers and felting themselves together would have obscured the pattern I worked so hard to weave. I finished the fabric by stomping on it in my bathtub just as one would stomp grapes (in soapy water) to provide gentle agitation in the water. I rinsed the fabric in the bathtub and put the fabric through the spin cycle of the washer (no agitation!) to spin out as much water as I could before drying outside on the deck. (fig. 9).

Fig. 9 – Finished fabric

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