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03 May 2009 @ 12:50 pm

Functional Arts:  Apprentice Fiber Arts Tools

This is a set of wooden weaving tablets. Tablets like these would have been used to weave thin bands of fabric in a process known as tablet or card weaving. Weaving tablets have been documented as early as 4 BC, and some may have been used as early as 200 BC. The tablets found in archeological sites have all been triangular or square, but other shapes are shown in paintings. All have holes at each corner, with some having additional holes drilled in the center or sides. The tablets found are made of wood, bone, antler, ivory, metal or leather. Woods used include: Beech, Sycamore, Maple, Pine, and Oak. Sizes of the wooden tablets range from 2.3 cm to 5.5 cm. The only reference to the width I found was 3 mm. My goal with this project was to increase the authenticity of my weaving by using wooden tablets instead of paper cards.

Tablets still attached to a linen warp. Part of the Oseberg Ship burial.

Detached tablets in a display case at the The Viking Ship Museum


I am indebted to Klaus von Mainz for allowing me to use his shop and tools, as well as providing the material for this project. He demonstrated the procedures and allowed me to complete each process after he began it.


5 cm W x 5 cm D x 1’L pre-milled quarter sawn Hard Maple, cut into four approximately 3” lengths. In period the wood for an Anglo-Saxon or Viking would probably have come from radially split logs. Hard Maple was chosen because it is extremely long wearing and tends not to splinter. It is also a good choice because it has a tendency to burnish when finished with hand tools.

Tools Used:

Ryoba Saw, Tenon or Western Backsaw, Drill Press, Band Saw, Jointer Plane, Block Plane, Countersink or Center Reamer with a T Handle, Carving Knife.

There are several finds of woodworking tools contemporary with the use of wooden tablets. Two of the largest finds are the Hurbuck Hoard (County Durham, England) and the Mastermyr Tool Chest (Gotland, Sweden). The Bayeux Tapestry shows many of these tools in use. It appears that manual woodworking tools have remained relatively unchanged over the centuries. These tools look and function much the same as their modern equivalents.

The Hurbuck Hoard: Examples of 9th early 10th century woodworking tools.

The Mastermyr tools shown with modern wood hafts.


A block was marked at 5mm from the end rather than 3mm so the saw marks could be planed away later. After marking one tablet, it was attached to the woodworking bench using a vice. I hand sawed halfway through the block. This was then removed from the vice, and turned over so I could saw the remaining half. I did this twice, using two different kinds of saws.

Example #1 was sawn using a Ryoba Saw.

Example #2 was sawn using a Tenon Saw

In period the holes would probably have been drilled using a spoon bit auger. Because I wanted the holes to be as uniform as possible, I used a drill press. Once the blocks had been drilled, the remaining tablets were sawn using a band saw. The tablets were smoothed, and reduced to their final thickness of approximately 3mm, using a jointer plane (Example #3). Initially a block plane was tried, but the jointer plane was easier for me to manage because of the greater length. Modern planes have changed in appearance, but the process and the end result remain almost the same.

Block Plane

Jointer Plane

On three of the tablets, I used a carving knife to chamfer (bevel) the side edges and the holes the fiber passes through (Examples #4, #5, & #6). Due to the quantity of cards and time constraints, the remaining cards were not done with the carving knife. The remaining sides were chamfered using a block plane, while a countersink was used on the holes. The cards were left unfinished because there is no evidence they would have received any finish in period.

Countersink bit


Arnold, C.J. “An Archaeology of the Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms.” London and New York: Routledge, 1988. pg 20.

Arwidsson, Greta and Gösta Berg. "Mästermyr Image Library”:

British Museum: “The Hurbuck Hoard”: http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pe_mla/t/the_hurbuck_hoard.aspx

Collingwood, Peter “The Techniques of Tablet Weaving” Oregon: Robinson & Ross Handweavers, 1996 pp 10-30.

Crockett, Candace “Card Weaving” Denver, Colorado: Interweave Press, 1991 pg 13.

Hampshire Museums Service: “A Brief History of Hand Tools”:

Geijer, Agnes “A History of Textile Art” London: Sotheby Parke Publications, 1979 pp 38-39.

Arwidsson, Greta and Gösta Berg. “The Mästermyr Find: A Viking Age Tool Chest from Gotland” Lompoc, CA: Larson Publishing Company. 1999.

Hald, Margrethe “Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials: A Comparative Study of Costume and Iron Age Textiles”, trans. Jean Olsen. Archaeological-Historical Series Vol. XXI. Copenhagen: The National Museum of Denmark, 1980 pp 225-226.

Held, Shirley “Weaving, A Handbook of the Fiber Arts” New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1978. pg 244.

Ingstad, Anne Stine “The Textiles in the Oseberg Ship: http://www.forest.gen.nz/Medieval/articles/Oseberg/textiles/TEXTILE.HTM

Jaacks, G., and Tidow, K., eds. Archäologische Texilfunde--Archaeological Textiles: Textilsymposium Neumünster 4.-7.5. 1993. NESAT V. Neumünster: Textilmuseum Neumünster, 1994. Pritchard, Francis “Weaving Tablets from Roman London” pp 157-161.

Lewins, Shelagh “The Partly-Completed Tablet Weaving from the Oseberg Ship Burial”:

mac Alasdair, Findlaech “A Carpenter’s Chest: Tools of the 15th Century”: http://www.his.com/~tom/TOOLS.PDF

Ostergard, Else “Woven into the Earth. Textiles from Norse Greenland.” Denmark. Narayana Press. 2004. pg 104 & 113.

Perigrin, Tom "Reconstruction and Use of a Saxon Plane": http://www.florilegium.org/?http://www.florilegium.org/files/CRAFTS/plane-art.html

Regia Anglorum “Anglo-Saxon and Viking Crafts- Woodworking”:

Seaton, Frank “The Bayeux Tapestry, A Comprehensive Survey” London: Phaidon Press, 1965 Plates 37-39.

Spies, Nancy “Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance” Jarrettsville, Maryland: Arelate Studio, 2000. pp 1, 93-96.

Steane, John, “The Archaeology of Medieval England and Wales.” Taylor & Francis, 1985 pp 234-237.

The Viking Answer Lady “Woodworking in the Viking Age”: http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/wood.shtml

The Viking Ship Museum “Welcome on Board! The Sea Stallion from Glendalough, a Viking Longship Recreated” Denmark: Nofoprint A/S 2007 pp 52-53.

Current Mood: creative
03 May 2009 @ 12:25 pm

Fiber Arts: Journeyman Tablet or Card Weaving

This is a piece of brocaded tablet weaving.  It is intended for use on a 10th century Viking apron.  It will be placed at the top front between the fibulae (broaches) like the piece found in a grave at Kostrup, Denmark.   Due to the expense of the materials used, it would likely have belonged to a woman of wealth.

Weaving with the use of tablets has been done since at least 4 bc.  Warp threads are the threads that pass through a tablet and run the length of a piece.  Weft threads pass through these threads, and hold them in place.  In brocade, a supplemental weft is introduced.  It is only tied in place by some of the warp threads, and is not structurally integral to the band.  The patterns it forms float on top of the weaving.  Several examples of this technique have survived, the majority of them in Anglo-Saxon and Viking sites.  A variety of fibers were used, with the bands containing metal or silk surviving the best.

Inspiration for this piece came from the brocaded tablet woven pieces found in the 8th to 10th century burial grounds at Birka, Sweden.  The majority of the pieces were silk brocaded with metal threads.  The metal threads used included wire, flat metal strips, and “spun” thread (thin metal strips wrapped around a fiber core).  The silk threads were very fine, probably about the thickness of sewing thread.

Plate 92 d-g Bands from Birka (Geijer “A History of Textile Art”)

I was nervous about the durability of such fine thread, so I decided to try it first with a larger fiber.  I used 20/2 spun silk from Aurora Silk.  I requested that it be dyed using indigo, because indigotin was one of the chemical traces found in the silk at Birka.  I was warned that their dye pot was almost exhausted, and that the color would not be very dark.  Because indigotin is also found in Woad to a lesser extent, I asked them to go ahead.  Silk threads were imported, but woad might have been used on undyed threads.  Dye was also expensive, so it would be worthwhile to dye successively light and lighter colors until it was used up.  Thread of this color could have been dyed using Indigo or Woad.

For the supplemental weft thread, I used #5 Real Silver Passing Thread from Van Sciver Bobbin Lace.  This is silver foil wrapped around a silk core.  This thread did not make sharp turns.  Because of this it was not providing adequate coverage of the warp threads, so I doubled it.  No examples of doubling this type of metal thread exist at Birka, but the supplemental wire weft ones had been doubled.

Most of the brocaded pieces from this time period were warped by alternately threading “S” and “Z”.  This refers to the direction the thread passes through the card and determines the direction the stitch will be slanted.  My pattern had seventeen cards, with an additional two cards on each side to provide a selvedge edge.  Because I wanted my
selvedge to be identical on each side, I skipped one “Z” threaded card in the middle of the pattern.  The silk in the Birka pieces was so fine that the bands were very thin.  Because I used thicker thread, I used about half as many cards as they did.

Geometric and “S” patterns were in common use by the Vikings.  Initially, I tried to chart a pattern from a photocopy picture of a band with only wire remaining.  Instead, I found a geometric “S” I liked in the middle of one of the 12th to 13th century patterns from Norway (Spies pg 148).  It looked very similar to the one in my copy of the picture, so I modified it for my use.

My pattern.

12th century pattern from Norway (Spies pg 148)

There are several different techniques used in brocading.  Because I used a thicker silk and wanted the silver to stand out as much as possible, I used a single thread tie-down.  This is a single thread that passes over the supplemental weft to hold it in place.  In this piece the tie downs denote the pattern.  The supplemental weft is not carried all the way to the ends.  Instead, it is usually dropped to the back a few cards from the edge.  I wanted as thin a selvedge edge as possible, so I only dropped to the back one card in from the edge.  On the second cards in from the edge, I did a double tie down to make the selvedge edge look the same.  When this technique is done on regular fiber the part that drops to the back is easily pulled into the warp, disappearing from view.  The metal thread is not good at turning corners, and I wound up with a scalloped effect up both sides of the back.  If you look at the first band in the Birka picture, it seems that they had much the same problem. 


Collingwood, Peter “The Techniques of Tablet Weaving” Oregon: Robinson & Ross Handweavers, 1996.

Crowfoot, Elizabeth, Francis Pritchard, and Kay Staniland “Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450 “ Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2006 pp 130-138.

Geijer, Agnes “A History of Textile Art” London: Sotheby Parke Publications, 1979 pp 69, 219-221, 229, 242-246 plate 92 d-g.

Geijer, Agnes "The Textile Finds from Birka." Cloth and Clothing in Medieval Europe: Essays in Memory of Professor E.M. Carus-Wilson. Studies in Textile History 2. N.B. Harte and K.G. Ponting, eds. London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1983, pp. 80-99.

Gartz, Eckhard “A Practical Examination of Wefts used in Medieval Brocaded Tabletweaving”: http://www.guntram.co.za/tabletweaving/docs/as2004/as2004.html

Hald, Margrethe “Ancient Danish Textiles from Bogs and Burials: A Comparative Study of Costume and Iron Age Textiles”, trans. Jean Olsen. Archaeological-Historical Series Vol. XXI. Copenhagen: The National Museum of Denmark, 1980 pp 225-226.

Ingram, Elizabeth “Thread of Gold: The Embroideries and Textiles in York Minister” Singapore: Tien Wah Press, 1987 pp 11, 20-22.

Ingstad, Anne Stine “The Textiles in the Oseberg Ship”: http://www.forest.gen.nz/Medieval/articles/Oseberg/textiles/TEXTILE.HTM

Jaacks, G., and Tidow, K., eds. “Archäologische Texilfunde--Archaeological Textiles: Textilsymposium Neumünster 4.-7.5. 1993. NESAT V” Neumünster: Textilmuseum Neumünster, 1994. Articles:  Peacock, Elizabeth “SEM-EDS Analysis of Metal Threads from Tronheim” pp 256-260.  Aud, Bergli and Inger Raknes Pedersen “The Textiles from the Ruins of Hamar Cathedral” pp 253-264.

Priest-Dorman, Carolyn “Metallic Trims for Some Early Period Personae”: http://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/metaltrims.html

Regia Anglorum “Braid Weaving”: http://www.regia.org/braids.htm

Schweitzer, Robert “Brocaded Tablet Weaving”: http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/4417/brctablet.html

Spies, Nancy “Ecclesiastical Pomp & Aristocratic Circumstance” Jarrettsville, Maryland: Arelate Studio, 2000. pp 1, 93-96.

Current Mood: creative
30 April 2009 @ 07:31 pm

Culinary: Tourney Dish

This is a dish that could have been eaten in Jorvik (York) during the Dane-law.    I wanted something to take to events that required very little on-site preparation, but was something my persona might have eaten.  I preferred something I could share with others that was different, but would not require bravery to try.  I decided to make fish and herb meatballs.  

There are no Viking or Anglo-Saxon cookbooks that we know of.  Attempts to recreate the food they might have eaten rely on archaeological remains, Leechdoms (medical texts), and the sagas.  We also have descriptions by visiting Romans and recipes from Rome that could have influenced the Anglo-Saxons during the Roman Conquest.

I looked through the records of meats that the people of Jorvik were known to have had available.  I chose to use salmon as many of my friends like it, and I thought it would be a welcome change from the usual foods I see at events.  Although much of their fish would have been smoked or dried, they also ate fresh fish.  I am not that fond of smoked salmon, and am unsure if the smoked salmon available today would be comparable to their smoked fish, so I used fresh.

According to my sources, the primary method of cooking meat would have been boiling.  In the past, when I have boiled fish, it had a tendency to fall apart.  Because of this, I looked for ways to prepare fish that was no longer a solid slab.  I ruled out soups and stews because I wanted a dish that I would be comfortable eating cold.  I also wanted to keep needed utensils to a minimum, hoping for something that could be eaten as a finger food.  In “Apicius” I found several recipes that involved grinding meat with a mortar and pestle.  These all included putting the meat into a casing or into a patty or ball.  I did not want to fry it, as fried food is often best served hot, but some of these patty recipes were also boiled.  Minced meat of all kinds were commonly used in sausages and puddings, and there are references to both having been boiled.

Dill and cumin have been found in the digs at Jorvik.  Neither of these herbs originated in Great Britain and would likely have been obtained through trade.  With this thought in mind, I used dried herbs, grinding each to a powder using a mortar and pestle.

I obtained a side of wild caught Atlantic salmon with skin on but without bones.  I cut the salmon into chunks about the size of my hand, and boiled them in a saucepan for about 20 minutes.  I did not want too strong an herb flavor so the only thing I added to the water was a pinch of salt.  Because I left the skin on while boiling, the salmon did not fall apart in the water.  They may or may not have left the skin on the salmon in Jorvik , as minced meat usually included offal.  Because I do not like the skin, I chose to remove it after the pieces had been boiled.  This also fits with the Roman recipes I found.  I ground all of the salmon using the mortar and pestle.  Taking 1/3 cup of salmon, I ground it with 1/8 tsp of cumin and 1/8 tsp of dill.  Because these would be refrigerated, and the flavors might intensify, I wanted to be careful not to over spice them.  Spices were expensive and would probably have been used sparingly.

For a binder, I used water and barley flour.  Barley was the predominate grain used to make bread in Jorvik.  Mills were well established, so I purchased pre-milled flour rather than grind my own.  Into the fish and herb mixture, I added 1 tsp of barley flour and 1 tsp of water.  Once again, I ground the mixture into a homogenous paste.  Taking a teaspoon full, I rolled small balls using the palms of my hands.  This resulted in five balls per third of a cup of salmon.  Using the spoon, I gently lowered these into water that was at a low rolling boil.  After boiling for 5 minutes, each floated to the top of the water.  They were then removed and placed on a plate to rest.

Barley bread and butter would have been a part of every meal.  I also added blackberries, as they would have been available in Jorvik, and my modern brain wanted a more balanced meal.


Cockayne, Oswald “Leechdoms, Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England Volume III”.  “A Glossary of Names of Plants of the Cathedral, Durham” pp 302 (346) & “Saxon Names of Plants” pp 321 (365). London: Longmans, Green, Reader, & Dyer, 1866. ( ) is the page number if accessed through Google Books.

Giacosa, Ilaria Gozzini “A Taste of Ancient Rome” Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992, pp 12-13, 122, 131-137,182-183.

Hagen, Ann “A Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food: Processing and Consumption” Wiltshire: Anthony Rowe Ltd, 1993.

Hagen, Ann “A Second Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food & Drink: Production & Distribution” Norfolk: Anglo-Saxon Books, 1995.

Priest-Dorman, Carolyn “Archaeological Finds of 9th and 10th Century Viking Foodstuffs”: http://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/vikfood.html

Regia Anglorum “Food and Drink in Anglo-Saxon England”:  http://www.regia.org/life/food.htm

Tannahill, Reay “Food in History” London: Penguin Books, 1988 pp 82, 247.

Toussaint-Samat, Maguelonne “History of Food” New York: Barnes and Nobel Books, 1992, pp 125-143, 296-306. 532.

Vehling, Joseph Dommers “Apicus : Cooking and Dining in Imperial Rome”  New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1977.  pp 61-70.

The Viking Answer Lady “Viking Food”: http://www.vikinganswerlady.com/food.shtml

********This was my least favorite entry, probably because I did not figure out what I was entering until the Monday before Pentathlon.  It was weird making up a recipe rather than redacting one.  They came out blander than I liked, and dried out easily in the open air.  I'll be doing this one again with smoked salmon, mashing the salmon before boiling, decreasing the flour, and increasing the spices.  Considering that I did not manage to do a test run of this recipe, I am not displeased with how they came out.

Current Mood: creative
19 March 2009 @ 02:17 pm
So three weeks after my sister was told that her cancer is back, we find out that the radiologist screwed up.  Apparently he has a name for being sloppy,  so her new endocrinologist immediately ordered a new set of pictures.  While happy that there is no mass, needless to say she is a bit miffed at the radiologist.  I'm so glad that it was a false alarm.  *relieved sigh*
Current Mood: relievedrelieved
30 October 2008 @ 12:43 am
I don't get why this is a big deal to some people.  There is nothing wrong with declaring that you want to be with whoever you want to be with.  If two consenting adults want to get married, let them.  As for the whole schools thing...  when did marriage become a course in school?  Oh yeah...  never...

Love who you want to love.  And if two people want to formalize it, let them.
Current Mood: sleepysleepy