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This article is a "recipe" for a specific weave: you simply follow the threading draft and the turning sequence, and out pops the product. It was originally printed in Pikestaff: The Arts and Sciences Issue (December 1990), a publication of the East Kingdom of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc.

A Saxon Threaded-In Tablet Weave

Copyright © 1990, 1997 Carolyn Priest-Dorman.

Much tablet weaving in the Known World involves "threaded-in" patterns. That is, the pattern, generally a repeating geometric, is selected in advance; then the cards are threaded such that turning in a prescribed order (continuously forward, or four forward, four back, for example) results in the pattern automatically appearing. Such a pattern may have as many different colors as there are holes in the tablets. This is one of four main tablet weaving techniques; the others are double- cloth weaves, so-called "Egyptian" diagonal weaves (actually used in Scandinavia in the Middle Ages),[1] and single-color or other principally textural weaves.

In his The Techniques of Tablet Weaving, Collingwood mentions a few period examples of threaded-in tablet weaving.[2] One of them, the piece drafted below, was found attached to a metal strap end from the early Anglo-Saxon era. In appearance it is very similar to the ubiquitous modern "repeating diamonds" threaded-in pattern. This piece is unusual for its time and place in several respects.[3] To begin with, it is rare to find evidence for tablet-woven belts from the Saxon era; most belt finds have been leather. Additionally, most Anglo-Saxon tablet-woven finds have been plain one-colored weaves, with or without additional brocading,[4] but this piece is in an uncommon weave containing an uncommon number of colors--three.

Working from the draft in Crowfoot's article, I made a pair of Viking apron straps in this weave a couple of years ago; unfortunately the result, although interesting, is somewhat different from the drawing in the article. Accordingly, the draft below has been modified both by Collingwood's discussion of the piece and by much experimentation. The cards are threaded alternately "S" and "Z" with three different colors of thread, as indicated on the draft. One weaves this piece by setting up two packs; the "A" and "D" holes should be uppermost on all cards, all the even-numbered cards should go in one pack, and all the odd-numbered cards should go in a second pack. Insert the first weft, from left to right, in the natural first shed. This is important because otherwise the selvedges will not bind properly. Now turn only the even cards, beat and throw a weft from right to left; then turn only the odd cards, beat and throw a weft from left to right. That is the complete turning sequence; repeat as required. This pattern weaves up narrower than it would if you turned all the cards at once, and it is very thick and sturdy.

 Saxon diamond threading draft

Follow this link for a scanned sample of the completed weave. This sample was not beaten very heavily; the harder you beat, the more squared-off the diamonds will appear, and the smoother the diagonal lines will be.


  1. Peter Collingwood, The Techniques of Tablet Weaving (New York: Watson-Guptill, 1982), p. 143. [back]
  2. For a discussion of the Coptic arrowhead motif, see Peter Collingwood, op. cit., p. 114; for the Saxon diamond, see pp. 160-162. [back]
  3. See Grace M. Crowfoot, "Textiles of the Saxon Period in the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology," Cambridge Antiquarian Society Proceedings 44 (1950), pp. 26-32. [back]
  4. For plain weaves, see Grace M. Crowfoot, "Anglo-Saxon Tablet Weaving,"Antiquaries Journal 32, nos. 3-4 (1952), p. 191; for brocades see Elisabeth Crowfoot and Sonia Chadwick Hawkes, "Early Anglo-Saxon Gold Braids," Medieval Archaeology 11 (1967), p. 44. [back]

This page was created on 25 February 1997 and last updated on 31 March 1997.

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